Next week, the first issue of Titan's WWE Heroes comic series comes out and, being a big wrestling and comics fan, I wanted to get some more info on the series, so I went straight to the most logical source: Keith Champagne, the writer of the book. He provides some background on the series and how it fits into the WWE Universe below the cut.
Chad Nevett: For those unaware, what's the basic premise of WWE Heroes?
Keith Champagne: First off, thanks for your interest and help in promoting these comics, it's much appreciated.
WWE Heroes is, more than anything, concerned with the eternal rivalry between two brothers: The Firstborn and The King Of Shadows. Since the dawn of time, these two have been fighting for dominance and their conflict has actually helped to shape recorded history. For instance, it's inferred that the fall of Rome was largely brought about by the machinations of the King Of Shadows.
So there's a mythology that we've created for this series and it actually has a deep connection to the WWE, something that will pull our favorite WWE Superstars and Divas smack dab into a war they could have never imagined.
What makes it different from the weekly WWE TV shows?
I'd say the stakes are much higher than the typical RAW or SMACKDOWN match. We have a lot of wrestling action, don't get me wrong but here, the matches are an important part of the story, a tool of a sorts in the over-arching story that becomes more increasingly important as we go, something that envelopes the entire roster.
It's not unlike the build up to a pay-per-view show in terms of structure. We just approach it from a different way.
How are you approaching the characters? How loyal to their on-screen personas are you remaining?
Wrestlers switch allegiances quite a bit so I'm not so concerned with portraying individuals as good or evil, but as real people who have been swept up in a horrible situation. If there's a long standing relationship, say between Triple H or Shawn Michaels, I try to texture that into the story but I'm really approaching the WWE superstars as the men and women behind the tights, not their public characters.
Are there any specific WWE superstars you'll be focusing on as the leads?
Primarily the most well-known, main event players: Triple H, Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels probably get the most attention. Vince has a large role. Big Show and John Cena are prominent. And I try to get face time for as many of the mid-card guys as I can but the spotlight is definitely on the biggest names.
Is there a specific time in the WWE's history that you're working from continuity-wise?
Nah. WWE continuity changes so much, so quickly that trying to tie it into a specific period would drive me mad. We're creating our own continuity.
Having said that, I would like to do something that begins in the boom of the 80's, hits the peak in the 90's, and concludes today. It's tricky to pull off because of likeness rights but it's not impossible.
With wrestlers changing from heel to face (or vice versa), obviously some allegiances wouldn't be possible in the WWE now -- do you think that will be problematic for readers? Was that at all problematic for you as a writer? (For example, since the comic appears to have been written and drawn prior to Batista's heel turn, him working with John Cena would fly in the face of their current feud.)
This is one of the biggest reasons why we decided to create our own continuity for the comics. Every turn would force continual re-writing and recasting of rolls in the comic and force me to jump off a building. We took the safer, saner path.
Have you consulted with any WWE superstars on their characters in the comic?
No, but I'm told that more than a few of the WWE superstars are excited to see how they're treated in the comic. So for the record, Big Show? I'm sorry. It was for the story.
The WWE superstars are welcome to contact me if they have ideas for their characters they'd like me to try to implement.
Wrestling is very action-oriented, often quickly paced with fluid movements whereas comics are a more static medium. What can happen in the ring in two or three seconds could take a page to convey. How have you approached the in-ring action in the comic to make it work for the medium?
A good wrestling match tells a story and I've tried to approach that the same way in the comic. In some cases, the context of the match is defined by the story. In others, the match becomes the story we're telling. But every match is designed to peak and valley and unfolds with its own rhythm. The matches have been ridiculously thought out.
Is there a specific audience you're writing for? Obviously, like any fan community, wrestling fans look for different things. Since the WWE has been targeting kids strongly in the past year, is the comic aimed at children more than, say, smarks who read the dirt sheets and online sites for spoilers, rumours, and backstage gossip? Or are you trying to appeal to as much of the fanbase as possible?
I consider myself a lifelong wrestling fan and I'm writing a wrestling comic that I'd like to read. That's really my only gauge for any of this. There's nothing in there that would preclude the younger audience from enjoying it and there's nothing in it that would alienate the older demographic. But mostly, I asked myself what I'd like to see in a wrestling comic and started from there.
I don't know how to ask this without seeming too snarky, but you've said online that you're a wrestling fan, so how about we conclude things with a few quick 'prove your fan cred' questions? Favourite wrestler of all time? Favourite current wrestler? Favourite match of all time? (If it helps, I'd say my favourite wrestler of all time is Bret Hart, my current favourite is Chris Jericho, and my favourite match is the 1991 Intercontinental Championship match between Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect.)
My all-time favorite wrestler is Andre The Giant. Kind of an obvious choice but I just always loved Andre when I was young. I make no apologies for it. I was also a big fan of Mil Mascaras and the original Tiger Mask.
Keeping things focused on WWE, as far as in-ring work, I think it's really hard to top Shawn Michaels. He's one of the all-time greats. As far as characters, Rick Martel as "The Model" always cracked me up. His blindfold match w/ Jake Roberts is a classic!
Of the current, newer crop of wrestlers I like David Hart Smith, I'm interested in seeing where he and Dibiase Jr go with their careers.
And my all-time favorite match? It's tough to narrow it to just one, maybe one of the 60 minute Flair/Steamboat classics from the 80's. Steamboat/Savage from Wrestlemania 3. The Rock and Triple H had a great ladder match at Summerslam 98, which I was backstage for. Does that give me wrestling cred?
Thanks to Keith and Titan. WWE Heroes #1 is on sale March 23 and you can view the trailer for the issue here.