Kicking Ass with Millar

While kiddies across the countryside are counting the days 'til Christmas, comic book readers are anxiously awaiting the conclusion to Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s creator-owned series "Kick-Ass" from Marvel Comics' Icon imprint.

But once "Kick-Ass" #8 hits shelves in January, there's still more in store for fans of Dave Lizewski's alter ego, as the big screen adaptation of the Millarworld project comes to theaters everywhere on April 16, 2010.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn ("Layer Cake," "Stardust") and produced by Brad Pitt, Kris Thykier and Tarquin Pack, "Kick-Ass" stars relative newcomers Aaron Johnson and Chloë Moretz as Kick-Ass and Hit Girl, as well as Nicolas Cage, who plays Big Daddy and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist.

And if you just can't wait until the movie comes out, Titan Books will release "Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie" on February 23, 2010.

Last week, CBR previewed an exclusive first look at the film's companion book, and this week we have more on all things "Kick-Ass" with series co-creator, Mark Millar.

Having already seen the finished "Kick-Ass" movie six times, Millar shared some details that will be found inside the Titan title with CBR News, like the fact that Daniel Craig and Mark Wahlberg were also considered for the part of Big Daddy and that Kick-Ass wasn't even the original star of the comic.

The superstar writer also revealed the working title for the second volume of "Kick-Ass," which is expected to launch in August at Comic-Con International, as 'Balls to the Wall.'

CBR News: If you weren't already Mr. Bigshot in Hollywood, now they're making books about your movies, with pretty pictures, secret insider information and exclusive interviews. What gives?

Mark Millar: [Laughs] Nick Landau at Titan, the people who [are publishing] it, got in touch with me. He's been a friend of mine since I was 18. Titan has published a lot of these books in the past. They're a really big deal. They do all the Kevin Smith books and a lot of the New York Times bestseller stuff. He said, "I think it would be quite cool to have a 'Kick-Ass' movie book." And they always do very high-end books. They just did one with J.J. Abrams for "Star Trek," and they did one with [Neil] Gaiman for "Stardust."

I had lots of cool stuff lying around in my drawers, things that ordinarily wouldn't have been seen by anyone. And John Romita's had a lot of cool stuff too, and so did Matthew Vaughan. The movie is quite colorful, and it's a very visual film so there is lots of cool behind-the-scenes stuff. So much so, that it filled nearly 200 pages.

From the previews, it looks like there is going to be a lot of cool concept drawings and early sketches from John Romita, but what about your side? Are we going to see some early drafts of scripts? Or maybe ideas that you had for "Kick-Ass" that didn't make it into the comic or the movie?

Loads of stuff like that. It's actually an incredibly informal book. Normally, those authorized movie companion books are very sanitized, and everybody is just saying very nice positive stuff and never really tells you any good stuff. This is actually really frank because the guy who did the book, the guy who wrote it, helped create "Empire" magazine. He was the first editor on it. He's got an amazing eye, and he's an excellent journalist and he really knows how a movie sells. We talked for days, and he got lots of really good stuff out of me. I don't know how he managed to do it. He got lots of stuff that I really hadn't thought that much about. And he did the same with Nicolas Cage and Matthew Vaughan and John Romita and Jane Goldman.

It's really interesting, because they sent me proofs of the book last week and I just sat there and read the book cover to cover in one night. They sent me a .pdf that was 200 pages long, and I was exhausted. To be fair, half of it was me talking, but there was lots of great stuff in it. We were just talking about different actors we had thought about to play different roles. Like the Big Daddy role that Nicolas Cage got. We were talking to Mark Wahlberg about that, and we talked to Daniel Craig. There are just lots of interesting, different wee facts that people maybe never heard before.

The original idea for "Kick-Ass" must have come to you, what, maybe three years ago, now? With the conclusion of the first series coming out next month and the movie now just four months away, was it fun to go back to the early stages of the project and think about those first meetings with John Romita Jr. and Matthew Vaughan?

That's actually quite an interesting thing. Originally, when I first came up with the concept, I started writing it six months before I gave it to John Romita, because originally, Big Daddy and Hit Girl were going to be the stars of the book. I wrote a whole issue that later became "Kick-Ass" #6. I was going to tell the story from their point of view, and I scripted that originally. We talk about that in the book. That's one of things that feels so far away for me. I'd kind of forgotten about it. So it was really interesting to go back and see emails between Johnny and me and everything, and I have lots of private emails between Matthew and me from when we first met. I can't remember giving permission to Titan to put those in the book [laughs].

It's weird. There are emails from people who are my good friends, some of my first emails from them, and they're all printed in the book, too, so it's actually very cool.

Will you do this for every movie project now, moving forward?

I think it would work on certain kinds of projects. I don't know how interesting it would have been on "Wanted," because it's kind of real people. As silly as that sounds because of what we did. But visually, it was a guy in a jacket and a girl in a vest. For a big movie, companion photo book, with double page spreads and so on, it's less cool visually. I don't know if a "Wanted" companion book would have looked as good. The superheroes lend themselves to this actually. And I have a lot friends working on this movie, as well, which gave all the interviews in this a real energy, because we're all slagging each other off and telling stories about each other. And again, on "Wanted," everyone got along really well, but you had like 10 different languages being spoken on set. People didn't become as "pally" as everyone became on "Kick-Ass."

Now, if we do a "Nemesis" movie, that could work. Or whatever we do next. If there are enough colorful and interesting characters in it, it would be great. But otherwise, if it's going to be a boring book, I'd rather not do it. I wouldn't do a book for everything. It worked on "Kick-Ass" because everything was quite interesting.

Now that you've read through the book, are you even more excited about unleashing the film on audiences around the world?

Yeah, very much. It's funny, because I've already seen the movie so many times. I saw it in various stages. I saw the pre-visual stage. I've seen the actors trying on costumes and everything. I've seen a rough cut and several different edits of it. The finished movie has been ready now for about three, four months, and I've actually seen the finished movie in a theatre six times. So the finished movie - beginning, middle and end - is never going to change. It's locked in. Just the music needs to be added. But I've sat in a theatre and watched it six times, so it's feels kind of weird that the rest of the world hasn't seen it yet. It's so weird.

It almost feels like it's been and gone. It just feels like "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Spartacus" to me. It should be on my DVD shelf. But it's funny that it's still to come out. But when I got that book, it was funny because I was really tired, and it was after a night out and it was about 1:00 AM, and I came in and just logged into my email and this giant file that was like 50 Mb was sitting there, and I said, "What the hell is this?" And it was the proof to the book. I started flipping through it and, obviously, I'm excited because it's my project and everything, but I just couldn't stop looking at it. I read the whole thing. I went to bed at 3 in the morning. The thing is absolutely cool.

When the movie comes out, you'll be giving movie viewers a new leading man in Aaron Johnson, who plays the titular hero, as well his secret identity, Dave Lizewski. Does Aaron have the chops to pull this off?

I think so, you know. It's a different type of movie from that. It's not like a starring vehicle like the way maybe James Bond is or something like that. It's a real ensemble cast. I think it will be quite difficult to separate them all from each other. Aaron's got the most difficult role, in a way, because he's got to be the most real because he's surrounded by cartoon characters. Hit Girl is a very extreme character, and so is Big Daddy. Red Mist is too, obviously with his car and his costume and all of that kind of thing.

Aaron has to be the Luke Skywalker in the whole thing that holds it all together. The other guys are Han Solo and Chewbacca. They're outrageous characters. So he has to keep it real. I was kind of worried that the others would outshine him, but he's just got something. He's got a real heart.

And as you'll see in the book, we almost postponed the movie for six months because we didn't have a lead. We actually had to find someone charismatic enough to hold it all together. And he was. He turned out to be great. He literally showed up in the final three days that we were doing casting, he was literally at the end of it all, and we were lucky, because the film might have never come out if we had been pushed back six months. And the good thing is, because he's a relative unknown, we got him cheap [laughs].

The movie is coming out in April, and yet the first series isn't even complete yet. Does "Kick-Ass" #8 deliver and kick some ass?

I think anybody who is slightly mentally ill is going to love it [laughs]. It's funny because I actually got the proofs two nights ago [last week], and when I looked at it - it's all lettered and colored and it's going off to the printers tomorrow [last Friday] - I was thinking, "What am I doing with my life?" I realized that there is a little girl, lying on the floor, after dropping a smoke bomb and shooting people in the ass and the bullet is coming out of the top of their heads [laughs]. And there are testicle shots. Every taboo that you could imagine seems to be in this one issue.

But I'm really pleased with it. These eight issues are probably the eight issues I'm most happy with that I've ever worked on. I'm really pleased, and I feel at the end, we have the best issue. It all comes together really well. So, thank God. And it will be out just after Christmas.

And we've got the movie book coming out shortly after that. It's funny, people say to me, "Oh, were you nervous the book wouldn't be out before the movie?" And I went, "Are you out of your mind? I would draw the last issue myself to get it out." There's no way I'm missing those sales.

And what about the second volume of "Kick-Ass"? Is it safe to assume, that's still a go?

Are you kidding me? "Kick-Ass" is the most fun I've ever had ever on a project. It's not only the best response Johnny and I have ever had, but we outsold everybody. Every issue had three, four, five printings. And our overall sales are more than 130,000 per issue. We always saw this as at least a trilogy. There might even be more. I had the whole second series worked out two years ago.

When do you think the second series will launch?

The working title is "Balls to the Wall," and we're thinking about launching it round about San Diego time, right around August. But to avoid delays, we'd like to stockpile a few issues, I think. It seems crazy that it's taken 22 months to do eight issues. But it's been brilliant. The readers have been very loyal and stayed with it despite the delays. The sales have actually gone up every issue.

"Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie," published by Titan Books, is scheduled for February 23, 2010.

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