Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Original Art Stories: John Romita Jr's KISS

You just don’t see things like this anymore. What we have here are two original graphite pencil concept drawings and original typewritten three page storyline synopsis for the second ever Kiss comic (if you don’t count the Howard The Duck appearances). The story, The Land Of Khyscz, appeared in Marvel Super Special #5 in December 1978, at a time when Kiss were starting a rapid downslide in popularity in the USA, mainly on the back of the so bad it’s bloody funny movie, Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park. Well, the original cut of the movie was so bad it wasn’t funny, when it was recut for the cinemas here in Australia and released as Kiss Vs The Phantom Of The Park, with different scenes and better music (i.e., not stock music from bad 1960s movies, but actual Kiss and related songs) which is why I suspect that it ended up on the second volume of their Kissology DVD series instead of the original, but there you go.

Marvel went after Kiss as a commercial option as early as 1976. As Gene Simmons was a long time Stan Lee fan, often stating that Lee wrote more relevant dialogue to younger people than Shakespeare, the fit of Kiss and Marvel Comics was almost too perfect for words. By 1977 contracts had been signed and deals struck and ideas set into place. Creators Steve Gerber and Alan Weiss travelled with the band to observe them both in their natural (unmade-up) state and also on stage, the latter providing a highly amusing anecdote when Lee was strategically positioned before a speaker stack at a concert. When the band came out and hit the first chords of Detroit Rock City his wig blew off from the sound waves and flew into the crowd. Despite the loss of Stan’s rug the comic went ahead.

Featuring a brilliant painted cover by Weiss and Gray Morrow, the first Kiss comic was, well, not too bad as such things go. The issue sold well enough for a follow-up to be scheduled and the book would boast the creative talents of writers Alan Weiss and Ralph ‘Not The Karate Kid’ Macchio, and artists John Romita Jr. and Tony DeZuniga. As the first issue had sported several pencilers and inkers, including Weiss, Rich Buckler, John and Sal Buscema, having a sense of continuity was vital the second time around. The first issue showed the development of four young friends into superheroes known as Kiss and this issue expanded upon that role. The synopsis shown here was more than likely typed up and edited by Macchio as none of the handwriting looks anything like Alan Weiss’s, who has a very distinctive visual writing style.

What makes this art as desirable is the sheer fact that Gene Simmons himself has spent quite a bit of money buying up all of the original art over the years, beginning with the Marvel material, for which he paid a fairly decent sum to buy entire issues, complete with covers. Sadly Gene’s largess doesn’t extend to actually paying reprint royalties to creators though, and none of the Marvel creators have seen a cent from the recent Kompendium, so there’s a bit of a failing there. Such is life. So if you have the money you can actually own some genuine John Romita Jr. Kiss art, and the synopsis, from the day – that is if Gene doesn’t see the auction first and decide to cash in and buy the lot.



Edo Bosnar said...

That Kiss movie is so atrociously bad, but quite unintentionally hilarious. And when I was a kid & first saw it on TV, I loved it. You're right about Kiss and Marvel fitting together perfectly; since I was a little Marvel fanboy it was only natural that I thought the movie was all shades of awesome at the time. What I can't believe is that it had a cinematic release in Australia - I mean, despite the fact that it was made to seem like a serious and 'cool' action film, it was so obviously a made-for-television kids' movie...

Daniel Best said...

It was re-edited here Edo and released in the cinemas in 1979/1980 because Kiss were MASSIVE in Australia. In fact they were so huge that they were going to make another movie while they toured here in 1980 - see this for more details: http://tcarsc.blogspot.com/2010/05/193-escape-from-island.html

Kiss In Attack Of The Phantoms had a decent cinema run - I went and saw it on a double bill with Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare. One of the best double bills I've ever seen really.

Edo Bosnar said...

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of "Kiss meets the Phantom" have a cinematic run, and a rather decent one at that. I really don't feel like investing in that Kissology DVD, but I'm also very curious to see how much 'better' a re-edited version of that god-awful movie could be (the clips on YouTube are, judging by the few I've watched, from the original US version).
By the way, thanks for that interesting and informative link. I just love the fact that he posted a still from what is probably the most hilarious scene in the movie: Kiss sitting poolside in full make-up and leather-n-vinyl regalia in the hot southern California sun, wearing those weird silvery (probably polyester) robes over everything. Classic.