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John Romita Jr., Mark Millar and Quint have an epic conversation about all sorts of KICK-ASS stuff!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my final interview for Kick-Ass (I promise). If you’re thinking I’m whoring for the movie… well, not really. I love the flick, that’s true, and on top of my personal passion for one of the most fun theatrical experiences of my life I’ve also been at two major Kick-Ass festivals. First there was SXSW, where Kick-Ass opened the fest, and then I was at WonderCon where there was a giant publicity push. I’ve posted my chats with screenwriter Jane Goldman and the video interview I did with the kids Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz and Chris Mintz-Plasse and now I complete my round of Kick-Ass chats with the original creators of the material John Romita Jr. and Mark Millar. And this is my personal favorite interview of the bunch. Some of it is because I got considerably more time with these two, nearly 40 minutes all told, but there was also a lightness to this interview that just made it really easy to do. It’s a fascinating insight into the minds of the original creators that were involved and respected, but also, in many ways, a little bit outside of the making of the film. I love hearing Millar’s original casting ideas, hearing Romita’s autobiographical touches in the art of the comic book and just the overall tone of this whole chat. I hope you enjoy it!

John Romita Jr.: Did you start off a comics to film site or did it morph to that?

Quint: No, it started off movies. I know Harry is a book comic book fan. As a matter of fact, we have a group called “The League of @$$holes” that do the comic book stuff. That started off as talkbalkers who were giving Harry shit for not having a comic column, so he’s like “Alright, you guys want to run a comic column? If you want it so bad, let’s have you guys do it.” These guys all came together and became “The League of @$$holes.” (If this is at all inaccurate, my apologies to the @$$holes)

Mark Millar: I met one of the guys and he’s called Mark Miller as well, the Ambush Bug guy. He came up to me and introduced himself in Chicago last year and he was really nice. He was like “I’m really not into your stuff, but I thought I’d say hello.” (laughs) I thought, “I’ve got to admire his honesty,” so I bought him a drink when I was there.

Quint: That’s awesome.

Mark Millar: I find though that if you are into comics, you tend to be into movies and if you’re into movies, you tend to be into computer games and things like that.

Quint: Sure, it’s all visual storytelling.

Mark Millar: I find, and you must be the same, it’s seamless in a way, isn’t it? The idea of talking movies and talking comics, it’s almost the same job isn’t it?

John Romita Jr: Yes, absolutely. It’s a natural transition from comics to film. I don’t know about back. I know writers can handle it, but I don’t know if a storyboard artist from a film or even a director could become a comic talent as an artist. Maybe a writer, but I don’t know about art. I think art to film is easy, because it’s stop action movie and if you don’t watch movies you wouldn’t be a good comic artist. You know how to bridge the gap, but reverse I don’t know. I know writers handle it better; they come back and forth knowing the power of comics these days. It’s amazing and I have guys that want to be comic writers for the sole purpose of perpetuating the ideas that they have which would die on the vine in Hollywood.

Quint: Oh yeah, because it’s easier to self publish or find an independent publisher than it is to say, “I have this four or five million dollar movie idea.” Usually most of the ones that will jump into a comic book form, like THE FOUNTAIN, which they did back when the movie died and then they made the graphic novel version of it and then the movie actually came back again.

Mark Millar: I didn’t know that. So did the comic come out? I remember it had been in the works for a little while.

Quint: I don’t know if it came out before the movie got rebooted, but when Brad Pitt dropped out, Aranofsky just ended up bringing in his guys to do the graphic novel thing and I think he might actually of used that as a pitching tool. I don’t know if you guys heard this, but that’s also how they got SHERLOCK HOLMES made. They made a comic book of it first, to show the studios that they…

Mark Millar: I’d heard a little bit about that. District 9 did that as well.

John Romita Jr.: That’s what happened with THE MATRIX.

Quint: Really?

John Romita Jr.: Oh yes. Do you remember the artist’s name?

Mark Millar: Steve Skroce.

John Romita Jr.: It spent three years, from the two Wachowski boys… They hired him out and they wanted to make the comic first and they made it a comic, which was the storyboard…

Mark Millar: Did the comic ever see print?

John Romita Jr.: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it or where it was printed. All I know is he did the whole film on storyboard/comic.

Mark Millar: Because the DISTRICT 9 guys never intended for the comic book to be seen. They made an entire graphic novel, a hundred and twenty pages or something, but it was just for them and it was to show the studio. Neil [Blomkamp] apparently said, “This is why I want this kind of budget, so here’s what I’m planning on doing visually.” It was amazing. It’s funny that they never released it.

Quint: It’s interesting watching the evolution of the importance in comics in the industry. Fifteen years ago a comic book version of a potential film would have been hindrance, not a boost. With the internet’s rise it seems to be a new era of fan-influenced material.

Mark Millar: It’s weird, the Internet seems to have pulled down all of those barriers that used to exist between viewer and filmmaker of reader and writers. The Internet has democratized everything, I think, so now you don’t have to go to a convention and listen to someone on a panel you can just email them and build up a friendship kind of thing, you know? I spotted Harry at a convention years back, must have been the year 2000 or so at Comic-Con, and I saw Harry standing and Bryan Singer walking up to him and Kevin Smith waiting to talk to him as well and I just thought “Isn’t that interesting.” That might have happened with the Variety guys and Hollywood Reporter guys twenty years ago, but now the internet has got it to a point where a guy doing something from home can have like two of the biggest filmmakers in America lining up to talk to him because they need the approval of the common man now, the average fan. This would never have happened pre-internet.

John Romita Jr.: That’s true.

Quint: What I’ve noticed, just looking at the way the new media critics have risen, it’s this interesting relationship like the gossip columnists used to have back in the Hedda Hopper days, you know where they would get to know celebrities and filmmakers personally. This new media is something in-between that and the serious Leonard Maltin type critic.

Mark Millar: The studios now can be humbled by fans in a way that (they) never (were) before because all you had to do was be on good terms with the guy at Variety if you are at the studio. Now you need to be on good terms with everyone because if you piss off a section of the fan base you’re destroyed; your movie can be destroyed. Look at X-MEN 3. Everybody was ready to hate that film before they saw a single frame because the word of mouth was so bad. I kind of love that. I love the democratization of it. Suddenly, you can’t just look after your friends, you have to do a good job and put in a good effort.

Quint: I don’t think it’s a coincidence the rise of the comic book movie is in line with rise of the internet. A comic book movie used to be a bad thing, if you weren’t BATMAN and even that was a hard sell in 1989.

John Romita Jr.: The term “Comic Book” is bad group of words because it’s a misnomer, number one, and number two, now comic book films… it doesn’t compute: “Comic Book Film.” I don’t even want to say “Comic Book” to people; I say “Graphic Novel Series” and it still “…” “Okay, a comic book.” “Oh, okay, great!” Aw, shit! No matter what I say, I still have to say “Comic Book.”

Mark Millar: The thing I love… Somebody was interviewing me a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t actually thought about this until I mentioned it out loud, but they said, “Why do you think comic book movies do so well?” The thing is, nobody has really said this really, it’s because they are so much better, pound for pound, than any other genre. (laughs) It’s true! When you think about it, there has maybe been in the last ten years, ever since Stephen Norrington reinvented… He doesn’t get a lot of credit I think, but he sort of reinvented comic book movies in 1999 with BLADE because it was suddenly treated sort of serious, like a horror film or like THE MATRIX. And then X-MEN sort of followed on from that and then SPIDER-MAN reinvented things a bit more, but if you think about it there has maybe been twenty to thirty comic book movies in that time and when you think of the standard… 80% of them have been good or really good. You are talking Chris Nolan, Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer and Ang Lee even really. He’s a good director. It has all pulled in the biggest talents, really, and now Matthew Vaughn and so on. Compare that to the western or crime genre or anything like that; no other genre has gotten that hit rate with 80% great directors coming in. Of course there are shitty movies like ELEKTRA and CATWOMAN and all of that stuff, but they are a tiny minority and I think that’s why it’s so big, because the hit rate is so high.

Quint: That makes sense. With BLADE, you are right, it didn’t feel like a comic book movie. It felt like it could have just been a regular horror movie if you didn’t know the character.

Mark Millar: It’s like ROAD TO PERDITION, you know?

Quint: Oh yeah, well ROAD TO PERDITION and you have A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.

Mark Millar: That’s my favorite one out of the lot, I love that movie.

John Romita Jr.: It’s an excellent movie.

Quint: I love that one too, but yeah we should probably talk about KICK-ASS…

Mark Millar: (laughs) Oh, forget it.

Quint: I started picking up the books right when they came out and I love you guys, but you guys have made me buy the same issue like seven times, because I will never remember which one I’m on and the cover will change and I’m like “This is the new one!” and I’ll pick it up.

John Romita Jr.: We had nothing to do with that!

Mark Millar: He bought that watch on your royalties! (laughs)

Quint: You probably did! It must be interesting… You just went through WANTED having your stuff turned in to a film and you are a producer on both movies, is that right?

Mark Millar: Yeah, as is Johnny. It’s right down the middle.

Quint: Oh, I didn’t know you were a producer on the movie, too.

John Romita Jr.: Not on WANTED, KICK-ASS.

Quint: Yeah.

Mark Millar: But J.G. Jones was a producer on WANTED as well. I always think it’s quite sleazy when writers… I’ve actually got a bee in my bonnet about it because I think we are actually on the verge of a scandal in comic books where I know guys and I wouldn’t name names because I actually like some of them who are doing it, they will be like 90% owners of a property and maybe giving artists 10%. You are going to get a lot of writers soon who are living in mansions and the artists can’t make their rent based on something they co-created and it’s pretty disgusting. Years back companies used to rip off writers and artists. I think we are headed into a territory now where the writers are maybe going to be ripping off the artists soon, so just to keep my nose clean I like it. Plus, Johnny really brings about 80% of what’s good about the book, you know, so it feels like I’m almost ripping you off by only giving you 50%! (laughs) You take weeks with it, when I can write a script in a week.

John Romita Jr.: You have to have a good balance between your personalities and your professional standards in this. His idea is what started this and then he brings me along and we become partners.

Quint: Well, if you are a collaborator, you are a collaborator. I’m sure that you probably have an influence on where the story goes and you probably have an influence on the…

John Romita Jr.: Ultimately, when somebody like Matthew Vaughn says “I like the way you tell a story and I’m going to incorporate that into the film,” that’s as big a compliment as you can get. Mark’s compliment is the fact that it’s his project that began this. He got his work on the screenplay and my work got the visual end of it. If you think that you are not getting the credit that you are due, that’s your own problem. What comes your way comes your way. If you see your name on the screen as a producer, that’s nice. That means your project has been picked up and turned into a film, but I have a little bit (more than) that. I got some visuals in the film and that is a great feeling. Listen, we are partners in this. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you. That’s him, but if he were a pain in the ass, I’d just have to visit him in the middle of the night.

Quint: I was going to say, you look like you could inflict some damage if need be.

John Romita Jr.: Is this an Italian thing? Is that what this is? (laughs) Ultimately he’s a good man to work with, regardless of whether it turns into the film, and Matthew is a good man to work with and he put our names up on the screen as producers. (Mark) was a producer on WANTED. JG was a producer on WANTED. This works out nicely when you have comic to film. It’s creator owned… we own the project, there’s no alternative but to put us on the screen as creators and producers. I think it’s a naturally progression.

Quint: I think that’s a good trend and it’s something that I know Robert Rodriguez fought a lot for on SIN CITY. He wanted to bring Frank [Miller] in not just… He wanted Frank to actually co-direct the movie, but even if he didn’t do that I guarantee you he’d want him closely involved anyway.

John Romita Jr.: Another thing is, if you don’t have that person or persons involved in the filmmaking process… and I don’t mean literally being the director… The visuals came from us. A director would be crazy not to tap into that. I’ve spoken on a couple of projects and I’m attempting to pitch to people… One director that was interested specifically said “they are not going to force their ideas on me, are they?” Through the producer on the phone I heard that and I said “No.” If he comes to me and says, “Although I would love to hear what you have to say about this” “Okay, I’ll give it to you,” but on the line of “It’s all my project and these two guys happen to be comic book creators…” If that’s what you want, fine. Pay me. Put my name on the screen and when it’s all said and done you can go to hell if you are that obnoxious about it. Then you get guys like Matthew Vaughn who are a pleasure to work with.

Mark Millar: The thing is, we’ve got ultimate control which is really nice as well. I’ve got five movies in development at the moment and everything I’ve ever done, somebody’s come forward to try and buy, but if I don’t like the look of the director, if I don’t like the look of the studio, I just don’t do it. To me, the movie’s just gravy, the real money is in comics, really. That’s my job, but the movie stuff is just fun.

John Romita Jr.: He’s got five films in development and because of him I’ve got people interested in some of my projects.

Mark Millar: Yeah, but let’s not talk about pornography now.

John Romita Jr.: I should really be paying him some ancillary rights…

Quint: He’s your manager now, right, make with the ten percent.

Mark Millar: The truth is, it’s really nice. This project, NEMISIS, that I’ve got coming out in a couple of weeks time is the first creator owned I’ve done since KICK-ASS and three big directors came forward for it and Matthew’s been kind of like Robert Duvall in THE GODFATHER, he’s been kind of the Consigliere with this. He’s like “Tell them no and tell them you are not interested. And ‘this guy’s not very good at that’ or ‘that guy’s not very good at that.’ Don’t work with these guys, just hold out. You don’t need to sell off your stuff. Hold out and just see what happens. Only sell it if you really believe in the project.” I’d rather have no movie out than a bad adaptation of one of my things. The nice thing about living in Scotland is you could buy Scotland for a million dollars…

Quint: I’ve never gotten the chance to visit Scotland. I went to Ireland last year and saw Scotland across the water, does that count?

Mark Millar: Imagine Ireland, but more violent and that’s Scotland.

Quint: (laughs) With a few more hills? And some immortal highlanders…

John Romita Jr.: I only saw Glasgow at night and through the haze of alcohol, so I didn’t really get a chance to enjoy it.

Quint: So, you fit in?

John Romita Jr.: I lasted 24 hours and then went back to London.

Quint: So, I saw the movie at BUTT-NUMB-A-THON, the rough version of the film and it played like gangbusters…

Mark Millar: I heard. Everyone was texting me from BUTT-NUMB-A-THON. I can’t remember where I was… I was somewhere else and they were saying it was nuts, especially the Hit-Girl stuff. They said people were clapping along with it and things when she was just killing those guys at the end, like the audience was hypnotized in that final act…

John Romita Jr: You hadn’t seen the animated sequence?

Mark Millar: That wasn’t done then.

Quint: No animated sequence and it also had all of the temp score on it; the SUPERMAN music and BATMAN music and all of that stuff.

Mark Millar: Wouldn’t it be terrible if the final version was rubbish compared to that? (laughs)

Quint: I’ve actually heard that the score is pretty awesome, but it’s just such a fun movie. You should see the excitement from the readers. Now that screenings have started, we get emails everyday from people who see it…

John Romita Jr.: Are they non-comic book people or are they comic people?

Quint: Well, they are definitely Ain’t It Cool fans, so I’d imagine they’re more or less comic geeks.

Mark Millar: I’ve been looking very closely of the test screenings and all of that sort of thing and there was a 61-year-old grandmother in London at one of the test screenings and she gave it “Excellent. Definitely recommends. 5 out of 5” and it’s like the last thing I expected this movie to be is a four-quadrant picture. I thought like Tarantino is one of my top three directors, but I accept the fact that some people don’t like him. I love him, but I accept some don’t and I know he alienates maybe 35 or 40 percent of the audience just with his name. I thought this movie would be like that as well. I just thought the source material is just too harsh for most people, but there’s something about it. There’s a softness that hits girls just as much as it hits guys old and young. I can’t believe this is a mass-market movie, because it didn’t seem like it when we were making it.

Quint: Were you involved at all in the casting?

Mark Millar: Oh God, yeah.

Quint: You guys knocked it out of the park with Chloe [Moretz].

Mark Millar: It’s funny because it was down to three girls for Chloe (‘s character) and it’s funny because I live in Scotland, you know… I was down for meetings all of the time. I’m a lot closer geographically than Johnny, so I could just nip down in an hour to get down to London, but even then I couldn’t be there everyday. So I was at home and daughter and I used to sit and watch the auditions on this little thing that they had. There were two other kids plus Chloe and with Chloe it was like Jodie Foster in TAXI DRIVER. You just thought, “Oh my God, I can’t believe our luck that this kid appeared at this time.” But Kick-Ass was a nightmare because for about three months there was no one and we were testing everyone!

Quint: It’s such a hard age to find somebody that’s not a pretty boy and actually has a voice as an actor.

Mark Millar: I never understood why HAPPY DAYS was all 35 year old guys pretending to be teenagers and then I got it! It’s because there are very few charismatic 18 year olds out there, you know. Then Aaron [Johnson] just came out of nowhere.

Quint: I met Aaron at Sundance. I interviewed him for his John Lennon movie, which I liked a lot. I think it’s a great one two punch for him, because KICK-ASS is such a different role for him, you know and he kills it in both movies, one where it’s the serious…

John Romita Jr.: The two of them are going to be impossible to afford after this film comes out and both of them have some high profile things coming up after KICK-ASS, before KICK-ASS 2. We better lock them down!

Quint: I warned him. I told about the reaction at BUTT-NUMB-A-THON. I was like “After it comes out, they are going to make you go to COMIC-CON and stuff, but you are not going to be able to walk around.” We were talking about the Beatles, remember, and I’m like “It’s going to be like that, except it’s going to be fat guys with lightsabers and not teenage girls chasing you around.”

Mark Millar: (laughs) We were just saying… Everybody on this movie was really nice, like it was a very happy set and the people were all lovely, we just thought it’d be weird, because Chloe and Aaron are going to become big stars now after this film and we were thinking “Wouldn’t it be funny if it went to their heads and they just became crazy before KICK-ASS 2 and Chloe was like ‘yeah, I want 10 Bratz dolls before I do this scene!’”

Quint: (laughs) So, you were mentioning earlier the advice you were getting from Matthew was “If you don’t feel it, don’t go for it.” What made you feel it with those guys for KICK-ASS?

Mark Millar: It was funny actually because the whole thing ended up as a really happy accident. Matthew and I have got mutual friends who you guys wouldn’t know, but in the UK he’s a really big deal, it’s a guy called Jonathon Ross and he’s kind of our David Letterman or Howard Stern and Siskel and Ebert all rolled into one. He’s massive in the UK and makes more money than anybody else in UK television and he spends it all on comics, genuinely spends it all on comics. He has three copies of AMAZING FANTASY #15. He’s got his reading copy, he’s got his copy on the wall and then his bagged copy, so it’s like he just bleeds comics. He and I had been friends for a while and he was saying to me “I think you would get along really well with Matthew” and THOR had just fallen through at Marvel and I had gotten to know Matthew by email and everything and then we were on the phone and Matthew says to me “Have you got anything that you own?” I had a project called AMERICAN JESUS and Matthew really liked that and he was saying “I think we should do this” and just conversationally I brought up “I’m doing this think called KICK-ASS just now,” but I had only written the first two issues and I was on issue three and Matthew just said “Can you send it down?” and he loved it. He said, “I think I might want to do this instead.” So then he said, “Can you finish issue three?” So I finished it. He said, “Where’s issue four?” I said “About another week,” then I did issue four and he was like “Where’s five?” It was like “I’ve got to go back and write SPIDER-MAN or something, I can’t keep doing this!” So what I did was I had already written issue six. For some reason, I wrote issue six before issue one, because it was all the origin of Hit-Girl stuff and it was quite good fun, so I wrote that ahead of time, and I just wrote a loose plot for five, six and seven. He says “Do you mind if I just run with this with the screenplay?” I was like “Yeah, great.” So with no agents or anything were involved and he just ran with it and completed a screenplay.

Quint: That’s really interesting.

Mark Millar: It was all very informal, you know. Then we were really happy with the screenplay. Jane Goldman came in and did the most amazing draft on it. Just every level seemed to get improved and we just thought we hard the most polished superhero screenplay that was a game changer you know and then everybody hates it. It was such a bizarre set-up. I can’t believe we are sitting here now after all of the hurdles that it had to go through.

Quint: Yeah, because it was an independent film and then Lionsgate came in after the fact.

Mark Millar: Oh, well after the fact. The movie was in the can by the time Lionsgate came in.

Quint: Has working with them and the experience of making the movie and working with Matthew and Jane as collaborators has that impacted at all where the comics will go?

Mark Millar: Not really, no. We knew what we were doing, really. There were levels of details that we changed. There were a couple of tiny things, like originally Red Mist was just going to be an assassin for hire brought in by Frank, but Matthew said “You should make that the son and we will do a Harry Osborn/Norman Osborn thing with the best friends kind of thing and that just meant a tweak in the comic because Chris wasn’t a big character in the comic the way he is in the movie. He was more of a background guy, but other than that not really, no. I think if you try to draw your comic thinking in terms of movie, you are just going to end up mad. Just do a good comic and hopefully it will translate.

Quint: Yeah, just tell your story. Visually, John, did you get to work with the production designer and any of the…

John Romita Jr.: No, the only thing I got was feedback on costumes in that Matthew might have wanted a look after the fact. I would send sketches to Mark and to Matthew and get feedback on that and still they were different, other than Kick-Ass they were different in the film and that’s fine.

Quint: Yeah, with Kick-Ass it looks like they just pulled the costume out of the book. It really did.

John Romita Jr.: That’s great. That’s a compliment. The only thing I got was the Red Mist “M” design. They took that, but everything else was based on my life inside Queens and the apartments I’ve lived in, so I just took everything from my own memory instead of looking for references on areas of Queens and the schoolyard, the apartment, where the television sits, where the bar behind him sits…

Mark Millar: I didn’t know this until you told me this yesterday. What were the things again, like the bedroom?

John Romita Jr.: The living room with the bar behind him, the door comes in, there’s a hallway and down the hallway are the bedrooms. Inside his bedroom is the target over the hamper that I put in my apartment because I had a habit of throwing my clothes across the room into the hamper and missing, so I put a target up with a big arrow, because I was stupid! And then the sliding closet doors, the bed behind it with the shelves, the bathroom was around the other side, there was a window that went outside… It wasn’t a high-rise, it was a floor level apartment, and outside that window by car kept getting busted into and I was sleeping through the alarm of my car and it used to piss me off. I used to think the guy was watching me through the next door apartment. He was looking in and going, “I’m going to break into this guy’s car!” But everything, including some of the clothes, the school, the street in front of the school, inside the school, all taken (from my life.). The schoolyard, where he first approaches the graffiti artists is St. Joachim & Anne Catholic Grammar School in Queens on 217th Ln. and Hollis Ave. in Queens Village. That corner, I got into fights… we had basketball games and football games, baseball games, stick ball games all in this schoolyard with the broken glass everywhere, we were sliding on concrete. We were playing tackle football on concrete and balls used to be fouled off onto the roof. I was the only guy small enough that used to be able to squeeze into the drain tunnel. I would climb the drain and then squeeze through the opening, get all of the balls out, throw them all over and everybody would feed on the balls. I got caught by Sister Superior and I had to deal with her garden for a year. She never said a word to me… She was this big fullback looking nun, never said a word, but scared the shit out of me…

Mark Millar: (laughs) Nuns are never hot in real life are they? They are hot in movies, but…

John Romita Jr.: Now, she might have been a sweetheart, who knows? But she never said a word. She just used to point and I went up to the roof. So, that was such a vivid point in my life and when he said that we had to use this street and school or we had to use an area of a school… I didn’t want to do a lot of inside stuff when it came to the fighting, but he also had a lot of scenes where he wanted outside, I wanted to put it inside, because I wanted the school. It was that environment where he walks down a hall and you felt like you were claustrophobic and I didn’t get that feeling in the book, but it was such a vivid… I remember more about the Catholic Grammar School than I do about my high school days. Something about that horror when you are a kid, so I just brought that in. That didn’t have any problems with Matthew because I didn’t think it was going to get changed for the film, they did whatever they wanted for the film anyway.

Mark Millar: They will sometimes frame a shot exactly as you framed the shot in the comic.

John Romita Jr.: Yeah, but the location I’m sure was different. It was filmed in Toronto! (laughs)

Mark Millar: But they would lay out a room the way you lay it out. You will really see it tonight. You will be shocked.

Quint: Have you not seen it?

John Romita Jr.: I haven’t seen the film completely, no, but he says there’s more than enough references completely to the comic.

Quint: You feel the comic, but it doesn’t feel like SIN CITY, where it’s essentially just a motion version of a comic book, so it has that kind of freshness of being it’s own thing, but also being very respectful to the material.

John Romita Jr.: That’s a true compliment. That’s a real compliment.

Mark Millar: Even when people haven’t read the book, they feel kind of bogged down with something that is clearly just panels coming to life because it’s two different mediums really. You’ve got to make it stand on its own as a movie and you can run into WATCHMEN trouble if you are too laborious with it all. Did you do something like that with Spider-Man and Hulk; where you’d draw stuff from your life?

John Romita Jr.: Occasionally. Moreso with KICK-ASS, because it was a grittier, a true depiction of that. With Peter Parker I would throw in some clothes. I would throw in a couple of locations in Forrest Hills, because Peter Parker live in Forrest Hills, I never lived in Forrest Hills. Then there was Manhattan. The only thing I would use were maybe some chairs or some tables, some clothes on Peter Parker. Even Tony Stark… I started doing Iron Man when I was dressing up to go out to nightclubs. I would use some of my suits, because I had some nice…

Mark Millar: The armor? (laughs)

John Romita Jr.: (laughs) Yeah, no. I had some nice clothes when I was single. I can’t afford those clothes anymore as a married man, but I would imbue a lot of my personal life for reference sake, but this was the most, because that vivid memory of that schoolyard, and I didn’t even put enough detail in… I could tell you what was on the walls, there were always targets on the walls, so it would have been laborious and unnecessary, but the street that he gets hit by the car, that was perpendicular to the front door of my house and at the end of that was a factory and just all sorts of things… The houses, Johnny Medric, rest in peace, lived across the street from the gate that was in front of that schoolyard. It just all came flooding back to me, so I was like “This is what I’ve got to use instead of taking reference from Queens again.” I don’t need to. This is exactly where I know where I am and he may had mentioned Manhattan in the settings…

Mark Millar: To me it was all the same; I didn’t know one from the other.

John Romita Jr.: The city, to them, is Manhattan, whereas the city is Five Boroughs to me, so I just brought Queens in and for all intents and purposes, it was the same thing to them.

Mark Millar: It might as well be Istanbul to me, it’s a foreign country because I just thought your New York just looks like New York to me! It was so weird though, because Johnny… You felt like there was a life going on in those panels in the way that you don’t normally feel in most comic books. Most people just draw the costume and an action pose and all of that that, but there was a sense of environment and personality in there. It’s so weird, I didn’t know literally until like two weeks ago when Johnny told me so much of this was from his life and he didn’t know how much of the writing was autobiographical for me as well. I just wonder if that, on some level, has been the reason for success for it, because it’s two guys investing a lot of themselves in something.

John Romita Jr.: The whole point is this is a personal property as opposed to work for hire. While we didn’t get a dime for a year, there was something about it “I’m going to show people what we can do because this is really personal” and I knew about Creator Owned before this, but this was so important to me because I love working with him, number one, and number two, when I heard the buzz that somebody was interested in it as a film, I’m saying “Let’s play with this and let’s really get personal with this.” These little things on panels, I can’t even remember… There was a kid in my Jujitsu class that had the hair just like Dave did in the comic. His face was three quarters covered up by glasses and hair. The kid ended up being gay and came out to the sensei. He was a miserable kid, but he’s a black belt and I was afraid he was going to kill people! The struggle of this sixteen-year-old kid was what reminded me of an awkward sixteen-year-old. He has glasses and his hair is covering everything; he never wanted his face to be shown. So that’s the kind of thing where I’m saying, “I want to put this kid in.” So, that’s where that came from. It was based on Jon Heder and this kid in my dojo. That kind of thing is easier than looking for reference. (Mark) sent me that photograph of the guys from NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and the face on Jon Heder is where I ultimately went, but that kid with the hair… He was completely covered with hair. That’s what I was thinking of, that’s what an awkward 16 year old who is socially inept would do: hide from the rest of the class.

Mark Millar: It’s funny, even before I started writing the script I was thinking about the casting of the film, not as a movie, but as a comic. Because I had ideas in my head of the color of hair people would have and things and the cast I had, which Matthew pursued whenever the movie started up, but ended up for various reasons not working out, was Michael Cera for Dave, Sylvester Stallone for Big Daddy, who I love… I love Stallone! Hit-Girl was too young for anyone in particular, but my idea was Zac Efron as Red Mist. My theory with Zac Efron was I just thought it’d be the most inspired piece of casting, because I felt any guy age 17 would pay ten bucks to see Zac Efron get the shit kicked out of him. (laughs) And Zac Efron is the one guy who turned us down!

John Romita Jr.: That’s what he sent me. The first draft of this series was not with Dave in it, it was just Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. He said “Think of Stallone in the 70’s with big lamb chop sideburns and a big handlebar mustache.” So I was thinking biker-esque Stallone and the initial drawings of Big Daddy were that, some guy in a big leather coat with this big handlebar mustache and sunglasses, which I thought was perfect for what he began with, then it morphed into what it is now, so things changed a little bit. Those are in that book, the preliminary sketches of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl.

Quint: And that’s such a great dynamic with those two characters. I love that there’s almost a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER quality with them, but it’s all completely tempered with the most incredible violence.

Mark Millar: It’s funny, because Dave has loads of things from my life at that age, like 15 or 16, and then Big Daddy and Hit Girl have a similar relationship to myself as a dad with a daughter about that age and we don’t do the gun stuff and all of that…

Quint: The butterfly knife sure, but…

Mark Miller: (Laughs) I heard that when Jack Kirby was doing FANTASTIC FOUR, which is all a thing about family lifestyle and Jack you know… I think you would have to be two dads to write and draw a bit like FANTASTIC FOUR. What they did was they souped up stuff they did in real life and made it a comic book. So they had a family car in real life and they made it the Fantasticar in the comic book and all of these little things that you can associate with, so my daughter and I going down to the swing park and having fun, that then becomes something more outrageous when you do a comic book version.

John Romita Jr.: My experience along this line is much less to be proud of. I created a character called Typhoid Mary based on my ex-wife.

[Everyone Laughs]

John Romita Jr.: Suicidal, homicidal maniac with the exception of carrying the machetes in the apartment, it was her spot on. I haven’t seen her since, thank God…

[A representative says, “This is going to lead to a lawsuit I feel…”]

John Romita Jr.: She owes me a lot of money anyway…

[Representative thanks Quint for talking.]

Quint: Yeah, no worries.

John Romita Jr.: I got that in to end it! Nice!

Many thanks to Muldoon for the Herculean task transcribing this one. Both Romita and Millar were fast talkers and both had thick accents; Millar’s a Scottish brogue and Romita’s a New York twang. I have a sketch book that I carry with me to Comic-Cons and when I see someone whose work I admire, I’ll ask for a sketch. It’s not a very full book. I’ve had it for 7 years and there’s maybe a dozen sketches in there. I’m all about quality, not quantity here and when I asked Romita if he’d contribute a sketch to the book he pretty much asked to see it first. I think he wanted to see if it was worth his time and effort or maybe he’s just a geek like me and wanted to see what other work I’ve collected. In the book I have sketches from Alan Lee, Berni Wrightson, Eric Powell, Mike Mignola, Pete Docter and Tim Bradstreet. Whatever test he had in mind I apparently passed because he asked to hold on to the book for a while. I got it back a few weeks later with this inside:

Thanks, man! Much appreciated! Hope you guys enjoyed the chat and I hope you guys enjoy Kick-Ass as much as I do! I, for one, can’t wait to see it again! -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback
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  • April 15, 2010, 1:34 a.m. CST

    Woo Hoo!

    by Ambush Bug

    Mark Millar remembered me! Met him at last year's Wizard World Chicago. Great dudeQ<br><br> Yeah, Quint the @$$Holes came together something like that, more or less. Of course, all will be revealed in The Talkback League of @$$Holes: Year Zero!<br><br> But seriously, go see KICK ASS the movie. It is cool.

  • April 15, 2010, 1:34 a.m. CST

    Great interview, btw, Quint.

    by Ambush Bug

  • April 15, 2010, 1:55 a.m. CST

    I saw the restricted trailer...

    by Flapjacktits

    ...on Facebook and the other clips they have are fucking killer, this is going to be good indeed! :)

  • April 15, 2010, 2:05 a.m. CST

    Fuckin A those guys are great.

    by DOGSOUP

    Great interview Quint, one of your best ever.

  • April 15, 2010, 2:32 a.m. CST

    American Jesus

    by Chocolate_Giddyup

    would make an awesome movie. Now, where's the last of my War Heroes... oh wait.

  • April 15, 2010, 2:37 a.m. CST

    I heard Carmike Cinemas isn't getting "Kick-Ass" due to..

    by Mike_D

    some kind of finanical business with Lionsgate. Can this be confirmed? I live in upper michigan and I just heard we're not getting it due to some kind of financial problems with Lionsgate.

  • April 15, 2010, 3:05 a.m. CST

    I've just re-read Kick-Ass...

    by Righteous Brother

    after seeing the movie, and I think the movie is better. Still love the comic though and pick up everything by Millar and Romita.

  • April 15, 2010, 6:52 a.m. CST

    The book and the film...

    by The Edges Hat

    One of those rare combinations where reading the book and watching the film both round the other out, yet both have enough things that are different to stand completely on their own. Both excellent. Cage in costume channelling Adam West is hilarious!

  • April 15, 2010, 6:55 a.m. CST

    Nice Sketch there....

    by Righteous Brother

    JR Jnr is a class act.

  • April 15, 2010, 8:45 a.m. CST

    Thanks Quint!

    by Atomik Steve

    Seriously great interview. I'm a huge JRJr fan, so it was nice to hear some of his stories. Great sketch too!

  • April 15, 2010, 8:48 a.m. CST

    Romita Jr: best comic artist out there right now


    and millar is great also- people give him shit, but he is at the top of his game also. hes changed the game for everyone the past ten years, along with Ellis, morrison and a few others.

  • April 15, 2010, 9:06 a.m. CST

    Yeah, 'cause NO ONE interviewed JRJR here before.

    by Squashua

  • April 15, 2010, 10:03 a.m. CST

    Did you ask Millar

    by m_prevette

    Why he's such a talentless hack? He is purely awful -and people flock to read his garbage, his shock and shit for the sake of shock and shit. I recall a Wizard interview where he complained how he wanted to open the Wanted comic with anal sex but, darn, was forced to change it - what a loser.

  • April 15, 2010, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Great interview Quint

    by masteryoda007

    Very informative indeed.

  • April 15, 2010, 11:07 a.m. CST

    Jonathan Ross

    by Lampers

    One thing they didn't convey (understandably) to our American cousins is that Jonathan Ross is pretty much universally despised here in the UK. He IS a huge comic geek, that's true. And the f*cker know his movies, but everyone here, especially the geek community, hates his guts and can't understand why the BBC were giving him truckloads of license payers money. Worst. Interviewer. Ever! Of course I'm jealous cos I fancy his wife!

  • April 15, 2010, 11:32 a.m. CST

    Yeah, I've watched a lot of Jonathan Ross

    by BillEmic

    on YouTube and he's a pretty lousy interviewer with a terrible hairdo. Even Morrissey had to call him out on that. Too bad Ross has what seems to be a fanboy's dream wife.

  • April 15, 2010, 12:08 p.m. CST

    This website needs more pictures of Jane Goldman

    by PoseidonsRage

    preferably naked ones. Fap, Fap, Fap, Fap.

  • April 15, 2010, 12:20 p.m. CST

    m_prevette: Millar's had 2 comics made into films...


    ...and if KICK ASS is half as successful as it sounds like it'll be, both properties will be hits. So, yeah -- he should have opened WANTED with a splash page -- of HIM fucking YOU up the ASS. Ha! Ha! Why don't you go running off the cliff with all the other "Millar-is-a-hack" lemmings. Pathetic loser.

  • April 15, 2010, 4:16 p.m. CST

    Great interview/convo type thing

    by Jaka

    Loved it. Felt all geeked out just reading it. Really great that you got a bunch of their thoughts in there about movies and comic books without having to ask formulaic questions about Kick-Ass.<P>Awww, poor Squashua. Your interview was great, too. (pat, pat)

  • April 15, 2010, 4:36 p.m. CST

    Nuns are HAWT in movies???

    by LargoJr

    Have you SEEN Blues Brothers?

  • April 15, 2010, 4:37 p.m. CST

    I love Romita Jr.He is one of the greatest.

    by ominus

    and yeah nice interview quint,i enjoyed it.

  • April 15, 2010, 5:20 p.m. CST

    Kicks Ass

    by welshguy

    Saw this 3 weeks ago in th UK,yeah we finally got something before you guys.It does Kick Ass and pisses off the moral majority.See it!

  • April 15, 2010, 5:58 p.m. CST

    Hey Marcel...

    by Cinemanimetal

    Have you read the comic Wanted? The only reason I ask is because the last page is exactly what you described. I'm not kidding you can look it up!

  • April 15, 2010, 6:16 p.m. CST


    by MC_DLyte

    if it is even possible..Thanks to everyone at AICN for spreading the words. Kick-Ass kicked so many boners into my ass. You kicked them into my heart

  • April 15, 2010, 6:21 p.m. CST

    Cinemanimetal - How the fuck did Millar know...


    ...what m_prevette looks like? <p> btw, yes, I have checked out WANTED, the comic, and, truth be told, wasn't blown away by it. But I kinda like Millar's Old Man Logan and really dug Kick Ass for the reasons Massawrym outlined in his post.

  • April 15, 2010, 6:44 p.m. CST

    Quint, I'm very envious of your sketch book...

    by m_reporter

    ... some really big names in there. I'm a huge fan of Mignola, so I definitely want to see his sketch. Hell scan them all and make put them on the site. <p> Anyways, great interview as usual mate, keep up the good work.

  • April 16, 2010, 2:44 a.m. CST

    WHOA, WHOA THERE. A 129pg District 9 comic?


    WTF, MAN?! I mean, what the fuck? Release that bitch.

  • April 16, 2010, 9:19 p.m. CST

    Awesome interview, Quint. One of your best!

    by GimpInMyPants

    Mark Millar seems like a really smart guy. If I remember correctly, there used to be another group running a Web site that submitted comics reviews to AICN. They got a lot of flack for only submitting positive reviews when talkbackers wanted negative ones, as well. The reviewers called the talkbackers' bluff and told them to do it themselves. They did a few and that morphed to what it is now and the original comics reviews were never heard from again. I can't believe I remember that. Must have been 8, 9 years ago.

  • April 16, 2010, 11:04 p.m. CST

    On the back of the Kick-Ass HC I bought

    by rabidfnark

    it says "The greatest superhero comic of all time!" (it's not a quote from anyone, it's just there in all caps, and in large brightly colored letters). If I may offer a rebuttal: Bull. Fucking. Shit. I would like to know if this got put there with the knowledge of the authors, and if so, why? It's not that it's terribly written or drawn, it isn't. But it seems that these two creators should show more respect to previous creators of better characters. With Kick-Ass they are, at best, standing on the shoulders of giants.

  • April 17, 2010, 8:29 a.m. CST

    Romita Jr. talking about art is always funny to me

    by alienindisguise

    since he hasn't gotten any better since he first started. His work is weak. Must be nice to be able to ride a last name to get what you want.

  • April 17, 2010, 11:45 a.m. CST

    If Matt Vaughn ends up not available for KA2...hire QT

    by future help

    I would love to see Quentin do a Superhero flick...and this is right up his alley. (love to have Vaughn back as well)

  • April 18, 2010, 12:47 a.m. CST

    Hitgirl is the movie

    by Messyjoe

    This movie is not called Hitgirl because if it had been only her story (probably a better film), it would never had been made. So along comes the disguise; of the high school kids dressed up, and acting funny. And that is what is used to promote it in the ads. If the Hitgirl story had been told only, it would have made for a great film noir. At least the people who know the comic will come to see it because of Hitgirl.

  • April 19, 2010, 1:14 p.m. CST

    Hey Marcel

    by m_prevette

    I won't sink to your sad level, as you obviously have no idea of what you're talking about and won't recognize good writing if it swam up and bit you in the ass. Millar is a terrible writer. Case closed. Has been always will be. Sorry but it's a fact of the universe. So, I will pity you instead. But, fuck off anyway.

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  • April 19, 2010, 8:23 p.m. CST

    respect to them for giving norrington props

    by Waka_Flocka

    blade is still the best 'comic book' movie for me.

  • April 20, 2010, 1:16 a.m. CST

    The fights with Hit-Girl

    by Teddy Artery

    were dynamic filmmaking genius. Horrifying and hilarious at once.

  • April 20, 2010, 1:30 a.m. CST

    The only scene I felt was a cheat

    by Teddy Artery

    was the very last line by Red Mist (I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet). I wanted something a little more original.

  • April 20, 2010, 2:21 a.m. CST

    Millar's writing style tends to look down on the readers.

    by rabidfnark

    He writes like he's too good for comic books, and often lets you know that he thinks you're a loser for reading them. It's like he's saying, "don't you have anything better to do?" Not ALL the time, perhaps, but if, "this is me fucking you in the ass [while flipping of the reader]" doesn't prove my point then nothing will.

  • April 20, 2010, 2:24 a.m. CST

    "Off"... flipping "off" the writer.

    by rabidfnark

    Man I suck at typing when I'm tired.

  • April 20, 2010, 2:27 a.m. CST

    Dammit!!!!! Flipping off the "reader" is what I meant

    by rabidfnark

    Hah! fuckin' hell. Night all. I should be more coherent tomorrow.

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  • April 20, 2010, 5:55 p.m. CST


    by Baryonyx

    When did Jonathan Ross become "universally disliked" in the UK? I'm sure his prime time Friday night chat show still gets a lot of viewers. Ross made some brilliant shows back in the 80s: The Incredibly Strange Film Show and Son Of The Incredibly Strange Film Show, and so I'll always like him for those (and maybe he'll do more of that stuff now that he's leaving the BBC). Ross helped popularize Jackie Chan in the UK after doing a brilliant feature on him for an Incredibly Strange Film Show episode. He also showed clips from Woo's A Better Tomorrow that Brit viewers had never seen before. AND he's a massive comics geek with a great collection AND he's a big Asian movies/anime fan AND he's got a big-breasted scriptwriter wife AND it was because of him that Channel 4 screened stuff like Zu Warriors and Mr Vampire back in the day.

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  • April 23, 2010, 7:45 p.m. CST

    Some of the comments in this talkback...

    by Jaka

    ...make me realize how quite a few people just don't understand the intent of what they're reading. Flat out JUST. DON'T. GET. IT. Missing the entire point.

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