Straight from Dynamite, here’s a writer’s commentary by Chris Sebela talking about KISS/Vampirella #2. Cover by Juan Doe, with interiors by Annapaola Martello.
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Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Or at least it feels like that when you’re reading my really yappy commentary track on KISS/VAMPIRELLA #2, which you now hold in your hot little hands.
Before we get rolling, I wanna stop for a second at the start and talk about how good of a team Annapaola and Valentina are on this book. A mismatch between line art and colors can mess up even the greatest book, but Valentina takes Annapaola’s amazing inks and really builds on them. Anyhow, I know people were a little iffy that not a ton of BIG STUFF happened last issue, so we’ll see if this one fixes that. Let’s get into it.
Oh, and story-wise, we’re back in the house on Cielo Drive, which no longer exists. It got torn down after Trent Reznor owned it in the late ’90s. A perfect place for a nice satanic ritual with our buddy in the suit who Lily and Vampi followed up here last issue.
And we’re back with KISS and their buddy being run down the side of the Riot House. I definitely approached KISS as a real band; real people who find themselves quickly drawn into something completely nuts and how they’d react to that, which is mostly diving in and worrying about the consequences later.
I love curvy bladed daggers and swords. They’re the height of cult weaponry to me, and it seems like it’d be even more painful to get stabbed with one. That’s why I made sure to specify everything is curvy and sharp in this scene and that someone gets stabbed. Also, all the Satanists are based loosely on Kenneth Anger’s motorcycle punk school of Satanism. Deep cuts, people.
Figuring out how to write KISS was hard. I did my best to base them on old interviews from around this time. Gene and Paul were always the frontmen, they’d flaunt their style. But this was serious work to them. Then Ace always seemed like the big cut-up in the group and Peter fell somewhere in the middle of these two camps. Anyway, when it came to figure out who’s gonna start throwing the minibar at the Satanists, Ace was an easy choice.
I like cutting back and forth like this. It can be whiplashy, but for me, it keeps things interesting and paced tightly. No wasted room, just picking my spots and letting Annapaola go to town on pages like this one. I love having a page where Vampi is just beating the snot out of folks and has a sword sticking out of her the whole time.
It’s L.A., so there’s gonna be a lot of cars and car chases. I mean, why set something in L.A. if you’re not gonna take advantage? I made sure to try to suggest something as fun to draw as I could. I can’t remember if this was the model, but that last panel where it’s ridiculously long and red? I love it so much. Plus, we finally dig a little deeper into Lily, whose story is gonna get told as we go.
This last panel. I can write some dense scripts and most people to be safe probably would’ve made this a four-panel page, or even three, to give the proper amount of room to that last panel. I’m a dummy and did not. I made it five panels, but still Annapaola managed to fit the other four up top and leave lots of room for this giant demon and Vampirella in standoff for the ages.
I wanted Kiss and Vampi to cross paths at least once before they ever actually meet. Because that’s just how life works: you meet someone and find out that you were both at this show or this party or attended the same school. Mostly because I wanted to see how Kiss would react to driving thru this insane scene. I made sure that Vampi was out of sight, just some limbs flailing under a huge crushed car, to keep their first meeting a bit less loaded.
Having Ulysses around to explain some of this stuff was helpful, especially making him so casual about it. I like that Kiss, who dress up as rock monsters, are the ones having the hardest time with all this info. I also know that lei lines don’t work like that, but it felt like a good mythology that someone like Ulysses would carry around with him.
I like that this demon accidentally looks a lot like Satan from Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. Totally not intended on anyone’s part, but the demon shorthand only has so many varieties and I like that the one that got chosen makes me think of a very dumb but very fun movie about rock music. Also “Go die,” is, to me, the height of cool action hero lines. Sorry.
Troy Peteri, our letterer, is doing a lot of work in this issue, and his “SHHLLLK” is one of my favorites. I love this whole first panel. How Annapaola’s sharp lines just give way to what’s now a fuzzy wet mess thanks to Vampi; it puts the gore in gorgeous.
Okay, I was super excited to write this page. Up ’til now, KISS have been dragged along by all this weirdness and trying to make sense of it. Now weirdness has slammed on its brakes and wants to hurt them, so they step up, grab some instruments, and go after it. Plus this big panel in here still makes me laugh — it’s so much more perfect than I ever envisioned when writing.
And when you let KISS fight, you just go wild with it. Or that was my thinking. Gene blowing fire on some Satanists, that was in my head the moment I came up with the storyline. And I love that these Satanists, like all great threats, aren’t dangerous as units, but they are as a whole, and they’re definitely able to throw a lot of them at a problem like KISS. Doesn’t really pay off, but a noble effort.
Big explosions. Everyone loves them. And there’s nothing fun about watching your heroes pound everyone into the dirt without some adversity along the way. So for KISS, recording Hotter Than Hell, a giant wall of flames and wreckage seemed like the best way to end this fight.
– The Chantry (I got the name from fellow comics writer and swamp witch Tini Howard) is an actual home in Los Angeles. I wanted something big and noble from the outside, but then I wanted to stuff a rock group of ladies just trying to get their witchmusic out there for the world. And I love the conceit of bands living together, mostly because I was raised on Monkees reruns.
Now Lily is in the house — not quite a full-fledged member, but she’s safe. I like Vampi as this kind of den mother, taking in strays and giving them a purpose, a role. This isn’t solely a character quirk, as we’ll find out in later issues. And here’s some fake band names I made up, which is never not fun. Though, to be fair, The Havox was a real band of my friends’ and The Dobermen is a band name I came up with when I was 13, and I still think it’s great.
Again, trying to write KISS as normal as I can here. I don’t want them to be suddenly in charge of everything and on top of it. They’re in a strange city, recording their second album, and still not sure what the future holds for them. To have them not be a little freaked out and uncertain felt like a cheat, and I didn’t wanna cheat.
Here the Satanists have now stolen another of KISS’s instruments. This probably won’t be a thing down the road. Nope. And KISS are being left in the dark again and they’re starting to get a little pissed off about it. Writing a character arc is strange, especially when that character is four characters who are known across the globe. I couldn’t give each member their own little thing to work on, but just their stance in that last panel lets you know they’re coming together like they always do.
I like chats over drinks and I wanted to at least address where Vampi is getting her blood from (and how she chooses to ideally ingest it, from a fancy wine glass). And Lily signs up. Like KISS, she’s seen too much to just ignore it anymore.
Kiss’ funk carries over to the studio sessions. Even the best bands in the world can have an off-day or two in the studio, especially after they’ve learned that the world is full of demons and beasts and they know nothing substantive about it. So they go to what they know: the rock shows they grew up on, that inspired them, that took them out of their heads for a bit.
And now everything begins to come together. Instead of cross-cutting from page to page, we’re doing from panel to panel now, things are speeding up. Lily is operating as roadie/stage manager and KISS is in the building to see something amazing. Trying to bring these two sides together in a way that didn’t feel massively forced or convenient wasn’t easy, but I feel like the hard work pays off when it feels natural like this.
The show’s about to begin, and as someone who took the gig to look out for monsters, it felt like a pretty sensible leap for Vampi to look out and see four guys dressed like they’re ready to go to war and assume the worst. And for an alien who’s only been here on this planet for five years and the girl fresh off the bus from Iowa, that neither of them recognize or know KISS made sense.
Thanks for hanging out through all this. Come on by next month when the title of our book begins to make complete sense. There will be jams, there will be flamethrowers, there will be blood. See you in 30.
For more on KISS/Vampirella #2, click here.
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