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Friday, April 20, 2007
 
  Posted by Craig on 4/20/2007 03:42:00 PM :

       Way Back Machine

Kiss Super Special #1

There are three things I don’t believe anyone can truly understand and appreciate unless they were a kid growing up in the 1970’s: Evel Knievel, just how big an impact Star Wars had, and the power and majesty of the rock group Kiss.

The Beatles wrote pop tunes that will be remembered hundreds of years from now alongside the works of Mozart. Bob Dylan became the most influential songwriter of the 20th century. Elvis Presley brought a bastard musical form into the living rooms of middle class America. These are all noteworthy and world-changing accomplishments, but for all their achievements, none of these artists…
ever had to fight Doctor Doom.

And Kiss still can’t get into the rock hall of fame—but maybe that gives them street cred as true Marvel superheroes.

This is another one of those books that a neighbor kid wouldn’t give up when I was young, so I could only admire it from afar. The edition I now have is a reprint circa 1995, which sadly does not have the band members’ blood added to the red ink as the original boasts on the cover. It also has a variant cover, but I’ve thrown the original at the top of this post because it’s so incredibly friggin’ cool.

I never looked inside the more recent Kiss comics; I thought their covers which sported demonic imagery missed the point entirely. Kiss’ music was all about getting laid, partying, getting laid, crashing your car, and getting laid. All spoken from the heart of hormonal adolescence, but hardly demonic. A careful listen to their music will reveal that a typical Gene Simmons bass line is a jaunty sounding thing that would be at home coming off the back of an ice cream truck. These are also the guys who, at the peak of their U2-like popularity, played a high school homecoming dance because they heard the football team really dug Kiss. They even had a pancake breakfast the following morning with the mayor and helped paint city officials’ faces. These guys weren’t remotely demonic—they were just regular guys trying to bring the rock n’ roll party to everybody, and sell anything with the word “Kiss” stamped on it along the way.

Marvel got it right in 1977, giving us a couple kids on the street, railing against the man keeping them down, until they stumble upon a gypsy mystic being attacked by a gang of hoods. The gypsy recognizes Gene and Paul as two of the "chosen ones" and throws them a box containing four magic talismans. They hide with their friends Ace and Peter in a photo booth as the thugs close in—just like that scene in the old Hulk TV show, when the rednecks throw the drifter out of view, then follow after him not realizing they’re about to get stomped. The photo booth explodes outward and the thugs fall before unleashed rock n’ roll mayhem.

Ace uses his rock n’ roll teleportation powers, but overshoots, sending himself and Peter on an adventure in space while Gene and Paul have to tangle with Mephisto. They soon reunite to face an army of evil robots and giant lips, all manipulated by Doctor Doom who will stop at nothing to get the power of the talismans our heroes now hold.

Giant lips? Thank Steve Gerber, 1978’s version of Grant Morrison. He was the guy behind Howard the Duck, and this sort of thing was par for the course for him. Alan Weiss and the Buscema brothers illustrate.

The quartet finally faces Doctor Doom, and are nearly clobbered by him until they manage to overpower him in the same fashion they overpowered all of America—by appealing to his inner child. Paul’s ability to control people’s emotions allows him to subject Doom to intense talk therapy, and we become privy to the traumatic childhood which became the roots of Doom’s life of evil (no, he didn’t listen to devil music or anything…). Gaining a grudging respect for his young adversaries, he sends them on their way as they vow to use their powers to fight evil and get laid.

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