By Dan Caffrey
has had many incarnations. Their faces have graced everything from T-shirts to coffins, even Hello Kitty dolls. One thing they’ve been no stranger to is comics. Besides having their own Marvel series in the ’70s, the band appeared in the ’90s reboot (and accompanying album book) Psycho Circus, published by Todd McFarlane Productions, and, most recently, the wholesome panels of Riverdale in Archie, written by Alex Segura and drawn by Dan Parent. Over the holidays, we caught up with KISS mainstay Gene Simmons for an in-depth conversation on the comic book industry, marriage, and why the band Chicago has a leg up on The Ramones.
You’ve always been a pretty huge comics fan, right?
I actually lived it and breathed it. You know, when I first came to America, I was eight and a half years old, and I remember one of the first books was The Brave And The Bold, and that was introducing the new Flash, the Silver Age Flash. You have to remember names like Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. I just devoured it. And, of course, the Atlas Group, the Kirby era monsters, and the Ditko off-world things. I bought the Harvey books…there are lines of comic books that I collected all the way from A to Z, from Charlton publications all the way to Dell and Gold Key. I mean, I had thousands and thousands.
And when I was… oh I don’t know, about 12 or 13 years old, I actually printed up one-page handouts, leaflets…”Buying comic books, a dollar a pound.” And everybody had attics full of comic books. And I used to go there, because I knew what the Golden Age comics were worth. At the beginning of the model, comics weren’t worth anything. I was looking for the original Human Torch and Sub-Mariner things, and actually found some. So, a buck here, a buck there, and every once in a while, I’d get an Action Comics #38 or #40. I made a small fortune.
So, you were a pretty business-minded gentleman from the very beginning?
Yes, I’m Jewish. Above and beyond all the other guys that talk, I have actually been and continue to be a superhero myself. From the late ’70s, in the KISS books that Marvel put out, Gene Simmons actually fought Doctor Doom with The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.