People compare pro wrestlers to comic book heroes, and now WWE has partnered with BOOM! Studios to make them one and the same.
November 9's WWE: Then. Now. Forever. one-shot launches BOOM!'s WWE licenses and showcases a new take on wrestling comic books - essentially adapting and expanding on some of the pseudo-sports most popular storylines and moments. All-New X-Men writer Dennis Hopeless and Klaus artist Dan Mora spoke with Newsarama about blending the two colorful mediums, understanding the characters, and getting over the sports part of sports entertainment.
“I was a huge WWF fan growing up and got into WCW like whoa in high school during the nWo heyday,” said Hopeless. “I then sort of rode out the Attitude Era and fell off in college. Jason Aaron yanked me back in a few years ago with his unbridled enthusiasm. I’ve been a pretty rabid fan ever since.”
Mora stated that he remembered watching wrestling when he was a child, but didn’t follow it religiously. It was working on the project that he learned a new appreciation for it. “I wasn’t a huge fan until now that I’m working on the comic. I got into it as I was drawing.”
WWE. Then. Now. Forever.'s main story focuses on the break-up of the Shield, one of the industry's most popular modern faction - that, in its dissolution, became individual pillars of the company's stories.
“Looking back on the past few years, that seemed like the storyline with the most resonance,” Hopeless said. “In a few different ways, that Shield story is still playing out. All three former members are still main eventers. Their feud still has enough heat that it can rise to the surface at any time. This just felt like one of those destined-to-be-a-classic events that fans won’t soon forget. No brainer.”
Watching the Shield advance with Ambrose winning the United States Championship and Reigns and Rollins become Tag Team Champions was an interesting evolution. While the focus was more on Reigns and Ambrose on television, Hopeless is developing the hinted-at animosity that Rollins developed as being the odd-man out.
“Seth takes a lot of ownership of the Shield’s success,” Hopeless continued. “He’s the architect. He’s responsible for all of it while, not for nothing, also being the most interesting guy in the ring during their matches. But yeah, in that moment, the other two were reaping more of the rewards. Seth just got to a place, at least in his own head, in which it made sense to go it alone. That resentment-fueled hubris is the driving force of our story.”
Getting the likeness down of each superstar is no easy feat. Trying to capture each character with equal parts reality and cartooning, Mora found, was hard to do.“I think it was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” the artist said. “If only because they are such revered characters and I wanted to get it right.”
Hopeless opened up a little about the arc of the story going forward and how it’s from Rollins’ point of view. He talked about how the goal was to “humanize” Rollins in a way that hadn’t been seen before.
“The first arc is all from Seth’s perspective. It follows him from Mr. Money in the Bank to World Champion and through his devastating knee injury that took it all away. I’m having a lot of fun spending time in the Architect’s head.”
With such an expansive array of characters from today and yesterday, Hopeless and Mora talked about what superstars they’d love to work on. Mora said he’d love to draw The Rock, while Hopeless had his own personal wishlist.
“I love writing Seth heel promos, so I got my wish right off the bat. I’m also a huge New Day fan so I’m trying to figure out a natural way to work them in going forward. And I’d write a Women’s Revolution comic starring the Four Horsewomen for free. I love all those women.”
Drawing a comic book with most of the action taking place in a wrestling ring can be daunting. The wrestling tells a story in its own right, but Mora said he had fun doing a lot of the choreography.
“I was mostly limited to drawing their special moves but it was fun to do,” the artist said.
“Dan draws the hell out of all the wrestling scenes so I mostly just hit the high notes," Hopeless added. “Wrote some fun one-liners, and got out of his way. It’s hard to compete with actual wrestling when it comes to in-ring action, but Dan kills it every time. It’s incredible.”
Although it might be daunting to be be working with wrestling industry giant WWE and its oversized personalities (some of which work there in real life in addition to acting on screen), Hopess and Mora said it was a smooth process.
“Yes, there were some art notes but not that many,” Mora replied. “They are very nice people to work with.”
“They’ve been remarkably supportive of everything we wanted to do,” added Hopeless. “It seems like we’re all on the same page. The one thing they asked us to change in the first script was a line of dialogue I knew no one would let me use. Sort of hard to complain there. So far, so good for sure.”
In fact, Mora said that drawing a story about professional wrestling gave him new insight - and more respect - for what wrestlers do.
“Definitely,” Mora said. “It is amazing what they can do!”
“I think anyone who has attended a live wrestling event already has plenty of respect for what these folks get up to,” Hopeless added. “They are putting their bodies on the line every night, throwing themselves around and into one another, while at the same time telling this classic good vs. evil battle story. It’s a remarkable thing to witness. I just hope we do it justice in the book.”