This week, it was announced that Titan, a UK-based publisher best known for producing magazine tie-ins to genre TV shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Grey's Anatomy," have signed on to produce at least 20 issues worth of comics tying in to World Wrestling Entertainment. Kicking things off is a series called "WWE Heroes" that'll be written by Keith Champagne -- whose work on DC's "Countdown Arena" was once described by publisher Dan Didio as "fan-fiction at its finest," so make of that what you will -- and artist Andy Smith.
And if history has taught us anything, it will be terrible.
Admittedly, the first issue does have a cover that involves the Undertaker and John Cena fighting zombies and leopardmen with baseball bats, and we are more than willing to admit that yes, that is awesome..
...but the deeper into the press release you go, the less awesome things become.
When we first read the title "WWE Heroes," we figured things were going to play out like the Harvey Award-nominated -- yes, really --"NASCAR Heroes," which saw racecar drivers getting superpowers that they used to battle each other on the track during actual NASCAR races. This is completely insane, of course, but it's the kind of insanity that could be applied to the world of pro wrestling, and considering that John Cena's already going around shouting "U Can't See Me," is it really that much of a stretch to just make him invisible?
Heck, you could even set a book in the '80s, give "Nature Boy" Ric Flair stretchy powers and throw a rocky orange skin on "The Enforcer" Arn Anderson and you're halfway to having The Fantastic Four Horsemen!
Instead, Titan has promised that "#1 reveals an eternal rivalry set against the backdrop of the history of WWE," with a story that apparently roots the main event of WrestleMania in the time of King Arthur:
Aside from being another example of the criminally underrated Matt Hardy getting the short end of the stick, this by itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's ridiculous and over-the-top, of course, especially when Champagne actually goes so far as to cast the time-honored Steel Chair in the role of Excalibur...
...but really, what do you expect from the company that brought you Doink the Clown and The Iron Sheik?
No, the warning signs come from the first page, where The Undertaker and Kane (who is the Underaker's "brother" despite the fact that he used to perform as a sadistic dentist named I. Yankem, DDS) are recast as "the Firstborn" and "The King of Shadows," who wrestled the universe's first loincloth-and-volcano match in Hell itself:
The problem here, aside from the obvious -- and the reason we suspect that no good will come of this -- is that this is essentially the same thing they did with the Undertaker in the WWE's last foray into the world of comics, the unforgivably awful line put out by the uniformly atrocious Chaos! Comics:
We've covered this one before (along with a few other wrestling comics), but the gist of this comic is that when 'Taker wrestles, he's actually battling demons that he literally sends to Hell with his Tombstone piledriver. It's bad, but even if it weren't, it would still beg the question of why.
The Undertaker, after all, is a character that already has mystical powers -- or had them, anyway, back in his early-'90s heyday before the regrettable "American Badass" period, the greatest sin of which was the inclusion of Kid Rock. Isn't it enough to see a guy with mystical powers duking it out against other equally colorful characters? Correct us if we're wrong, here, but isn't that the exact setup that's been attracting that lucrative teenage demographic to both comics and pro wrestling for the entire lifespan of both forms of entertainment?
Which isn't to say that you can't have something entertaining that deviates from the norm. We're awfully fond of the 2006 adventure novel "Big Apple Takedown," which operated on the premise that Vince McMahon had teamed with the CIA to create "a new covert black-ops group using the Superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment."
Now that is high concept.
It's also not very good, strictly speaking -- there's actually a striking lack of violence for an adventure novel where pro wrestlers fight terrorist drug dealers -- but it revels in its nonsensical, over-the-top direct-to-VHS nature, even going so far as to highlight Chavo Guerrero's computer hacking skills, which is hilarious all on its own.
Point being, there's at least an attempt to make it fun and embrace the goofiness of it all, and we've seen before that comics about grimacing warriors from hell involved in the secret shadow history of SummerSlam tend to take themselves way too seriously.
Then again, there is the fact that wrestlers fight zombie leopard-men...
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