John Romita Jr. has illustrated almost every Marvel hero, but in Kick-Ass, his work delves into brutally real superheroics. With the Kick-Ass movie due soon, Romita discussed the film's animated segment he directed and his encounters with flesh-and-blood vigilante superheroes.
io9: First off, you directed an animation sequence for the Kick-Ass movie. What's it about?
It's an origin sequence halfway through the film. Nicolas Cage's character, Big Daddy, documents his conquests as a vigilante in a shrine by drawing his victims and putting them up on a wall– The Wall of Villains – that he has in his secret room.
His ex-police partner, Marcus, discovers Big Daddy's secret room and sees what he's done to document his frustrating history; it's basically a comic book. He's a cartoonist and he draws his origin. His origin pretty much explains the whole film, in that Nicolas Cage's character has been set up and he's been driven out of his mind by what happened. Marcus comes in and picks up this little brief history in the comic book, and it morphs from the page in the comic book into a one-minute-or-so animated sequence. It then morphs back into the comic book when Big Daddy walks in on Marcus.
How was directing an animated sequence different than straight-up comic book illustration?
That's the interesting thing. Director Matthew Vaughn wanted it to be a comic book sequence. He was specific in saying, "Stick to what you do. We'll have it as a homage to the comic book." So I basically drew a comic book sequence and the computer-generating people at Double Negative Visual Effects turned it into a 3-D animated sequence.
In Kick-Ass, real people act as vigilantes. Given that you were illustrating real people and not say, Thor, did you find that your style changed?
When I was working with Mark Millar, we both handled it as a graphic novel. We handled it differently than a normal comic in that it was an illustrated novel and we knew that it was a special story, but I wasn't intending to make it look more realistic than normal. We stuck to what we were good at.
Speaking of Mark, I know that you've worked with him on a number of projects, such as Wolverine: Enemy of the State. You are one of the few artists who can make Logan's flamboyant yellow jumpsuit look dangerous.
(laughs) Thank you very much!
What's it like working with Mark Millar? Any antics?
He's one of the funniest guys you'll ever meet, and the two of us get along because we're both wise-asses, just from different countries. No, he just sends me the script, and I do what I do. Working with him is an absolute pleasure. He absolutely cracks me up when I can understand his heavy Scottish dialect, I crack him up when he can understand my heavy Brooklyn dialect. We get along famously.
Kick-Ass is a unique title in that it's about real people taking up a superhero mantle. Are you worried that there will be any sort of reverberation in the real world with folks assuming superhero identities?
Right after Kick-Ass began, we were privy to a couple of sites and emails that people were dressing in costume. The longer the series went along and the closer the film came to coming out, we found out that there were neighborhood patrols in which people would pick up outfits and dress up. The timeline, we're not sure about, some of them were claiming they were dressing up long before the series came out.
Interestingly enough, just a couple days ago at the New York screening of Kick-Ass, there was a martial arts expert who does those kinds of neighborhood patrols in the Midwest. He was the nicest guy in the world, but just into neighborhood patrols. I've seen the internet chatter about this, and I love it frankly. I remember neighborhood patrols when I was a kid. If they start to wear costumes, so be it. Maybe they'll scare a couple of boneheads away. The more this happens and the more tension it gets, who knows? Maybe we'll find costumed heroes, but of course, military, cops, and firefighters – those are the superheroes.
Any sort of tidbits you can offer us on the Kick-Ass 2 comic?
I can only give you the name of the arc, "Balls to the Wall." And Mark gave the villain's name away at the screening – it's The Motherfucker. Mark's sworn me to secrecy.
Your illustrations inspired the Black Panther series that's slated to air on BET. I know that it recently aired in Australia. Will we see it stateside?
It aired in Australia?
Yeah, you can see the opening sequence online – folks are claiming it aired on Australia's ABC3, but there's not a lot of info on the show's US air date.
There was some contention as to whether or not it would released in the US – something about BET and Marvel or BET and Reginald Hudlin. I'm not sure where it was the last time I spoke to Reggie. But hey, Australia! That's outstanding.
You and Brian Michael Bendis are helming the new post-Dark Reign Avengers series. Any spoilers you can pass on?
I'm just about to finish the first issue as we speak. I'm afraid to give away anything here because the plot's connected to so many different things – there's such a strange amount of subplots – including the villain, as it might affect other stories.
Finally, any other projects besides Avengers in the pipeline?
I have a creator-owned project with Howard Chaykin that's the product of my own twisted mind. I'll be working on that soon – it's called Shmuggy and Bimbo. Howard's writing and it's about two hitmen from the 1940s who grew up with my parents in real life in Brooklyn. They've long since passed but we've placed them into 1970s New York City. It's a convoluted political intrigue plot with a little bit of fantasy involved. Yes, there were two legitimate human beings in this world named Shmuggy and Bimbo, and they looked like their names.
Kick-Ass is published by Marvel in the US and Titan Books in the United Kingdom.