(CBR) Since the late 1970s, John Romita Jr. has been one of the most prolific and celebrated illustrators of Marvel characters, drawing famous stories like "Daredevil: The Man Without Fear," "Contest of Champions" and "World War Hulk," along with multiple runs on "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Uncanny X-Men."

In recent years, he's distinguished himself with some decidedly different material: "Kick-Ass," the hyperviolent (and frequently controversial) "real-life superhero" series he created with writer Mark Millar. Of course, the comic -- released through Marvel Comics' creator-owned imprint, Icon -- became wildly successful, with the first film adaptation grossing $96 million worldwide in 2010, and a sequel out this Friday.

Romita has still kept a major presence at Marvel, most recently illustrating the first 10 issues of the relaunched Marvel NOW! "Captain America" with writer Rick Remender. Yet that may be changing soon, as Romita -- who's still at work drawing the "Kick-Ass 3" miniseries -- confirmed to CBR News that his Marvel contract has expired, and he's yet to decide where he'll focus his work-for-hire output next.

In advance of "Kick-Ass 2" debuting in theaters, CBR News talked with Romita about the movie, how his collaboration with Millar has changed his career, what he's enjoyed about the "Dimension Z" story arc on "Captain America," and what his artistic future may hold.

CBR News: John, let's start out by talking the most timely subject, since "Kick-Ass 2" is out this week. Have you seen the movie yet?

John Romita Jr.: I have not. I have seen it in various parts, but not all together chronologically. I had a chance to see it before San Diego, but the timing didn't work. Now I'm going to see it tonight, and I'm nervous as hell.

How come?

Nervous anticipation. I used to get nervous before softball games -- I still do. No harm can come of it other than you can crack a knuckle or sprain an ankle.

I just get nervous anticipation about things. This more so than the first. The first was completely unknown; this is a known quantity, and now I want it to do better. So there's a little bit of a difference.

As the co-creator of the "Kick-Ass" comic, how involved have you been in the productions of the films?

In the first film, I worked on an animated sequence. It took a couple of months, it was an origin/flashback clip.

This, less so. There were a couple of images that I had to draw for the director that were Chris Plasse's imagination of his thugs in costumes. Every time he'd get a new thug, he would imagine them immediately as a supervillain. So I drew those images so that they could appear next to his imagination.

But I really didn't have a hand in it the way I did the first. I was constantly, and still am, sending scans of my artwork to ["Kick-Ass 2" writer/director] Jeff Wadlow as we go through things. He got a chance to see the pages as I was finishing them. Jeff and his amazing ability to visualize things, he had some basis from the comics and the graphic novels. He used some of the images. That's the biggest flattery, the biggest honor you can get. And we're very proud of that.

When you were drawing the second "Kick-Ass" miniseries, did knowing that it would end up a movie -- or at least that it was likely -- change your approach at all? Or is it about the same process for you as any other project?

No, because I don't want to go out of the range of what got us to this point. If I start anticipating the moment that the director's going to say, "Wow, this is it, this is the end-all, we're going to make a movie about this," or, "We're going to change the film because of this latest issue," that would deter from what we're doing originally, and the reason we got to this point is because of what we were doing originally.

And also, I don't think I'm capable of changing things so dramatically that it's going to disrupt anything, and I guess that's good, because you stay within yourself. Kind of like an athlete -- you stay within what you can do as opposed to trying to hit a 12-run home run.

So, no, I don't anticipate what someone's going to say about it. I try to do what I've been doing. And since I've been doing it long enough, I tend to stay in that control. And that's what I wanted to do.

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