Kiss has been around since the early 1970s. Regardless of whether or not you like their music, you’re probably at least familiar with a few of their songs. “Rock and Roll All Nite” was named one of the Top 20 hard rock songs of all time and appears, along with several other of their classics, on the game Rock Band. Needless to say, the band’s acquired a few fans over the decades. And while some respond to their music, it’s frequently their theatrical performances that really get fans hooked. Indeed, their first several albums were poor sellers, and it wasn’t until their first live album, Alive!, that they began to gain traction as musicians.

That was one of the more clever aspects that worked for the band; between their stage personas and often innovative pyrotechnics, their performances were ones that could not fully be understood through an album recording. Fans even felt Alive! wasn’t a true representation of a Kiss show.  This meant that seeing Kiss perform live was more of an experience, and was one that was shared with the other members of the audience. This collective shared experience became a sort of bond among fans, one that was stronger than one might have gotten just through listening to their music.

Kiss bass player Gene Simmons noted in a 1999 interview…

I’ve always been a fan of Americana, and Americana has always been about imagery, often above content. I think there’s nothing wrong with that. The world worships this culture. Most people only think about America in terms of rock & roll, movies and television. Kiss is very all-American, in the sense that our constituency has never had anything in common with critics… because our power, our lifeblood, our very reason for existence is our fans. Without them, we’d be nothing.

By appealing to their fans’ appreciation of the performances, Kiss has focused on reinforcing the community aspect of their fan base. Fans often discuss various tours and specific elements of individual performances as a means of connecting. It acts as a kind of “secret code” that only “true” fans will understand. Simply knowing when they introduced a flaming guitar sequence holds little against the emotional surge of seeing Ace Frehley’s guitar erupt in fire in front of you on stage!

And while it might seem that Kiss fans are unique among the rock world by emulating the band members’ makeup, it’s really no different than any other type of fandom. It’s just that the cues fans are taking are from Kiss itself are somewhat different than the cues fans might take from the Grateful Dead, Michael Jackson or Mylie Cyrus. Or, for that matter, Peyton Manning, Robert Downey Jr. or Neil deGrasse Tyson. The traits and characteristics that are most pronounced in a subject are the parts which fans find easiest to emulate. And while not every fandom is going to paint themselves up like Paul Stanley’s Starchild, that they might point a telescope to the night sky to emulate Tyson’s version of a star child comes from the same sense of fandom.

About The Author

Senior Editor, Comics & Lifestyle

Sean Kleefeld is an independent researcher whose work has been used by the likes of Marvel Entertainment, Titan Books and 20th Century Fox. He writes the ongoing “Incidental Iconography” column for The Jack Kirby Collector and had weekly “Kleefeld on Webcomics” and "Kleefeld's Fanthropology" columns for MTV Geek. He’s also contributed to Alter Ego, Back Issue and Comic Book Resources. Kleefeld’s 2009 book, Comic Book Fanthropology, addresses the questions of who and what comic fans are. He blogs daily at