Shiv and Let Shiv: Making Peace with 'Kick-Ass' (And Other Meditations) : Monkey See Our comics blogger rounds up some recent comic book developments, and attempts to get to the bottom of the furor around the ultra-violent "Kick-Ass".
NPR logo Shiv and Let Shiv: Making Peace with 'Kick-Ass' (And Other Meditations)

Shiv and Let Shiv: Making Peace with 'Kick-Ass' (And Other Meditations)

Chloe Grace Moretz as 'Hit-Girl' In Kick-Ass. Dan Smith/Lions Gate hide caption

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Dan Smith/Lions Gate

It's already been a big week in funnybook circles.

Found: One Treasure Trove of Tie-Ins
On Monday, the New York Times reported that hundreds of rarely seen illustrations by comics legend Jack Kirby (co-creator of Captain America, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and others) have turned up. The work, produced by Kirby in the early 80s while he lived in Hollywood churning out work-for-hire ideas for Saturday morning cartoons and toy lines (kids: Ask your parents about Ookla the Mok), will be " as many forms as possible" by a partnership between the Ruby-Spears animation studio (which owns the characters) and ... Sid and Marty Krofft. (Kids: Ask your parents how much they wanted to strangle Freddy the whiny magic flute.)

As many have pointed out, however, these so-called "lost" Kirby characters were featured in series of 1994 trading cards called The Jack Kirby Unpublished Archives. Check out the NYT's slideshow, and then visit Comics Alliance, where blogger Chris Sims has sifted through his personal stack to find the 10 Amazing Jack Kirby Designs That Need To Happen.

"Avengers, Assemble! Introspectively!"
Tuesday, Variety reported that Joss Whedon is in final talks to direct the long-planned Avengers movie, slated for 2012 release. The film will team the heroes from various currently- or soon-to-be-in-production Marvel film projects: Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth's Thor, Chris Evans' Captain America and Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury.

Cue online nerdsplosion. A certain amount of excitement is only fitting; Whedon knows his way around the Marvel universe (having written two years' worth of X-men comics and a solid run on the series Runaways).

Some have expressed concern that although Whedon seems ideally suited to angst-ridden, shunned-by-society characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men, we've never seen him do the kind of brightly lit, primary colored, here-we-come-to-save-the-day story that an Avengers movie would seem to demand. (We might have, if the Wonder Woman film he was set to write and direct had gotten off the ground, but he couldn't get the suits on board with his take.)

Batwoman on the Verge
And yesterday morning, DC Comics announced that the character of Batwoman will follow up her strong run in Detective Comics by launching her own series. (Whether you hear this news and think "It's the first time a lesbian character has starred in her own, self-titled ongoing series from a mainstream company!" or simply "Yay Batwoman!", it's a good day for comics.)

But the story that's been taking up more than its share of online oxygen in recent days is the ruckus over Kick-Ass, the ultra-violent superhero movie (based on an ultra-violent superhero comic) that lands in theaters this weekend.

After the jump: The comic, the trailer, the tween at the center of the controversy.

The comic on which the movie is based is a creator-owned title written by Mark Millar and drawn by the great John Romita Jr. The first issue appeared in February of 2008 — and the movie rights were snapped up immediately.

In that first issue, a teenager creates a costume for himself, goes out into the streets of New York City to fight crime and proceeds — in his very first outing — to get beaten to a bloody pulp.

As the series continues, the would-be hero (who calls himself "Kick-Ass") endures protracted and painful physical therapy (whee!), ventures out again with more success, becomes a YouTube sensation and meets fellow costumed vigilantes - most memorably a sword-weilding tween called "Hit-Girl" who (skillfully, gleefully) murders criminals in cold blood. Lots and lots and lots of it.

The book's "What if costumed heroes were real?" premise is not new. What Kick-Ass the comic brings to the table is Romita's kinetic, deliberately unglamorous art, and Millar's, ah, singular sense of humor. (The first issue's cover boasts "Sickening Violence: Just the Way You Like It!")

The comic has been a huge commercial success — Marvel just announced that the hardcover collection of the first eight issues has sold 100,000 copies.

The trailer for Kick-Ass suggests that director Matthew Vaughn is sticking close to the tone of the book. It's a tone Millar also adopted in the comic mini-series Wanted, which was made into a movie in 2008.

It's a tone I'd describe as layered with irony and splattered with viscera.

If this trailer focuses heavily on the 11-year-old Hit-Girl (played by then-11-year-old Chloe Moretz), the Red Band trailer goes even deeper, showing her wiping out entire roomfuls of bad guys.

While swearing.

If you guessed that her swearing is the thing that upset parents' groups, you'd be right.

On a certain level, you can understand where their disquiet is coming from. It's one thing to read a comic book about a murderous, foul-mouthed 11-year-old. It's quite another thing to see a real 11-year-old actress going full-tilt Tarantino.

And even then, Matthew Vaughn tends to stage violence in a way that seems stylized, even balletic in its own, gobbets-of-brain-matter way. A layer of ironic distance protects you from seeing your adorable little girl carrying on in that fashion, with a 9mm of her own.

But cursing? That could happen. That's a thing to worry about.

It's reassuring, then, to read the cool-eyed assessment of Moretz herself, when geek website io9 asked her if she worried that younger children would view her character as a role model:

Younger children shouldn't see the movie. It's R-rated for a reason. R-rated is 18 and over, and if you are 18 and over, then you can take someone younger, but I wouldn't advise it.... I don't think [anyone] young or old, should say what I say, or do what I do in the movie.

There you have it. Questions?

Post Script
In closing, and purely in the interest of full disclosure, I'll just note something. I'll do so quickly, because, you know: I still have a hangover from Positive Day and everything.

ManomanomanoMAN, but I hate this comic. Can not stand it.

Which is only as it should be. There are books for me, and there are books that are written for someone who is in every way Not Me; Kick-Ass is just such a book.

I found it ugly, nihilistic, joyless. And the cynical way Millar seems to want to have it both ways — embracing deliberately gratuitous depictions of gore, casual misogyny and gay panic while hiding behind a scrim of satire to pretend that he's got a larger point to make, wink wink? That's what ratchets the whole thing up to contemptible.

But that's me. It takes all kinds, etc. and lots of people like it fine, and the film will do well. After all, it's got Nicolas Cage in it, who's funny in the trailer, and who among us doesn't miss funny Nic Cage, right? Right?