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Bill Aucoin, 1943-2010
posted July 2, 2010

imageBill Aucoin, the artistic manager for the band KISS who refined that group's devotion to comic-book style personae including one of the more successful celebrity crossover efforts during one of American comics publishing's most troubling down periods, died on June 28 due to complications from prostate cancer. He is acknowledged as a key player driving much of the band's unlikely, massive success, garnering them their first major record label deal (with Casablanca), supporting them via his own financial contributions (which he recouped via a greater than usual management fee) and fostering an identity above and beyond the music by making a big deal of the band members' various face-painted, on-stage characters by doing things like confiscating film of them without the makeup on. In less sophisticated times when it came to the media coverage of pop culture, the line between fantasy and reality was much more easily blurred. The end result was a heady stew of half-rumors and larger-than-life acting-out that gained the band fans from kids who might generally accept the theatrical aspects as having some real-wold grounding as well as those teenage and older fans who might have a greater appreciation for the grandeur and humor of KISS' naked pursuit of riches, celebrity, and the fruits of arena-rock era traveling-show depravity.

Part of the onslaught of contests and publicity stunts was a pair of comic books from Marvel in 1977 and 1979. The first -- Marvel Comics Super-Special #1 -- was hugely successful both in terms of sales and media attention, and was a concrete boon to a company outright struggling with chaotic newsstand sales and high returns. "Stan Lee, the main man at Marvel, was really good to us. And to have the guys as superheroes in comic form made sense," Aucoin said in an undated interview. Aucoin remains as likely a candidate as anyone for the much-remembered promotional idea for that first comic that the members of the band mix their own blood with the red ink. "For the first special, we mixed in Kiss' own blood with the red ink. We took this to the printing press, and poured it in ourselves." Aucoin was also one of those who believed the blood-infused ink was redirected to an issue of Sports Illustrated and never made it into the comic book at all.

Aucoin was 66 years old.Bill Aucoin, 1943-2010