Dynamite has sent us a writer's commentary by Chris Sebela for KISS/Vampirella #5, the series finale. Cover by Juan Doe and interiors by Annapaola Martello.
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Hey, it's me again and I'm here with the last issue of KISS/VAMPIRELLA commentary. So enough prelude, here we go with the final act, the headliner, the big show.
Vampi and Ulysses finally face off. He's using all his usual monster hunting tricks and Vampi is just exhausted and annoyed enough to just push past it. Ending with Ulysses somehow trying to parse out why there's two Vampis, one kicking his butt and another playing bass. That one down there is Lily, of course, disguising herself as Vampi, bait for the trap he just fell into.
I like the idea of Ulysses being armed on all fronts for a fight, so he even wears a stun vest under his shirt, just in case. And in usual monster hunter fashion, he talks all flowery while Vampi sticks with her annoyed rejoinders, weaving everything back to being in a band, because hey, that's what all this is about. I do like her final line here. Good job, me.
Ulysses knows he's outmatched and Vampi's got him sort of walking the plank, keeping him on that skylight so if he tries anything funny he'll crash through it and blow his cover and probably crush someone. Plus she's had a few chances to tear him to shreds and never took it, so all that, combined with the Satanists moving in, gives them not a lot of time to kiss and make up, but enough to pull the trigger on dying by her hands or something a bit more traditionally evil.
I based a lot of Paul Stanley's talk here on a pair of albums that someone released, compiled from dozens of KISS live shows. They're albums just of Paul Stanley stage banter and they were invaluable for this scene. If you google them, you can find them pretty easy. Also, why not invent the Kiss Army right here? It didn't officially start until 1975, so this works in the timeline.
And all the instrument thefts we've been watching the Satanists pull off in the last 4 issues come to a head, turned into enchanted baubles on cheap necklaces that render the Satanists invulnerable to KISS' attacks. Not that they're there for that, they just wanna invite everyone to a free concert. Which, if you're gonna go to a free show, Satanists probably throw the best ones?
Biplanes dropping flyers all over LA seemed like the best way to get this message to as many people as possible in a short amount of time in a pre-internet age. Not that we have long to think about that because Vampi is dragging Ulysses over to the fight, which, thanks to those spooky talismen, isn't going so great for KISS.
This is pure chaos, as such a scene would be, but Annapaola, she's so dang good at even the chaos stuff. Like, the closest anyone comes to getting hurt is Gene's Satanist, but as messy as it looks, it's like shooting a ghost. They'll just reform and try again.
I figure like any great show, a good monster fight would require a bit of a comedown, a bit of a going over how well that went, if everyone is on the same page. And now that they have Vampi scooping up their invulnerable Satanists, this party is just getting great for KISS.
Now we unveil the plan. If there's a big master plan, then at some point you gotta spell it out. This is also the first time the entire cast is in one room together, trying to come up with a plan. This many different sets of backgrounds, species and opinions can only lead to some fighting, but this is where Lily's quiet, helpful and studious nature finally comes to the forefront in a bigger way than roadying for Vampi or Witchkraft.
Fooled you. The plan we'll get to. I mean, we got a whole half an issue left. I just wanted a little fun banter and some movement from Point A to Point B to give everyone a breather before we really go nuts.
This is the first thing I thought of for this book, the idea of the record industry using backmasking and music to make people kill and hurt each other. It's why the cold open of issue #1 should make sense to you now, complete with John Denverish lyrics to sell just how sappy and saccharine the music they're using to drive people mad really is. Like, even if it wasn't backmasked, a few folks would probably riot.
And here we go. Everyone's losing it, but KISS storms in to save the day and smash terrible records. As it should be.
I went with KISS' lyrics for "All the Way" here. Both because I felt like they fit this lyrically and I felt like that song in particular would be the complete antithesis of that light rock nonsense they just gave the boot too. Plus, this is the issue where everyone kinda goes all the way. Vampi and Ulysses, fightingwise, the execs, demonwise, and KISS, musicwise.
Having Vampi and Ulysses fight together, her with just badassery and Ulysses with less badassery but better weaponry, I dunno… I felt like this whole book was leading to a supergroup of sorts, I just wasn't quite sure how right I was. I feel like even if the fate of humanity and rock music is at stake, you can still have some fun with the guy who tried to kill you the day before. I've formed friendships over worse circumstances.
I'll come back to the band. Let's keep the fight going. Not a lot of time for fanciness, so I figured Vampi is fast and strong enough to clear the way of innocent bystanders and Ulysses has been a monsterhunter for a bit now, so he's capable of handling a few big red demons. Well, he would be if he wasn't so insistent on getting in the last word.
I was always unsure about whether or not to kill Ulysses. I was gonna maybe have him survive, but I thought, with all these people fighting evil, and only five of them actually being human, and since I definitely couldn't kill a member of KISS, Ulysses was the arrogant dude so certain of everything who'd have to get a big fatal dose of "I told you so." Meanwhile, here comes that plan I mentioned. This is another idea I had for a long time.
The S Chord is this concept a buddy of mine dreamt about. In the dream it was taught to him and I (I was in the dream too, so I feel like legally I'm not stealing a dream) by Pete Townshend, so it seemed like if someone was gonna know some magical guitar chord, he'd be right up there. It felt too perfect not to use in a story at some point. Luckily I had this story all about music so it fit right in. I just had to make it make a sort of sense and putting both bands together as the only way for them to pull this off, it felt right for a book about two bands who were always talking more than playing. Also, that last panel, man, SO GOOD. Might be my favorite moment of the book to be honest.
So that's what the S-Chord does, drives the demons out of their hosts. Doesn't quite destroy them, for that, you need a bit more volume.
And here it is, all the way up to 11, loud enough and reflected by the Hollywood Bowl enough to coat all of LA with the S-Chord, to free the whole dang town from demons. Vampi yelling encore, well, I dunno how I could resist, so I chose not to.
Giving everyone a little time off to go back to normal, to let KISS finish their album to not jump right into cleaning up the clean-up, it made sense to me. So much of this book happens in quick succession, it only felt right to take a bit of a break as we race towards home plate. And dangit, I'm kinda gonna miss writing KISS. They're fun. Groups of different personalities usually are and having a band with Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter, it was ripe for having a lot of different POVs come from one painted, united front. Anyhow, bye KISS!
Goodbyes are bittersweet, but I figured Vampi had to take off. She's still learning this world, and she put together Witchkraft, along with their one missing piece — Lily. So that was as good a sign as any that her job here was done. Plus they drove all the demons out, so it's not like she'd have a lot of work. Gotta go where the evil is if you wanna extinguish evil. I like her leaving Lily with a family that she's been lacking, even tho it's bittersweet that Vampi has to give hers up for that to happen. Oh, and if anyone's paying close attention, that Clown Motel reference was requested by my editor, because I once lived in that same motel, in the middle of the Nevada desert, for a month. A lot of me is in this book, but that's the most recognizable one.
Ending with a burial/funeral, Vampi driving his stolen limo, I dunno, it's a bummer but it also seems fitting. Plus I really like bringing everything back to bands, how being in bands and playing music, they're their own thing, but they also work as metaphors for all of life. Some of us join bands, some of us are solo acts. Vampi, she's always gonna be superstar on her own. And there she does, popping in KISS' mixed to 8 track demo of their new album, driving into the sunset. It feels like the perfect final notes to an album I love.
And love it I did. I had so much fun writing this book, which shocked even me. I hope you enjoyed it too, whether you're a member of the KISS Army, a Vampirella superfan or you just wandered in with zero knowledge or expectations. Remember: soft rock sucks. Keep it as loud as often as you can. Plenty of time along the road to turn the volume down, enjoy it now. This was Christopher Sebela and this was KISS/Vampirella.
You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. Goodnight.