By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Comic books and pro wrestling. There are few things I love writing about more. So when the two worlds intersect, you’d think I’d be on cloud nine. Sadly, that has never been the case.
The fact is, comic books and wrestling don’t mix. On paper, that doesn’t make much sense. They both tend to feature colorful characters, dramatic storylines, and of course, a good amount of action. So why don’t pro wrestling characters translate well on to comic book pages?
I have a theory: At its best, professional wrestling allows us to suspend our disbelief, and however briefly, buy into the action in the ring. Deep down, we want to believe it’s real, no matter how obvious the performance art aspect of it is. Taking the wrestlers and putting them in comic book stories not only takes them out of their arena (no pun intended), but it brings front and center the fantasy element we all know is there, but try not to notice while we’re watching. There’s also a certain contrived element to taking wrestling characters out of their native environment. We’re used to seeing them in the ring. So when you place them in a story that takes place elsewhere, there’s an inherent awkwardness there.
Also, remember that Ultimate Warrior comic from the ’90s? That’s enough of a reason right there, folks.
But alas, here we are with WWE Superstars #1, from Super Genius, an imprint of Papercutz designed for mature readers. The story, “Money in the Bank,” takes place in Titan City, where according to a brief synopsis, “everyone’s hiding secrets and there’s no one to trust.” We open the book with John Cena, an ex-cop who’s been in prison for a year after being framed for stealing a briefcase containing $10 million. Said briefcase has yet to be found. When Cena is released, his first task is to prove his innocence. Unfortunately, the villainous D.A. candidate Randy Orton is keeping tabs on his old enemy. But someone also seems to have it out for Orton, namely Daniel Bryan, a loose cannon who’s been vandalizing his property. As all this is happening, CM Punk is on a crusade to root out corruption in the city. But that won’t be easy, to say the very least.
That sound like a lot? Well stay with me, we’re not done yet. This book crams as many WWE wrestlers as possible into 20 pages. Almost every time you turn a page, you see a new character. The Undertaker, AJ Lee, the Big Show, the Shield, the Wyatt Family, and Christian are just some of the wrestlers crammed into this issue, seemingly just for the sake of getting us to say: “Hey! That person exists in real life!” If this title were meant for a younger audience, I could cut Foley and Riches a bit more slack for this move. But as this is meant for older fans, I’d have focused more on building a compelling story around our three core characters, John Cena, Randy Orton, and CM Punk. “Money in the Bank” is only slated to run four issues, after all. Assuming the writers were obligated to squeeze as many wrestlers into the story as possible, I’d have spread those first appearances out so things in this issue didn’t seem so forced. Although based on the cover, we may not even be finished with character introductions yet. Boy, I sure as hell can’t wait to see Fandango make his comic book debut…
I’m also a bit confused as to how much pro wrestling plays into this world. On page 2, our dueling D.A. candidates Orton and Alberto Del Rio take part in a press conference being held in a wrestling ring. A short time later, we see Orton working out in said wrestling ring. In an accompanying character bios section, John Cena is also listed as “Ex-cop and former World Champion.” So… is everyone in this city a pro wrestler? Is Titan City kind of like Arkham City, where you had to be a supervillain or a criminal to get in? Or are we just throwing wrestling imagery in there because this is a WWE comic book?
Our artist Alitha Martinez does a fair job. Her renderings are hit or miss, depending on the page. For instance, that first image of John Cena behind bars is fantastic. But as the issue progresses, he starts to look more and more like a generic cartoon action hero (although many wrestling fans would argue that’s who the real-life Cena is). Her CM Punk is pretty solid, but she misses the mark on Randy Orton, AJ Lee, and Ryback. She’s in the right ballpark with the Undertaker, but doesn’t quite nail him. On the plus side, she does a good job with the various finishing moves that are worked into the story, i.e. Cena’s Attitude Adjustment, Orton’s RKO, etc.
At the end of the day, WWE Superstars is a wrestling comic book, and it’s essentially on par with almost every wrestling comic book I’ve ever read. As you may have noticed, the first line in this issue is a John Cena “You can’t see me.” I’d say that’s a pretty good quality indicator right there.
Images from wwe.com.
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