Part of what makes the Kingsman so wonderful is that it is a side step in the spy genre that decided to take a dark and gritty turn. With the Bourne and James Bond franchises pretty much ruling the spy genre with their shaky cams and monochromatic tones, films like Spy and Kingsman give the genre a much-needed laugh. And the man who, in part, inspired the film adaptations of the Kingsman comic book is artist Dave Gibbons, who is best known for his collaborations with Alan Moore on Watchman, as well as their Superman story “For the Man Who Has Everything.”
With the sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle hitting theaters this weekend, we had a chance to speak to Mr. Gibbons about franchise and why he decided to work with co-creator Mark Millar to bring the idea to life. Check out what he had to say here below.
Geeks of Doom: While there has been a nice mix of comedy and drama in the spy genre, it has been leaning towards the latter with a dark and gritty take, was the Kingsman‘s more humorous and lighter tone sort of the counter offering you wanted to bring to the genre?
Dave Gibbons: Yeah, I think that is the way the genre is going in general. Alan Moore, who did The Watchmen, sort of ushered in a sort of dark take on the superhero genre, which was never really tested, it was just a particular way to look at it. I think that a lot of spy movies have gone dark. Bond used to be very aspirational and very light-hearted, and sort of swashbuckling adventure until we got to the point where we have to see somebody cry. It’s not that kind of movie. Very much with Secret Service, Mark Millar and I did with the comic book, and with what Matt Vaughn and Jane Goldman did with the movie was to bring back some of that excitement and adventure and the feeling you get when you walk out of the cinema saying “WOW! Wouldn’t it be great to be Eggsy or Harry Hart.” Yeah, that was something we definitely wanted to bring back, and it is essentially advertised as a “proper spy movie.” Which seems to suggest all those things — the adventure, humor, and glamour.
Geeks Of Doom: Speaking of Mark Millar, what is collaborating with him like and is there any difference between working with him on the comics and working with Matthew Vaughn on the film?
Dave Gibbons: Well, the genesis of this is quite interesting. Mark and I have been wanting to do something for a long, long time. Mark actually wrote me a fan letter when he was 16, and I was doing Watchmen. It was a script he had written as a schoolboy, and I was very gracious to meet him after that before we actually got to work together. I became a huge fan of this by that time. We kicked around a few ideas, one of which was a spy story, which was originally called Uncle Sam and it was set in the U.S., a sort of play on names. But somewhere along the way, I threw out the idea of “wouldn’t it be great if we could set it in England. We are much more drawn to writing and drawing something we know about, and the life we lived, and it has all that resonance of the British class system.” So we then realized that was the way to go. Mark’s interest in the spy genre was sparked when he was working with Matthew on another movie, and they were bemoaning the fact that they didn’t have a proper spy movie.
Mark and I developed our version of it, and Matthew and Jane developed their version of it with the great seed, but went in a completely different way. The thing that both did was the fact that it had the English class and characters playing off against each other. That is kind of in the second movie as well. So it’s still got that British charm, but now it is contrasted against the American culture or The Statesman, and there is a lot of amusing resonance that comes from that.
Geeks of Doom: So in Mark’s Uncle Sam pitch to you, were there any similarities to who they were and who the Statesman are? Meaning did the comics have a spy agency with American nuances, gadgets baring American aesthetics, etc.
Dave Gibbons: The idea with Uncle Sam was to have the younger spy and the older spy, who was also the uncle. We never really explored how it would be set up. It maybe would have been a regular spoof. But the idea with the Statesman really works because their power base works around whiskey rather than British clients. I think it is a wonderful contrast and I think the most exciting thing about it is the contrast between the British characters and the American characters and their sort of mutual amusement and strange habits that the other side have.
Geeks of Doom: That’s what I wanted to ask next, I know you aren’t working on the comic book sequel, but is there anything in the first comics that Matthew and Jane didn’t address in the first film that you would like to see in the second and possibly third?
Dave Gibbons: Well, no. The film is a very different take than the comics. There were a couple of little bits that didn’t make it into the first film that made it into the Golden Circle, and they made me smile and I think they will make other people smile as well. But I think if we had done a sequel to the comic book it would have gone in a completely different direction just because the kind of character relationships in the movie and the comic book had that subtle difference.
Geeks of Doom: Going back a little bit to the first film, what was it like to hear the kind of reaction it got and not only to hear that it was so well received, but also that it would be getting a sequel?
Dave Gibbons: I was absolutely thrilled that they would make a movie on The Secret Service. I mean we knew from the beginning that it would be a possibility. But I believe for various reasons that I am not qualified to go into how Matthew wanted to get the movie out very quickly. So everything happened much much faster than Mark and I ever thought. It is also a huge thrill to see something you worked on to take life on the big screen and be a bigger movie.
Plus because it isn’t a direct movie based on what I had done, I can quite happily say to people, “It’s a great movie. It’s a really great movie.” The second one isn’t based on a comic book at all, but there are elements from the comic book world that we created. Mark and I saw a preview of it a couple of weeks ago, and we just laughed our ass off. It’s got all those elements that made the first movie good and a couple of new ones as well. It’s also got a lot of emotional resonance because you know the characters better. I am just thrilled about the whole thing and that we are getting a proper spy movie.
Gibbons’s new book, How Comics Work, which he co-wrote with Tim Pilcher, will be released on October 2, 2017.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which stars Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Pedro Pascal, opens in theaters on Friday, September 22, 2017.