Playing out like alternate universes are two very different but delicious Kingsman worlds. Both share the basic premise of a kid from the wrong-side-of-the-tracks being ushered into a the secretive ranks of a British spy agency. But one was begun by the Mark Millar-penned comic book series The Secret Service, which was drawn by acclaimed artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), while the other was a mind-blowing movie co-written by Kick-Ass adaptation team Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman.
With Kingsman: The Golden Circle hitting theaters this fall, CBR was positively chuffed to get to speak with both Gibbons and Goldman about the growing world of Kingsman, which includes some wild American cousins, Elton John and an upcoming sequel to the daring comic series.
Sitting down with Gibbons and Goldman, the former was quick to confess that while he holds an executive producer credit on Kingsman: The Secret Service, "I have no responsibilities at all (on the film)." He's pleased to be along for the ride of this emerging franchise, and excitedly gushed about some of its crazier moments, but explained that his work has always been on the sibling comic.
"The way it happened, going back to the very, very beginning as I understand it," Gibbons said, "Mark Millar, the comic book writer, and Matthew Vaughn kicked around ideas for a spy movies, because there weren't any good spy movies. And then Mark got in touch with me, and said, 'Hey do you want to do this comic book?' And Matthew went away and said, 'Hey, Jane, do you want to do this movie?' So the two things have got a lot of common DNA, but they have grown in very, very different ways."
One of those major differences is the emergence of an American version of the Kingsman, known as the Statesman. In the film, American stars Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal, and Jeff Bridges saddle up to play these lasso-slinging, gun-toting, cowboys, each named after a liquor: Tequila, Whiskey, Champagne (or "Champ" for short.) Goldman chuckled recalling how she and Vaughn concocted these curious new characters. "We were initially looking around for an (American) equivalent to Arthurian legend," as the Kingsman take their code names from the nights of the round table. "But there wasn't one that was so clear-cut." Instead, she and Vaughn decided to name these Southern Gentleman after the business that's not only served as their front, but also as a booming enterprise all its own. "It amused us the idea that their business front was actually so hugely successful. The Kingsman's front is just this tiny little tailor shop, and they're running the biggest alcohol brand!"
Gibbons pointed out the contrast, noting, "Booze for the millions, whereas the Kingsman is suits for the few."
Vaughn and Goldman aimed to have fun with an American archetype in the same way they did with British gentleman in the first film. But the English writer admits she sometimes worried the joke would get lost. "Essentially the Kingsman are a British archetype, not what is actually typical in England," she explained. "And so we started talking about what's the American equivalent. And to us, it's the Southern Gentleman. But I did a few times say to Matthew, 'My God, I hope we're not offending anyone!' It's obviously approached in the same sense that not all British gentlemen walk around in suits with umbrellas, talking about manners. And we're very well aware that not all Americans or people from the South are like The Statesman."
Gibbons teased, "I think Jane's script it very even-handedly insulting to everyone." But he also declared, "I'm a step away from The Golden Circle. But I saw it the other night, and what I love is the beautiful contrast between the English and the Americans. Although we in many ways seem to be the same culture, the sense of humor is completely different. It just made me laugh. That's what I love about it. It's such a wonderful--not satire--but a wonderful irreverent look at lots of institutions."
Irreverent humor is something fans have come to expect from Kingsman. But Goldman's goal with the sequel was to bring new twists and "WTF moments" no one could see coming. "I don't think it's about going more brutal, or more intense," she mused, "because in some sense that's exactly what people are expecting. It's more trying to recapture that sense of, 'Whoa! I didn't expect that… For me, that's what Kingsman is about, things you would not expect to see in a spy movie. "
One surprise that's already been revealed is that pop icon Elton John will appear in Kingsman: The Golden Circle as himself. Goldman demurred from telling us of John would perform one of his many, many hit songs within the espionage thrill-ride. But she did share, "I would say he's definitely responsible for one of the WTF moments." And Gibbons concurred, confessing, "I wasn't even going to mention his name, but he's got some of my favorite bits in it. I've got to say."
Gibbons was also pleased to report there's some Easter Eggs for comic fans in the Kingsman sequel. "There were a couple of things that were in the comic book (The Secret Service) that actually surface in the second movie," he said. "I can't say what they were, but they were neat little moments that I was really thrilled to see there. But I can't tell you what it is." You have your mission, fans. Be on the look out!
And fans of The Secret Service have more cause to rejoice, as Gibbons assured us that he and Millar are at work on a follow-up to their 2012 comic. "We are starting to produce new comic book material, which is in the kind of comic book world of Kingsman that we've established. (It's) done by Mark and I and some other comic book writers as well." When pressed for a tease of its premise, Gibbons politely declined. But did add, "It's a wonderfully fertile world… I can think of many, many stories, and many, many settings that could work with that. And that's true of the movie side as well."
He concluded with a smile, noting his pleasure that The Secret Service and Kingsman have diverged so much from the same core idea. "It's different views of the same idea, I think," he said. "And it's quite good. You know, I was involved with the movie of Watchmen, which was a very slavish adaptation of the film. And it's kind of hampering. Comics do some things very well, movies do other things very well. And I think if they follow their own path, you're likely to get the best out of both.
Reuniting director Matthew Vaughn with co-writer Jane Goldman, “The Golden Circle” also sees Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Sophie Cookson reprise their roles from the first film. They’re joined by Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges, among others. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” opens Sept. 22.