But "Kick-Ass" comic book co-creator Millar, who has been a producer on both films, said Carrey's comments gave the sequel a boost in visibility that a film of its size was unlikely to have received otherwise.

"We probably got $30 million of advertising value," he said. "Saying something like a movie called 'Kick-Ass' is too violent is like saying, 'This porno has too much sex.' The curiosity factor [with audiences] is just gigantic."

But Vaughn, who wrote and directed the first movie and is a producer on "Kick-Ass 2," said Carrey's actions left him "deeply disappointed."

"You do not get paid to make a film and then publicly say you are not supporting it without at least having the manners to approach the filmmakers and say, 'This is what I am going to do,'" Vaughn said.

"Kick-Ass 2" went into production after the July 2012 shooting rampage at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater — an incident that Vaughn said Carrey must have been aware of yet still moved forward with the project.

FULL COVERAGE: 'Kick Ass' on Hero Complex

"I can't believe he just woke up one day and felt this strongly about gun violence," Vaughn said.

Carrey declined to comment.

Though the incident may have given "Kick-Ass 2" a publicity boost, a challenge for the film will be to convert people who watched "Kick-Ass" at home — either on a legitimate platform or by illegally downloading it — into theater-going customers.

According to a list published by TorrentFreak, a website that covers file-sharing news, as of fall 2011 "Kick-Ass" was the No. 7 most-pirated film of all time on the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol, behind blockbusters such as "Avatar" and "The Dark Knight."

Research by the film business analytics firm Nash Information Services showed that "Kick-Ass" also sold about 1.19 million DVDs in the United States and 827,753 million Blu-ray discs, and accounted for $31.9 million in rental revenue in the U.S. That helped make Universal's decision to release the second film simpler.

"A lot of people really warmed to this in its ancillary life in ways that are measurable," Fogelson said. "Our instinct was that on top of that there were many more people who had seen it in ways that couldn't necessarily be measured, whether it was pay TV or things like Netflix and Redbox."

Should the movie succeed, Fogelson believes that the narrative of "Kick-Ass 2" lays the groundwork for future films.

And there is more source material — though not an unlimited supply. In June, Icon Comics, an imprint of Marvel Comics, released the premiere issue of "Kick-Ass 3," which will be the final story arc in the series.

daniel.miller@latimes.com