Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Kiss Kompendium

Kiss Kompendium
by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley
Collins Imprint, 2009

This is one of the biggest books I ever have owned. It's more appropriate to call it a 'tome' than a simple book.

Kiss Kompendium weighs over 10 lb, measures 3 x 8.5 x 13.2 inches, and has 1280 pages. It's so heavy I can't put it on my scanner. I had to lay it on my dining room table and photograph the contents. 

To read the Kompendium I also have to lay it on a table - you can't flop onto your couch or easy chair with something this massive.

Kiss Kompendium is an omnibus edition compiling Kiss comic books published in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s by Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse.

It leads off with the inaugural Marvel Super Special #1 from September, 1977, which is famous for having the blood of the band members mixed into the printing ink. A photoessay documenting the story of this unique marketing twist is included.

Then there's the Marvel Super Special #5 from  October, 1978. Then there are some more obscure comics that Marvel included in special-issue magazines designed to coincide with tours or album releases: Kissnation (1995), and the autobiographical Kisstory

These comics, which see the band interacting with heroes and villains from the Marvel Universe, don't take themselves too seriously. The band members are depicted as superheroes in their own right, and their disagreements with the Marvel characters have a campy, facetious quality.

Impressed by the Image title Spawn, in the late 1990s Gene Simmons decided to break with Marvel and have Image do the next iteration of Kiss comics. Designed to promote the album of the same title, Kiss: Psycho Circus started in August 1997 and ran for 31 issues till June 2000. Image took the franchise seriously and gave it 'high production values', so to speak.

Circus took a darker, more mature tone than anything seen before, and - like the majority of Image titles - didn't bother with adhering to the Comics Code. Written by Brian Hulguin, the series featured intricate, atmospheric artwork by Clayton Crain and Angel Medina and fine coloring by Brian Haberlin. It's not only one of the best comic book series to feature the band, it's also (arguably) one of the best comic book series of the 90s. All 31 issues are present and accounted for in this Kompendium.

Kiss: Kompendium closes out with the 13 issue series from Dark Horse comics, which ran from July 2002 to September 2003. Titled simply Kiss, these comics are underwhelming due to the 'cartoony' art style of Mel Rubi. 

The final pages of the Kompendium features a 'Behind the Scenes' photo gallery that spans the years from 1975 - 2009. Whether you like Kiss, or hate them, there's no denying the band's staying power.

Summing up, there is some good material here for nostalgia aficionados, fans of Kiss, fans of pop culture, or - certainly in the case of Psycho Circus - fans of good comics, period. Brand-new copies of Kiss Compendium at amazon go for $42, and used copies for quite a bit less, so acquiring the book is not all that burdensome. When I calculated what it would cost to get all the issues of Psycho Circus as a standalone acquisition, for example, it was just as economical to acquire the Kompendium.

As for Kiss comics........well, they continue to be issued, yet another indication of the staying power of the franchise. The most recent iteration, Kiss / Vampirella, is at issue 5 as of October 2017. I wouldn't be all that surprised if a second Kompendium winds us being issued in the next five years or so................

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