In August, a fearful new race of immortals stalks the Earth in "Incarnate," a three-issue series from Radical Comics. Written and illustrated by Nick Simmons, son of KISS's Gene Simmons, "Incarnate" centers around the adventures of apparent teenager Mot and his apprentice Connor, both actually members of a group of immortals called Revenants, who share some characteristics with horror genre staples but spin off in some important regards. Visitors to Comic-Con International in July will get an early look at the "Incarnate," and Simmons will be on hand to sign books. CBR News caught up with the writer-artist to discuss the series.
"Revenants are unique in a few ways--they eat human flesh, drink human blood, and that's all standard, as we know," Simmons told CBR. "However, they are considerably harder to kill than most immortal mythologies you've heard of; they literally cannot be killed (their bodies will reassemble no matter how far you scatter them) except under one very specific condition, which the secret organization SANCTUM has discovered and weaponized."
SANCTUM is an organization of demon-slayers with a legitimate business front. "They've existed for a long time and their origins can be traced back into history through crusades, witch burnings and the like," Simmons said. "They operate more like a vast religious cult than a company, secretly. But the public knows them as a multi-national conglomerate that has its hands in many reputable charities as well as close ties to the military. They do everything from building orphanages to building bombs.
"However, as you read the story, it becomes apparent that Sanctum might just be the least of their worries as other Revenants reveal their own grudges against Mot and Connor."
Each Revenant is haunted by a doppelgänger which only he or she can see. "It looks exactly like whomever it happens to be addressing except with one key difference: it has no eyes," Simmons said. "It only appears to ask questions, disappearing as quickly and cryptically as it came. Again, you'll have to read the book to discover why it does this and what it has to do with the origins of the Revenants."
The doppelgängers, as well as other aspects of the Revenants that will be revealed in the series, ultimately suggest a hidden purpose to the immortals' existence. This secret, Simmons said, "will play out over time because none of the characters know the answer, either."
"They speculate and I give a bit away in the first arc, but to really get all the answers you'll have to stick with me in the long run," he continued. "I've always planned to make this a long-running series and it continues to evolve as I plan the second and third arcs."
Simmons has described "Incarnate" as "action-horror" with a bit of humor mixed in--which sounds a bit like the KISS sensibility itself. "Well, Dad definitely influenced my love of comics, he's been a geek since before the dawn of man (and a proud one at that)," Simmons said of the KISS bassist. "He's exposed me to all the classics and the great 'graphic novels' (although the insecure pretension of that name irks me). But yeah, there will be quite a bit of action and good bloody fun involved. "
In addition to writing the series, Simmons is also illustrating "Incarnate," with a style displaying strong manga influences. "My favorite manga, perhaps of all time, is 'Berserk' by Kentaro Miura. This is a comic that you truly have to stick with for the long run in order to get the real experience," Simmons said. "It starts out fairly typical: big guy, gigantic sword, fights monsters. But as it develops, the story becomes intensely complex, intensely psychological, almost Shakespearean in its drama. It's so incredibly deep, symbolic, and the art is so unimaginably well done, you cannot help but fall in love. It also happens to be one of the most graphic, bloody, and (at times) pornographic series out there. But you must read it and you must give it a chance. You cannot simply read the first volume, it won't give you the true experience. That series influenced me a lot, especially the way they draw expressions and that sort of crazy, blood-drunk atmosphere some of the characters have."
As to influential American comics, Simmons's top choice is Neil Gaiman's "Sandman." "If I ruled the world, 'Sandman' would be canon, and required reading for all youngsters. You couldn't graduate without at least reading the 'Season of Mists' arc. I can only hope to write that well, to create characters that charismatic, some day."
"Incarnate" began as a small project but grew when Radical publisher Barry Levine expressed an interest in his work. "I was going to perhaps scan [art pages] and post them on a website, maybe get a webcomic going. But Barry Levine, the big boss man, happened to see my drawings when he was dealing with my pops, and wanted to strike up a deal with me as well," Simmons said. "My dad's deal has since fallen through, but Barry stuck with mine after he saw me redraw the whole thing and after he read the script. He seems to have a lot of faith in these characters, I hope the rest of the readers will feel the same way."
In addition to comics, Nick Simmons keeps busy in other media, most famously on the A&E reality show, "Gene Simmons' Family Jewels." He is also a musician and has voice-acted on "Robot Chicken." "The voice acting thing I did just twice, really," he said. "It was just something fun I wanted to do, not to mention I really wanted to meet Seth(s) Green and MacFarlane. That alone made it worth it. I am a 'Family Guy' junkie (as most young men my age seem to be)."
As to the band, Simmons said he enjoys playing but is "not trying to tackle the big leagues right now." "It's just for fun - me and some friends getting together and making a little music. We may actually try to release an album or something if the music gets good enough, but not before then. I'm not just going to ride the coattails of my last name unless I really believe the music is good enough."