Our latest writer’s commentary from Dynamite features Chris Sebela talks KISS/Vampirella #3 with a cover by Juan Doe and art by Annapaola Martello.
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Hey, welcome back to Issue 3 and my endless commentary upon it. Lotta stuff happens in here, so let’s dive right into it, shall we?
I’ve said it before, but it turns out I really, really like writing song lyrics for fake bands. This issue has plenty, but this particular Witchkraft song I like most for the chorus, which is not on this page. But Annapaola really excels at drawing exciting rock shows. Plus, we get a quick-and-dirty Witchkraft origin story.
So, I don’t know where Vampi gets her money, and I kind of don’t care. Money is what makes life possible on this planet, so I feel like it’s the first and best lesson she would have gotten after landing here from Drakulon. Vampi’s a fighter, so she’d gather the best weapons she could and money makes for a pretty good attacking point. I like the idea of her paying off Witchkraft’s bass player to go away so she could slide on in. Oh and here’s that chorus, I like that saying about “We are the witches that you never burned,” and felt like it would make for a good rock song. Turns out I was right.
Vampi not knowing who KISS is made sense to me, but Lily not knowing? That was a little suspect. But Lily has literally been through a lifetime of weird stuff in the past couple of days, so it makes sense she’d forget about some band who only has one album out now. But Calliope going nuts over them also makes sense, so we get the whole spectrum that an early version of KISS would get, including complete indifference. They had yet to really set the world on fire.
Finally, the title of this book is starting to make a little more sense now, right? KISS has met Vampirella. I could have written a whole issue just of KISS and Witchkraft hanging out, talking about rock music and L.A. and whatever else pops into their heads. But time is money, so we gotta move this party off to a jam session. I mean, it just made sense that they had to jam at some point.
Vampi probably could have fit in the van, but I wanted to show off her wings a bit, give her a second to herself, so this planning conundrum seemed like the perfect time to handle both. Plus, it gets Lily out of there, because we’ve got a LOT of characters going on and need some breathing room.
I liked this idea of Vampi trying her hand at songwriting and sucking at it. I mean, she can do everything else perfectly; she’s gotta have at least one deficit. Plus, we set up Ulysses — KISS’s driver — as hiding near the venue, and spotting her. So much stuff getting set up, conflicts dead ahead.
With all the buddy times happening, I wanted to come back and remind everyone that there’s a bunch of Satanists with swords out there doing creepy things for creepy reasons. Like wanting to get Ace’s guitar pick, especially a used one. Now they have Paul’s Flying V, Gene’s bass, Ace’s pick. What could be going on here?
This page was stupidly fun to write, just getting each counterpart off with one another, talking about their specialties with someone who’d truly get it, I like that. It happens in every industry, so I figure with two bands like this, this is how bands jam before they jam. First it’s one or two small notes and they build into something bigger.
– But FYI, it’s not all fun and games, bands are still vanishing, and that’s kind of important. I like to draw out the tension here, just to make you anxious, make you want to see what I’ve been promising you for the last 4 pages. Getting to write a two-drummer countdown is something I didn’t know was on my bucket list but it turns out it was and I’ve gotten it handled.
And here it is. A double-page spread because we need this much room to fit in our eight band members. Song lyrics, I knew we wouldn’t get into anything too deep here, so I just wanted something that kinda summed up how KISS feels about L.A. and how Witchkraft, living here, feels about what’s happening to the scene. Plus, it sounds cool. That’s paramount. On the bottom tier I put in some more Satanists rushing in, and being driven back by the power of their rock. The idea of music as a magical spell, I’m definitely not the first to get there, but I like to think mine is a bit more explode-y.
Exit Witchkraft…for reasons that will become clear and reasons you have no idea about until you read issue 4. Sorry. But now we’re fully back to the missing, crazy and broken bands that lay at the heart of all this. KISS has motivation now. Vampi has extra motivation with her band’s name in the book, everyone’s onboard for this adventure.
Selling out is a concept that gets bandied about a lot in creative industries, especially in music. So I wanted the ultimate sellouts, the ones who ditched rock music to record bland mid-’70s beach rock. What sounds wimpier than THE BREEZE as a band name? Oh, and here comes Ulysses again. It’s been a while since anyone fought, so let’s just shoot Vampi right in the chest, shall we?
Vampi is pretty unfazed. She’s an alien badass, so nothing Ulysses throws at her that’s that simple is gonna stick. I wanted her to seem monstrous, angry, to give KISS a reason beyond her ability to take a bullet and keep standing to attack her. Ulysses is there to give them one last nudge over the edge.
And KISS is coming from a good place, so I didn’t want Vampi kicking and punching them around like she would anyone else. I wanted her to almost be disappointed that they were going along with this guy, that they had just jammed an hour ago and now it’s come to this? Vampi is bummed, not pissed off. She just unfurls her wings and sadly watches them run off.
And here we find out who Ulysses is really working for. Beyond KISS. And a nice flamethrower burst to really mess with Vampi as the band speeds off. The kind of parting note that’s gonna make Vampi a lot less apt to go easy on Ulysses if they should happen to meet again.
Peter and Ace are definitely my wild cards in this book. They’re the ones who are apt to go the furthest out there if the circumstances get wonky and they can’t get much wonkier than this, so having Peter choke Ulysses for answers while he’s driving seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, we get Ulysses’ take on who Vampi is, driving a wedge deeper between her and KISS. Will they ever be friends again??
Lily playing the bass, the roadie/assistant who has to sit home and be ready for when the boss needs her. Having her boss walk in singed and smoking seemed like a good crisis for Lily to handle. Just draw a bath and fill a nice glass with some blood. And I know people like some cheesecake with their Vampi, so here’s a hint at it. I’m not a prude, but I think there’s a lot more to Vampi so I wanted to kind of honor that past here and there, but do my own thing.
And here comes Lily’s secret origin. The girl who shows up to L.A. looking to break big and be a star is a pretty common narrative, but I feel there are a lot more people who run to places like Los Angeles to get lost, to avoid their past finding them, to try and change themselves into someone completely new. That’s what Lily’s angling for. But now we know why she was so good at hotwiring a car and speeding after Satanists in issue 2.
I know, I know, it’s pretty cliche to put the Hollywood sign in your Los Angeles story, but I went for it on this one because in 1974, the Hollywood sign was broken down and missing tiles and it generally looked like a shabby old billboard no one had bothered to tear down. It got restored not too long afterwards, but KISS in this new, uglier version of L.A. finding out about stuff at this massive, now ugly symbol of L.A., it kinda made a lot of sense to me. Oh, and Ulysses’ story is a nod to one of Vampi’s old origin stories before it got retconned to the land of wind and ghosts. It seemed like a story that Vatican monster hunters would pass down.
Capitol Records is an actual legal entity and we’d likely get sued for using them, so I changed it to Center Records and bam, I can move along with the story. KISS shows up to get some answers and the business sleaze side of the equation is super eager to meet with them. KISS might be small, but people recognized their potential early. That’s why they’re huge now.
And here is our finale. KISS gets made the same offer that The Empire got made before they turned into The Breeze. Except they say no and you know what you get when you say no, you get a bunch of red demons spilling out of some old executives looking to eat your face off.
Will KISS still have faces next issue? Gotta come back in a month and find out.