Artist John Romita Jr On 'Kick-Ass 2'... And 'Kick-Ass 4' [Interview]

Kick Ass 2 Poster

On August 16th, Universal will unleash the sequel to 2010's hit teen-hero movie Kick-Ass, based on the comic series by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.  We got the opportunity to speak with Romita as the film's publicity campaign gears up, and discussed his involvement with the adaptation, the difficulty of developing a property as a comic and movie simultaneously, and his plans for upcoming projects:

MTV Geek: What's your degree of participation in the new movie?  Have you been working with the studio on it as it progresses?

John Romita, Jr.: Well, I know what is coming, I know the story.  There's some parts of it I haven't seen, and I don't know just what they did with them… I'm excited to see how they work onscreen, and how they interpret our ideas.  I'm the guy who drew the comic, but I still want to see how it all plays out.

I've had the script, but I'm curious to see what changes they've made, what's changed over the course of production, and see what made it in and what didn't.  I don't know for sure what got edited out… I know my scene was edited out, which is part of the process, I guess.  I'm excited to see what's kept and how they fit it all together.

Geek: Are they working directly from your visuals and story?

JRJR: No, it's not a direct adaptation of the books.  But y'know, there are a lot of similarities - it's a take on Mark and my visuals, and the things that we created, and it's really flattering to see all that up there.

I mean, they have to create their own stuff.  They can't just be taking everything from what we do – like with the first movie, they actually got the visuals done more quickly than I could drawing the series.  So they had to make some things up.  It's not like some comic movies, like Sin City, where you can see them taking it straight from the comic, using the same camera angles.

With this one, they're adapting our stories – they create their own work, and the movie becomes its own thing, but they're working from our ideas.  So, there's a lot of similarities in the costumes, and set-ups in the movie scenes that are derivative of the book.  The director, Jeff Wadlow, brings a lot of his own ideas, and interprets the story in his own way.  It's taking a lot of inspiration from what we do, and that's flattering as all get out, but the story does have its own identity.

[caption id="attachment_127841" align="alignnone" width="480"]A behind-the-scenes shot from Kick-Ass 2: John Romita, Jr. in supervillain costume A behind-the-scenes shot from Kick-Ass 2: JRJR in supervillain costume[/caption]

Geek: You just mentioned that with the first movie, they finished the visuals faster than you could draw them – that's pretty amazing, because movies usually take years to make, and you're regarded as one of the most reliable, productive, fast comic artists around.  How on earth did that happen?

JRJR: I do have a really good excuse!  You want it?

Geek: Yes please!

JRJR: I was doing two books a month at that time anyway -Spider-Man and Kick-Ass.  Then, I got involved in working on the animated sequence in the movie, doing that in my style.  So I was doing the cartoon, and turning out Spider-Man every month, and the actual Kick-Ass comic just started running more and more behind.  The movie went really quickly, and I was still working on the end of the comic. So interestingly enough, the reason I couldn't get it done in time for them to use it as reference, was the filming and what they asked me to do for filming.

The rapidity of development of the movie was amazing.  By the time I was working on the second issue, the deal was struck, and it was moving forward.  And by the time I finished the series, the movie was gearing up to be released.

Geek: So did this simultaneous development, these parallel paths of creating – did the film and comic end up influencing one another?

JRJR: Well, in both films, the director did have a choice of looking at the books and using them.  And it's the ideas and characters in the books that got them to make the movies.  The dialogue, the story…  Mark's writing goes without saying.  It's fantastic.

I think it's just great because they enjoy the property because of Mark's writing, they enjoy the visuals because of my visuals.  And they make their own thing with it.

Geek:  As you've done the Hit Girl and Kick-Ass 2 and 3 series, have there been any points where you found yourself adapting your work to fit with the movie?

JRJR: No, I actually haven't.  I refuse to do that, and Mark has been very firm about making sure that the comic stays a comic and the movies are their own thing.  I don't even know if I could...  It just wouldn't work.  We've kept the process the same, and we've kept our ideas the same, and we tell the story like we want to tell it.  Really, If I tried to reflect the movies more in the comics, I would feel silly.

I'm not doing anything in anticipation of the film, or because of what's gone before.  I'm doing things, drawing like I draw, making it work as a comic.  And people react, and the director can take what he likes and use the bits that work for a film.

It's worked out well because we've stuck to our guns with the series, and it's not just me – even Mark hasn't changed in any way.  We're doing what we want to do.

Kick Ass 2 Poster

Geek: So you have two films in this franchise under your belt, but it's not the only creator-owned property in your belt.  Can you tell us anything about The Grey Area, or any other creations possibly moving to the screen?

JRJR: Well, The Grey Area has a script, and it's getting notes now from the producer, Stephen L’Heureux at Solipsist Films…  There was actually interest in The Grey Area before Kick-Ass, but it took a while to get moving.

I also have 3 or four other properties with other writers: one is called Shmuggy And Bimbo, which I'm doing with Howard Chaykin, and there's some others.  Those characters, Shmuggy And Bimbo, are two guys in the 40s, based on guys who grew up w/ my parents…  They were real toughs, a couple of, er, colorful characters, to put it politely.  And that's gonna be a lot of fun, and be a pretty interesting story.

The best thing about the Kick-Ass movie, aside from the fact that I'm really excited to see my work represented up there, is that it's done well enough to warrant a sequel.  It's allowed me to get people to listen, and look at more of the work that I do.

Because I'm not like Mark Millar – Mark is different, he's a great salesperson.  He has thirty to forty projects in the works, in stages, a bunch of things with a bunch of different people, that will hopefully end up as movies.  But I'm not like that.  I work on things, I work them around, and I see what ends up happening…  It's like the Long Island Railroad, it gets me there eventually.

Geek: So, now that the second movie is on the way, can you share any news about a possible Kick-Ass 3 film?  Is there anything in development?

JRJR: I couldn't answer  - there's interest, and of course if the second movie does really well, I expect people will be ready to do the next one.  There is a Kick-Ass 3 comic, so it's ready.  The basis is there.

Geek: And in comics?  Are there plans to revisit the Kick-Ass-verse again?

JRJR: There won't be a Kick-Ass 4, I will say that. And I won't add a but to that, but…  Well, there are plans for Mark and I to do more.  Mark and I will be working together again on other projects.  Am I being subtle enough?  <laughs>

We need to work out schedules, we will be doing more together, we have made plans.  But it won't be Kick-Ass 4.  That's really all I can say about that.  But there will be more work from us, we'll do more together, and I think it'll be really cool.

Kick-Ass 2 hits theaters August 16th!