Secret War Games: The Marvel WCW Comic Part 3

April 23rd, 2007 by | Tags: , , , ,

We’re finishing off the trilogy of World Championship Wrestling articles here at 4th Letter, but first I want to talk about blame.

Ever since the moment I picked a couple of these issues up at New York Comic Con, my fellow 4L guys and my comic-reading friends all asked me the same question: why? Why would I do this to myself? Why am I always the guy on this site willingly reading comics I know are going to be lousy? The truth is, it’s all hermanos’ fault.

He and I are similar in terms of comic-reading background. He and I read stuff in the 90’s, only to break away from comics due to the Marvel Cloneslaught disaster. He got back in the game before I did and had more reading experience. He would be the one who would suggest comics that I would eventually follow obsessively. He suggested I read that Deadpool issue where he Shoryukens Kitty Pryde. He told me to read Kingdom Come. He told me that the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League is good stuff. And I won’t even tell you how many times I had to hear him push Flex Mentallo in my direction before I submitted.

A problem arises from that. It gets annoying discussing things when he’s read pretty much everything I’ve read and more. Where’s my upper hand?

So I had to dig deep in the opposite direction. Has hermanos read the comic where Venom fights Carnage inside the internet? What about the one where Skeletor controls Superman’s mind and makes him beat up He-Man? Did he read Super-Villain Team… wait, hold on. Super-Villain Team-Up turned out to be pretty great. But he didn’t read the Tekken comic, did he?! And he’s a better person for it because that thing is a stinking turd on the level of the Doom comic.

But the Tekken comic review will be for another day.

I think I’m just stalling because the cover of issue #9 features the Steiner Brothers with the blurb, “The Steiner Brothers are cruisin’ for a bruisin’! Part 2 of 4!” At least Jesse Ventura is in the upper-corner logo. That’s as good a reason as any to keep moving forward.

We begin with Johnny B. Badd making his triumphant return. An old bus driver Lucy drops him off at the arena as he waves and thanks her for the ride. He narrates a reminder of what happened to him, which switches between him thinking and him talking out loud like some kind of lunatic. After his interview with Sting back in issue #6, Badd was beaten maliciously by the Dangerous Alliance, shoved into a crate and mailed to Alaska. From the narration, it’s said that Badd spent three days in that crate before being dumped in the middle of nowhere. He broke out of the crate, waved down Lucy and is just now getting back to the arena.

The more I dwell on the scene, the nastier it becomes. Like spending three days stuck in a crate? I don’t think Johnny can hold it in for that long. And he’s still wearing those tights. Ew.

It’s also worth noting that in wrestling, the police are really just nonexistent. Nobody seemed all that broken up about Johnny being missing for however long he’s been gone. Johnny doesn’t even seemed to be so bothered by it either. His masterstroke of revenge looks to only be “make bald jokes about Paul E. on the air.”

Upon coming to ringside, Johnny is shocked to see this image:

Johnny joins Jim Ross and new heel announcer Jesse “The Body” Ventura at the table. The match they’re about to watch is the Steiners vs. The Black Stinger and the Ghoul. This is a non-title match, which, in wrestling logic means that the Steiners are going to lose.

The match starts with Rick vs. Black Stinger. Rick has the advantage for a bit, but we see that by turning heel, Sting is both a cheater and has the mouth of a sailor. This is probably where Scott’s behavior came from.

The two tag their partners, but the Ghoul beats the crap out of Scott. Ghoul takes a break from administering the beating to tag Sting and let him put Scott in the Scorpion Deathlock. Scott somehow powers out of it and reverses it into a Figure Four Leg Lock. Sting tags in the Ghoul, who again smacks Scott around. While the Ghoul has Scott in a headlock, Johnny B. Badd and Jim Ross make fun of Vince McMahon.

“Massive physique on the Ghoul, Jimbo. He could easily go into body building.”

“Yes, Johnny. But I hear that body building isn’t doing too well these days.”

Not only is that a jab at McMahon’s failed World Bodybuilding Federation, but a jab at Lex Luger, who left WCW to become part of it.

Since Rick is too busy arguing with the ref, the Ghoul has no trouble tossing Scott out of the ring, flat on his back, then laughing at him. He clears off the announce table and slams Scott through it.

Wow. Powerbombing someone through a table wouldn’t be popular for at least five more years. The Ghoul was a man before his time.

Since Rick’s too concerned with Scott’s welfare and the Black Stinger is cheating, there’s no real surprise in the rest of the match. Sting tosses Rick in the corner, hits the Stinger Splash and tags in his partner to finish him off. The Ghoul puts Rick in an armbar, puts one leg over the back of Rick’s neck and then spikes him into the mat. He easily gets the pin, then leaves with Sting.

The next scene is a showcase for all of those WCW wrestlers who weren’t important to be part of the Ghoul storyline.

Three things to notice here.

1) The Dangerous Alliance all look intent on murdering that fucking kid. Arn especially.

2) Steve Austin continues to get balder.

3) That’s the kid from the last issue. The little boy who had cancer, but kept hope because of his hero Sting. You probably figured that out from reading the page’s dialogue, but I have a point here.

The issue about Bobby Sandor took place sometime after Sting won the world title. Johnny B. Badd was beaten up and sent away by the Dangerous Alliance before Sting won the title. Bobby has a full head of hair now.

That means that for at least three months, Johnny B. Badd had been wearing the same pair of pink briefs, which he probably soiled while stuck in the crate. UGH!

The Black Stinger busts in, followed by the Ghoul. He wants that kid out of the backstage area, to which all the other wrestlers calmly try to talk him down. This includes one of my favorite panels of the entire series. There’s also a reoccurring joke where everyone keeps asking Sting about what he did to his hair. Johnny even asks him twice! It’s not very funny, though. If you want funny, just read the next few paragraphs.

Bobby walks over to Sting, wide-eyed with wonder, holding a cake of eleven candles.

“Please, Sting! All I wanted to do is share my day with you. To be with you! And I thought that you wanted to be with me, too. It’s okay if you forgot. I know you’re busy, bein’ a big world champion and all. But – but my mom made a birthday cake, it’s a good cake!”

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to bestow upon you, my favorite Marvel WCW moment.


Sting slaps the cake onto the floor and stomps on it, warning the others that he’ll do that to anyone who tries to steal his title. He dumps over the table of food and when Johnny B. Badd confronts him and talks about how far back they go, Sting side-kicks him in the face. Ron, Z-Man and the others yell at Sting to get out, and he does while boasting at how great he is.

Later on, in his private locker room, Sting’s become too tired to boast. He gets confused, as if he’s on the verge of remembering something really important. Just when it seems like he’s going to get it, the Ghoul and Max step in to reinforce Max’s earlier hypnotism. They reprogram Sting yet again and smile as he goes into a rant about how he’s the champion with no friends – except for Ghoul and Max – and that he’s going to destroy his enemies… starting with Johnny B. Badd!

In this scene, Ghoul also explains his master plan. He’s actually doing this to destroy WCW. “When word gets out that the golden boy’s gone bad, people will be outraged! They’ll avoid WCW like the plague!”

Funny. When they did this with Hulk Hogan, it led to WCW’s most successful period.

The next issue begins with a bang, showing an extreme close-up of the Ghoul with his mouth salivating and eyes bulging. “A party? For me?!? I’m touched.”

A turn of the page shows that he’s in the locker room, being attacked by most of the WCW roster. He doesn’t look to be having much trouble stomping a mudhole in everyone, all things considered. Despite their numbers, they don’t have any real strategy, so they just kind of trip over each other.

Ghoul steals Big Josh’s pipe and starts beating down everyone with it. Scott Steiner goes for his famous Frankensteiner, but gets tossed away into some other rushing wrestlers instead. That leaves Rick, who gets punched out so hard, his stupid headgear gets knocked off. The Ghoul basks in his ultimate victory. Thanks to the Black Stinger, WCW’s ticket sales have been crushed and the company is in the red. He then stares down Paul E. and they briefly discuss how Rick Rude was hired to dress like the Ghoul in that earlier issue. Ghoul threateningly tells Paul E. that he will get his “payment” soon enough.

In the hallway, Cactus Jack is frustrated. Once again, the Ghoul hasn’t paid him for doing his dirty work. He confronts the Ghoul and Max, who refuse to take him seriously. Instead, they just make a bunch of fat jokes, mother jokes and fat mother jokes.

“Yeah. You’re lookin’ pretty chunky, Cactus. You spending all your money on potato chips? Naaah. You need teeth to eat potato chips.”

As they leave, Jack promises that the Ghoul may be smarter than Cactus Jack, but he sure isn’t crazier. He sneaks into the tool closet.

Next up is a match between the Black Stinger and Johnny B. Badd for the title. Despite the Ghoul’s earlier rant, the crowd capacity looks pretty full for a failing company. Badd walks out first, with women tossing roses at him and one of them sneaking a piece of paper with her phone number into Johnny’s pink garter as he walks by. Next is the Black Stinger, accompanied by the Ghoul. For some reason, despite the fact that all the children are booing Sting, they’re still wearing his face-paint. Maybe it’s a hygiene thing and they haven’t gotten around to washing their faces for several months. We’ve all been there.

The match starts off with Sting strangling Badd with Badd’s feather boa. Sting realizes that Badd is his friend and he shouldn’t be doing this, but he can’t help it.

Badd capitalizes on the distraction, hits a suplex and the two start duking it out. Badd looks to knock Sting out, but instead of pinning him, he ponders helping him snap out of his funk. Sting springs back up and the match continues. At one point, Sting gets Johnny in the Scorpion Deathlock and hears himself being booed. The Black Stinger can’t help but feel that something’s wrong with this picture.

As the match goes on, Sting blows out his knee and goes down. Johnny doesn’t want to win the title so cheaply and is glad to hear Sting asking for help. It turns out to be a trick as Sting grabs him, rolls him up and pins him.

While basking in the boos, the Black Stinger is oblivious to Cactus Jack sneaking into the ring with a shovel. Cactus begins to wail on Sting’s head to the cheers of the crowd. He tosses Johnny B. Badd out of the ring and bolts, promising, “Now all that was done by my hand has been undone!”

Now that he’s back to his old self, mentally, Sting tries to explain himself, but nobody will hear it. Jim Ross and the fans just walk away from him. He marches into the back, angry at the Ghoul. He figures that Paul E. Dangerously is probably behind this somehow, so he goes to seek him out. First, he needs to find the other wrestlers and explain what’s up. Since they’ve known him for so long, they’ll probably understand.

Much of the WCW roster surrounds him as a cliffhanger, ready to kick his ass. I can’t help but agree, since anyone who refers to themselves as “old bean” is in strong need of having their neck slammed by a car door.

Sting tries to explain himself, but nobody will hear him out amongst the punching and kicking. The other wrestlers hold him down and shake with anger, telling him that even if he was under the Ghoul’s control, he still did some messed up stuff and has ruined WCW (and Arn Anderson is fine with beating him down either way, since he just doesn’t like Sting). Sting taps into his powers of being inspirational.

“Don’t you think I know that? It’s a guilt I’ll carry for the rest of my life! But there’s still time to make it right! If we just stick together we can still turn it around! Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham can race over to the TV station! Johnny B. Badd can alert the newspapers! Z-Man can report to the radio! Let the world know that the WCW isn’t licked yet!”

“Pretty speech, champ. But why should we trust you now?”

“Just think what’s at stake! Professional wrestling’s not just a career – it’s a way of life! And all the limos and jet planes and t-shirts and action figures and Marvel comic books are just the icing on the cake!

“Maybe a bad choice of words.”

Just when everyone’s coming together, Sting smells gas. The whole place goes up in flames. Rick Steiner screams that this is just like something the Ghoul would try.

Sting is going to try and find a hose, but gets distracted when he sees his hair in the mirror. Rick Rude shows up, talks smack at Sting and says that he’s going to go take on the Ghoul. As it is, the Ghoul has just kidnapped Paul E. The face and heel put their differences aside and search for the common enemy, completely forgetting about the gigantic fire going on in the background.

Max beams at the flames, until the sprinklers turn on and put a dent in the inferno. Ron Simmons recognizes Max as the Ghoul’s buddy and steps into the three-point stance. He bolts at the running Max and takes him down with a tackle. Now that Max is out of it, Big Ron knows that it all lies with Sting.

For a couple panels, the artist completely forgets what Rick Rude is supposed to look like.

Sting goes after the Ghoul first and doesn’t do all that well. The Ghoul taunts about how Sting doesn’t even know who he is. He gives some hints, saying that Sting took everything from him and how they go far back. Admittedly, I’m interested in just who the Ghoul could be.

After slamming Sting’s head into a locker, the Ghoul hears Rick Rude behind him. “Hold on there! What I’d like to have right now, is for you to get that scaly, green, flabby body over here – so I can kick it across the room!”

A test of strength shows that the Ghoul is easily stronger, but Rude still talks tough. Sting flies in from behind and hits the Ghoul a couple times, stunning him. Sting and Rude pull back their fists and send the Ghoul flying across the room with twin haymakers. The Ghoul tastes his own blood and decides that he’s through messing around. He knocks over some nearby lockers, burying Sting and Rude in the debris. Sting tells Rude that they can still get out of this as the Ghoul continues to rant about his past with Sting.

All of the sudden…

Sting and Rude beat down on the Ghoul to make sure he’s out of it, then tie him up. Rude leaves with Paul E., promising Sting that this incident doesn’t make them friends. That only leaves Sting and the Ghoul. Sting yells at the Ghoul and demands to know who he really is.

Throughout these last couple issues, I have been wondering that myself. It would have to be someone major for it to be able to take on all those guys in the earlier locker room melee. Since this is more or less based on the Black Scorpion storyline, I wonder if it’s maybe Ric Flair. Around that time, Flair was on his way back to WCW. It would make a weird sort of comic sense that a guy who wasn’t actually on the roster for a year would be conspiring to destroy the company.

The truth is, the Ghoul’s secret identity doesn’t come from Charlotte, North Carolina. No, instead, the Ghoul’s secret identity comes straight out of left field.

The Ghoul is Crusher Craig Teters, the yet-to-be-mentioned trainer who taught Sting how to wrestle when he was younger. Crusher Craig spent years training Sting and was there to raise his hand when Sting won his first match. Days later, when teaching Sting how to do the Scorpion Deathlock, an accident caused both of Crusher Craig’s legs to go out. Even though Sting was sorry, it doesn’t make up for the fact that Crusher Craig was unable to wrestle again.

For some reason, in the flashbacks, Sting is shown to be wearing his Black Stinger face-paint with the hair dyed black. I don’t know if this is intentional or the artist just fucked up again. Then again, considering the artist’s above inability to draw Rick Rude and the fact that he earlier showed that he doesn’t know what a reflection looks like, I’m going to say it’s another fuck-up.

Sting refuses to believe that it can be his old trainer. Even years ago, Crusher Craig was middle-aged. Plus Craig believed in him and told him to have a great career in spite of it all. The Ghoul continues his backstory.

Sting still doesn’t believe him and finally goes to remove the mask. Max sneaks in, turns off the lights and gets the Ghoul out of there. By the time the lights come back on, it’s just Sting alone, wondering if the Ghoul was telling the truth, or if it was more mind games.

All the faces hang out, discussing how things went down and how they’ll be ready for the next time the Ghoul shows his ugly face. Arn Anderson is so happy about the way things have turned out that he apologizes to Johnny B. Badd for sending him to Alaska. Badd gives Sting the championship belt and the room of wrestlers pump their fists into the air to pay homage to the champ.

The final page shows retired wrestler Harley Race ordering his protégé to do another thousand reps. His protégé turns out to be Big Van Vader, who we haven’t seen since getting eliminated in the first issue’s battle royal. Harley Race decides that they will strike now, while Sting is weak.

The cover of issue #12 announces that this is indeed the final issue. Even better is that it features Vader’s rocking helmet.

Strangely, though the credits for the issue remain consistent with the rest of the series, and Ron Wilson is labeled as the penciler, the art is noticeably better. It feels more 90’s than the previous 11 issues, and I honestly mean that as a compliment. For instance, look at Vader. He looks intimidating here, like he’s ready to take on the Avengers himself.

Sting runs out with the title belt around the waist. His hair is blond again and he’s glad to have the crowd cheering for him again. Upon entering the ring, he dashes to Vader and delivers a Stinger Splash. Vader shrugs it off and slaps Sting.

From there on out, it’s a slaughter. Vader just plain manhandles Sting. The only time Sting comes close to an advantage is when Vader runs at him and Sting rolls out of the way. Sting attempts to jump off the top rope and instead gets caught and slammed into the mat. Vader plays around with him for a little while until delivering the Vader Bomb (which is really just a powerbomb) and going for the pin. Some children are crying.

The Three Stooges are devastated.

Sting decides against leaving in a stretcher. He grabs his ribs and walks off, thinking about how utterly he got trashed. He gives fans the thumbs up, but someone calls him a has-been as he stumbles to the back.

The scene changes to Paul E. and Stunning Steve Austin, who has cut his hair short. They go around Ron Simmons’ old neighborhood and interview people who they claim knew him growing up, such as a bum who claims that Ron would steal his shoes and sell them for wrestling lessons. Or the two would go into Ron’s “family’s” house to find 37 other children, all hungry and waiting for Ron to send them some of the money he made from being a wrestler. One claims, “He said we should all drop outta school, too!” Smugly, Paul E. segues into a videotaped interview with Ron himself.

I admit it. I chuckled.

This, and a recap of how much Barry Windham suddenly hates the Dangerous Alliance, sets up the final match of the WCW comic, where Barry Windham and Ron Simmons take on Steve Austin and Rick Rude in a Bunkhouse Brawl. That basically means no disqualification, with weapons smiled upon.

Austin’s hair has become long again prior to the match.

The brawl is a bunch of back-and-forth action where the guys wear street clothes and beat on each other with the following: wooden planks, chairs, brooms, oranges, cell phones, talcum powder, squirting ketchup bottles, fire extinguishers, high-heel shoes and perfume.

Ron Simmons hits Austin with a running clothesline and makes the pin. Rick Rude gives him some lip, so Ron just takes him down with a bulldog.

Elsewhere, Missy Hyatt interviews the new champion, Big Van Vader.

“Congratulations, Sting! You’ve graduated from the School of Pain with flying colors! I’ve left you with nothing but your pride! Cross me again – and I’ll take that too!”

In the locker room, Sting sits alone, again thinking about how badly he was beaten. He decides to quit, as he’ll never be champion again. He throws away his tights and boots, which would probably make for nice imagery if it wasn’t for the fact that he is still wearing the tights and boots from his earlier match! Tossing your spare clothes isn’t very dramatic, Steve.

All of the sudden, cancer-survivor Bobby Sandor walks in. Everyone’s off trying to see the new champion, but he snuck in and wonders if Sting would like to join in on that birthday party they missed out on several issues ago. Sting remembers how much kids like Bobby believe in him and decides that he was wrong to throw his tights away. He’s going to stick around WCW after all.

Bobby brings out a new cake and blows out all the candles. He serves Sting a slice, and before they start eating, Sting verifies that it is indeed chocolate cake.

Sting is great! Give us the chocolate cake!

Prior to cancellation, it’s pretty apparent to me where they were going with the story. Just like in the real WCW, Sting did in fact lose his title to Big Van Vader. The planned rematch hit a bump when Sting was attacked backstage by newcomer Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The last minute replacement was Ron Simmons, who ended up beating Vader with a surprise powerslam. Despite not watching WCW back then, I do recall seeing this match on TV and being genuinely excited.

So the series didn’t live long enough for Ron to get his big title win, but it did end with him beating one of the all-time biggest draws in wrestling history. That’s something.

I’ve been told that there was actually a WCW Annual released, which featured the first three issues, profiles and an additional story where the Dangerous Alliance sends a robot to attack Sting. While that last part totally perks my attention, I think I’ve read quite enough of this comic for one lifetime.

Was it bad? Yes. Yes it was. About as bad as I expected. Some parts weren’t as bad as they could have been, especially towards the latter half, but that thinking may just come from me getting used to the crappiness that comes with every issue. The sad thing is, the wrestling we see on TV usually has storylines filled with more nonsense and holes than the Ghoul garbage that infested this Marvel run. Especially if Vince Russo is involved. That doesn’t exactly make the comic any better, but it does lower the expectations.

But you know what? There’s this one comic series I have that I haven’t read a single page of for one reason. I’m afraid it’s going to be so bad that the World Championship Wrestling comic will look like We3 in comparison. I couldn’t risk this article turning into a diatribe of how WCW wasn’t that bad after all. What comic am I talking about?

Like you had to guess.

Coming one day…

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6 comments to “Secret War Games: The Marvel WCW Comic Part 3”

  1. Whoa…You just have to read/review Battlemania now? You can’t tease us with that image and not deliver. That would just be cruel.

  2. Booo! No Flair.

  3. LOL. AM I behind the time, or was Jesse “The Body” Ventura always Mr. Big?

    Good job Gavok. Your subtitle should say “Reading crappy comics so you don’t have to”. On the whole, I’d have to say it wasn’t as stupid as it could have been, given some of the -real- storylines WCW was using back in 1993 or so.

  4. That (1st)scene with the chocolate cake is pretty good. What makes it for me is the way that Sting has to turn to the Ghoul for reassurance, like he doesn’t have the bottle to deal with the kid on his own.

    I think I read that Mountie Versus Big Boss Man comic years ago. Didn’t it basically consist of the Mountie intimidating small children, the kids talking about how the Big Boss Man could kick his ass, and the Mountie retorting with his accounts of what he’d do to the burly copper?
    I seem to recall one of the kids having some sort of inspirational moment where he thinks of the BBM to give himself the courage to deal with the Mountie.

  5. I haven’t cracked open those comics yet, but I did have the Bossman/Mountie one as a kid.

    Yes. That is exactly what happened, so says my selective memory.

  6. I actually had the WCW annual. The story about Sting facing a robot (that looked like the bots from Terminator) was written as a short story with a few illustrations. The robot apparently had knowledge of everything in wrestling and was too powerful for Sting. However, Sting soon got him in the Scorpion Deathlock and the robot had no information to counter it because it was the perfect move (yeah right) so it submitted and broke down.