Please be aware that the following text contains my experiences and my opinions only. I don’t presume to speak for anyone else, especially not anyone I refer to below. I’m just musing, really, and trying to answer some questions that still get asked of me even to this day. The biggest question being, of course:
Whatever happened to Kiss 4K?
If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell that story from the beginning.
In early 2007, my friend D.J. Coffman emailed me out of the blue, asking if I would be willing to write and draw a webcomic based around a new Kiss comic called Kiss 4K. Of course, I agreed. I dig comics and I dig Kiss, and I’ve been a fan of Kiss comics since 1979, when my childhood friend Travis introduced me to the wild world that was Kiss.
There were other Kiss comics, of course, and they were all fun to read. Image did the longest series, Psycho Circus, and Dark Horse came out with 13 issues as well. After that was Kiss 4K, which was a comic with huge ambitions.
See, the Kiss comics (usually) follow a similar formula: take four guys (who either don’t know each other very well or are otherwise unprepared to become heroes) and give them Kiss-related powers. One per band member, obviously, with the powers varying from series to series. These four must overcome their problems and learn to work together in order to defeat Evil.
The whole “powers” thing is mildly reminiscent of the made-for-TV movie “Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park”, which revolved around the fact that the bandmembers were really the guardians of four talismans which gave them their powers.
(Check out Kiss Meets The Phantom if you get a chance. It’s goofy and fun)
Kiss 4K, on the other hand, stepped away from this formula. The author, Ricky Sprague, had a grand idea of combining all the comic stories that had come before into one huge meta-plot. K4K taught us that all the previous comics were true! These powers were given to groups of four in different dimensions, for the unifying purpose of fighting Evil.
The Evil in this case was the dual threat of the Destroyer Cult (a cursed bloodline doomed to turn into animal-like monsters by the age of 30) and (of course) a creature called “Unholy”. The story begins with the actual bandmembers learning that their powers have been handed down through the generations (and other dimensions), and this knowledge would help them defeat their enemies.
While the print comic focused on the current incarnation of the Kiss heroes, it was also decided that Kiss 4K should have a webcomic presence as well. This would run parallel to the print comic and would tell stories of the previous holders of the Kiss powers. On top of it all, the webcomic would actively invite reader feedback, which would dictate future webcomic stories.
(I do believe that was all Gene’s idea. He liked the instant feedback that webcomics could get, and to this day, I agree with him that it’s a very cool aspect of makin’ webcomics)
And that’s what I was tasked to do: write, draw and put online these back-up stories, as well as read through the comments on each page and use that feedback to plot future stories. I couldn’t say no to that (who could?) so I signed the contract and got to work.
Unfortunately, the gig was full of problems from the beginning, not the least of which was the choice of publisher: Platinum Studios. I don’t really need to go into all that Platinum stuff, do I? It’s all over the internet. I’ll leave that to you and Google, if only to keep this relatively short and easy to read.
I will say this, though: That first year was magic. I’ve never had so much fun making comics in my life. And the conventions! Oh, man. I was living in Tucson at the time, and both WWLA and SDCC were a relatively cheap 90-minute plane ride. I would clock out of my soul-crushing IT job on a Friday afternoon, drive to the airport (my fully-packed suitcase had been put there that morning), hop a plane to LA or San Diego, and get treated like a rock star all weekend. Then I’d catch the Sunday night red-eye back to Tucson, where I’d get a couple hours of sleep before dragging my ass back into the office where I would be once again treated like shit by jaded coworkers and ignorant users alike. It was like being Clark Kent, or at least, Walter Mitty.
By the end of 2007, I had made more money working on the webcomic than I did at the Day Job, and quit altogether. You can say that was a mistake if you want to, but to this day I don’t regret it one bit.
It was a mistake, however, in that I had put all my eggs in the Platinum Studios basket. Through a comedy of errors, mismanagement and outright Nonsense & Bullshit (TM), work on the print comic ceased sometime around early 2008. It was moved online. To the webcomic. To me and me alone.
This came as a bit of a shock, but hey, you gotta roll with whatever life throws at you! And so I became the first person in history to write, pencil, ink, letter, color and publish (that is: upload) an official Kiss comic. I may not be the last one, or even the best one, but I am proud to be the first.
Unfortunately, I had to stop before the story ended. I did this for purely financial reasons: by the time I put the farewell message online, I hadn’t seen a dime for my efforts in eight months. Those were eight long months, too. I agonized every day over what to do. I got hot a couple times with Platinum’s greatest VP, Dan Forcey, for which I apologize. Dan’s a good egg. Like the rest of us, he just got stuck working for a bad publisher.
Once I had left the project, I was told someone else would continue it, and emailed my plot notes to poor ol’Dan. I want to say Arcana was approached to finish the comic, but I might be remembering that wrong. No matter, I guess. In the end, no one finished it.
And that’s probably why K4K isn’t in the Kompendium, although that’s just my guess.
And that’s it, really! The story of Kiss 4K, from my humble and limited point of view.
I would like to thank D.J. Coffman, Jason Embury, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Dan Forcey, Ricky Sprague, Dave Collins, Dressed 2 Kill, and all the friends I made both at Platinum and at the various Kiss forums all over the world. I made a lot of life-long friendships in the (almost) two years I worked on Kiss 4K, and I’m very grateful for each and every one.
Some other questions I get asked a lot:
How was it going to end?
By this point, I really don’t remember all of it and I can’t find my notes anymore. Here’s what I do remember:
The Destroyer Cult was going to invade Earth and make a huge mess. The 4K were going to use their allies (especially Dizzy the Hun and Lolita St. Estrange) to defeat Unholy, which would have made the Cult almost powerless. I don’t remember at this point how, exactly, that was going to happen, although I do remember that Alick was going to come back from the dimension the Celestial marooned him in. He was going to be all insect-like and nightmarish…a nasty surprise right before the 4K plucked success from the jaws of defeat. The Destroyer Cult, infected and cursed by Unholy, would end up wiped out forever by the time the story was over.
She and Wicked Lester, however, were going to get happier endings. Lester was going to take over Madame Raven’s position in the Psycho Circus world, while She ended up turning into a bird (she was cursed too, remember) and taken to another dimension by Celestial to live out her days in peace, with her only worries being what thermal she was going to glide on that day.
A Kiss comic deserves a happy ending, after all.
Did you ever get paid for those eight long months?
Yes! Platinum did finally cut me a check in 2009 for the full amount they owed me, in no small part due to Dan’s dilligence to get the artists paid. I wasn’t the only one who was getting this treatment by then, and I certainly wasn’t the worst case. Thanks, Dan!
What was the K4K webcomic story you had the most fun working on (or “which was your favorite”)?
The Christmas story, hands down. Although I did grow fond of Cuelebre before I killed him off.
Would you be willing to finish Kiss 4K if the opporunity presented itself?
Hard to say, really. I’m not much of a superhero artist/writer, and all Kiss comics are, essentially, superhero comics. There are many artists and writers who are much more suited to the task.
With that said…I don’t know that I’d turn it down outright. Who can say? It’s all speculation at this point. As of this writing (2014), there have been at least FIVE new Kiss comic series created and published, and that fact alone makes me doubt that Kiss 4K will ever get revived.
Why didn’t you do stories about the Fox? Or (whatever Vinnie’s character was called)?
Copyright issues. Which was too bad, really. Some of those Egypt flashbacks that Dizzy was droppin’ on the 4K really could’ve used a guy with an ankh on his face. But I got to draw a Giant Set menacing ancient Cairo, so it all worked out in the end.
Did you get to meet (insert Kiss bandmember name here)?
I didn’t get to meet Gene, which was unfortunate. He was promoting both Kiss 4K and his son’s comic at WWLA that spring, and I didn’t think it would be cool to step between a father and his son.
I did, however, get to meet Paul. I was running on 3 hours sleep, no food, and nervous as hell, and he was still Mr. Cool. He is 110% Cool, as a matter of fact. I’m happy I got to introduce myself to him and shake his hand.
What’s your favorite Kiss comic?
The Marvel comics from the 70s, of course. I was 9 years old when I saw those, and they were magic.
Would you do it all over again if you had the chance?
You bet your ass I would. Despite the Hollywood Motherfuckery that Platinum brought to the table, it was a fun gig. It got me out of a thankless, dead-end IT job and back into making comics…which is something I never should’ve stopped.
So you’re still making comics?
Yes indeedy. I grew up on Heavy Metal Magazine, Doctor Strange, Weird War, Son of Satan and all those strange comics from the 70s and 80s. If that sounds interesting to you, you would dig my new comics. Click here and check ‘em out!
They are full of Boobs, Blood and Bad Language (TM), though, so don’t look at them while you’re at work.
Do you still have the original art from the webcomic? Are they for sale?
I do! And they are. $100 a page. Email me and let me know which page (or pages) you want, and we’ll go from there.
Thanks for reading!