Stan Lee and Gene Simmons aren’t names you’d typically associate, but these two crossed paths several times over the years. KISS, the band that Simmons co-founded and co-fronted, appeared in Howard the Duck comics before headlining their own Marvel “Super Special” in 1977. The band’s colorful appearance made them an appealing collaborator, but a recent interview with Simmons reveals that the KISS-Marvel connection could have been even stronger.
Simmons told ComicBook that he wrote a letter to Stan Lee in the 1980s, when the idea of a Fantastic Four movie was first being thrown around. He lobbied for the role of Ben Grimm aka the Thing, and even cited acting examples in an attempt to win Lee over. Simmons posted the full letter on Twitter in 2019.
Lee phoned the musician after receiving his letter and gave him a polite no. “He called me [and said] the politically correct thing,” Simmons recalled. “[He said] ‘We’re planning it. We’ll keep it in mind. We’re so happy.’”
While the notion of an inexperienced actor like Simmons taking on a crucial role may seem odd by today’s standards, one has to remember the state of superhero movies in the 1980s. Superman (1978) was the only comic book adaptation that had been taken seriously by the public, and even then, the franchise had slipped into mediocrity by Superman III (1983).
Marvel fared even worse in the 1980s. While there had been TV success with The Incredible Hulk (1977-82), the company had never scored a hit movie, and the few attempts made throughout the decade, Howard the Duck (1986) and The Punisher (1989), were embarrassing flops. If the original plans for a Fantastic Four movie did get pushed through, casting Simmons might have actually helped to boost ticket sales.
The notion of a Fantastic Four movie with A-listers and good special effects is intriguing, but that was never going to be the case given those involved. The rights to Marvel’s first family were purchased by German producer Bern Eichinger in 1983, and would lay dormant for nearly a decade. In a last ditch-effort to keep the rights, Eichinger hired director Roger Corman to direct a cheap version that would release in 1994. The movie was slapped with a cease and desist before its premiere, however, with some speculating that Eichinger never intended for it to come out.
Corman’s The Fantastic Four is available to watch online, and let’s just say that Simmons dodged a bullet.
Simmons still thinks highly of Lee, and went on to praise the late artist’s creativity. “[Lee] always talked about the ‘We’ when he clearly had so much, he had the right to say ‘I.’ So did [Jack] Kirby and so did [Steve] Ditko on Spidey,” the musician added. “To go through life and to create one memorable character is an achievement… This guy created 5000 characters. It’s insane. With their own mythology.”
The anecdote about wanting to play Ben Grimm is especially relevant, given that the Fantastic Four are on the cusp of being introduced in the MCU. The relevance is not lost on Simmons, who was asked by the publication about the chances of him sending a letter to Marvel President Kevin Feige. The musician laughed, before quipping: “They don’t have enough money.”2023-06-07T05:54:59Z dg43tfdfdgfd