KISS bassist and co-founder Gene Simmon has filed an application to trademark the iconic "metal horns" gesture, saying that he is the sole originator of the gesture and its use in rock music.
The origins of the "metal horns" in music are widely debated, with many fans and musicians suggesting that the late Ronnie James Dio originated the use of a slightly different gesture during his time as frontman of Black Sabbath - a claim the singer made himself before his death in 2010.
But the origin of the gesture itself - a closed hand with the thumb, index finger, and pinkie outstretched mimicking the American Sign Language gesture for "I love you" - has a comic book genesis, at least according to the person filing for the trademark. Simmons himself said in a 1990s interview with Katherine Turmin that he copied the gesture from Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, Marvel heroes co-created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
“What I started [before Dio] involved the thumb outstretched," Simmons told Turmin (via Variety). "Check our first poster, in 1974. I started doing it because of comic book artist Steve Ditko, who created both Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, who both used the same hand sign. Spider-Man used it upside down when he shot out webbing, and Dr. Strange used it as a magic incantation. I was paying homage. Later, I was told it meant, 'I love you' in sign language.”
Simmons reiterated that claim as recently as a 2014 issue of Classic Rock Magazine. The U.S. patent office has accepted Simmons' trademark application, though it has not yet gone under review.