During my normal stroll through Twitter land, I stumbled upon a page that really captured my attention. A picture of a comic book cover that reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting. I immediately clicked on the website and behold, a comic book that catered to the real marked out wrestling fan. Could it be true?
Yes my hardcore pro wrestling fans – it is true! Coming from the great mind of the creator, Mike Kingston, who had a vision to show a true depiction of pro wrestling in the world of comics. Mike really wanted to highlight the wonderful attributes that wrestling has, and tell an authentic wrestling story.
With collaborations from wrestlers like Booker T, Shane Helms, Rob Van Dam, MVP, AJ Styles, Sinn Bodhi, The Young Bucks and original cover art by the legendary Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, this story is truly drenched in the essence of what goes down in the squared circle.
This story and fantastic artwork (which is also done by Samoan pro wrestler Mike Mulipola) is certainly a feast for the eyes, and should be viewed and supported by every wrestling fan.
I was thrilled when I reached out to Mike, and he was gracious enough to grant Wrestling Desk an exclusive interview. He truly gives readers more insight into Headlocked Comics. Without further ado, it is my pleasure, to present my interview with Mike Kingston:
Q: What was your mission with your first issue of the series and how has it evolved?
A: I was just a lifelong fan of both wrestling and comics. Over the years, I was invariably disappointed by the quality of wrestling comics that were put out. They were almost always licensed books that featured wrestlers doing pretty much everything but wrestling. There was Undertaker fighting demons, Kevin Nash as Mad Max, Ultimate Warrior stripping Santa Claus naked, and so on.
So I came up with Headlocked, the story of a college theater major that quits school to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.
I pitched Headlocked to every comic book publisher I could find. I was told “no” by everyone. In some cases, I was literally laughed at. So I did it myself. I built an audience by selling my book at wrestling shows and comic cons…one person at a time.
Eight years later, we’ve had three successful Kickstarters, over twenty televised wrestlers contribute, and achieved successes beyond my wildest dreams.
Q: Growing up what was your first impression of wrestling?
A: I vividly remember being eight years old and flipping through channels late at night. I came across George “The Animal” Steele on the very first Saturday Night’s Main Event. He was going crazy and doing his turnbuckle eating schtick…I had never seen anything like it. I’ve watched wrestling non-stop since that day.
Q: How has your idea or impression of wrestling changed over the years?
A: Around 2004, I was getting pretty burnt out on wrestling. At the time, WWE had purchased WCW and was pretty much the only game in town…and truthfully, it was getting a little stale for me. Then I discovered Ring of Honor. It was so totally different than anything I had ever seen…and from there I discovered all these other amazing independent and international companies that rekindled my love of wrestling.
Q: Do you believe that wrestling in comics has a solid fanbase?
A: Being that I’ve raised almost 70K on Kickstarter, I’d obviously have to say yes. Most of my friends that like comics also like wrestling. When I’m at comic cons, I see a ton of wrestling shirts and vice versa. I think it’s tricky to do in the traditional comic market because it’s so superhero oriented but I think that’s more of a function of the limitation of their current business model than any level of interest.
Q: Did you change the landscape of the topic of pro wrestling among comic book fans?
A: It’s hard to say. I think we’ve definitely opened doors. I mean, I was turned down by EVERYBODY. And since Headlocked came out, there have definitely been a bunch of wrestling titles that have come out.
Q: Can you describe the difference between comic book fans and pro wrestling fans?
A: I think both fanbases are the same. You have your hardcore, vocal internet fans and you have you casual fans. I do think there’s a fair amount of crossover since both art forms feature a lot of the same elements (i.e.: larger than life characters, colorful costumes, good vs. evil).
Q: How was it working with Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler?
A: It’s been awesome. He’s an amazing artist and a really good dude. People always have preconceptions of celebrities and stuff but he’s legit one of the most generous human beings I’ve ever met. It’s been so cool getting to work with someone who you respect and have them respect what you’re doing too. We do a bunch of comic cons and independent wrestling shows together and it’s always so much fun.
Q: Did you approach wrestlers to contribute to the stories in the comics?
A: It varies. A lot of wrestlers at the beginning just bought my books from me at shows, they liked what I was doing, and asked how they could help. Some of the guys have just seen me on the road so much and respect the hustle that they wanted to help. There are a couple of people, particularly the wrestlers that have contributed art, that I’ve reached out to specifically because that’s a very small window.
Q: Have you built relationships wrestlers because they support your comic?
A: Absolutely. Most of the guys that have contributed to my book are now my friends. We text about football, UFC, or just swap jokes. As a lifelong fan, it’s really cool.
Q: Did they help you to flesh out characters in the story even more?
A: I’m a pretty heavy student of the game so to speak so I have a pretty good handle on what I want to say as far as characters go. Usually if I ask a question, its more technical in nature.
Q: How does it feel to have three successful Kickstarters?
A: It’s pretty awesome. If it wasn’t for Kickstarter, we wouldn’t exist at the level that we do. For us, it’s functioned like a pre-order mechanism which has allowed us to circumvent the direct market. The other cool thing is that we have reward tiers where people can be drawn into the book as wrestlers or in crowd scenes…our fanbase has literally become part of the book. It’s one of my favorite parts to the whole process.
Q: How did it feel taking your comics to conventions?
A: At first, it was pretty nerve-wracking. But now, it’s so much fun. We almost always have wrestlers at the table and we get to meet so many cool fans and creators. I love being able to make a personal connection with the people who support our project.
Q: Any advice for other Indy comic book creators who might be starting their own kick starters?
A: Prepare. A lot of people just think Kickstarter is a money machine. In truth, it’s the most grueling time of the year. I usually gain 10-15 pounds in stress weight. Get as much media as you can lined up in advance. It’s so hard going to people even in a 60 day window and asking for interviews…the farther out you can book, the more awareness you’ll generate.
Q: What is the future of Headlocked comics?
A: Right now, we’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing. I’m happy with out trajectory. I would advise everyone to keep their eyes out for our next Kickstarter because we have some huge names lined up!
Also be sure to check out Mike and Jerry Lawler at the 2015 New York Comic Con Convention. This con appearance was featured on an episode of Culture Shock, hosted by Corey Graves, exclusively on WWE Network.
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