Most long-time ISB readers–say, anyone who reads the site on Fridays or those unfortunate enough to follow my twitter feed on Monday nights–know that along with comics and video games, pro wrestling has been one of the key interests of my increasingly misspent life, so when Titan Publishing announced they were putting out comics based on the WWE, I started getting emails wondering if I’d heard the news. I had, and today at ComicsAlliance, you can read my reaction to the news, though to be honest, you can probably get the gist of it from the title of this post.
Admittedly, this is a pretty strong example of judging a book by its cover–well, its cover and four interior pages that were provided specifically for the purposes of judging–and while it’s true that that cover does in fact feature the Undertaker fighting zombies, knights and leopardmen, there’s a good reason why I think this is going to be terrible:
Because with exactly one exception, every comic about professional wrestling is terrible.
For the sticklers among you, I’m referring specifically to American pro wrestling, as opposed to luchadores, which generally make comics way more awesome, and the Thing’s tenure in the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation doesn’t really count either.
Generally, as I say in the article, the problem is that stories of pro wrestling tend to be saddled with other things–eternal battles between Heaven and Hell that must, for some reason, be settled at the Royal Rumble or Kevin Nash’s post-apocalyptic sex face–that detract from the existing over-the-top characters that make pro wrestling fun. It’s clearly an attempt at making up for the difficulty in translating the entertaining physicality of pro wrestling to the comics page by substituting something that’s equally exaggerated. But while it’s easy to say that pro wrestling already has its own characters and bizarre mythology, it’s important to note that a comic came out based strictly on those, and that was terrible, too.
Of course, Marvel’s short-lived World Championship Wrestling was less terrible for its premise than for the fact that it was a bad comic, as evidenced by the fact that it was a comic where a man looked in a mirror…
…and saw a reflection that was wearing a completely different expression.
Admittedly, there was a strip slated for WWE Kids magazine by John Byrne about the Hardy Boyz going to space and fighting aliens on a starship called The Hammerlock that is ridiculously awesome…
…but as it never actually ran (WWE Kids dropped their comics section and fired editor Paul Kupperberg after Byrne had completed two strips because “kids don’t read comics,” a position they seem to have flipped on in the meantime), I’m sticking with my statement that there is only one exception to the rule.
And that is this:
There are a few things that set this one apart from the other wrestling comics. For one, instead of focusing on the characters, this one takes a look at the business side of things, which–with its carnival roots, ingrained violence and a tradition of outright lying to the audience–is frequently seedy and often fascinating. And for another, it’s actually written by someone with an intimate knowledge of the subject: Brian Azzarello cowrote the story with Scott Levy, better known to wrestling fans as Raven, who no doubt drew on his own experiences in ECW to tell the story of a fledgling independent promotion that was slowly being strangled out of existence by a hated, but far more successful company.
It’s the diametric opposite of something like Hardys in Space or Big Apple Takedown–the hilarious novel about Triple-H, Chavo Guererro and John Cena being undercover NSA operatives that might as well have been called Vince’s Angels–but it’s also an amazingly solid comic that ranks as the best issue of Tangled Web not done by Darwyn Cooke.
WWE Heroes, however, doesn’t seem quite as promising, as a look through the article on ComicsAlliance ought to tell you. But hey, there’s an outside chance that I could be wrong–and I’ll admit I’m curious to see if leopardmen can, in fact, see John Cena–and if nothing else, we know one thing:
It’ll be nowhere near as bad as Warrior.