For people who are fans of both professional wrestling and comic books, seeing the two intertwine is not uncommon. For as many comic creators that tune in weekly to their favorite wrestling programs, there are just as many performers who don ring gear or create gimmicks inspired by the Big Two roster of superheroes and supervillains.
The latest WWE superstar to draw attention for a visual look that may be attributed to comics is the former leader of the Wyatt Family, Bray Wyatt. He was absent from WWE's programming for a good amount of 2018 dealing with injuries, but before that, Wyatt was a member of the RAW roster and a tag team champion alongside Matt Hardy. There were many rumors and reports speculating on when Wyatt would make his in-ring return, with a one-off appearance taking place at Starrcade.
We soon moved into 2019, still wondering when and where Wyatt's theme music would hit. What we weren't expecting was to see a more family-friendly version of Bray Wyatt, but that's exactly what we got -- at least at first.
After weeks of mysterious puppet teasers, fans got a look at the all-new Bray Wyatt on the April 22 episode of RAW in a segment called the Firefly Fun House. If you've ever watched Pee-Wee's Playhouse then this should give you an idea of the type of character Wyatt is now portraying. Instead of wearing dark clothing and baggy clothes, Wyatt is more of a sweater-and-slacks type of guy who talks to his new special friends: Mercy the Buzzard, Abby the Witch and Rambling Rabbit.
As warm and cuddly as this segment appears on the surface, there still were moments of the old Bray Wyatt bubbling underneath. However, it all came to light on May 13's Firefly Fun House, when Wyatt unveiled a terrifying, disfigured clown mask.
Of course, fans immediately began to wonder what inspired the spooky mask, with many noticing a similarity with the New 52 Joker, who wore his own sliced-off face like a mask during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman run, most notably in "Death of the Family." Kyle A. Scarborough, the tattoo artist who helped illustrate Wyatt's original vision for his new concept mask, took fans behind the scenes to reveal some additional details on what the process was like, and also released a photo of the drawing.
CBR reached out to Scarborough to confirm whether the mask was indeed inspired by Capullo's Joker, or if other influences are at play.
Wyatt and Scarborough first met over their shared interest in tattoo art, and stayed in touch over the next several months until Wyatt reached out with an idea he was developing. While the WWE's creative team were keen on the vision of his new gimmick, Wyatt needed help to get it over with an exemplary mask design.
"[Bray] had the ideas in his head but needed someone to illustrate them to get approval from the WWE," Scarborough said. "It went really well and, long story short, here we are."
An avid comic book reader, Scarborough went on to say that some of the influences in his design were obvious, and as speculated, the Joker mask does indeed play a small role in the overall look. "Clearly it gives off the New 52 Joker vibe, but that's on me," Scarborough revealed. "The mask is as much Joker as it is Leatherface or Hannibal Lecter."
He went on to add, "I personally am a massive Batman fan. Have been all my life, so in my head it clearly feels like that New 52 iteration, but we all knew full well that wasn't what we were making." When asked about the obvious Slipknot connection, the artist gave all the credit to the design team at legendary special effects makeup artist Tom Savini's studio, specifically citing the work of Jason Baker.
So there you have it! Yes, the New 52 Joker does serve as inspiration for Bray Wyatt's horrific new clown mask, but perhaps only indirectly, or even passively. After all, Scarborough is a huge fan of the DC artist behind the Clown Prince of Crime's makeover: "Greg Capullo is one of my all-time favorite artists, hands down," he said, and something tells us Capullo would be proud of the compliment and homage.
Of course, Scarborough is just as quick to reiterate that the concept was, "pieced together from either things Bray liked or ideas he already had; concepts we still haven't seen on TV yet. This is Bray's mind poured out in front of the viewers. He's the visionary. The rest of us are the creative devices he's used to put it together."
Just as the creative process was a milieu assembled by one creative force, however, so too is the apparently labyrinthian path to where Bray Wyatt's new gimmick is leading. Scarborough ended his exclusive comment to CBR saying, quite cryptically, "People think they have it figured out, but no one does. And that's the brilliant part. You haven't seen anything yet."