Big changes are brewing in the world of professional wrestling, and BOOM! Studios’ WWE SmackDown #1 is coming to take us behind the scenes. The superstars of SmackDown LIVE are gearing up to make the move to FOX’s Friday night line-up, and writer Kevin Panetta and artist Kendall Goode have teamed up to tell us about the Friday journey for one of the biggest names in pro wrestling today: The Man herself, Becky Lynch.
WWE Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch will run into WWE legends and current-day champs as she fights through a tumultuous backstage pre-show with the swagger and strength that have made her one of the hottest names in the industry. Panetta and Goode will give longtime fans and newcomers alike a taste of what’s to come as SmackDown makes the move to FOX, just in time for the very first episode. BOOM!’s WWE SmackDown #1 will hit comic shops on Wednesday, October 2, just in time for SmackDown LIVE’s October 4 debut.
Newsarama had the opportunity to chat with Kevin Panetta and Kendall Goode about what brought them to wrestling, wrestling comics, and what readers can expect in the upcoming special.
Newsarama: Kevin and Kendall, tell us a little bit about your path to the WWE comic books -- how did you get into wrestling? How did the two of you get involved with BOOM!?
Kevin Panetta: I grew up in the ‘80s, so wrestling was everywhere, but I really got hooked when the Undertaker premiered at Survivor Series ‘89. He scared the crap out of me! As far as BOOM! goes, my first thing was a Bravest Warrior comic way back in 2014. Since then, I’ve done a bunch of comics for them like Gumball and Clarence.
Kendall Goode: A cousin got my brother and I into wrestling in the Attitude Era, but I fell off until around 2015. Kevin suggested I watch the Fastlane PPV that was coming on one night and from there I was hooked again. My work with BOOM! Studios started in 2017 with a WWE short about Daniel Bryan written by Aubrey Sitterson. It was actually some sketches of Goldust, Undertaker, and Kane I posted on Twitter that editor Chris Rosa saw and offered me work on the WWE comics.
Nrama: I feel like doing a WWE comic would be so uniquely intimidating to me in that you’re writing stories about people who are just out there, reading your work! Is it a little weird?
Panetta: When I write WWE comics my focus is on the in-ring personalities. If New Day is stuck in traffic, I want to know how the characters of Big E or Xavier Woods are gonna react. So, it doesn’t feel too weird. But also, if any WWE superstars are reading our WWE comics...Hi!
Goode: It does feel intimidating when I know specific wrestlers are going to have to approve the drawings I did of their face. It’s pretty weird to draw real people doing new things or recreating things that already happened. My stuff tends to lean pretty heavily cartoon-y, so I hope it comes across somewhere between fun caricature and an animated series.
Nrama: And what’s been the most exciting part about getting to create these stories within the WWE universe?
Panetta: For me it’s really satisfying playing around in a universe I’ve been experiencing for decades. The same way a lot of writers love the Marvel or DC Universes; that’s how I feel about WWE. I love the fact that I can stick in weird little references to stuff like WWE ice cream bars and people who love wrestling will be like “Yes!”.
Goode: The comparison to Marvel or DC is really apt. WWE superstars are so unique and it lends to all different kinds of stories. The grounded backstage and in ring action with Becky Lynch, or the supernatural Undertaker, or the funny stuff with New Day.
Nrama: WWE Smackdown #1 focuses specifically on Becky Lynch getting ready for the new Friday live shows. SmackDown has such an amazing roster right now; how did you decide who you wanted to focus on?
Panetta: I love the fun side of wrestling so I always gravitate towards the wrestlers who are maybe a little funnier or over-the-top like the IIconics, New Day, or Heavy Machinery. Boom wanted some Legends in this issue, too, which is always a blast!
Goode: Yeah, I’m always down to draw the fun stuff. Kevin does a great job at capturing how in wrestling, you never know what might be happening next. And it’s those funny wrestlers that tend to set up crazy situations.
Nrama: Becky’s had such an incredible year. What’s it like getting to focus on SmackDown through her eyes?
Panetta: The Man has such a well-defined voice, attitude, and personality. She isn’t afraid to share her opinion, and she never takes any crap. She has amazing confidence and has absolutely earned it after the year she had. That all combined makes it really fun to write dialog for her!
Goode: I really enjoyed having Becky interact with wrestlers she doesn’t normally interact with. Instead of just a women’s division storyline, we get to see her interact with Kofi Kingston and a handful of superstars from the SmackDown roster.
Nrama: Are there any moments in the story or WWE superstars you were particularly excited to write? Any moments you’re really excited for readers to get to see on the page?
Panetta: I loved writing the IIconics. Their humor and the way they bounce off of each other is super fun and I think it translates to comics really well.
Goode: There’s a really fun bit with Heavy Machinery coming face-to-face with the Brothers of Destruction.
Nrama: This is such an exciting time to be a wrestling fan, and SmackDown moving to FOX feels like a major chance to get so many new and returning eyes on WWE. Would you say this issue is a good primer for folks who may be coming to wrestling for the first time, or at least the first time in a while?
Panetta: I wish I could say yes, but I think when creating these comics we depend on the reader having some knowledge of these superstars and their personalities. I love the WWE comics but if you’re new or returning to WWE, I would definitely start by watching it!
Nrama: Are there any other SmackDown superstars you’d love to get to focus on in a future installment?
Panetta: Somebody let me write a 12-issue maxi-series about R-Truth and Carmella solving mysteries.
Goode: Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins on a quest to find the rarest pro wrestling action figure ever.
Nrama: And what are you hoping to see when SmackDown heads to FOX this week?
Panetta: I’m excited to see where everybody lands in the next draft. It always freshens things up when we get new match-ups and storylines! That and seeing the growth of new young talent on a big new stage!
Goode: I love tournaments like King of the Ring or other gimmicks that break up traditional feuds and storylines. And more Aleister Black.