Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie

I can’t stand Mark Millar’s comics. He indulges in purposefully offensive material — violence, sex, bigotry — for its shock value, and he seems to have an active contempt for his readers. So I won’t be reading the Kick-Ass comic. It sounds masochistic, like another way for Millar to make fun of the losers who buy his work.

(This dislike of his work runs in the family. Back in the day, Millar pitched KC a terrible Legion proposal that included all kinds of awful ideas, like Fertile Lass, whose power was to get pregnant whenever a boy looked at her. See? Another bad taste concept that doesn’t go anywhere.)

Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie cover
Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic,
Making the Movie
Buy this book

I probably also won’t see the movie, out this Friday, for similar reasons. I’m sure it’s well-done; it’s just not my sense of humor or enjoyment. It does sound funnier and more cohesive, although relatively faithful. (That makes sense, since the movie was written at the same time as much of the comic, with lots of cross-pollination between the two.)

So why am I reading this making-of coffee-table paperback? Because I like process, especially when it comes to media adaptation. Unfortunately, what I got instead was a glossy, self-congratulatory publication with the depth of a greeting card.

It’s a handsome book, even if the first words on the first page are “Holy F**k.” (They’re quoting Millar’s praise for the movie when he first visited the set. Obviously, this is not the book for you if you’re offended by profanity, especially when it’s highlighted in pullquotes with big letters.) Lots of big, full-page pictures. Lots of Millar’s over-the-top self-promotion. From his introduction:

… the comic came out and outsold Spider-Man from issue one and then just a few months later the movie started shooting with the cream of British and American talent. … The movie, I think, is going to redefine superhero movies in the same way Pulp Fiction redefined crime movies. Suddenly, all the other stuff just looks old.

Oh, I dunno, I’m still looking forward to Iron Man 2. In part because it stars adults.

The book’s text is mostly by Millar — on how he came up with the story and characters, which he says are highly autobiographical; how the movie deal was made; how fabulous all the stars and producers and crew are and how great they are at their jobs. It’s accompanied by lots of images juxtaposing the comic art with the same pictures from the movie. There are plenty of designs and sketches and script and storyboard excerpts. The design overweighs the content.

Ultimately, this is a book about how “brilliant” it is to be Mark Millar and how wonderful it is to have a movie made of your work. The most amusing part for me was all the emphasis on how “realistic” this all is — “it’s meant to be very much what would happen if a teenage boy decided to become a superhero in a world where superheroes are our entertainment.” Because as soon as you put on costumes, that all goes right out the window. Millar reprints an email where he says, in part

“I very strongly feel this project NEEDS a costume. … The thing to avoid, of course, is making it look stupid, but the costume seems part of the fetish to me. As this is something I’m preparing as a comic with a view to a film, what do you think?”

I think that sums it all up. Millar wants to make a “broad mainstream” movie, and so he’s limited in how “realistic” it can all be. (Realism counter-argument, in one word: Hit-Girl. Although I see lots of Halloween costumes coming, with that cute purple kilt.) This book is part of the fantasy, pushing the idea that the movie-making process was terrific and creative and fun and amazing. Don’t you want to be part of that by buying the ticket and comic and book?

If you liked either the comic or movie and want to learn more, you will want this book, as much of a giant ad it is. And then I’ll worry about you for wanting to spend that much time in this world. And hope that Millar’s dreams for his achievement don’t come true:

“I wanted [Kick-Ass] to influence a whole generation of real-life superheroes via MySpace and YouTube and all that.”

(The publisher provided a review copy.)

17 Responses to “Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie”

  1. Nick Marino Says:

    interesting review. lots of good stuff brought up.

    does JRjr get any quotes / behind the scenes time in the book?

  2. Johanna Says:

    There are a handful of short blurbs from him, yes. I mostly remember him saying how Millar is his favorite writer to work with ever and discussing how the costumes were different between comic and film versions.

  3. Alexandre Mandarino Says:

    Millar is awful. I can’t stand his work, his quotes, his stupid public persona, his poor Michael Bay sense of spectacle. And he’s an awful writer. All this even tainted what I liked about his Swamp Thing run at the time.

  4. James Moar Says:

    Kick-Ass was released a couple of weeks ago in the UK, and I liked it despite having similar poor feelings about Millar’s work. I’ll admit to only having had a fairly quick flip through the comic, but really got the impression that the film’s far more sympathetic to the characters (especially the lead) than the comic.

  5. 4thletter! » Blog Archive » Don’t believe the hype. Says:

    […] Draper Carlson recently posted another amazing idea: (This dislike of his work runs in the family. Back in the day, Millar pitched KC a terrible Legion […]

  6. Nathan Says:

    Would it be safe to say that Millar entered this phase around his Authority run? Because I can’t remember his earlier stuff being anything like this, but I was quite young in those days

  7. James Moar Says:

    His work way back on 2000AD already had quite a few of the traits he’s known for now.

  8. Rich Johnston Says:

    It seems like he’s followed an audience. Have people read his Superman Adventures work? Some of his best stuff, along with Swamp Thing and Red Son…

  9. Jonathan Nolan Says:

    From 2000AD to now I didn’t rate the guy, commercial success or not. As for Kick-Ass he lost me completely when he claimed it was the most realistic comicbook evar. Really? Seriously? How stupid.

    The film- well such things are no more than christmas paper wrapped mind control so watch it at your peril. Mind control media is better at influencing all of us than we give it credit for, if you participate in the hype even by reading or watching anything to do with it you will only have yourself to blame. :)

  10. Raphael Malveaux Says:

    Loosen up! He’s not trying to convert anyone or change your life. It’s all in fun, unlike the current teabagger fetish. Watch and enjoy with ample popcorn. Good, fun movies without hidden agendas are rare these days. I’ll be parked in my seat on opening day, and several additional days, if it is as good as I expect.

  11. Johanna Says:

    James, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that the movie hangs together better than the comic. I found the same thing to be true of Iron Man — there’s something about the filmmaking process that sharpens and improves the comic material in some cases.

    Rich, Superman Adventures had some issues, too. I remember being surprised at him writing Superman killing a sentient robot.

    Raphael, I think some would disagree that there’s no hidden agenda. If you want to take the “relax, enjoy it, don’t think about it” approach, cool — but some of us enjoy entertainment more after we’ve analyzed it, appreciating a multi-leveled approach.

  12. James Van Hise Says:

    The movie improves on the comic in one important way. It’s not misogynistic. The main character’s girlfriend in the comic is awful and comes across like Mark Miller getting revenge on someone, while in the movie she’s actually nice.

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  14. Daniel Smith Says:

    I haven’t read any of the comics or any of Miller’s prior work and I loved the movie. But then again I also love zombie movies so take from that what you will.
    I reminded me of Spiderman (comic/movie), Fight Club, and watchmen(comic only).

  15. Carlton Banks Says:

    I really want to know more about Mark Millar’s LSH pitch! Can you give us the full details please? Was this around the time Of the Giffen 5 years later era?

  16. Johanna Says:

    I’ll ask KC what else he remembers about it.

  17. Carlton Banks Says:

    Thanks. Of course after Zero Hour it’ll have all been moot anyway (unless it was for after then)




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