The UK comics scene in the 80s was a mixture of playground larks, smart alec troublesome kids, weekly toy advertisements, immaculate footballers and wartime nostalgia. It was boom time for the Beanos, Dandys and many more Saturday morning doormat slappers. But there was a change coming, and spurred on by the noxious odour of Viz and the dystopian adult themes of 2000AD a new breed of comics came of age in the final decade of the twentieth century.
These new comics catered for kids who had grown up with Dennis the Menace and were ready for something a bit more mature. 1991 was the fateful year, when the Fleetway backed Crisis was joined by 2000AD man Kevin Mills teaming up with Apocalypse Ltd to bring Toxic! to newspaper shops across the UK. Though these comics didn’t last as long as those whose pages they sat alongside they were potent enough to be remembered thirty years later.
One of the strongest characters from Toxic! was Mike Fallon, AKA Accident Man. A supremely confident and extravagant hitman, whose M.O. was to make the killings look like accidents. Written by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner the comic strip was recently adapted for the big screen, with the film getting a home entertainment release today. We spoke to the man behind the adaptation, Scott Adkins, who produced, co-wrote and starred as the titular Accident Man himself.
“The comic book started going when I was 14, and I loved it. Honestly for the longest time, if anyone said ‘OK, you’ve got as much money as you want – what film are you going to make?’ I would have said Accident Man. It’s the dream project, it’s the one I always wanted to make. I optioned the right myself. I wrote it myself with Stu Smalls, my mate who remembers me bringing it into school. I produced it – it’s a real labour of love.”
Adkins was undoubtedly the propulsive force behind the film, a momentum he carries with him through the film itself. In poster quote terms it’s a wise-cracking, jaw-cracking violent tale of revenge. Adkins talked about the road to the big screen, including his determination to keep it true to its origins. “It was important to me to keep it very British. There were times when I was offered the chance to make it in Bulgaria, or to set it in America, and I stuck to my guns. It was adult, it was edgy, it was British. The guy is a master of martial arts, so that appealed to me. I could always see myself playing him. But it was the imagery, the illustrations – they were so violent, so visceral. I loved the way it had that mad sense of humour to it as well.”
That humour becomes very necessary to the film as the lead character, Adkins admits, is not the easiest guy to like. “It was sort of an experiment. He’s an anti-hero, and we’ve had anti-heroes before but this guy is an absolute demon. He’ll kill anyone, as long as you pay him. He’s materialistic, he’s shallow, he’s a misogynist, he’s not got very many good qualities. As a martial artist and an assassin he’s top notch, but put him in a social situation and he’s a complete dick. So, that was part of the experiment: to see if we could get the audience behind this character even though he’s quite the arsehole. My standpoint on it is even if your lead character is an arsehole, as long as you make the guys coming after him bigger arseholes, the audience will get behind your character.”
The action is very well delivered, with the fight scenes in particular seeming very real. Adkins told me about gathering the cast, and why the action is such an important factor. “That’s something I’ve been doing for a long time, but I needed other people that can do it like Michael Jai White, Ray Park and Amy Johnston. It was very important I got them in the cast. ”
Making the action feel real was of paramount importance to Adkins, who talked candidly about the current state of acknowledgement for the stunt crews and the advent of CGI in action movies. “The Avengers stuff – you see Chris Evans’ face painted on to someone doing a corkscrew and it’s pretty seamless. That’s where we’re at now, the sky’s the limit. All these comic book movies with stuntmen doing all the hard work, and they’re under the mask and the CGI involved – I’m not sure the audience knows what’s real and what isn’t these days. You look at Mad Max Fury Road and there was so much great stunt work there and they added some CGI and it all worked together brilliantly. I love what Keanu Reeves is doing with John Wick. I prefer to see the real stuff, and that’s what I prefer to do.”
I asked him if he would add his support for a Stunt Work category in the Oscars and the BAFTAs, his reply was an unequivocal Yes. “Absolutely there should be. Listen – has anyone ever died sewing a costume? Did anyone break their necks getting the last computer-generated image done before lunchtime? The [stunt people] kill themselves for our entertainment. They should be awarded Oscars at the very least. It’s an absolute joke that they’re not. It disgusts me. I think [the Academies] should be ashamed of themselves. It’s no good saying that not every film has stunts in it – not every film has CGI in it.
“You go and see a James Bond film – the action scenes were not directed by the credited director. You see a Marvel film – those actions scenes were not directed by that director. It’s the stunt team who make all these action sequences and they often times do second unit on it, and they’re not honoured for it. It’s an absolute joke. Part of it is because the stuntmen are supposed to be in the shadows and the other people get the glory. I don’t feel like that. I’m a leading actor in an action film and I don’t feel like that.”
Accident Man is out now on DVD – read our feature on other films you may not know were based on comic books.