KISS – Behind the Makeup

You know them as much for their makeup-driven personas as you do the instruments they play. The originals are immortal: Paul Stanley, the Starchild (lead vocals and rhythm guitar); Gene Simmons, the Demon (lead vocals and bass guitar); Ace Frehley, the Spaceman (lead guitar); Peter Criss, the Catman (drums). Even future members Eric Carr (the Fox) and Vinnie Vincent (the Ankh Warrior), as well as Tommy Thayer (inheriting Frehley’s Spaceman) Eric Singer (taking on Criss’s Catman) are gods of the rock pantheon.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers KISS are one of the greatest-selling rock acts of all time with two dozen gold and platinum albums and multiple top 40 hits across a glittering four decade career. However, they might have been icons even without the stacks of classic records. From the band’s earliest days, they were committed to creating a singular, enduring image, rock and roll heroes transcending time and space.

Each of the designs reflects a connection point for fans of the band. Stanley’s Starchild exemplifies the romance of glam rock, while the Simmons Demon is perfectly aligned with his own dark personality. Frehley’s Spaceman adds an otherworldly aesthetic to the group in the tradition of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, while Criss’s Catman provides further sass to amp up the glam.

The band members, sensing a tangible way to connect with fans, trademarked the designs they came up with during the first few months of their existence on the New York City rock scene. The character-driven makeup, combined with unprecedented stage theatrics and props, would inspire everything from comic books and action figures to an unmatched array of merchandise, including lunch boxes and pinball machines.

In the 1980s,  glam rock–the genre pioneered by the band in the mid-70s–became dominant among the MTV generation with makeup-free bands like Bon Jovi, Poison, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, and many more.  KISS, seeing an opportunity to prove they had the musical chops to soar to the top of the pack once again, unmasked and performed for most of the decade without the Starchild, Demon, Spaceman, and Catman personas in tow.

In retrospect, it appears the band forsook its signature look, well, just because they were strong enough musically to do so, with decade-defining tracks like “Lick It Up” and “Crazy Crazy Nights.” But as the spangled dominance of glam rock waned in the wake of early 90s grunge, KISS returned to their tried and-true formula of makeup, choreography, and props. While other bands descended into a black hole of irrelevance, the boys from NYC simply went back to work knocking out gold records.

You can even join in the fun, thanks to the band’s fan club. The KISS Army’s Warehouse for online merchandise sales will sell you an authentic KISS makeup kit. You and yours can become the Starchild, the Demon, the Spaceman, and the Catman, living a rock fantasy for only 19.99!

Or, if you’d rather join the KISS legacy with your own animalized creativity, a la Peter Criss, take part in what promises to be the most spectacular Creative Allies contest yet, KISSify Animals. In partnership with the band’s representation, Epic Rights,  Creative Allies is proud to launch KISSify animals, where our intergalactic design community will combine iconic KISS-inspired designs with the inspiration from the animal kingdom. Head over to the contest page for more to see the current original designs.

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