'Kick-Ass' co-creator John Romita Jr. talks past, present, and future
To speak in more general terms, the "Kick-Ass" explosion from the past few years, with two movies and the success of the comic book, followed so many successful years of you doing nearly only work-for-hire material at Marvel, other than "The Gray Area" at Image in 2004. What's that experience been like getting further into the creator-owned world, and watching what "Kick-Ass" has become?
On a personal basis, it's more exciting than I can describe, because I had been so locked-in to work-for-hire for so long. This was such a revelation and a feeling of freedom, and to have it turn into this is hard to describe. I guess I have to become a writer to come up with something clever to say. [Laughs]
I said this at San Diego -- instead of sitting down and being introspective about this, I want to stand up and scream at the top of my lungs, like I'm at a baseball game. "Yeah!" That's all I can think of. I don't have anything clever or profound to say. It's all excitement, it's all fun.
So I'm trying to get to that spot where before things dry up, I want to try and get a couple of my ideas in. That's what I'm looking forward to. It's nice to do something different after all these years.
At the same time, it appears that you've deliberately balancing both worlds, with runs on "Avengers," "Avengers vs. X-Men" and "Captain America" concurrent with your time on "Kick-Ass." Was doing both important to you?
I don't know if it's important in the general stream of things, but in my head, I always want to keep my foot in the work-for-hire zone, because when I was very young in the industry, somebody told me, "You got to stay on the newsstands." I don't want to disappear and have this notion that I'm indispensable and that I can do whatever I want. I don't think of it that way. I'm always going to be earning the money to pay for the electric bill. I can't not do that.
But if I can do both -- if I can somehow keep my foot in the work-for-hire pool, and at the same time dangle my foot in the hot tub of creator-owned... what a metaphor!
So one's a pool, one's a hot tub. Got it.
And there's also a very good looking blonde woman in that hot tub at the same time. It's my wife.
I'd like to be able to do both and continue to do both, and I think that's what I'm going to lean towards, because I don't have this notion that I can all of a sudden just go off into la-la land and try to make movies. It's not me. It's not going to happen.
So the transition must have been somewhat of an adjustment, especially in terms of content, given the deliberately over-the-top violence of "Kick-Ass." Was that a weird transition for you at all, or was it something you were excited to do after not being able to for so many years?
Everything you just said came into play. At first it was a strange feeling to look at the plot when Mark would say, "We're going to have this guy's head chopped off, and all of these people are going to get cut into little human nuggets," that kind of thing. He was warning me at the beginning -- and I knew creator-owned going in was that free -- "Listen, we're going to be a little over-the-top here, we're going to try this, and we're going to try that."
The answer to it was easy, because I didn't have a way of changing gears for the violence. You have to stick to what you can do, as opposed to trying what you can't. There's nothing wrong with that, but this was too important. I just tried to choreograph the super-violent scenes in the same way that I was choreographing the discretionary violence, because I only had one way of doing it. I assumed it would work, and it turned out to be a nice juxtaposition -- a poetic choreograph of over-the-top violence works in the same manner as the discretionary violence. All you have to do is imagine less, and be more deliberate. Instead of a shadow of two people battling it out, or somebody getting skewered, you don't show the shadow. You show the literal form. All I did was apply my own formula to the "Kick-Ass" violence, and it worked out nicely, and then I felt more comfortable instantaneously, because I remember thinking, "I have to do something different, because my old stuff is just the old stuff."
The first thing I did was tell [inker] Tom Palmer, "No black fields, no shading." It's just going to be linework, just to look different. And people honestly didn't notice it, because [colorist] Dean White is brilliant, and his grades of color were stark, so there were dark fields, but only color, there were no literal black fields. We tried to do something visually different. Here I am doing superviolence, and I was applying the old formula to it, and it ended up looking different. It worked out really well for me, almost accidentally. I call it, "Stepping into a pile of dog doo, and coming up with a toe ring."
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