Taking a break from the current WWE landscape, BOOM! Comics has released a compilation of five short stories about what some nostalgic fans consider to be the Golden Age of professional wrestling: the 1980s. These were the days of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Bret “Hitman” Hart, and many, many more names that spark the child in many Gen-X wrestling fans, whether current or lapsed. These five unrelated vignettes straddle that all-important line established by BOOM! that separates reality from fiction, shoot from kayfabe. In today’s Reality Era, we want to know who our favorite Superstars really are. Back in the ’80s, we just wanted to know them as they were on TV: living legends.
In terms of art quality and direct relation to actual storylines, the first story, A Show of Hart, is far and away the new standard for the era. Artist Michael Mulipola’s capturing of the Superstars is stellar, making a huge variety of them come to life on the page. Writer Michael Kingston captured Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart perfectly as the narrator of this story, working in the history he had with The Hart Foundation and Bret Hart’s early career. A few panels seem rushed, but most show the time and effort taken to truly showcase the wrestlers.
Derek Fridolf’s double-duty work on The Royal Treatment is a huge departure from the others in the collection, giving a contemporary, Saturday-morning cartoon look to a feud between King Harley Race and The Junkyard Dog. It tells a fun story about the matches between the two, ending with a traditional dance party with fans, decades before R-Truth and Carmella’s 7-Second Dance Break (congrats to Truth on the US Championship win, btw).
Lan Pitts and Carlos Mango’s King of Bling and Brent Schoonover’s (double-duty again) The Brain and the Bulldog are almost entirely in the kayfabe world and allow other Superstars, like Razor Ramon and The British Bulldogs, to get some play. Arune Singh and Kendall Goode’s Internal Audit not only captures the entirely kayfabe reason why Irwin R. Shyster and The Million-Dollar Man Ted DiBiase formed a team, it asks some pressing questions, long on the mind of wrestling fans. How does an IRS agent also have time to be a professional wrestler? A professional hitman? Did they quit lucrative jobs to go wrestle for WWE? Regardless, the set-up for why DiBiase and IRS became the tag team known as Money, Inc is a wonderful kayfabe fairy tale.
WWE, at its best, is a variety show, appealing to broad spectrums of the audience, segment to segment. By releasing WWE: Forever, BOOM! has tapped into that idea, differentiating from its ongoing WWE coming and the NXT: Takeover issues as much as the television product itself does. There are decades of stories that can be tapped into here and any Rock & Wrestling era fan should take their vitamins, say their prayers, and pick this issue up, brother!