Gene Simmons on the Epic Return of Kiss to Comic Books

Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of Kiss
Martin Philbey/Redferns

Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of Kiss perform at The Etihad Stadium on 6th March 2013, in Melbourne Australia. 

For almost as long as Kiss has been making music, they've been appearing in comic books. From their debut in Marvel's Howard the Duck No. 12 in 1977 through series from Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing and even Archie Comics, the band has remained a surprising mainstay of the comic book medium for almost four decades.

With a new series — simply titled KISS — launching from Dynamite Entertainment this October, Heat Vision talked to Gene Simmons about what to expect from the new series and what makes his band so successful in the comic medium. According to him, the appeal is very simple: "Kiss has never been just a band."

Instead, he suggested, it's the fantasy element of the band that allows them to move from music to comics and back again with such ease. "I fly through the air at 8 feet per second. Yes, I spit fire. And yes, I wear bat wings and dragon boots," Simmons says, adding with mock scolding, "Don't be jealous."

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That crossover between reality and the fantastic has been fueled by what Simmons calls his "fascination with literature that has a sense of wonder." As he put it, "When you think about it, superheroes are really modern day versions of the great Greek gods of mythology: Mercury had wings and could fly. Vulcan was the god of fire." Kiss, then, fits neatly into that spectrum with their Catman, Starchild, Spaceman and Demon personas.

The iconic, mythological approach is one reason why Simmons calls Amy Chu and Kewber Baal, the writer/artist team behind the new Dynamite series "a dream team" for chronicling the band's comic book adventures. "It's not just because they're both talented, but because they understand and respect the mythology of Kiss," he explains. "From the outset, we started the band with four separate and distinct personas, each with his own tone, each with their own cross to bear — not always getting along together, but connected in a way none of them realizes."

That idea — of a group dealing with ideas and forces they don't fully understand — is one that echoes the band's beginnings in the real world. "We were completely delusional and inexperienced and really had no idea what we were doing, except for one magical thought: Let's put together the band we never saw on stage," Simmons remembers.

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"And then we were carried away by our own self-imposed mandate, which then led us to completely ignore all the other bands, fans, fashion and especially what critics for Rolling Stone thought. We have always marched to the beat of our own drummer, and here we are, over 42 years later, America's number one gold record award winning group of all time. In all categories, I might add."

The new comic book series, Simmons promises, will be a love letter to the fans who've stayed with the band for that time — as well as newcomers who've never read a Kiss comic before.

"The wonderful thing about the Dynamite team is that we are all of like minds," he says. Everyone involved wanted to take our personas and do a classic Kiss comic book, and to include deep fanboy references to [Music from] the Elder, our one and only concept album. With Amy Chu writing the books, this will be an adventure the fans will absolutely love. I've already seen the covers and artwork, and in the patois of the street, it rocks."

Asked about the continued success of the band's comic book alter egos, Simmons puts it down to simply recognizing when to let the professionals do their thing. "When we get a great writer and artist team, we know better than to micromanage," he says. "We stay out of the way. Our comic book history has been long and proud and has spanned decades, and now with Dynamite Entertainment, we intend to go even further. We can't wait."

KISS launches digitally and in comic book stores this October and is available for pre-order now.