There's been a growing trend in comics where a property, whether it be super-heroes, famous people, etc, is taken and put into a kiddie form. All of these books provide a new perspective on these characters and provide a ton of fun for children as well as adults.
The newest book from this trend, debuting August 21st, features one of the greatest rock bands of all time put into kid form: KISS. The writers of this new book, entitled KISS KIDS, Chris Ryall (IDW Editor) and Tom Waltz (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) took the time to answer some KISS KIDS and KISS related questions.
Comic Vine: How did this project come about?
Chris Ryall: Kiss comics in general came about because Tom and I are big fans of the band and enjoy working with Gene Simmons. As we were working on the regular series, a local retailer, Robert Scott at Comickaze, suggested a more all-ages Kiss series. We loved the idea, doing something akin to Tiny Titans but for Kiss fans, and got things rolling from there.
Tom Waltz: As Chris says, a visit I paid to Robert Scott's Comickaze in San Diego is what got the ball rolling. Robert told me he liked our KISS books and thought there might be a market for an all-ages version. It was a great idea (of course, for a diehard KISS fan like me, any KISS idea is a great idea) and I immediately shared it with Chris, who was as gung-ho as I was. We then presented it to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and they also dug it, and the rest, as they way, is KISStory.
CV: Who is this book for?
CR: Kiss fans of all ages. But also people who just want fun, goofy, all-ages comics for themselves or for their kids. My daughter is 7 and knows nothing about Kiss’ music (although she does curiously refer to the Demon as “Uncle Gene”) but she had a lot of fun with the issues so far, too. The in-jokes are there for longtime fans and hopefully the fun is there for everyone who reads it.
TW: Like Chris, I have a young daughter (9), and she's been getting a huge kick out of KISS Kids, but even more pleasantly surprising has been my wife's reaction—she's been extremely vocal about how “cute” and “fun” she thinks the comic is and has asked me to bring extra copies home so she can share with her friends and co-workers with kids (and I'm pretty sure my wife doesn't get any of the in-jokes Chris mentioned above).
CV: How did artist Jose Holder get involved?
CR: Jose has worked with Tom on some Ghostbusters comics in the past and his samples here were immediately winning. So much fun and liveliness, and Jose, along with master colorist Jeremy Colwell, are injecting so many more little nods and gags and just really dynamic body language, layouts and colors into the art that I can’t imagine things working as well without them.
TW: I've been a HUGE fan of Jose's work since I first saw it online. Since then, he's worked with me on LEGION: PROPHETS, MARS ATTACKS THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS and BORDERLANDS: ORIGINS, and he's killed on every project I've thrown his way—and KISS Kids is no exception. He's brought a ton of personality and personal flare to the book and his skill and passion come through in each and every panel. And colorist Jeremy Colwell? Damn—that guy's freakin' good!
CV: This first issue really has a great sense of humor to it. How do you keep this book light and fun for kids as well as adults?
CR: I think it helps that Tom and I are big goofs who never take things too seriously. It’s nice to have a series that allows us to work out a lot of our juvenile humor and do more than just make our wives roll their eyes at us.
TW: Whenever I write these, I always try to think of a young Tommy Waltz—what would've made that guy laugh? In the end, it's usually the same exact stuff that makes old Tom Waltz laugh, so I start from there and just go with it!
CV: Where do the story ideas come from?
CR: Our twisted psyches, both of which are fueled by decades of listening to Kiss, reading comics, and staying in touch with our inner 10-year-olds.
TW: From the music, the make-up, the myth... mix it all up, throw in some goofiness and exaggerated (and some not-so-exaggerated) memories from my own life and cook it till it's ready to serve.
CV: This book is separated into shorter stories, usually around a couple pages long. Will KISS KIDS have any longer story lines or will it continue to be in bite-sized moments?
CR: Likely no issue-length stories, since there are so many things we want to do with the (so far) four issues. But I’m working now on a longer “field strip” story for issue 3, that one might run half the issue. It’s got the Kiss Kids, girls, dinosaur mummies and more, so it’s demanding a bit more space.
Meanwhile, Tom has been doing some great 1- and 2-page gag strips in addition to some longer stories, and I’d like to see more of those from him since he’s really good at it.
TW: Yeah, the 1- and 2-pagers have been an absolute blast for me. They're definitely challenging but I love writing 'em!
CV: What's your favorite KISS-related moment or pun from the first issue?
CR: It feels a bit congratulatory to mention our own jokes, but I mostly just enjoy things like working in Kiss nods for the longtime fans: the shoestore is “Carnival of Soles,” the babysitter is Christine, who’s 16, their school looks like the building from the old Casablanca Records label and the principal’s door is the door from The Elder… all things that people reading the book don’t need to pick up on but if they do, it makes for fun little bonuses throughout the series.
TW: I think I laughed the hardest at Lil' Demon's birthday presents—huge cudos to Chris, Jose and Jeremy in putting that pun together so perfectly!
CV: Assuming you're both KISS fans, what are your favorite moments from a KISS music video or favorite lyric from a KISS song?
CR: Is there any finer moment of music-video acting than Gene going “Iron Eyes Cody” and shedding a tear at the end of the “World Without Heroes” video? I don’t think there is. Favorite lyric from a Kiss song? The one where they compared their crotch to some other object (see: Love Gun, Rocket Ride, etc.)…
TW: Actually, more than any video, I was mesmerized by the album cover for KISS ALIVE II when I was a kid (and still am). It was a double-album, so it folded open like a book and there was a killer wide-shot of the band on stage (explosions!) on the inside. Loved looking at that as I spun that record over and over. As for lyrics, as a native Michigander, three words always mean the most: “Detroit Rock City!”
CV: Did any members of the band have anything to do with this book or was this completely a solo effort?
CR: They all four see it and Gene and Paul have been especially involved and encouraging. In fact, Paul even designed his “Kiss Kids” hairstyle himself.
TW: As with all our KISS-related projects, the band has been deeply involved... from early designs to final approvals. And, as always, they've been super-cool to work with... and, honestly, extremely excited and positive about KISS Kids.
CV: There's a couple stand-out characters within the first issue, aside from the kids: Christine, the babysitter, and the KISS Robots. Will they be returning in future issues and will we be seeing other reoccurring characters in this series?
CR: They will. Kiss Kids are interesting but they do need various friends, antagonists and schoolmates who’re just as much fun as they are. There’s even a certain “Ronnie J,” who’s always going around saying that he was the one who pioneered the devil horns.
TW: I was actually able to get three of my long-time buddies from my hometown into the mix—huge, huge KISS fans like Ryall and me. Look for the “Rowdy Roadies” in issue #2.
CV: What's the most "out there" idea you guys have had for a story that didn't make the cutting room floor?
CR: Well, seeing that we have dinosaur mummies coming up, in addition to all the things we mentioned above, there doesn’t seem to be any cutting-room floor just yet. We have so many story ideas here, the only real challenge seems to be finding space to fit all of them into the miniseries. Hopefully it works well and can continue on so we have a regular outlet for the craziness in our heads.
TW: We don't worry about anything being too “out there”--we just focus on creating things that are fun and funny... for the whole family, whether they are long-time KISS fans or not. We want everyone to enjoy this wacky ride as much as we are!
Many thanks to Chris and Tom for taking the time to answer our questions! Make sure to check out KISS KIDS from IDW Comics which hits local comic shop shelves on August 21st!