Ethan Sacks' Writer's Commentary on KISS/Zombies #4

Ethan Sacks has a Writer's Commentary on KISS/Zombies #4 from Dynamite, out now… or at least it was. He writes,

Spoilers ahoy!

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Page 1: We saw the horrible circumstances behind Hank's death, or should I say murder, at the end of last issue and we pick up with the palpable grief that it left in its wake as KISS and the teen survivors make their way to Cleveland. We purposely left the first few pages without dialogue to just let Rodney Buscemi's art do the talking.

One choice I really love that Rodney made is to put the members of KISS in sort of civilian clothes. That was not in the script, but what a great storytelling choice. This is them at their most vulnerable.

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Page 2: We wanted to show that Crusher is not an inhuman monster. The guilt of causing his best friend's death is weighing heavily on him, as you can tell by the flashbacks reflected on the window glass. He made bad choices for what he thought were good reasons: To protect Laila and the small sliver of happiness they have in New Detroit. KISS coming back is a big threat to the status quo, so he is secretly working for the Leader to stop or slow them down.

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Page 3: Hank's death hurts Laila most of all. She feels more than a little guilty for dragging him all the way to New York on her quest. So, she needs to take that anger out on some zombies….

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Page 4: We want each of the band members to have their solos, so to speak, when it comes to action. So, letting Starchild fire a flaregun into a zombie's head is one of the signature scenes I've been looking to show since Issue 1, Page 1. It was important to me to have the members of KISS use weapons that weren't too commonplace. I think it would be jarring to see one of them fire a gun or stab with a knife. But a flare gun or a hockey stick, now that's keeping with the mystique!

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Page 5: This is the moment where Laila is at rock bottom and Demon realizes the band can help. He's got a soft spot for his fans! He agrees that KISS will go back to New Detroit and help.

Page 6: But first a trip to Cleveland to hunt down the origin of the transmission that led the teens to KISS in the first place. Being cryogenically frozen for decades has left them a bit hazy in the memory department, so they're really looking to find out what happened. On the back end, considering this is a five-issue series, we really wanted to reveal the secret origin of the zombie apocalypse in Issue 4.

Page 7: Okay, okay, I know it's about as subtle as a dragon boot to the head, but I had to put in a little dig to the "life-sucking" Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the way they've treated KISS.

Page 8: So, how would you make a run through zombie-infested city streets if you were a regular scavenger when the zombies are attracted to sound? I figured a drone with a speaker would be an invaluable tool. But batteries would be hard to come by since the factories making them are long gone…

Page 9: I'm going to reveal a big secret that's baked into this book: Rodney Buschemi often draws his friends in as zombies. I think that's part of the magic formula that makes each zombie look so unique and benefiting from lots of detail.

Page 10: Let's take a moment to appreciate the lettering skills of Troy Peteri, as exemplified by the dialogue and sound effects on this page. That "Thwack," for example, looks like it sounds, like a grisly, squishy sound straight out of a horror movie.

Page 11: The level of detail in Rodney's depiction of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum is insane, but colorist Dijjo Lima really lent a feeling of three-dimensions. The glass really seems to reflect the outside light, but it's so subtle.

Page 12: What do we have here? A big reveal that there's a cult that has lived in the Hall of Fame for generations waiting for KISS' return. Their cause has been passed down generation to generation. I love that my editor, our team's captain, Kevin Ketner, rolls with these off-the-wall ideas.

Page 13-14: Here's where it all gets REALLY weird. These primitive seeming KISS worshippers actually are caretakers of a fairly sophisticated computer control room. From here they monitor a lot of the outside world and store the information that will help us make sense of how the world descended so far into chaos during the zombie apocalypse.

Page 15: Okay, I mean this is where it gets REALLY REALLY weird. Demon is watching his past self in giant hologram form break down what happened, even if he doesn't really remember all this because of the effects of being cryogenically frozen. But he gives a hopeful message. They have a chance of fighting to bring back a semblance of normalcy to this ravaged existence.

Page 16: So, here is the secret origin story of the zombie plague. The government tried to make a virus that would turn citizens off against rebellious music, and force conformity. Helps keep everyone in line because there's not much of that pesky rock and roll all night and party every day mentalities. Only it went horribly wrong and victims were turned into undead zombies actually drawn to sound. Society fell.

Page 17: Sorry to cut this short, but the zombies have penetrated the bunker and the worshippers need to get KISS out of there or all will have been for nothing. It's important to note for next issue that there are instruments and gear in the boat in which they make their escape. Spoiler alert: We're not going to end this story without some music from the greatest rock band in the world. The last surviving worshipper, a girl named Gin, after one of my favorite KISS songs ("Cold Gin"), is the boat's pilot.

Page 18-19: It's somber after the massacre of those worshippers, but KISS has a mission at least. Go forth and save New Detroit. Taking the boat across the lake under the cover of night, Laila wants to catch the Leader by surprise, so she has time to win over some of the people in the settlement to her side and force them to listen. It's our first real good look at the fortified settlement.

Page 20: That element of surprise didn't actually turn out too well. It's a trap: The Leader arrives to order the execution of our heroes! I listen to KISS music while writing and, in this case, I listened to "Black Diamond" to get in the mood. I'm not sure why that particular song, to be honest, aside from the great energy.

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About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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