If you love your kids, consider failing. Superstars’ children put out comics like Incarnate.
Incarnate is the literary premiere of Nick Simmons, son of Hollywood’s longest tongue. If you don’t know Gene Simmons, he was the frontman for Kiss and patient zero for treatment-resistant gonorrhea. As for Kiss, they made the Spotify suggestions your dad skips after Van Halen II. Presentation-wise, they walked so that Violent J could run.
I’m not saying that glam rock, pop metal, or other rock for people that smile sucks. I’m saying that Kiss, specifically, sucks. When “Strutter” makes your Top 3, you’re in deep shit. Kurt Cobain was a Terminator sent back to destroy the Resistance’s worst music. To survive, Kiss turned the enemy’s own weapon against them:
It didn’t work out. Grunge was like the ring: you could try to wield it, but it only obeyed the depressed.
Incarnate emerged in 2009, two VH1 humiliations later. Nick Simmons took on script and pencil duties, debuting as a double threat. He seized a chance to sprint out of his father’s short creative shadow and spread his own breed of crabs. Challenging commercially, less so critically.
Shame that the result’s stitched together from Hellsing, Bleach, and everything else on Zumiez tank tops. Allegedly. You can’t believe everything you read. For example, the media claims water is a human right, but Nestle says to kneel. Nick might be another victim of U.N. misinformation.
Let’s give Incarnate a fair shake. It starts in an unnamed city haunted by shadowy predators– presumably Jersey City and developers, respectively. One slumlord laments his ways:
That’s Mot. He likes blood and talking about blood. Mot’s named after/is the Canaanite god of death, which doesn’t count towards today’s plagiarism charge. Tolkein reinvented a genre by swiping Beowulf’s wallet. This could be the next Return of the King! Or one of those bleak novellas edited by his son, where broken heroes overdose in elven alleyways.
The weebiest among you may feel an itch of familiarity. Ignore it, and focus on the horrorcore slam poetry above. “Sopping scarlet treats” is a sentence you get to read once in life (twice counting brilliant recaps). Soak that in, and bury any memories of better sequential art. Nick deserves a chance to be the least shameful Simmons.
“Wait,” say the other attendees of the anime event hidden behind Comic-Con like a malformed/predatory/black royal. “Isn’t that Hellsing’s Alucard, the character I dressed like until the second amendment ruined trench coats?”
No. That’s a serious accusation. Alucard’s much harder to draw:
See? Incarnate’s design is simply Dracula backwards. I should know the name for that, but Columbia’s been demoted to a preppy kindergarten. Now I teach finger painting, and keep rainbow stickers away from clichés like smiley-face suns. It sounds harsh, but they usually stop crying by naptime. When you nurture hackwork, you end up with a Simmons.
I’ll grant that Nick took a few design cues. But he put his own spin on it.
Narrative spin. Mot’s not a vampire forced to hunt other vampires. More specifically, he’s not trapped in a vampire-hunting organization, alongside a louder and less experienced vampire, under the bondage-y control of a blonde heiress with attitude. New character, new IP, new profit margins. Nick can still get this shit into theaters before executives remember that they hate nerds.
I cave. We’re in a place beyond plagiarism. Most of these panels look like webcomic drafts, and those are the forgivable ones. The rest are photocopied from the Little Free Library outside a GameStop.
For example, the dominatrix above:
That’s a direct lift from Bleach, which was a hit among conscientious prom objectors. I’ve broken the Great Anime Week Detente for good reason: Incarnate cribbed from the era’s most visible train wreck and hoped obsessives wouldn’t notice. That’s like saying you came up with trafficking migrants for votes. Someone in Texas with endless ammunition and impotent rage now knows you by name.
Perhaps I seem paranoid.
As you can see, Incarnate also has shades of a troubled relationship. While my demon brain does spawn jokes about domestic violence, I’m not publishing them. Otherwise, I’d be writing about Mötley Crüe instead.
Alright, so our faces come from the “Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V” school of art. Maybe Nick has more passion for his heels. After all, he’s drawn to darkness. Let’s check in on the ancient vampire cult that runs the world or some shit.
“There is no room on Olympus for a reluctant god.” That’s a dungeon master’s first draft, and I love it. I don’t think a meaningless line has ever meant so much to me. If Incarnate had two original panels, I’d call it mandatory reading.
This dialogue gives me a mile-wide nostalgia grin. Certain strains of garbage are contained to an era, like Kiss. It’s not just trash: it’s trash that can only exist at a specific cocaine-to-edge ratio. Incarnate is a perfect fossil, preserved in another fossil’s stolen amber. This cutscene just needs a final boss describing the main character’s girth to make me forget I’m on a melting planet.
Thank you, Nick. I couldn’t ask for a better birthday gift. “The language of battle” is everything pop culture lost when nothing happened over six perfect years.
I see my best years in every poorly-colored panel. The first time I flirted with alcohol poisoning, writing like this was acceptable. The first time someone accepted an IHOP date with an unpublished satirist, only half of these lines were clichés. I could even say “vampire urban fantasy” without an editor groaning or an IHOP date leaving me with the check. If Nick didn’t have creative kleptomania, we’d be friends.
Anyway, all these designs are traced. Check it:
Yes, even antelope-head. I’m at least a third as disappointed as Gene. Maybe half. My tongue hangs at half-length in mourning.
I don’t know Gene Simmons, or what he’s like as a father. Maybe horny sobriety helped him raise a kid right, and this is all Nick. But it’s fun to cast this desperate plagiarism as the result of eighteen years of rockin’ neglect. Gene’s take on file sharing was, and I quote: “Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars.” Making open theft the perfect rebellion.
Consider this nonsense:
That’s history’s least metal filing. Metal has a spotty court record after all the Napster hunting, attempted spousal murders, and crispy churches. Gene topped it all by hunting for quarters under Ronnie James Dio’s casket. Incarnate may be a biblical curse for patent trolling.
Either way, the Xerox Illuminati battle the not-Hellsing Foundation, while Mot and his domme/victim battle puberty. But that doesn’t matter. Delete that data from your mind. What matters is my favorite trace. I’ve been holding out on you: Mot’s stock rival is a direct lift of Bleach’s only good idea. Kenpachi, the face that launched a thousand t-shirts.
Context matters. Follow me into the mind of an anime club survivor.
Pretend, for a moment, that you don’t know who Dave Bautista is. The HOTDOG defense system would detonate your device if that were true, but let’s make-believe. You live through hollow, Batista Bomb-less days, searching for something to fill the Animal-shaped hole in your heart. As if anything could.
Then, CSI introduces a man in a rubber Bautista mask named Bave Dautista. Bave dominates criminals with the Dautista Dunk, argues with his sergeant Double H, and ditches the show to star in a James Gunn flick. And you clap along like a seal with cable.
That’s what it would take for the audience to miss this trace. In simpler terms, it’s like making a comedy sketch about a blind black klansman: we all know Clarence Thomas.
Anime fans are a meticulous bunch. I mispronounced a ninja clan on one podcast, and my inbox still gets slurs in kanji. They didn’t take long to unearth Bave Dautista.
Embarrassing. More importantly to a Simmons, financially abortive. The publisher, Radical Comics, specialized in stealth movie pitches. Oblivion became a film without ever even making it to print. Nick didn’t have to make great art to win, or even art that sold well. It just had to exist, and he cocked it up.
Nick Simmons apologized, once the lawyers and pitchforks got intense enough. Sort of.
This was 2010, making Nick an early innovator in non-apologies. We hadn’t quite mastered the “I’m sorry you’re a mitch-bade pussy, and hope you suck less in the future” press release. In fact, this tone may be his best original thought. It’s quite the legacy. Creators as diffuse as Ted Nugent and Roseanne Barr have paid homage to Nick Simmons.
Bleach’s author had a more surprising reaction. After learning a sentient being willingly plagiarized Bleach, Tite Kubo tweeted the following:
That’s a professional. He looked past the low-hanging fruit of anger, right into the absurd vortex of Gene Simmons’s son publishing comic books. After mocking him twice, I can confirm that Kubo has more Hotdog spirit in his sunglasses than I do in my soul. I’d cover his glorious spiral into madness, but the Great Anime Week Detente says I’d have to smother myself with a body pillow.
Incarnate lasted three issues, two longer than any breathing lawyer should’ve allowed. Gene’s personal Saul Goodman slipped up. When your client claims to have fucked six Civil War regiments, you spend the rest of your career on high alert.
Two genres of people burn polaroids: future defendants and current defendants. Legitimate perverts dump them in the recycling, to rest comfortably in a local landfill or become 1/25th of a handbag. This is legal malpractice.
Recall Rambo in First Blood: a desperate man hiding in the frozen wild, knife in hand, waiting for the first unlucky cop to inherit his trauma. One false move, and they’ll kill him faster than a Jamaican teenager minding his business. Every day as a Simmons family lawyer should be that tense.
Don’t confuse that for an accusation, defense, or even hyperbole. It’s the simple reality of working for someone the rest of a glam rock band called a sex addict. That’s insane. That’s like getting kicked out of early Metallica for drinking.
Nick deserves a break. Armchair generals can criticize, but he’s the man in the arena. In fact, Nick should take that speech from Roosevelt. He has an inspiring ability to take inspiration, and it’s the spark I’ve been missing. I’m excited to take my next book in a new direction. Here’s a preview:
One Cray-zy Summer is a young adult romcom with a killer ending. It features a new writing style I call “ten-steppin’,” and should be a movie by 2024. Keep an eye out for it.
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Jeff Orasky, who was shamelessly traced from Boris Vallejo art.