Friday, 12 October 2007

REVIEW: Headlocked: Work Of Art #1

MIKE HARTMANN is a college student who wants to be an actor when he unexpectedly gets hooked on the world of pro wrestling.
Unlike his fellow students, teachers, friends and disapproving mother, Mike sees rasslin’ as another way to express himself as an artist, especially after he attends a WFW supercard with the main event of Madman Mohammed Farouk vs world champ “Golden” Brian Boulder. The drama, spectacle, athletic action and compelling storyline affects him like smack to a junkie.

He studies the pseudo-sport closely and eventually determines he wants to train to be a wrestler.

With little understanding of what to do but obsessed with pursuing his unlikely dream, Mike the “mark” follows a WSW wrestler called Killer Creegan after a show. After an initial awkward introduction, Creegan warms to Mike and decides to smarten him to the business. Mike takes the advice on board – particularly the need to bulk up and train.

The first issue ends with Mike boarding a bus to Philadelphia to attend a wrestling school.

I’d have to say this is an intriguing debut issue. The 48-page comic is entertainingly written by Michael Kingston – a guy who clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the wrestling biz – and nicely drawn by Randy Valiente.
Headlocked features strong characters and, best of all, a non-condescending and realistic view of the world of rasslin’.

Wrestling fans really need to check this one out.

Headlocked: Work Of Art #1 is published by Visionary Comics (www.visionarycomics.com) and Markosia Enterprises (www.markosia.org.uk) and goes on sale October 19.

5 comments:

Mantic said...

So, I read a couple of these glowing reviews of Headlocked and now that I have the book in hand I'm not so impressed.

Yes, I've seen worse, even a lot worse, over the years in terms of wrestling comics. Headlocked does avoid falling back on the comic-geek standard of wrestler as alter-ego. And it actually includes some wrestling, though the artist does not appear to be very familiar with the subject.

However, Headlocked seems most to be an attempt at positive propaganda by a smarky wrestling fan aimed at non-fans. A lot of time is spent on trying to smarten up the reader. This might be helpful for the one or two potential readers who weren't wrestling fans long before picking up a wrestling comic, save for incorrect statements and unqualified simplifications of how things work in the wrestling industry. Perhaps the author is actually a neophyte smark, relying upon a few days of internet trolling for research, after all.

Then there is the drama of the central character. It reminds me of some of the worst e-fed creations -- idealized in every way. That's not the hallmark of good writing, for those who have praised Headlocked's writing. Good characters have flaws. Up front. They spend their time overcoming unforseen hurdles, not progressing a straight line to success. Further, dramatic characters convey information by experience, not exposition -- even moreso in a comic-book, where the mechanics of a stepover toe hold can be illustrated in detail. Just for one example from Headlocked, imagine how much more effective the explanation of blading/juicing would have been if revealed in a match, either experienced or observed, with minimal narrative text (assuming halfway competent visual pacing).

I will keep watching for further issues of this comic, because I am obsessive about collecting any wrestling-related comic. But I can't thus far recommend Headlocked for much beyond novelty value.

Dann said...

Thanks for your comments.

I think the expression, "Give it time", is apt here.

No, HEADLOCKED isn't a great comic, but as wrestling comics go, it's quite good, especially for a first-issue effort.

The creators have had to walk a difficult thin line. Thankfully, they've gone for the "wrestling is fake" storyline rather than pretend it's real - which dooms 99% of other wrestling comics.

Should they limit the heavy-handed explanations for non-wrestling fans? Yeah, maybe. A more subtle approach, as you suggest, might be better.

But, overall, I thought the first issue wasn't too bad. I'll be interested to see how the second ish progresses the storyline and characters.

Mantic said...

I'll definitely keep following the title. If they tighten up the narrative voice and at least give me reason to stop loathing their main character, I'll be glad to see it. But so far, no dice.

I'm not convinced that the smark approach is what is important, either. Vince Russo was a master of peeling back the veneer of kayfabe and telling smarky stories, but he's not a fan favourite these days.

I would sooner say the problem with the majority of Western wrestling-themed comics has been that they stunk by any measure. And had little to do with wrestling.

The one exception to that assessment that comes to mind is los Bros Hernadez' Love & Rockets (and spinoffs thereof featuring female wrestlers) -- but those don't quite qualify, since wrestling is not often the focus of their drama. Still, look those up if you haven't already.

All those Japanese comics you've mentioned in the next post are completely kayfabe. And beyond! One series there almost treats the wrestlers as sports superheroes, but it's still cool because they focus on the wrestling action and it looks totally badass.

All the mediocre zombie comics nowdays are selling mad numbers on the same principle, except that it's far easier to draw convincing zombies and gore than pro wrestling action. I'd bet most of the artists working for Marvel & DC couldn't illustrate a wrestling hold more complicated than a full nelson to save their careers, unfortunately.

But imagine if someone put together a whole comic featuring in-ring action like those two pages you extracted from Super-Villain Team Up. Even if things were hyper-exaggerated using mutant superhero wrestlers and only the occasional recognizable real-world wrestling move it would rock yer sox (like a full-colour Western equivalent of Kinnikuman).

I don't mean to say that a docu-comic like Headlocked can't work; I am sure it can if done well. I just don't believe reality is the only way to make the pro wrestling theme work.

Michael said...

I just stumbled across these comments and as the writer/creator I did want to make a few points of contention...

"However, Headlocked seems most to be an attempt at positive propaganda by a smarky wrestling fan aimed at non-fans. A lot of time is spent on trying to smarten up the reader. This might be helpful for the one or two potential readers who weren't wrestling fans long before picking up a wrestling comic, save for incorrect statements and unqualified simplifications of how things work in the wrestling industry. Perhaps the author is actually a neophyte smark, relying upon a few days of internet trolling for research, after all."

I'd just like to remind people that the story is written in the character's voice. So the voice is meant to be that of a "neophyte smark" b/c that's the character's perspective. I am well aware that some of the explanations for things are oversimplified b/c that's how he currently understands things.

"Good characters have flaws. Up front. They spend their time overcoming unforseen hurdles, not progressing a straight line to success".

Mike Hartmann has many flaws. But again, the story is written in his voice. Could a lack of self awareness be one of them? Ever listen to a college age kid talk about his future? My experience has been that they are extremely optimistic and often naive about the real workings of the world. Could Mike Hartmann be a victim of youthful overconfidence? I chose to tell the story in a certain way so as to not hand the reader things b/c the story is more about Hartmann's search for an identity than anything else....hence the narrative format.

He did get a knife pulled on him, was swindled out of some lap dance money, and as the last page indicates...has some trouble looming on the horizon. I certainly wouldn't call it a straight line to success.

"imagine how much more effective the explanation of blading/juicing would have been if revealed in a match, either experienced or observed, with minimal narrative text (assuming halfway competent visual pacing)"

I chose a fairly well known "secret" here just to give the book a little bit of an identity in terms of the inner workings. Had I made this any more dramatic, I suppose I would have been criticized for making a big reveal out of something that "everyone knows." For people who might not know about wrestling, it does make for a pretty punchy reveal b/c some people do believe they use fake blood (which I know in some instances they do)

I appreciate you picking up a copy and giving us a shot. I hope this has been useful to you and possibly enhanced your understanding of the story somewhat. I hope you stick around and see where we take things. If you have any questions/comments, feel free to drop me a line at headlockedcomic@yahoo.com. Thanks.

Mike Kingston
~writer/creator of Headlocked

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