- Posted by Johanna on April 14, 2010 at 9:01 am
- Category: Books and Prose
- PUBLISHER: Titan Books; $19.95 US
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.)
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.)