COMIC BOOKS AND WRESTLING
Part 2 - the Prequel
I'm going to have some fun with this column. I'll discuss the similarities of comic books and wrestling and compare some wrestlers with superheroes. But first I'd like to take a look at some feedback to my last column on this very subject.
Flea of 411 writes; NOTHING is original anymore, regardless of what you believe. By the way, I believe Hyatte has made the analogy of comics vs. wrestling so has Netcop.
I'd really enjoy reading their columns on this subject if anyone out there could send me the links. Also, Jim Vanderhorst writes about comics at http://www.411wrestling.com/columns/article.php?columns_id=1391. Not that you'd know anything about it, but he does write for your website. I think my column DOES contain original ideas presented in an entertaining manner. Otherwise it wouldn't be worth my time writing it. Let's see what my readers have to say.
Derek Burgan of the Torch writes;
I'd like to read your column, but I still can't get over that stupid banning.
Derek, just because you got banned from the Slash message board - Wienerville, doesn't mean you still can't read my column on the Slash Homepage. I've been told my columns are very popular among people who have not read them yet.
I don't know why you were banned. It seems to me like when Sid would come down to the ring and powerbomb a random cruiserweight. It didn't make much sense, but that was typical of Nitro. You just have to stay out of Sid's path. Here is some advice.
You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind.You don't pull the mask off the Lone Ranger. And You don't mess around with Zim.
(Jesus, I oughta ban YOU, too. - CRZ)
Both the comic industry and the wrestling industry seem to operate in peaks and troughs, the industry heats up, then it cools down. There were a couple of things you wrote though that trouble me.
WildCATS, Jim Lee's breakaway title is still running and is in it's third incarnation. Okay, so most of the founder members titles are no longer running, but the length of a comics run has nothing to do with it's quality.
Everyone says that lack of competition has stifled creativity in wrestling. In fairness, the vast majority of people would want to see a big name contender to the WWE. They would like to see new, fresh, original content taken from another perspective. They would like to see people being given the chance to run with the ball, engender their own ideas. They would like to see other federations, by their very existence, make WWE consider their place in the market, just like they had to in the mid 90's when faced with Nitro and the nWo. In short, wrestling is like the comic book industry.
First off, I really hate that business is cyclical argument. People use it all the time as an excuse to explain why we are in a down cycle. Talk to a guy who's folks lost his college fund in a crappy stock market. Now explain away his loss in your "peaks and valleys" argument and see how he feels.
Wildcats is only in its third version because the first two versions failed. I don't consider it a success. We agree that titles with limited runs can be very good like Rising Stars by JMS. But, most of the time when a title gets cancelled, it is due to a lack of sales or the creator running out of ideas.
One thing we can also agree on is that competition is a good thing. After Image was introduced, people expected Marvel's sales to decrease. Instead the opposite happened, Marvel's sales increased. People bought more comics, both Marvel and Image. The pie got bigger. The same thing happened during the Nitro/Raw wrestling wars. More people watched wrestling and the pie got bigger. We would all like to see an alternative to the WWE, and healthy competition wouldn't hurt.
Very interesting read. To me, the WWE just changed with time. Music is like that too. Kids that are 12-15 are now getting easy access to Eminem, Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Slipknot records without any hassle. Movies are now being made with more darker imagery (although Disney still racks in the money). It's just the change in times.
Good point Dredge regarding the Attitude era. I may be getting more conservative as I get older. But, I still think they can have it both ways and target a younger audience as well. There is a cartoon on Sat. morning 10:30 on Fox called Mucha Lucha featuring wrestlers. If the WWE used something similar to promote their guys, I think they would get that audience too.
Derek writes back;
Hey Brian, I just went to your column and it Rocked! To start off, that quote at the beginning is one of the best quotes used ALL TIME in any wrestling column.
Wrestling fans seem to think comic fans are idiots and comic fans think that wrestling fans are morons. The amount of similarities the two "industries" share is just unbelievable and it's bewildering why the two can't use the best of what the other has to offer.
Thanks for the kind words. I recommend reading Derek "the hype guy" right away at the Torch before he gets banned again.
It's All About the Story
Telling a story is the one thing that comic books can do very well. They have to be able to make sense so that a reader can re-read the book again and again. Readers will look for continuity from issue to issue, so the plotline must make sense. To give you an example of a good comic book story, I'll tell you about the Kang story from a recent Avengers comic book. It was a 12 part epic story, written by Kurt Busiak, an accomplished writer. Kang is a supervillain who comes from the future. He uses time travel and futuristic weaponry to conquer hundreds of planets. He wants to conquer our planet because he admires our people and our heroes. He is from the future and has seen that our earth falls to dangers of nuclear war and meteor showers. Our future is bleak, so he asks for control of the earth to save us from our apocalyptic fate. Naturally George Bush and the leaders of the United Nations refuse to appoint Kang as their ruler so we have a conflict. Kang declares war on our leaders and sends in his army of soldiers from the future to fight us all over the planet. The Avengers fight back, but then Kang gets real pissed. In a shocking plot twist, Kang drops a futuristic mega-nuke bomb on Washington DC. Hundreds of thousands of people die instantly and George Bush and the UN surrender to Kang. Then the Avengers have to fight back for control of the earth. The Avengers only win when Kang is betrayed by his son who falls in love with one of the Avengers. That is a good story.
Compare this to the last time the WWF had an epic story. This would be the WCW/ Alliance Invasion storyline. Everyone already know how badly that story was messed up and how they could have done better. One simple way to write a better story would be to follow the Kang Invasion and apply it to the WWF. The first step is that the Invasion must be seen as a credible threat. They must defeat the WWF stars many times. They should beat up Vince McMahon for weeks demanding his surrender. For the big plot twist, the Dudley Boys would threaten to put Stephanie threw a table unless Vince signs over control. Vince reluctantly signs over control and Bubba Ray Dudley puts Steph thew a table anyway. The WWF programs would be replaced with Alliance shows for a week. Then the WWF stars fight back for control of the company. They could even have a group of collaborators like Kurt Angle, Christian, and X-Pac that betray the WWF. This invasion would be a lot better than what really happened.
I'm in favor of even more shocking plot twists if they are well written. For the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesner, let us see the Undertaker win the title. Then next week when Sara Undertaker gives birth, right in the hospital Brock and Taker could fight it out. As they are fighting, Paul Heyman could steal the Undertaker's child. The Undertaker would have to make a deal and return the belt to get back his son. That would be entertaining.
Both companies are also very good at publicity stunts. WWE fooled the media into thinking they were going to have a gay wedding with Billy and Chuck. Long before that, Marvel Comics had made a media event out of Northstar of Alpha Flight coming out as a gay superhero. Other comic book stunts are the "death" of Superman and Batman "breaking his back." These big publicity stunts generate mainstream media coverage more than title changes. Wrestling can try to work the "death" of a wrestler like Kane, but even the media might not be stupid enough to cover it.
The comic books that sell all have characters with superhero names. Do you think a comic book called "The Adventures of Clark Kent" or "Legends of Bruce Wayne" would sell? They tried using a real name for a comic with Luke Cage instead of Power Man. It didn't sell. These new guys in the WWE with names like like Chris Nowitski, Batista, John Cena; their names make them sound like guys I went to high school with. Can we get them some wrestler names? I can root for the Prototype or Leviathan, but not for Cena or Batista. Where would the Ultimate Warrior have gotten had he been called Jim Hellwig?
One thing that is also important about a superhero is that he must have unique superpowers. It differentiates himself from the other heroes. Wrestlers should also have unique finishers as their "superpower." There was a bad era in ECW when a bunch of wrestlers were all using the DDT. That devalued the move, it can only be a real finisher if used by Jake Roberts or Raven. There are also times when wrestlers get their own finisher used against them. Look at a match between the Rock and Jericho when Jericho uses the Rock Bottom on the Rock and then the Rock uses the Walls of Jericho against Jericho. This is very stupid. It is like Spiderman getting beat by his own webbing or the Iceman getting beat by water. Finishers must be unique to each wrestler.
Comic books featuring a female super-hero do not sell. Even long-running titles like Wonderwoman have rarely had commercial success. You can look at Catwoman, She-Hulk, Supergirl, Witchblade, etc. None of them sell comic books. The only times these comics do sell is for T&A purposes. Comic book readers are male and they don't read women's comic books. The same is true with wrestling matches. The percentage of the wrestling audience is at least 90% male. The womens matches are used only for T&A. So forget about getting serious female wrestlers who can wrestle, nobody wants to see that.
Comic books starring a villain also do not sell. But a comic book could star a villain if he is a comedic heel. Comics like Deadpool and Lobo sell based on an anti-hero who is a comedic heel. Wrestlers that are the most easy to turn face are also comedic heels. It worked for the Rock, the New Age Outlaws, and Booker T.
Triple H = Thor
Now for a fun closer, I answer the following question; Which wrestler is most like which superhero? The obvious examples are;
Chris Benoit = Wolverine, a little guy from Canada who can take a lot of damage. Rhyno = Rhino, his finisher is the gore. To defeat the Rhino, wait until he charges at you then more out of the way at the last second.
Triple H = Thor, a strong guy who rarely does jobs. He uses a hammer as his weapon. Thor doesn't spit water, but he can create a rainfall. Chris Jericho = Loki, the trickster and lord of lies. He is always getting screwed over by Thor. Vince McMahon = Odin, the greater power and ruler of all the land. Stephanie McMahon = Enchantress, cunning woman who sleeps with a lot of men, but Thor is her favorite. Does this makes Ric Flair = Beta Ray Bill?
Kurt Angle = Captain America, a guy with a bland personality who wraps himself up in the American flag. Jeff Hardy = Daredevil, the man without fear, a little guy without impressive powers. Kane = Hulk, a superstrong character with poor mike skills. This leads to a lack of character development as well as low book sales and failed pushes. The Undertaker = Ghost Rider, a biker who uses a chain as his weapon. He strikes fear in his opponents and makes them pay for their sins. Steve Austin = Punisher, he wears a skull on his shirt and is always pissed off. He is ruthless to villains.
Hulk Hogan = Superman, he has been around forever and is older than dirt. He rarely jobs. The Crow Sting/(late 90s) = The Crow from the movies. Or Sting = Batman from the Tim Burtan films, he is dressed in black and sneaks up on people from the ceiling. Scott Steiner = Bane, a Batman villian from the last Batman movie played by Jesse Ventura. He takes drugs to enhance his strength and has a bad attitude also known as roid rage. APA = Heroes for Hire X-Pac = the Karate Kid from DC's Legion comics. Nuff Said.