by Jim Johnson
The larger-than-life personas of rock-n-roll icons KISS have always naturally lent themselves to treatments as comic book characters, and in the all-ages "KISS Kids" #1, it turns out they lend themselves pretty well to reinterpretation as pint-sized partyers who can rock-n-roll all night -- or at least until bedtime. As reimagined by writers Chris Ryall and Tom Waltz, and humorously drawn by Jose Holder, KISS can now be described in a manner that few if any have described them before: cute and funny.
Publishers have made KISS comics for decades, to varying levels of success. The more successful incarnations were those that were aptly handled by capable creators who "got" what the band is about, while others suffered by writers who didn't and took the concept way too seriously. Ryall and Waltz find that middle ground; they understand and use the basic essence of each of the four characters as a springboard to a comedic set of kid-like adventures, and, well, that's about it. They're still KISS, but they still have to go to school and endure evil babysitters just like all the other kids. It's a much lighter and looser interpretation that doesn't feel compelled to make all kinds of contrived, obligatory references to the band's songs and character traits that past efforts have.
In fact, this take on the franchise allows for clever play on some of the band's song and album titles, like a shoe store called "Carnival of Soles." It's a lighthearted, almost self-parodying kind of humor that's been completely absent in any past comic that's been blessed by the group, and this lighter approach makes it a lot more welcoming to readers who might have been less than thrilled by past KISS comics. One of the quartet in particular, "Spacey", in a take-off of Ace Frehley's "Spaceman" persona, seems especially victimized by this self-parody when the writers take the intended meaning of his moniker, that of a literal man from space, and changing it to the more self-deprecating meaning of being forgetful and loopy. It's all in good-natured fun, although the ex-communicated Frehley might not think so, if he were to ever see this. It would only seem odd to fans already familiar with the other band members' caricatures, as kiddie versions of the remaining three; Starchild, Catkid, and Li'l Demon; are straightforward conversions from their adult counterparts.