I wasn’t born a KISS fan, and I haven’t been a KISS fan for years. I think the last KISS album (not CD) I bought was Alive II in 1978. When the band recorded a disco song in 1979 called “I Was Made For Loving You,” I immediately defected from the KISS nation.
But from 1976 to 1978 I was a pretty big KISS fan. I bought Alive! , Destroyer in early 1976, Love Gun in 1977, then Alive II. I remember when all four members (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss) released solo albums in late ’78, and I think I purchased those, too. I don’t know. I was a wayward, geeky teenager in those days, and I smoked a lot of pot then. Some things I remember with clarity, other memories have gone up in smoke.
I did buy the KISS comic published by Marvel Comics in 1977. I was a big DC fan, but I had to have that magazine-sized comic, the one where the band, according to a statement on the cover, added some of their own blood into the ink. I believe the story was written by Steve Gerber, but I don’t remember who the artists were. I sold it and all my KISS albums long ago.
Every now and then during the last thirty years, I would find myself humming “Detroit Rock City” or “Shout It Out Loud”–two definitive KISS songs off their Destroyer album–but then something by Cheap Trick or ABBA or The Smiths or U2 would chime in, and I’d forget about KISS again.
But not lately. And I have Donald Trump to thank for it.
I really enjoy watching The Apprentice (another confession? Hmm . . .). It’s decent reality TV fluff, but lately it hasn’t been doing so good in the ratings. So NBC and Trump decided to try something different, and came up with Celebrity Apprentice. One of the chosen celebrities is KISS’s very own Gene Simmons and, for three episodes, he was awesome. Simmons stole the show. Then he got fired, and the show hasn’t been the same since.
But watching Gene, with that controlled-thunder voice and stoic rock presence, brought it all back, all those KISS memories, the sober ones and the loaded ones. I found myself not just humming a few old KISS tunes, I found myself rifling through my CD collection and coming across Destroyer and one of their supposedly gazillion different Greatest Hits packages, one of which I had purchased a while back, forgotten about, and never played. I’ve been listening to nothing but KISS songs for the past couple of weeks.
And what’s even better is that I read a lot of ’70s DC comic books to KISS tunes. The band’s songs became the soundtrack for Super-Team Family, Secret Society of Super-Villains, Martin Pasko’s stories in Superman, Star Hunters, and a whole lot more. When I play these songs I can visualize The Atom searching for his missing lady-love, Jean Loring; the return of Captain Comet; Superman battling Solomon Grundy; and Donovan Flint in his wild sci-fi adventures. I could pluck out those comics and read them to enhance the memories, but just off the KISS songs alone the memories are pretty darn clear.
I like that. I like that I can fall back on what I enjoyed feeling about comics as a teen. I’ve grown up, I’ve become more thoughtful about comics, more analytical, more scholarly, a little smarter, and I’ve just plain suppressed a lot (but not all) of that good old-fashioned gung ho feeling about comics–feelings I carried like a proud badge as a teen. Suddenly, a dozen KISS songs are getting me back in the groove again and I want to start reading new comics, Y: The Last Man, Green Lantern, Scalped, Captain America, while listening to old KISS tunes.
Do you want to know what’s even more far out? I just discovered the other day that I can carry my unleashed KISS obsession to an extreme degree, because Gene Simmons has his own comics imprint at IDW Publishing. In fact, over at progressiveruin.com I was reading Mike Sterling’s comments about Gene Simmons Zipper.
Gene Simmons ZIPPER?!
That’s not a comic you think on, or become critical of, or try to find some hidden meaning in; no way, that’s just a comic you read–and read with feeling. All the while blasting “Strutter” at the highest volume you can crank it without disturbing your wife or scaring your neighbors.
I can’t wait to buy Zipper. All I have to do is wrap up this column, send it off to CB, finish up my work day, then stride merrily to Comics Factory (a local comics ship in Pasadena). Just before the next episode of Celebrity Apprentice (forget Lost), I’m going to read, in honor of KISS, Gene Simmons Zipper. Which sounds downright sick. But it’s a happy, harmless kind of sick.
I should probably duck back into the closet . . . before a Queen tune starts to rock my thoughts.