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A Writer’s Commentary: ERIK BURNHAM on the KISS: FOREVER special, on sale NOW!

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  • A Writer’s Commentary: ERIK BURNHAM on the KISS: FOREVER special, on sale NOW!

    A Writer’s Commentary: ERIK BURNHAM on the KISS: FOREVER special, on sale NOW from Dynamite!

    Hi everybody! Erik Burnham here with another writer's commentary.

    This time, the book we'll be looking at is KISS: FOREVER.

    Just so the title doesn't fool you, the book does, indeed, feature KISS -- but we're not following the continuity established in the Amy Chu-written ongoing. No, this is a different, more fantasy based take.

    When I was approached to do the book, I was asked to set it in four different time periods, and go wild with it... so I turned to the oft-used "KISS as godlike beings" trope and ran with that.

    Let's see how it turned out.

    THE COVER
    First image comes courtesy of Yildiray Cinar. There's even a little Kirby Crackle in there. (But not too much. That would be overkill.)

    CHAPTER ONE
    Initially, I was going to title each of these chapters after a KISS song. "Back To The Stone Age" would've been perfect here -- but I didn't find anything near so perfect for the rest, and so abandoned that idea.

    But we're still in the stone age.

    The other thing that I'd thought was going to happen at first, before editor Anthony Marques went another way, was seeing four different artists (and four different art styles) in the book. In the endy, Anthony chose to put it all in the hands of Daniel HDR, and Daniel drew the hell out of it.

    PAGE ONE
    Okay, back to the story. In each chapter, I asked for the face of the corresponding member of KISS to be hidden in the background before their first appearance later on.

    Here, the Catman is subtly visible in the foliage of the trees in PANEL TWO-- it's so subtle I almost missed it, but when I saw it, man... that's cool. Such a cool effect.

    Panel Three...Has our first caveman on the hunt. In the descriptions, I called him Barney.
    Barney isn't quite dressed for the weather, but maybe he's extra tough.

    PAGE TWO
    IT'S OKAY! Barney found some boots between pages!

    And he's looking for his next kill: he's all hunter/no gatherer, our pal Barney.

    He finds a bunny. (To be fair, it's a really big bunny.)

    AND THEN THE HUNTER BECOMES THE HUNTED.

    ...He had to. It gets the story moving. Bye, Barney.

    PAGE THREE
    We now join our hero, Ar, in the cave with the rest of his tribe of cavepeople, where he learns about the death of Barney. Ar's not just gonna let that stand. He's gonna sort it out.

    PAGE FOUR
    And the snow is gone in a week. Which, if you've ever been to the midwest, you know is totally plausible.

    PAGE FIVE
    Here's where Ar meets THE CATMAN -- and an even more bestial version of him. It's also where we set up the exposition about who abd what these four brothers are, more or less:

    "...Part of an unending pattern, formed of the underworld and the wilderness, the sky and beyond. We are both men and gods, dreams and reality. We are forever."

    If that sounds like a comic booky kind of throwback, it sure was meant to!

    PAGE SIX
    Just like a cat: you think you're in good, and then you get scratched.

    PAGE SEVEN
    Here's our first look at the villain of the piece: a big ol' sabretoothed cat. I asked Daniel to make him look beat up and battle-worn... I think he got there.

    PAGE TEN
    After a nice two-page fight scene, Ar returns victorious. Hooray for Ar!

    The tiger-blood markings of the Catman Ar painted on himself as he prepares to tell the story -- this was the first image that popped into my head for the story, though I initially saw it as a close-up. Daniel delivered a great shot, though.




    CHAPTER TWO
    Now we move the action forward a few millennia and pick things up in Rome, during the reign of Emperor Nero.

    ...At which point, history tells us, much of the city burned to the ground.

    Sounded like a fun place to drop The Demon.

    PAGE ELEVEN
    As before, we have a hidden appearance -- the Demon’s face (and tongue) visible in the flame coming from the sconce in panel three.

    As with all of these, it’s subtle and I love it for that.

    We’re joining a group of conspirators.

    PAGES TWELVE AND THIRTEEN
    The conspirators gripe over what Rome has become -- an empire of many peoples. They wish for things to be the way they were before, and have called out to a god (of death, it turns out) to make their dreams come true.

    Just took a little goat’s blood.

    These guys have clearly never been told to be careful what they wish for...

    PAGE FOURTEEN
    Most of the conspirators are transformed and set loose, leaving just one to regret what he had asked for and to say it aloud.

    Which will be important later, so take note.

    PAGE FIFTEEN
    And here’s the Demon!

    I wasn’t sure I’d get away with a radical departure of his classic look -- I had asked for a straight up cuirass and cape, which I got, and sandals (to be period accurate) which I didn’t. Can’t feel too bad about that, those boots are iconic.

    PAGE SIXTEEN
    The only thing I can note here is that on panel five, I initially asked for that soldier to be speared straight down, through the chest. Made more sense with the monster’s height. But hey, this is still pretty violent!

    PAGE SEVENTEEN
    “Eegah” is not just fantastic SFX, it’s also a damn fine episode of MST3K.

    PAGE TWENTY
    After the Demon sees to the monsters (and burning much of Rome to the ground) he tracks down the fella who started all this trouble in the first place… and points out that with the words “I did not mean for this, please” he summoned aid.

    And now we get to my favorite part, the part that made me chuckle when I realized this was where the story was going--

    PAGE TWENTY-ONE
    --The “Tales from the Crypt” twist.

    The man needs to apologize, that’s all. The twist is, he needs to apologize to those who died at the hands of the monsters he loosed on the city.

    Initially, the Demon was just going to open a wide pit and hurl his hapless victim in towards the grasping hands of the dead. It was changed in the art, and gives the Demon a more dynamic role.

    But I still love the image of him tossing the guy towards us.

    Onward to:

    CHAPTER THREE

    I was thinking of setting this in the Viking age, but with the first story being set in an ice age, I decided to go another way.

    Pirates it is.

    If I'd remembered a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie was coming out this year, I might have switched again --

    PAGE TWENTY-TWO
    There’s the image of the Starman, hiding in the wake of the ship.

    PAGE TWENTY-THREE
    Yes, according to research pirates typically shunned jewels as too-hard-to-sell. Of course it needed to be cursed.

    Also, yes, I know star-eyed captain is a kitschy name, but sometimes you gotta just jump right into that pool. These are comics about rock-stars as demigods: no sense in ironing out a little silliness here and there. Where would the fun in that be?

    PAGE TWENTY-FOUR
    ...And hey, a mildly romantic angle for the curse. (Love makes us stupid, stupidity makes us make mistakes…)

    PAGE TWENTY-SEVEN
    I did specify “evil” Pirate Starman dress like the Dread Pirate Roberts, while “good” Pirate Starman look more like Errol Flynn.

    I think Dread Pirate Starman is a look that works for the character.

    Anthony! I have a pitch!

    PAGE TWENTY-EIGHT
    Here’s a thought: maybe don’t shoot a guy who single-handedly commands a ghost ship. It’s never a good idea.

    PAGE TWENTY-NINE
    ...That kind of thing might happen.

    PAGE THIRTY
    I hope this callback to the Demon story made people smile.

    PAGE THIRTY-ONE
    And hey, the Star-Eyed Captain has his soul back.

    PAGES THIRTY-TWO and THIRTY-THREE
    The captain goes back to find his lost love, and she’s aged. In the script I asked for her to be even older, but this works just as well.

    We end on a happy note!

    CHAPTER FOUR

    ...And jump to the 20th century! It’s pretty obvious that I borrowed prrrretty heavily from the history of Apollo 13.

    This story -- when I had thought these tales would be separated by different artists or different styles -- was meant to look like a crazy 70s cosmic comic book. Kirbyish, or Starlinish, if you prefer. Big and bold. Realism brings a more subdued vibe.
    (That sounds like a complaint; it isn’t meant to! Just some behind the scenes chatter of what changed from script to page.)

    PAGE THIRTY-FOUR
    WE HAVE LIFTOFF! And the final hidden face -- the Spaceman -- is seen in the smoke of launch.

    PAGE THIRTY-FIVE
    This story -- set in space -- means no dialogue. So it’s all about the narration. A fun little change of pace from the others, especially since the story is so simple.

    PAGE THIRTY-SIX
    This bugs me -- using cosmos twice on the same page. An oversight on my part. I should’ve used “space” that second time.

    My own mistake, and it will gall me until the end of time.

    But how about that Superman shot?

    Our editor, Anthony Marques, told me this felt a little like a throwback Superman story. I’ll take it as a compliment, thought it was a happy accident. Still, poses like that sure make a good case for it!

    PAGE THIRTY-SEVEN
    Hey, this didn’t happen in the Tom Hanks movie…

    PAGE THIRTY-NINE
    SPACE DRAGON!

    Like I said, this was a quieter piece. The more bombastic art would’ve made for a nice contrast, but this brought the mood down a bit, let us end the book on a quiet note.

    And you know? I kind of like that.

    Also: I’m two-for-two in getting wyverns into Dynamite books for the month of May, so, y’know, go ME.

    I want to take a second to thank Anthony Marques for throwing this fun little bit of insanity my way, to Daniel HDR for his renderings, Wesllei Mandel for the colors thrown down, Troy Peteri for the lettering, and Yildiray Cinar for that grabber of a cover.

    It was fun to play in a sandbox where truly anything goes.

    Thanks for reading, everyone!
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