There are very few fandoms as loyal and rabid as those found in either comic books or professional wrestling. Often the lines are blurred, many professional wrestlers, such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio and more are very vocal about their love of comics and incorporate it into their garb, personalities or catchphrases.
Not surprisingly, you might be a comic fan who is also a wrestling fan (like me!) Is it the drama of good vs evil played out on a weekly basis? Is it the larger-than-life colorful characters like the Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, John Cena or the ( I can’t believe I’m typing the next word) late Ultimate Warrior? For whatever reason, it would seem the two genres would go hand in hand. Former WWE Champion Dave Bautista will bring it full circle when he stars as Drax the Destroyer this summer in Marvel’ s The Guardians of the Galaxy.
In regards to wrestling being portrayed in comics, the WWE and other promotions have attempted comics based on their Superstars with varying degrees of success.
Comics about original wrestling characters have also been attempted with even less of a success rate. However, I think I just found a comic that I would consider a success. In Palooka #1 we meet Mortie Q. Suggs, a mid-card heel jobber in a local wrestling organization. He describes himself as the most hated man in wrestling. However that does not mean he’s a bad guy in real life. Like everyone else, he just wonders if God has a plan for him. Mortie just wants someone to be waiting at home for him with slippers and a ham steak. He also loves and admires the cities’ superheroes; The Mighty American, rocketed from his oppressed home planet to protect our freedom; The Golden Gladiator, the demi-god son of Zeus; and the purveyor of Old West justice, The Silver Sheriff! Every morning, Mortie runs to the local newsstand to read about the Saviors of the City and their battles against the Axis of Doom. One day while doing just that, he finds himself in the middle of a battle between Jack Hammer, a member of the Axis and his beloved heroes.
Amidst the flying debris and thrown cars, Mortie tries to protect a little old lady from danger This selfless act garners the attention of someone who makes Mortie a proposition.
Let’s talk about the art. Firstly, the cover drawn by Masters of the Universe fan-favorite Chris Faccone shows the masked wrestler leaping off of a building, looking like he’s about to deliver a Macho Man Flying Elbow. Faccone’s Kirby influenced style fits perfectly with the tone and style of the story. It is made to look like an old Golden Age book, down to the seal from the Comics Code Authority! The fake tears and discoloring gives it the old-fashioned look appropriate to the comic because the story and the artistic elements appear to take place in that hazy bygone era. The blurb tells you exactly what you’ll be getting, “For a wrestler with super-powers…the city is his ring.” This is an excellent cover and it stands out from the other books on the rack.
German Curti’s interior art is loose, sketchy and hyperkinetic. It has a raw pulpy quality to it, much like the wrestlers themselves, that really enhances the story. The cartoony poses and exaggerated expressions recall the classic comics of the era it is trying to emulate but still looks contemporary and slick. Curti can do great action scenes while evoking human emotion. The way he draws Mortie, who looks like a gamma-irradiated Bart Simpson, shows the character’s depth as Casey has written him. Ger’s storytelling deftly directs your eye to what he wants you to see, or not see. Despite it being essentially a story of brawling behemoths, tension is built up by what he doesn’t show you. It’s a smooth flowing read that keeps you turning to the next page.
The colors by Lara Maruca uses a palate of umbers and golden colors. It’s a muted palette but when there are fight scenes or splash pages, such as when the Saviors of the City appear, she brings out the reds, blues and hot colors so those moments really stand out!
The overall production quality of the book is excellent. From the paper stock which is bright and slick to the lettering by Shawn Aldridge, the book is put together solid. Even the blank inside covers are a welcome change. Perhaps to go with the books theme, Van Heel could have put fake old timey ads but then I wouldn’t have room for my exclusive Asbury Park Comic Con Mortie sketch on the inside back cover.
By the way, that’s where I found my new favorite wrestling comic. Casey Van Heel and Person of Merit Comics had a table there selling luchador wrestling masks with the comic for 10 bucks. Now I wear that mask everywhere…..I mean, everywhere.
I’m probably presuming correctly the writer, Casey Van Heel (is that a made up wrestling name?) is a wrestling fan because the dialogue is littered with some Easter eggs for us smart marks. The story is told from Mortie’s point of view in a first person narrative so we get to know the lug. Not exactly a sharpshooter but he means well. He has one very apparent character flaw which is what gets him in trouble and his actions drives the story forward. The fantastical elements of the story are familiar comic book and sci-fi tropes, they just appear and work without any real scientific explanation, but no explanation is necessary. A fun refreshing change from all the over thinking (or under thinking) found in comics nowadays.
Palooka #1 is a funny snappy entertaining read, as it should because Casey is also a comedian. It’s a great first issue; you meet the hero, he goes on a quest, the villain is introduced and you get a great cliffhanger. As a fan of comics and wrestling myself I love this book. It has enough elements of both genres to satisfy their respective fanbases (and boy are they hard to please!). I recommend this book as a buy, read and hold. Absolutely read it and hold on to it. Don’t hold on to it because it might go up in value. I really don’t know if it will or not but hold on to it because it is a rare gem. It’s a good book done by real talented people with a passion and love for two…TWO entertainment genres and it shows in this comic.
The comic has typical comic/wrestling violence with a little bloodshed. No coarse language but some mild adult situations. The comic can be purchased at personofmeritcomics.com or at Carmine St Comics in Manhattan or Desert Island in Brooklyn. Also keep an eye out for it on Comixology soon. Look for Issue #2 this summer.
Person of Merit Comics
Cover: Chris Faccone
Art: German Curti
Colors: Luciana Lara Maruca
Letterer: Shawn Aldridge
Writer: Casey Van Heel