Kingsman: The Secret Service started life as a comic mini-series – of the same name – written by Mark Millar, with plotting assistance from Matthew Vaughn, and art by Dave Gibbons. I read the comics after seeing the film, and you can read my joint review of the Kingsman film here. This is not a review, this a look at the things that I think the film had a better handle on than the comics.
There be spoilers here.
5. Eggsy’s mum
In the film, it’s easier to understand why her character is treated so badly: she evolves into becoming the kind of woman that just can’t settle down with the right guy and falls into a cycle of abusive relationships. While still a damsel figure, in the film you’re given a chance to understand why she is a damsel and you feel genuinely sorry for her and understand why Eggsy wants to help her out. In the comics, we encounter her from the get go as an unpleasant individual with no redeeming qualities and this wouldn’t be a problem if Eggsy actually just wanted to get his brother to safety and leave his mother to stew. Instead, Eggsy seems inexplicably determined to help his mum – this makes the relationship difficult to suspend disbelief over.
4. A smoother villain
Valentine (played by Samuel L. Jackson) is a better class of villain than the geeky, Bill Gates wannabe – Dr James Arnold – of the comics. Valentine’s plan of attack makes way more sense, and as a character seems far less self-serving to the geek community than what you get with Arnold in the comics. It was stupidly cheesy how, in the comics, Arnold wanted to save the creators of his favourite fandoms, before unleashing hell on Earth. The setup in the comics was, for me, a step of intertextuality gone too far: sure, it made Arnold as a villain seem ridiculous, but for me it pushed him so far down that path that I couldn’t care whether his plan succeeded or not, because he was so unbelievable as a villain.
3. Better female characters
Or rather, the film had more on screen and they were treated and portrayed better. Eggsy’s mum aside, and the issues I identified in my review, female characters in the film had a better time of it than they did in the comics. At least Kick-Ass had Hit-Girl, but the Kingsman comics had no female characters you wanted to root for and despite saying the spy training was co-ed, you hardly saw any female spies in the comics until the final assault against Arnold’s plans. And the way Arnold’s girlfriend falls for Uncle Jack in the comics is just utter bullshit. In the films, portraying Gazelle as a woman was a strong choice, she was given agency and shown to be clearly invested in Valentine’s plans, whereas the male Gazelle of the comics comes across as a mindless thug who’s good with a gun.
2. Harry vs Jack
I’m not a Colin Firth fan, but I think the way that Harry/Galahad was a man who owed a great debt to the family of a dead comrade was portrayed far more convincingly than the absentee uncle syndrome that Uncle Jack had in the comics. Here’s Jack, stepping in to clean up a mess again and again and again… Oh, now he’s going to get involved. The way Jack’s attitude towards Eggsy switches in the comic just made little sense – he’s keen on seeing Eggsy punished and then bam! He’s going to help him out. Jack goes from dick to family hero in a blink of an eye and it never really makes sense (oh, he suddenly feels a sense of duty to his family… where the fuck was his thought process). At least Harry, in the film, was finally repaying an old debt.
He’s a stronger character in the films and more realistically aware of the world. And arguably, he’s more loveable. There is little to nothing shown in the comics to explain why Eggsy is spy material, meanwhile in the film: Eggsy is already shown to have pre-existing talents for combat, pursuit and socialising. In the film, Eggsy is proven to have already tried to do something with his life, but not managed to quite reach escape velocity, so you can feel for him a bit more. The Eggsy of the comics, beyond his appalling home situation, has little to endear him as a character and his personal growth makes little sense.
There are a few more things about the comics that irked me, none more than these five.