This week, Mark Millar’s latest supervillain epic goes on the run from America and into comic shops as “Supercrooks” #1 debuts through Marvel’s Icon Comics imprint. The story of a group of ragtag supervillains who escape the confines of America’s superheroes to pull off one last career heist in Europe, the four-issue comic drawn by Leinil Francis Yu has long been promised as headed for a film adaptation at the hands of Academy Award-winning Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo (“Extraterrestrial”).
Now, with the comic in the hands of readers and a brand-new promotional video set within the world of the series flashing across screens everywhere, CBR News spoke with Vigalondo about his work with Millar behind the scenes to turn the comic into a film. The director also talks about his personal history with the four-color medium from his early days reading “Dazzler” to his first meeting with the “Kick-Ass” scribe as well as his love of heist films and the differences fans will see between “Supercrooks” the comic and the eventual movie.
CBR News: “Supercrooks” deals with a group of supervillains who travel to Europe where there are no superheroes. And well, in real life, too, I get the impression there aren’t quite so many superheroes in the pop culture as there are here. What was your first introduction to the genre, and why did it stick with you?
Nacho Vigalondo: I didn’t have an intense comic-book childhood. I spent the first two decades of my life in a small town in the north of Spain, and for me comic books were a treasure I was able to reach every time we went to the big city. I bought comics in an irregular, chaotic and misinformed way. For me “Dazzler” (yes, “Dazzler” reached Spain) and “Fantastic Four” were equally awesome, because they both were comics. Simple as that.
My first blast was buying a sale-priced lot of issues of a comic-book horror anthology called “Dossier Negro” (“Black Dossier”) that included some B/W “Creepy”-style short horror tales (now I know they were taken from DC’s “House of Mystery”). And, as some kind of nice accident, some of the magazines included a serialized horror tale that blew my mind: It was the first five issues of Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing!” That was my birth as a real comic-book geek.
But it’s in the ’90s when I go to university and I started to spend some serious money in Spanish-translated comics from Vertigo, Dark Horse and indie stuff from Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Peter Bagge and so on. I was one of those guys that almost died of excitement when they read the first “Preacher” issue. And it is the next decade when I go deep into superheroes, thanks to the work of Alan Moore in the ABC line, Grant Morrison’s “JLA,” Warren Ellis’ “Planetary,” Peter Milligan’s “X-Force,” Mark Millar’s “Authority.” It’s funny that I wasn’t deep into superheroes when I was a kid. They came to me pretty late, thanks to these exciting authors.
More to the project at hand, what can you tell me about your introduction to Mark? I hear that once you guys first hooked up to work on the story of “Supercrooks,” you had quite a time.
The first time I met Mark I was, technically, a crazy stalker. I was spending some days in L.A. in a gloomy hotel, and I found out that Mark was signing comics two blocks away at Golden Apple. He already was my favorite writer at that time, and I won a charity auction on eBay to have lunch with him. My English was much poorer at that time, and his Scottish accent was like hearing a chicken played backwards. We spent a long, nice time in which I didn’t understand a word from him. I nodded all the time, faking I agreed with everything he said. I’m pretty sure he noticed it and faked, too. It was a total disaster.
Time passed. I made my first film, “Timecrimes,” and It raised some festival praise. I gained some confidence in myself and sent him a screener, feeling that this time I could sound like a distinguished European auteur, rather than an Spanish freak. And, since then, we’ve been trading emails and approaching the idea of making a film from of one of his properties.
What’s the attraction to “Supercrooks” to you as a director? You’ve played with a lot of genres, from alien invasions to time travel. Were you drawn here moreby the heist aspect or the supervillain one?
Heist films are one of my favorite genres because they are based equally in character chemistry and plot complexity. I love this challenging story where the heist is followed in almost real time, inside a contained space, but twists and surprises keep coming all the time.
I also love the fact that this story happens in a Millar-esque world, where superpowers have become a common thing and society has managed to apply some rules to control them, turning the good ones into pop stars and the bad ones into people who have to hide their powers all the time and act like boring average citizens, which is humiliating. Basically, I love to mix genres and dealing with fantasy stuff like superheroes through a funny and perverse realistic perspective. This is what “Supercrooks” is about.
In working on the story, what do you think meshed best between you and Mark’s creative styles?
I think we both love to write stories that deal with the recognizable rules, the genre traditions, but in a way that may feel surprising from the beginning. For example, “Nemesis” is an update of the old european supervillains comics, such as the british Spider or the italian Diabolik, but the nature of the characters and plot makes it something unexpected. That’s my ambition in my films. In this sense, all the ideas we throw are in the same page.
From this point, my contribution is more abstract, dealing with plot structure and narrative geometry, and Mark focuses on characters, dialogue and texture of the situations. It was surprisingly fast. We both put a lot in this, and there wasn’t a single creative ego fight.
Now that you’re seeing pages come in from Leinil, what about his visual sensibilities seem to be synching up best with your vision for the movie? Any one character whose design you’re particularly happy with?
I’ve been in love with Leinil’s art since I read “Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk,” and seeing his pages now makes me feel like a ridiculously lucky fan. We all agree he is doing his best work. I love the way he works the details, how even the most over the top situation feels real through them. One of the key things in “Supercrooks” is how the characters are described through their costumes. Their costumes have to feel like superpower costumes, but in a believable way, the same way a fireman or soldier costume feels handy and logical. Is a delicate thing, and Leinil is doing it wonderfully. Personally, I think his Praetorian design is perfect.
With the new promo video, it seems like you’ve already been getting a bit of the international flavor of the story on film. In what way do you think the final product represents a taste of what we’ll see with the eventual final film?
The teaser may expose the humor and tone of the film, but it’s a peripheral fiction. “Supercrooks” plot doesn’t cross Europe, like in the “Bourne” films. We are dealing with a traditional heist structure in which, once the characters and rules are settled, we’ll stick to the place. But, yes, we’ll have a chance to taste the ancient exotic flavor of old Spain.
Overall, what do you want to say at this point about your plans for the film? I understand a draft of the screenplay is done. Will you tweak that at all based on the final comics product? Do you have a shooting start date in mind right now?
We both respect the nature of comic and movie languages enough to enjoy the differences, rather than pushing the similarities. Writing panels demands a different approach than writing sequences in a movie. In simpler terms, all the dialogue punchlines in the screenplay and comic book are different, because the nature and rhythm of every situation follows different narrative rules.
At this moment, I’m about to start the shooting of “Windows,” my third film, and my first English one. I’ll jump quickly into “Supercrooks.” I’m ready to forget about holidays for the next three years. And I love it!
“Supercrooks” #1 debuts in comic shops this week.