KEVIN CONRAD THE "PSYCHO" BEHIND THE "CIRCUS" Originally appeared in The KISS Underground # 33 - Late Summer 1998

   For this issue of the KISS Underground we have the pleasure of presenting an exclusive interview with Psycho Circus comic book inker, Kevin Conrad. Kevin, a long time KISS fan, took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about the past year he's spent working on Psycho Circus and to share his opinions on the crazy world of KISS. 
   Before we begin our interview, we felt it would be appropriate to give you some background info on Kevin. As a child, Kevin began collecting comic books at age ten and started drawing superheroes at eleven years old. A friend turned him on to KISS at age fourteen when he played KISS ALIVE! for him. Almost instantly, he was hooked, bought his own copy and nearly wore it out. He wasted no time buying the rest of their albums and filling every square inch of his walls with KISS posters. Kevin collected all kinds of KISS paraphernalia and saw KISS live for the first time on the 'Love Gun' tour at age 17. Kevin started his professional career in 1983 shortly after receiving his Associates Degree in Art. He worked as a commercial artist 'til 1993 when he started working as an inker for Marvel Comics. He worked mainly on X-Force and the other X-books for approximately two years then moved over to Image Comics to work on titles such as SPAWN BLOODFEUD, SPAWN, and WITCHBLADE, among others before landing PSYCHO CIRCUS in May of 1997. 
   To start the interview, we thought the first question we should ask is, what does an inker do? 

KC- In its simplest form, an inker's job is to translate the pencils into a 'camera ready' page by finishing the pencils in black ink. When I try to explain this to people who know nothing or the process, their first response is, 'Oh, you color it'. No, that would be the colorist's job. I continue to try to explain the work in progress and their second response is, 'Oh, you trace it'. Now... as infuriating as this response may be, to the untrained eye, this may be what they see. To further explain what I do, I show them the finished page next to a copy of the original pencils and their response is usually 'WOW!' A good inker can let the pencils shine through and still be able to do his own thing without obliterating any and all signs of who penciled the work. 

KU- So, in addition to going over what Angel Medina (Psycho Circus' penciler) presents to us in pencil, you also do drawing as well, in order to show detail and depth? 

KC - Oh yeah, a good inker actually 'draws' in ink, he definitely doesn't trace, but Angel certainly doesn't leave anything to the imagination either. He dots every 'i' and crosses every 't', but I don't necessarily have to pay attention to everything he does. I do what I feel would work, regardless of what's on the page. If I think I have a better technique that would work better than what he has on the page, I'll use it. Ultimately, and I've said this time and time again, once a page is inked, the pencils do not exist anymore. What you finally see is my version of what the pencils were. 

KU - Do you ever deviate from any of Angel's pencils? 

KC- Not too much, Angel does such a nice job developing these things and he spends so much time doing it, I feel it would be a disservice to him to alter anything too dramatically, but I do manage to put my own 'spin' on things. 

KU - Being a KISS fan, was there ever a time when something came across your board from Angel and you thought that it just didn't work? 

KC - Yes, but it's hard to say anything without sounding too critical. Angel is one of the three best pencilers I've had the privilege to work with, but sometimes I'm not really crazy about how he draws certain things, but that's bound to happen working with anybody. Everybody has his or her own personal vision with how something should be. At the risk of stepping on too many toes, you have to compromise and stay fairly close to what's there structurally. I will take liberties where sometimes I feel the anatomy's off a little bit, and make these ever so slight changes that is still not to my liking, but I'm happier with it. Some of his faces that he draws get a little surreal for me. Again, I'll slightly change things just to make it more to my liking, or what I view is more accurate, but who am I to judge? He's the penciler and I'm the inker. It's his vision on the page initially, and for me to alter that too radically would again, be a disservice to him. In my day, though, I have been known to do complete redraws of some panels. One thing that comes to mind is a cover I did a few years back where the arms and hands (in my estimation) were so poorly drawn, I completely erased them and re-drew them. The penciler never noticed my re-draw, in fact, he later commented on how great he drew the hands! 

KU - What kind of feedback do you get from Angel after he sees your interpretation of his work? 

KC - He's been very happy with everything I've done so far. He's told me that I'm probably the best inker that he's ever had in his career. 

KU - Can you give me the details on the Psycho Circus trade paperback? 

KC - It's in magazine format. It's going to be released in September. It's going to have a reprint of the first five issues (152 pages) of Psycho Circus, four pages from Angel Medina's sketchbook and one page of bios on all the guys. It will be much like the KISSNATTON book, only light years ahead of that. Todd (McFarlane) even suggested to Beau Smith (who's putting the book together) to talk to me and a couple of other people who are fans of the band, who work for Todd, for information and input on what should be included in the magazine. I suggested a lyric sheet to 'CARNIVAL OF SOULS', but they'll probably hesitate to do that because it's not with the original band. I would really like to see this because I was really disappointed not to find it in the sleeve. I mean, they've been doing that (inserting a lyrics page) since God knows when. I also told them I'd like to see some sort of memoriam to Eric Carr. 

KU- Some diehard Alice Cooper fans were ranting and raving a few months back that Psycho Circus is a rip-off of Alice Cooper's The Last Temptation comic series. Having seen Alice's comic, what's your take on it? 

KC - There is rarely an original concept born these days, at best, originality today is borrowing from outside influences and putting a spin on it too make it your own. Alice Cooper was certainly not the originator of this certain comic genre and Psycho Circus won't be the last to use it either. The only similarity that I see is that they're both grim and macabre, which is certainly not an original concept. And the fact that Alice wears a top hat and Gene Simmons' ringmaster wears one also. You're talking about a carnival barker as opposed to a theater barker, and that's where the similarity ends. It's two entirely different projects. 

KU - Taking a step back from your involvement with the Reunion spawned Psycho circus, what are your true feelings on the whole Reunion thing? 

KC - Personally, the little kid in me thinks it's the coolest thing in the world, but me being an adult and listening to the music that they have been putting out, especially "Carnival of Souls"- which is absolutely their best album to date, I feel that the Reunion is a step backwards. I mean, COS was moody, it was relevant and musically, I felt it was the most intelligent stuff I've ever heard them do. I did see the Reunion show and I thought it was great. I love Peter and I love Ace and I think it's really cool that they're doing this. I'm very interested in hearing the new album ("Psycho Circus"), but I really don't think it's going to hold up to "COS". 

KU- I'd like to take this time to once again, thank Kevin for taking time out off his schedule to grant us this exclusive interview and Kevin promised a special surprise for the readers of the KISS Underground in our next issue.

Webmaster's note: This interview was conducted just a few issues into the Psycho Circus series, well before any internal problems arose between Angel and Kevin.

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