At the end of the 1970s, Marvel Comics were at the height of their pop culture popularity, and were making several attempts to cross over into the music world. The two Kiss Super Specials were big sellers for them, which they followed with an unauthorised Beatles biography. In 1980, they launched an ill-fated multi-media character, the Disco Dazzler (later just Dazzler), who existed both as a comic book character and a still-born musical act and film character for Casablanca Records (Bo Derek was lined up to play her on screen; the recording artist was never finalised, and the whole multi-media aspect was quickly dropped as disco fell out of fashion).
The oddest rock star / comic book crossover for Marvel was undoubtedly Alice Cooper, who starred in a single issue of the monthly Marvel Premiere comic book, which existed as a launch pad for possible new characters and a home for one-off stories. Unlike the Kiss comics, this wasn’t a widely-heralded special edition, but simply issue 50 (October 1979) of an ongoing, regular-sized comic book, and so one that probably went unnoticed by any Cooper fan who wasn’t rummaging through the monthly comics at newstands. Cooper himself was about to enter a career slump that lasted much of the 1980s.
Cooper’s management had, in fact, floated the idea of a comic book series based on his 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare previously, though Marvel rejected it as too weird. The success of the Kiss comics clearly opened their minds, as this story – credited to Cooper, Ed Hannigan and Jim Salicrup as writers – is as deranged as mainstream comics could get at the time.
The comic was inspired by Cooper’s 1978 concept album From the Inside (itself based on his experiences in a sanitarium while drying out from alcoholism), though it develops its own narrative – Cooper checks into hospital to dry out, but is mistaken for another patient (Alex Cooper, “a certified paranoid schizo with a radial tire fetish”), and is subjected to bizarre experimental ‘cures’ by Dr Fingeroth and his assistant Nurse Rozetta. Other characters from the album’s songs turn up – the demented Vietnam vet Jacknife Johnny, murederous sweethearts Millie and Billie – as Alice attempts to prove his sanity, rescue his snake Veronica and escape the asylum.
While this didn’t lead to a series of Cooper comics for Marvel in the 1980s, the company would collaborate with him again in 1994, when Neil Gaiman wrote a three-part book based on the album The Last Temptation.