We have a new writer's commentary from Dynamite featuring Chris Sebela talking about Kiss/Vampirella #4. It features a cover by Juan Doe and interiors by Annapaola Martello. This is the second to last episode of the miniseries that has brought together two icons of the 70's. It would've seemed perfectly normal at any time since Kiss started touring to have Vampirella walk out on stage.
The penultimate issue is upon us. Now that KISS and Vampirella have met cute and then gotten estranged just as quickly by way of a flamethrower, let's see how this works out.
– Last issue ended on a big cliffhanger, so I thought I'd start this one quietly, string it out a little bit longer. And here's Vampirella in a business suit. I feel like it's a look I hadn't seen her in a lot and since she's going to do some snooping around Center Records, might as well dress like a record industry sleaze, complete with shades.
– Since this is KISS' first time facing the real true evil of the book, but a real true evil that also exists as record company executives, I thought those two might level them out. Sure, the horns and the blood red skin are definitely shocking, but it's tempered by them being familiar with record industry talk and company men trying to finagle them.
– It's always fun when you can deal with a serious subject like murder but make it funny by injecting it with bandspeak, as well as possibly answering what happened to a lot of the members of those missing bands. A lot of the less talented ones probably wound up in some of these demons' freezers. And having Ace and Peter be like "screw it, we'll fight some giant demons, why the hell hot" felt pretty right.
– I did my best to keep Vampirella out of her traditional suit. Sue me. It didn't feel like it belonged in this iteration of her. She's trying to blend, to study humanity and the monsters who walk among us, why would she call attention to herself with the navel=plunging neckline with her butt hanging out?
– Vampi's big heroic moment, and it's tainted by the fact that KISS, less than 12 hours ago, let their friend shoot and burn her. I think that's probably the mark of true heroism, is saving people who were total dicks to you, because even dicks deserve to live now and then.
– I love Vampi plunging a chair leg into a Demon's brain. I know it's the height of vanity, but I like it, mostly because I like how great Annapaola and Valentina approached it. Red on red. And then ending with a kind of old west standoff, it's a good tension moment for what comes next.
– Vampi using the same pens the demons wanted KISS to sign a contract with to threaten ocular damage and then draw a sigil on their face felt right to me. Using the most powerful weapons these demons employ — a tool of bureaucracy and hidden intent — to take this big one down.
– I like the idea of Vampi as collecting all kinds of arcane knowledge in the time she's been here. It's like a chef memorizing a recipe, or a new resident trying to figure out all the streets and shortcuts. Some of it comes in useful, at least long enough for a daring window escape. I figured it was the thing that would be the icing on the freakout cake for KISS.
– Just kidding, always got to have one final jolt, KISS getting in their last few licks before they drop their demon off at the pool (of blood). And then we circle back to this collection of KISS' instruments. Now that demons have the drumsticks, I'm sure everything will be fine. Yep.
– What better time for a get to know you than flying over Los Angeles carrying four musicians in makeup and ornate costumes. I mean, you can't ask for a more captive audience. And having a bit of an edge to Vampi's voice, as she hasn't forgotten how they tried to smash her with their instruments… it felt like an earned bit of annoyance for her, but one she graciously overlooks to save their lives.
– If you notice, two of the sleepover groupies are dudes and one is a lady. As to which member of Witchkraft bunked down with who, I like to leave a few mysteries for those writing eventual fanfic to ponder. Anyhow, this was a scene I'd been looking forward to writing, as I had the plan to reveal Witchkraft's secrets in a moment of high tension and proving a point to KISS as they badmouth Vampi was the perfect accompaniment.
– Hey here's our splash page. I don't use a lot of them, but considering we've grown to like Calliope, Kendra and Dakota over this run, I thought we should give as much room as possible to show off their true natures.
– And then I love immediately defusing that with everyone heading in to make and eat breakfast. Like, normalizing the hell out of our true monster versions of Witchkraft. Getting KISS and Vampi back to the questions of this arc as quickly as possible.
– How can you be freaked out by monsters who make eggs? You cannot. Just monsters who lay eggs. Food, cooking, crowded kitchens, they're rituals, they're shortcuts to comfort. The smell of cooking sustenance and talk all over takes most of us back to a moment just like that, so it helps bring the two bands together that much easier. Until Lily shows up. Also I'm not sure if toasting with blood is bad luck, but seems like that should be a rule.
– I liked having Lily be the only freaked out one, because she just radiates normalcy. Everyone else is cool with what's going on but to her, it's a pack of monsters, a pack of guys dressed like monsters and Vampi, the monster running everything. I wanted to give her a reason to freak out and leave, not just because of what she sees but to set up what comes next.
– We finally figure out what Lily is running from, since that conversation never got resolved, and its resolution is pretty dark, but I needed something big and awful that would drive Lily out of Iowa and towards LA. A place that takes in monsters and orphans. I love the subtle last two panels, where Lily begins her transformation.
– I liked keeping Vampi's secret between her and Lily. Even from the reader. Like, there are moments none of us ever see and I thought swinging away at this moment when Vampi is opening up fully to someone… I didn't want to overload the emotional minefield in this batch of pages so far. To add to that, having everyone be super supportive and then Ace be the gruff voice of reason, well, there's a lot of fun to be had making all these personalities mesh.
– The exchange in the first panel was one of the first pieces of dialogue I ever thought of. Not like that's gonna nab an Eisner, but I thought it summed up the book pretty well if you're on a really short elevator ride. And all this leads to the ultimate team-up: sharing a bill. This is where I get super excited about all the pieces sliding together
– So Vampi's got a huge house. She's got some money. Where that comes from, you can speculate, but in keeping with her playing den mother, she'd make sure to have everything covered, including instrument repair and weapon crafting. It only makes sense the two would come together. Everything is coming together! I mean, axe bass, this stuff writes itself.
– Writing stage banter is almost as much fun as writing lyrics. Lyrics can go over anything, really. Think about songs you associate with the strangest, sometimes most pedestrian memories, accidental soundtracks. I wanted that in a montage as we watch the Satanists and Ulysses and concert assemble.
– Consider this KISS' mission statement. Throwing them into this madhouse occult world, they haven't really had a chance to breathe. A sort of logical explanation of how a band like KISS would deal with all this. I'm definitely guilty of overthinking how to get people to deal with the madness they're in the midst of no more so than me taking a moment to get KISS to talk each other into putting themselves in the crosshairs.
– And here's our dramatic conclusion. Satanists! Rock! Existential contemplation! A crossbow! A doublecross! It all comes together into our grand finale next month. There will be blood. See you then.