After months of waiting, comic fans have two things confirmed with regard to Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.’s “Kick-Ass” franchise of creator-owned comics. First, the promised “Hit-Girl” miniseries connecting the best-selling volumes of the core comic is seeing the light of day with Romita drawing. And second, that series serves as the inspiration for the beginning of the “Kick-Ass 2” film whose pre-production is officially underway under the helm of writer/director Jeff Wadlow. With “Hit-Girl” #1 in stores this week, the series writer promised that the world of Kick-Ass would find more depth — particularly when it came to series villain Red Mist.
While this is the second time a film adaptation has been made from the Kick-Ass material while the comics were still being published, Millar told CBR News that the path to the film of “Kick-Ass 2” is ultimately very different than the previous crossover hit. “The big difference last time was that Matthew [Vaughn] and Jane [Goldman] were almost in a race to finish it with me. When they started working on the screenplay, I’d only written the first half of the comic and just had plot for the second half,” the writer explained. “This time, I literally finished the whole of ‘Kick-Ass 2’ before Jeff started working on it around Christmastime. So I was completely done with it, and obviously ‘Hit-Girl’ was done ahead of time because it comes before ‘Kick-Ass 2.’ As originally Leandro Fernandez was going to draw it, it was set to come out at the same time as ‘Kick-Ass 2,’ but because Johnny wanted to draw it, we held it back.
“But it’s very different this time. Usually what I do is just ignore the movie and focus on the comic. I see guys doing this all the time, and it’s such a mistake — they try to make comics of what they think will work as a film. And then what you get is a half-assed comic. So I just think, ‘What will be interesting and cool when I turn the page?’ And whatever a director or screenwriter want to do to make it work as a movie I’m really quite flexible on. The ‘Watchmen’ movie is a perfect example of what can happen when you try and stay page-by-page true to the comic. I think the ‘Kick-Ass’ movie got it right. It’s pretty much exactly the same as the comic except for tweaks here and there. I’d never have gotten away with the jetpack at the end! It just wouldn’t have worked for the comic, but by the end of the movie, you’re so invested that it seems cool. Jeff and Matthew run stuff by me.”
And for now, the writer is happy to have fans engage with these characters only on the page. Millar noted how the “Hit-Girl” series is a critical part of his foul-mouthed favorite’s journey through the world — including her own arch-nemesis status with the Red Mist. “You have to remember that Red Mist’s father was literally murdered by Hit-Girl. Kick-Ass was almost Hit-Girl’s sidekick!” he laughed. “There was that scene in the first book where Hit-Girl put a meat cleaver through his father’s head, and Red Mist found his dad’s body dead by her hand. The two of them do feel very, very intertwined. I think all three of them do, to be honest. They each have an either love or hate bond, so there are strong bond’s between all three.
“I was actually going to kill Red Mist off in ‘Kick-Ass 2,’ because this storyline is kind of three movies long told in five graphic novels. So I was going to kill him off, but then I realized that not having Red Mist around felt wrong. He’s as much a part of this story as the rest of them. Just like Kick-Ass is the clean-cut Spider-Man kind of hero, Red Mist is like the Heath Ledger Joker. Hit-Girl’s somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. She’s actually doing something incredibly illegal, but she’s a good guy as well.”
Next month, bad guys pick up the slack in “Hit-Girl’s” second issue. “Issue #2 picks up on Red Mist’s storyline in a way that people may not have expected,” Millar said. “I always had Red Mist’s origin as a bad guy in my head. I was never able to do that in ‘Kick-Ass’ as a comic, but I knew I could put it in ‘Hit-Girl’ since this series is serving as the first act of the second movie. The idea of someone doing what Dave did but reversing it and instead of going out to commit the first superhero rescue, going out to commit the first supercrime — that’s actually quite exciting to me. It’s like Neil Armstrong — the first person to do something cool. So he goes out with the costume and the gun and with hired goons that he’s costumed up too, and they commit the world’s first supercrime. They make sure that it’s caught on television cameras so it goes viral. That inspires kids out there to go out and act like little shits just like him. It’s the same way Kick-Ass did the opposite of that by inspiring people to go out and be heroes. So this whole arc is very, very much Red Mist’s origin.”
Of course, it’s not all villainy in the book, though the writer said his signature hero may not be all over Hit-Girl’s solo adventure. “We see Kick-Ass a little bit, but I’ve always liked in this world, how if Kick-Ass gets hurt, he’s gone for a few weeks, or even months,” Millar said of the real world take that runs through the franchise. “Spider-Man can get the shit kicked out of him, but the next day he’s back fighting the Sandman. In reality, you’d have bandages all over you, and you’d be sitting there watching TV until you felt better. And then you’d go out and fight Sandman. So I really wanted to take this time while Dave’s hurt to really amp up Hit-Girl’s side of the story.
“There were a lot of things I wanted to do in the first series that I didn’t have room for because it was Kick-Ass’ comic. But now I can have this tiny Punisher running around and causing trouble. I was a little nervous before I did it because I thought of how terrible a Han Solo would be. The reason Han Solo’s so cool is because he’s used sparingly, and I was worried about overexposing Hit-Girl. But once I got into writing it, I realized all this cool new stuff. Even the idea of this little girl who’s a killing machine hanging out at school and trying to talk to other girls but not getting any of their jokes — it made the character feel a lot more deep. She was less of a gag and much more vulnerable. So I’ve had a lot of fun playing with that stuff.”
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