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So. You’ve read Kick Ass, the comic book (or “graphic novel,” if you have class issues) by the Scots writer Mark Millar and American artist John Romita Jr. Maybe you bought the hardcover collected edition that came out recently, and you’re already lining up to see the movie tonight at midnight. Or maybe you’re not, and you’re curious. But you’re probably wondering: How else can I immerse myself in a world where an 11-year old girl in a plaid skirt calls a bunch of gangsters “cunts” before killing them? The City Paper is here to help.
Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic; Making the Movie (Titan, $19.95) is a lovely book, full of color photographs of the movie and artwork by Romita, rounded out with commentary by Millar. It’s also rated “Parental Advisory – Explicit Content” and the movie is rated R as well, because Millar’s writing is so sadistic and hyper-violent. Just to make sure you understand this point: Romita’s drawing on the introduction page shows the book’s protagonist, Kick-Ass, getting a knife pushed into his sternum, all the way up to its hilt. You know it hurts because Millar writes, “Kick-Ass is all about a wee guy in the real world, our world, who doesn’t have powers from the planet Krypton, he hasn’t been bitten by a radioactive spider, he doesn’t have all the trappings of a comic book superhero, he’s just a guy like you or me who decides that his life is so dull… that he wants to live the life of a superhero.”
So with all that said, it’s actually a very interesting book. Much of its text is commentary by Millar, with smaller bits from Romita, movie director Matthew Vaughn, writer Jane Goldman, and the actors and other people involved in the film. The film’s origin is pretty contemporaneous with the comic book—-Millar wrote part of the story, and Romita agreed to draw it while Vaughn began planning the movie; Millar and Romita hadn’t even finished the book by the time the script was taking form. The comic was published by Marvel’s creator imprint, and the book is owned by the creators, so they worked on it for free; the film couldn’t find financing so Vaughn financed it himself. Their belief in the concept seems to have paid off—-each issue of the comic book sold over 100,000 copies, and now the collection has that many in print.
In the book, Millar discusses the thinking behind Kick-Ass’ basic costume (facepiece to cover zits—-check), the sets, and of course—-Hit Girl. “It’s a pretty sheltered world in comics, it’s like we can do anything we like,” he muses. “I’m shocked when I look back at [my Hit Girl scenes] sometimes, it’s quite startling. And if I’m shocked, I think once it hits the mainstream it’s going to be ten times more potent.” He may very well be right. Because without having read the comic, or having much interest in the movie, I enjoyed this book. It’s visually interesting, well-designed, and full of interesting snippets on creating comic-book mayhem.