"--the balance of worlds,
an order older than memory..."

...through the night, endlessly from city to city, winds the caravan of the
Cirque du Psyche - the Circus of Souls - as it has for centuries...

Under the care of the gypsy Madam Raven, who holds the Tarot trumps of the Four, the Circus roams the night, performing its shows and its dark magick. Abused rights to avenge, evil to punish, weak souls to bring through the tempering fire. And at its center, the four humans who channel into this world the Elder - those ancient beings,
perhaps gods, called The Four-Who-Are-One:

Demon w/fireball Jonathon Blackwell, an excuted highwayman from the days of Mad King George. He was betrayed and sent to the gallows by one of his thieving gang, and swore revenge even if he had to come back from the grave for it - a rage and a desire which attracted the attention of his member of the Four. Flamboyant, temperamental and forbidding, Blackwell is the Ringmaster of the Circus - until such time as he is called upon to manifest as The Demon.

King of Beasts looking his scariest Tiberius MacLir, a big-game hunter killed by his greatest prey, a legendary white lion. Run through by Tiberius' spear, the giant beast fell dead on his killer, crushing him. In the moments of his dying, the hunter experienced a strange epiphany: complete empathy and harmony with all nature and life, as though he absorbed some wild spirit as the lion surrendered it. Thus he drew the attention of his member of the Four. A thoughtful man of great strength, Tiberius serves the Circus in the capacity of Animal Master - until such time as he is called upon to manifest as the King of Beasts.

Starbearer lays down the law Fortunado L'Etoile, a comedic actor of L'Opera Fantastique. A rotund, misshapen little man with the soul of a cavalier poet, Fortunado cherished a secret love for a beautiful actress. Driven to rage when her lover abused her, he poisoned the man, only to learn that the despairing girl had found the body and drowned herself. Confessing to his crime and refusing all food while awaiting execution, the heartbroken Fortunado was on the verge of death by starvation when he was visited by his member of the Four, "the prince of hearts". Gallant and compassionate, Fortunado serves as the Circus's clown - until such time as he is called upon to manifest as The Starbearer.

Celestial accepts Matthew's soul Matthew Stargrave, an abused child from a poor family, taken away from home and made a fosterling of the Church. Raised by a kindly and educated priest, Father Fideles, Matthew learned astronomy and philosophy, and came to understand the equilibrium of all things: science and religion, past and present, life and death. When the old priest died, Matthew cremated his body on the roof - under the stars they both loved - and then calmly prepared to step off the roof to his own death, drawing the astral gaze of his member of the Four. The mute Matthew serves the Circus with his sense of perfect balance - as a stilt walker and juggler - until such time as he is called upon to manifest as The Celestial.

These characters are familiar yet not familiar - as it should be. They resemble the KISS faces we have seen before, yet they are much more, far greater. They correspond to the four classical elements - earth, air, fire, water - and the compass points with which those elements harmonize. They are great and terrible archetypes, ancient and powerful. They are not Cat, Space Ace, Demon and Starchild, nor Peter, Ace, Gene and Paul. Those are the Four in our time, but these are the Four that have stood behind them and all others, forever.

On the other hand, of course: as creations, the Four do derive directly from the KISS we know, and are (I believe) the logical upward evolution from them. Having seen KISS as humans and then as superbeings (or "metahumans" in current parlance), where next but to imagine them as beyond human: elemental spirit forces, even gods. And looking at it this way it only makes sense that their roles and names have expanded, yet continue to connect to their originals. The arc of ascent from Space Ace to Celestial, or Cat to King of Beasts, is perfectly clear. (And to the extent that KISS' personas reflect their own personalities, the arc of ascent can be drawn back a generation further.) It would have been wrong, I think, to use the band's persona names on these awesome manifestations, but it would also have been wrong to make them much more different than they are. As it stands, you can look at it from either aspect: the Four-Who-Are-One as the imaginative culmination of four people's ideal vision of themselves, or the members of KISS as earthly avatars of four great archetypes who have stood since before memory.
Your dime, your call.
(...gee, you'd never guess Celestial is my favorite, would you?...)

--The only thing I miss is the friendly democracy of the Marvel version, the sense that you too could reach these heroic heights; but the enjoyment that gave me is more than fairly replaced by the awe and wonder of seeing these splendid presences. And you could even say that that perception's not gone at all, but has just been altered, from the gee-gosh "you-too-can-be-a-superhero" of the 1970s to a more sober and relevant "it's up to you: you in the end are the only one who can decide, take the responsibility and handle your own problems."

But how, you ask, did such luminaries come to be allied with a mere travelling circus?...read on...

"..and I sure know something..."... This nonprofit site is no way officially affiliated with or licensed by KISS or their management, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, or McFarlane Toys. All trademarks, licensed images, copyrighted artwork and text used on this site remain the property of their copyright holders, and no infringement is intended or should be inferred. All opinions expressed are those of the author.
...go back to the first MARVEL SUPER SPECIAL.
...go back to the second MARVEL SUPER SPECIAL.
...go on to my explication of The Four and the Magickal Compass.
...go back to my Kiss mainpage: KISS: The Circus of Souls.