The ski mask is going back on and the sticks are coming out again as Kick-Ass 2 hits the shelves of comic book shops.
The sequel to the incredibly successful Kick-Ass picks up the story of teenager Dave Lizewski and his continuing attempts to be a crime-fighting superhero called Kick-Ass. However, this time around things get nasty with the return of his old foe and self-proclaimed super villain Red Mist. Under the new moniker of ‘The Mother Fucker’, Red Mist takes revenge on Kick-Ass and New York, leaving mayhem in his wake.
Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar says: ‘Book two is as dark as a superhero movie can get, I wanted to show what would really happen if you tried to be a superhero in the real world. In the first one it was as simple as you could get, ending up in hospital for three months. In this one I really wanted to explore the ramifications [of what happens] if a bad guy didn’t like you and knew your secret identity. What they would do to your friends and family? I really wanted to explore all of that in depth and have a superhero’s life torn apart.’
Millar says he has always envisaged Kick-Ass as a trilogy that takes his characters on a journey, so fans can expect a third book. "I think the closest comparison I can get is with the Star Wars trilogy and I’m not even a major Star Wars fan. The structure is so beautiful, it’s the most brilliant structure I’ve seen in a trilogy and I just find myself naturally copying it and that hero’s journey is just timeless. The idea of the guy who starts out rubbish, who gets better, who saves the day at the end."
Inspiration for the character of Kick-Ass came from Millar’s teenage years. "When I should have been doing maths and physics I was thinking about being a superhero. It was kind of a plan I had - even though I lived in Glasgow, not New York."
This didn't hold his imagination back, however. "Maybe you don’t need to come from Krypton or get bitten by a radioactive spider. You can maybe just do some press-ups."
Compared to other superheroes, Kick-Ass is far from archetypal, he is just an ordinary teenager without any special superpowers or a Batmobile, simply longing to help others.
As well as being a well-loved comic book, Kick-Ass was adapted into hugely popular film in 2010 that garnered mainstream appeal. So why has Kick-Ass been so successful? "‘For me, it’s popular because it’s real. It’s from the heart," he says.
"I think the enthusiasm that a writer can have is infectious. Somebody else pointed out to me that he’s the recession superhero. He doesn’t have a Batcave or a billion dollar fortune. He’s just got two sticks and good intentions. He’s as poor a superhero as you can possibly get so he just seems bang on for right now that’s why it caught fire so quickly the way it did."
The other notable character in Kick-Ass is Hit-Girl, also known as Mindy McCready, a real crime-fighting superhero who was played by Chloe Moretz in the film adaption of the first book. Laced with sardonic wit and a foul-mouth, she was trained in combat from an early age by her father. Unlike Kick-Ass she can quickly dispatch an army of gangsters twice the size of her.
Her father was killed in the first book and she has been adopted. In Kick-Ass 2 she has promised her adoptive father that she will leave her superhero days behind and live life like any other 12-year-old girl. She is the most compelling character in Kick-Ass and now has her own comic entitled Hit-Girl which came out last week.
"What’s interesting is that it’s not somebody in a thong and it’s not like a swimsuit model, a 25-year-old or something. [Hit Girl is] a female character who is as de-sexualised as you can possibly get. I think it’s really odd that’s actually sold because I know that Marvel and DC try to make these characters as sexy and as racy-looking as possible and it doesn’t work. It’s weird that the one that has actually broken out is the character who’s completely covered up."
He explains that the inspiration for the character of Hit-Girl stemmed from playing with his daughter in the park where he would time her doing chin-ups and other challenges. He originally wanted to write something child-friendly that his daughter could watch because she was too young to see the adaptation of his comic Wanted.
He says: "I’ll do a thing about a dad and a daughter and it will be really cute, a superhero dad and daughter and within 24 hours it became the most violent superhero story ever."
With the release of at least one superhero film every couple of months, this genre has clearly caught the public’s imagination. This year alone has seen the release of The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers and Wrath of the Titans, with The Dark Knight Rises to follow shortly. Why now?
"There is no question that after September 11 these movies started to do really well. In the 1980s and 1990s superhero movies were more misses than hits. You almost always lost money and there was just a very, very rare exception," he says.
"It’s quite interesting that superheroes were created in the depression whenever people needed something to distract them from bad times. […] And then the global economic collapse back in 2008 which seemed to worsen every day. When times are tough people often want to see superheroes, they don’t really want to see real-life drama. They want to see something so fantastical."
Millar is busy with a whole raft of other projects, including a spy project with fellow Kick-Ass producer Matthew Vaughn. Wanted 2 is in the works as is his project Superior which is about a boy with multiple sclerosis who wishes to become a superhero. There are also plans for Supercrooks which Millar describes as a heist movie with super heroes. Meanwhile filming on the sequel to 2010’s Kick-Ass movie will be starting in August and it should be out at the end of next summer.
"My plan over the next 10 years? I want to do what Stan Lee did in the 1960s and bring a whole wave of these characters that can go on and have a life in different media. I love doing this, I love doing comics."
‘Kick-Ass 2’, Mark Millar and John Romita Jnr, Titan Books, £18.99 is out now