KISS album cover artist Ken Kelly dies

Ken Kelly, the fantasy artist known for creating iconic album covers for the heavy metal band KISS, has died. He was 76.

No cause of death was announced, Rolling Stone reported.

A legend in the biz

Kelly made the famous covers of two KISS albums, Destroyer, and Love Gun. He told Print in 2018 that drummer Peter Criss noticed his work in comic books like Eerie and Creepy.

“I had always thought it was Gene Simmons, but Criss’ wife said it was he who was reading Eerie and Creepy while Gene and Paul Stanley were reading Marvel comics,” Kelly said. “So I would say Peter Criss was fundamentally responsible for me ending up being the cover guy.”

Members of the band shared their condolences, with Gene Simmons tweeting, “Sad to find out Ken Kelly, who painted our Destroyer album cover passed away. A kind and beloved gentleman. Rest In Peace.”

Criss said that Kelly “brought out the super heros [sic] in us,” while Paul Stanley said that Kelly “captured the larger than life image of KISS perfectly.”


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“Giant” of fantasy art

Kelly studied art in the studio of his uncle, the famous fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, who is often called the “godfather” of the genre.

When KISS’ record label rejected Kelly’s first drawing for Destroyer that depicted the band in front of a city on fire, he was crushed.

“They thought it was too violent,” Kelly said. “It was 1975, and they didn’t want to launch such a large project with such a negative cover. I thought my career was over. That was one of the heaviest blows I’ve ever received.”

Kelly served in the U.S. Marines for four years. Another of his most famous works is the cover art for Rainbow’s 1976 album Rising. He also worked for bands like Coheed and Cambria and Manowar, and provided art for video games, toys, and book jackets, Rolling Stone reported.

Manowar bassist Joey DeMaio gave the “giant” a heartfelt sendoff, saying, “Valhalla awaits you.”

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