Ken Kelly, the fantastic artist who created Kiss’ iconic album covers Destructive and gun of lovedied at the age of 76.
No cause of death has been announced. The members of Kiss took to social media on Saturday to pay tribute to the comic book veteran who painted two of their most memorable images in the iconography of the Rock Hall inductee act.
Gene Simmons tweeted Saturday, “Sad to discover Ken Kelly, who painted our Destructive album cover died. A kind and beloved gentleman. Rest in peace.”
Former Kiss drummer Peter Criss wrote on his website: “I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of my dear friend Ken Kelly. He was an incredible man and talent. A gentle, kind and funny honorable man. A man of integrity and grace. I loved him so much. His artwork has graced the cover of two of our iconic albums. He brought out the superheroes in us. He will live on through his incredible work.
Kelly, the nephew of legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, learned with his uncle at Frazetta’s studio. While working as a cover artist for horror comics like Claim and Claim, Kelly’s art caught the attention of Kiss; as Kelly said To print in 2018, they originally asked Frazetta to do the Destructive cover, but when he was unavailable, Kelly got the job, despite never hearing the band’s music.
Kelly’s original version of the Destructive the cover – showing the band springing from a destroyed city on fire – was rejected by the record company. “They thought it was too violent,” Kelly said. “It was 1975, and they didn’t want to launch such a big project with such negative coverage. I thought my career was over. It was one of the hardest blows I have ever received. However, within a month Kelly presented an altered version of the painting, featuring Kiss jumping atop a pile of rubble, which eventually became the album’s famous cover. (The “Resurrected” 35th anniversary reissue of Destructive kelly star original artworkand as he later notes, he was paid twice for the work.)
Paul Stanley tweeted Saturday, “A moment to remember the great Ken Kelly. His fantastic art perfectly captured the larger than life image of KISS. Rest in peace.”
Kelly was then recruited to create the cover for Kiss’ next album. gun of love — using his wife as a model for the face-painted women on the cover alongside the group — and later became a fixture at Kiss fan conventions. In addition to his countless works in the field of fantasy art with book covers, toy packaging and video games, Kelly went on to do album covers for Rainbow (1976’s Rising), Ace Frehley, Coheed & Cambria and metal band Manowar, who had a long collaboration with Kelly that spanned six LPs.
“Deeply saddened by the passing of the great Ken Kelly,” Manowar bassist Joey DeMaio said in a statement. “He was a giant and he will live forever through his art and the memories he left behind for those who knew him. I will never forget our years together. Condolences to his family. RIP, Ken. Valhalla waiting for you.