Pro wrestling and comic books seem like the match-up of the century. The larger than life characters, hard-hitting action and soap opera saga of WWE and other organizations can seem like superhero stories brought to life. So why are there so few comics about wrestling, and even fewer good ones?
Michael Kingston has been trying to pin that problem down for the count with Headlocked, the tale of wannabe grappler Mike Hartmann, who quickly finds out he’ll need more than just his acting background to succeed in the most demanding drama of all.
I caught up with Kingston (who happens to be a friend of mine) at 2013’s New York Comic Con to ask him about “The Last Territory,” the most recent installment in Hartmann’s journey to fame and artistic fulfillment.
It’s a hard road for Mike Hartmann, and any prospective wrestler.
AiPT: How long have you been doing Headlocked?
Kingston: I put out the first issue in 2008, I believe, and we’ve been sort of plugging away ever since.
AiPT: Why wrestling, exactly? What interests you about it? What makes you think it’s a fertile ground for storytelling?
Kingston: I’ve always been a wrestling fan and I just think the art form is fascinating and as a storytelling medium it’s sort of underutilized, as far was what people tend to see, which is mostly WWE. There’s something I’ve always felt connected to since I was 8-years-old and I saw George “The Animal” Steele chewing up turnbuckles on “Saturday Night’s Main Event.”
AiPT: And you’ve got another one coming up, right? “The Last Territory.”
Kingston: Yep. We just had a pretty successful Kickstarter and we’re working on that book. It’s a continuation of Mike Hartmann’s journey. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
AiPT: So the Kickstarter just finished. If people didn’t get involved with that, they’ll still be able to get it, where?
Kingston: We’re working on that. We’re talking to different people about distribution. Obviously people can always get it on our website or if they see us at conventions. We did a special edition through Kickstarter, a Kickstarter exclusive that had a lot of content provided by wrestlers and stuff, as a reward to people for helping us out when we needed them the most.
AiPT: Who from the wrestling community have you gotten to contribute to Headlocked?
Kingston: Aside from having Jerry “The King” Lawler do the covers, we’ve got Rob Van Dam, Christopher Daniels and Shane Helms doing short stories, Beth Phoenix, Ken Anderson and Sinn Bodhi doing art, and I’ve got people lined up for the next one already. I feel like anybody that’s got some art skills finds their way to me sooner or later.
Kingston and the King!
AiPT: Are you surprised at the artistic ability of pro wrestlers, or are you not surprised at all?
Kingston: I think initially, a long time ago, when I first saw that Jerry did art – he’s the first one that everybody thinks of – I kind of was surprised. When you think about it, a lot of these guys, they’re all storytellers in nature, so it’s not surprising that people have different skill sets beyond just the one thing that they do.
AiPT: And Mike you know me, you know this is the most important question, what’s your favorite beer?
Kingston: I’d have to say Shipyard Pumpkinhead. I love it; I wait every October for it to come out. And actually you introduced me to that.
AiPT: So we’re both helping the world.
Kingston: Yes, absolutely.
The Kickstarter’s funding period may have ended, but you can still check it out for all the info on Kingston and artist Michel Mulipola’s “The Last Territory,” due out early next year. Get caught up with Mike Hartmann’s first forays into the ring game, “Work of Art” and “The Tryout,” at Headlocked’s official site, and scan the official bios to find out who’s who in the WFW, the toughest wrestling promotion in comics!