Hey everyone, I’m Andrew and when I first saw ‘Kingsman,’ I had no idea it was based on a comic book. But looking back, it totally makes sense. Director Matthew Vaughn’s stylish action and colorful visuals are straight from the comic book page. And the brilliant “James Bond on molly” premise could only have come from the twisted mind of Mark Millar. From their first pairing on ‘Kick-Ass’ to this week’s ‘Kingsman 2,’ when these two brits work together you can expect a lot of laughs and an even bigger body-count. So, before you see ‘The Golden Circle,’ Let’s learn a little more about the minds behind the mayhem. We’ll start with the comic’s creator, Mark Millar. Millar started his career in the UK, under the wing of his fellow Scotsman Grant Morrison. Soon he was writing everything from ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ to ‘Big Dave,’ the Hardest Man in Manchester. That’s my attempt at an English accent. Stop that! It’s silly. His first big break was ‘The Authority,’ the ultra-violent superhero team created by Warren Ellis. He did a few other comics for DC, including the awesome ‘Superman: Red Son,’ But that was all just a warmup for ‘The Ultimates” Honestly, there’s probably no bigger influence on Marvel’s cinematic universe than ‘The Ultimates.’ Marvel gave him the task of making a comic “more like the way movies are written,” and Millar delivered. ‘The Ultimates’ was a blockbuster in comic book form. And with ‘Authority’ artist Bryan Hitch’s photorealistic “widescreen” style, it looks like a proof-of-concept pitch for today’s superhero films. ‘The Ultimates’ was proof that Millar could write compelling stories for the screen. He was hired as a consultant on the first ‘Iron Man’ movie, where he talked them out of using the cheesy Mandarin for the villain. No, no, no! Yes, yes, yes! Though he does make an appearance a few years later… Kind of. The Mandarin! See, it’s not real. And speaking of film, another talented Brit was making a name for himself at the same time: Matthew Vaughn was just 25 years old when his uncle put him in touch with a director looking for investors in his debut film. Tie him up, tape him up. Hands and face! The director was none other than Guy Ritchie, and the movie was his breakout 1998 hit ‘Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.’ The two became close friends, and Vaughn also produced ‘Snatch’ and ‘Swept Away’ before he struck out on his own as a director. Also, side-note, watch ‘Snatch. It’s like one of my favorite heist films. Do you like dags? Dags?
Yeah, y’know, dags! Dags. D’you like dags? Oh, dogs. Sure, I like dags. His first film was 2004’s ‘Layer Cake.’ Vaughn wanted to create a stylistic crime movie like ‘Heat,’ just set in London instead of L.A. It starred Daniel Craig as an unnamed cocaine kingpin on the verge of retirement before he gets sucked in for one last job. He has one million ecstacy pills with very high levels of MDMA, kay? One million? On the commentary track, Vaughn actually says how the main character “wants to be James Bond,” And sure enough, Bond producer Barbara Broccoli cast Craig on the strength of this film. But he wasn’t the only one getting some love from the big studios. After Bryan Singer bailed on the X-Men franchise, Fox scrambled to find a director for the third film. Everyone from Joss Whedon to Peter Berg turned them down, but after directing
the Neil Gayman adaptation ‘Stardust,’ Vaughn was up to the challenge. At least at first. He was responsible for some initial casting decisions, like Kelsey Grammer as Beast and his old Guy Ritchie buddy Vinnie Jones… Don’t you know who I am? I’m the Juggernaut, bitch! But two weeks before filming began, he dropped out when he realized how long the shoot would keep him from his family. Hollywood hack Brett Ratner took over ‘X-Men: The Last Stand.’ And that worked out so well they came crawling back to Vaughn a few years later to reboot the franchise with ‘First Class’ in 2011. But that wasn’t his first superhero film. Because in 2010, he joined forces with Mark Millar to adapt his controversial comic ‘Kick-Ass.’ And it all comes full circle. Or Golden Circle! After ‘The Ultimates,’ Millar was a made man at Marvel. He was the writer behind their ‘Civil War’ crossover and ‘Old Man Logan,’ both of which inspired loose movie adaptations. But on top of his Marvel work, Millar had been busy with his own universe of creator-owned comics called “Millarworld.” His Millarworld comics were clever and provocative, but they could also be extremely graphic and deeply offensive. They were also tailor-made to be movies. Most studios didn’t even wait for the books to come out before snatching up the rights. Universal bought ‘Wanted,’ the first Millarworld book, based on a single drawing and a plot synopsis. And Matthew Vaughn got on board ‘Kick-Ass’ before Millar had even started to write it. They developed the movie and the comic at the same time, Kind of like how Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke collaborated on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ And just like ‘2001,’ the book and movie are pretty different. But ‘Kick-Ass’ still stuck to the core concept of a powerless teenager as a costumed crimefighter in the real world. At least until he starts flying around on a jetpack. But until then, powerless teenager. Like most of Vaughn’s films,‘Kick-Ass’ was a surprise hit. So Millar and Vaughn literally went to the pub to come up with their next project: ‘Kingsman’ Over a few rounds, the two lamented about how spy movies had become too serious and up-their-own-ass. They wanted to bring some fun back to the genre, so Millar and ‘Watchmen’ artist Dave Gibbons whipped up ‘The Secret Service.’ Their story about a James Bond pastiche training his loser nephew in the art of the secret agent was exactly what Vaughn was looking for, A lot would change in the transition to the screen, like Eggsy’s relationship to his mentor, But it was a solid foundation for Vaughn’s dream super-spy movie. Looking good, Eggsy. Feeling good. And soon, he found himself with a difficult choice. Just as he finished adapting the comic into a script, Fox offered the chance to direct ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past.’ Turning down an $800 million dollar movie had
to be tough, but Vaughn knew it was only a matter of time before someone else had the big
idea to make a lighter, more fun spy movie. I’ve got to do ‘Kingsman’ first, because my gut said someone was going to do a fun spy film. So I said “can we push ‘X-Men’ back one year?” and they said no. ‘Future Past’ was awesome, but even that Quicksilver scene doesn’t compare to hundreds of heads exploding in slow motion all over the world. And there’s not a single action scene that touches the carnage of Colin Firth going HAM in a church to the tune of ‘Freebird’s’ guitar solo. The movie made a pretty profit, despite opening up against ‘50 Shades of Grey’ and like, the four other spy movies that came out in 2014. Including one from his mentor, Guy Ritchie. For a special agent, you’re not having a very special day, are you? A sequel was a no-brainer, and now that the world knows what to expect, ‘The Golden Circle’ is free to amp up the insanity even more. Eggsy is back, and so is Harry Hart… Somehow. And the U.S. branch of Kingsman is about to undergo a full-fledged British Invasion. From the gadgets to the gunplay, the ‘Kingsman’ movies are a supercharged update of the tired old James Bond tropes. Bond… James Bond. They’re also the perfect expression of Millar and Vaughn’s over-the-top sensibilities. Just last month, Netflix purchased Millarworld. It’s the first company they’ve ever bought, and they’re hoping to create their own shared universe on the scale of Marvel and ‘Star Wars.’ With 20 properties under the Millarworld banner, I’m sure Netflix is chomping at the bit to turn them all into original movies and shows. Let’s just hope they have the foresight
to bring Matthew Vaughn on board as well.