Time for something a little different. A few weeks ago, I talked about the World Championship Wrestling comic, discussing a horrifying clash between comics and wrestling. Of course, I’m not done. I have to cover WWF Battlemania, after all. Plus I have a guest article on the way covering a comic that’s very concept causes my brain to explode.
Mixing comics and wrestling isn’t always a bad thing, though. I’d like to talk to you about CHIKARA, an independent wrestling federation that lives out of Pennsylvania. I had heard of it a while ago, but only recently have I given it a look. A couple weeks ago, I was invited to tag along to their show Rey De Voladores and I was basically blown away. It’s got everything I want in wrestling. The wrestling talent is there, giving us innovative and exciting match-ups. It’s got enough story to get by without making it more important than the actual matches. Even when the match is lopsided and the winner is blatant, they don’t make it a one-sided match that lasts two minutes. The match-ups aren’t entirely stuck on good vs. evil. Two heels can fight without having to worry about the crowd not knowing who to cheer for. Two tag partners can compete against each other without some forced storyline about them breaking up.
Most importantly is the fun factor. A lot of these guys are just weird. There’s a guy named the Hydra, who wears a monster mask, but is so skinny that he has to draw a six-pack onto himself with a sharpie in a desperate attempt to make himself seem menacing. There’s Chuck Taylor, once a smiling good guy, now driven mad by success and ego as he physically threatens children and the elderly on a regular basis. He also has a random love for dolphins and has the theme from Pete and Pete as his entrance music. There’s Player Uno, the 8-Bit Luchador, who usually wears tights that resemble overalls, as well as a lucha mask and a cap. During some matches, he’ll even kick a turtle shell into his opponents.
Others I’ll get to later.
The point of this article is the DVDs. Since CHIKARA doesn’t have a TV deal, they mostly get by with their DVD sales. This is actually what got my initial attention, as many of the DVD covers are based on classic comic book covers. The homage covers are done by Marco de Alfonso (possibly spelled wrong) and he does an amazing job.
Let’s have a look.
Tag World Grand Prix 2006 Night 1
Based on: Giant-Size X-Men #1
Poor Eddie Kingston is stuck being Thunderbird.
The poses here are great and go with the original well enough, but I guess they didn’t have a handle on the fonts yet. Love how Rorschach’s mask (he’s the one in Angel’s place) is altered to make him look worried. Not that I blame any of those guys in the back as being taken aback. If Delirious was pointing at me while running at full speed, I’d be downright terrified.
Tag World Grand Prix 2006 Night 2
Based on: Crisis on Infinite Earths #7
Superman symbol vs. Ted Nugent. I’m really not sure which to choose here.
Unionized Traffic Regulator Shane Storm carries defeated partner Mister Zero, reflecting the events of the tournament, where Zero is injured by Icarus of Team FIST. If you pay attention to the few recognizable figures in the background, then yes, to answer your question, they really do have a wrestler in a plush dragon costume.
Of course, they didn’t do anything with the Crisis tagline, “Double-Size Shocker!” because after all, CHIKARA is family friendly.
Young Lions Cup #4 – Night 1
Based on: Captain America Annual #8
This is probably the weakest one of the batch, mainly because I have a hard time making out what’s going on in the shield area of the CHIKARA cover.
At least this gives me an excuse to explain one of my favorite CHIKARA gimmicks because it is easily the most ridiculous:
Lance Steel is a knight from medieval times who has come to the present due to a time rift. Eventually, he was joined by a younger version of himself, who also ended up in the present somehow. They became tag partners for a while, until the younger Lance’s habit of trying to get hip to the times by using AIM and hitting the mall got on the older one’s nerves. They soon broke up and it ended with a match where the loser would be banished to the past. This beats Michaels vs. Cena any day.
Young Lions Cup #4 – Night 2
Based on: Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man
The debuting Ice Cream Jr. takes the role of Spider-Man against his first-round opponent Retail Dragon, the Xtreme Customer Service Specialist. Retail Dragon may not match up to Superman, but he does apparently come from the Super-Walmart. I’ll take Zod over aged door greeters any day.
Young Lions Cup #4 – Night 3
Based on: Marvels #4
The close-up belongs to the luchador Equinox. In the reflection, we see Ice Cream Jr. (cone on top) and El Hijo Del Ice Cream (cone on chin), otherwise known as Los Ice Creams. These guys are a staple to CHIKARA, due to their amazing gimmick. They are two Mexican heels with high voices and antics that ride the line between amusing and sort of creepy. Their theme music is an ice cream truck jingle and at random points in the match, they’d put their hands on their hips, shake them around and scream, “ICE CREAM!” at the top of their lungs.
One of their finishers is called the Coldstone Stunner. That’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard, and I’ve listened to Foreigner’s Greatest Hits.
Back to the topic at hand, it’s a great copy of Alex Ross’ Marvels cover, even if it took me a while to realize what it was supposed to be based on.
Return Of The Son Of The International Invasion Of International Invaders Night 1
Based on: Showcase #34
I’m not sure why someone would want to do a homage to the Atom’s first appearance, but what do I know? It still looks nice.
The guy on top is Fire Ant, part of the Colony. They’re a trio of wrestling ants (the others being Soldier Ant and Worker Ant) that come out to Dave Matthew’s Band’s Ants Marching.
In the bottle is “Sweet and Sour” Larry Sweeney. All you need to know about Sweeney is that if it was possible for science to create a man made entirely out of charisma, it would be this guy.
Return Of The Son Of The International Invasion Of International Invaders Night 2
Based on: Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85
Los Ice Creams and Hydra reenacting the “My ward is a junkie!” cover, with the inclusion of Charles Atlas comic ads on the table. There’s too much awesome for me to comment on. Goodness…
Based on: Justice League #1
Eddie Kingston advances to Guy Gardner counterpart. Good for him.
Great cover, even if it doesn’t exactly match up. The main event of the night is an eight-on-eight tag match of sorts, including the guys on the cover as one of the teams, which explains the difference.
Rare cover appearance by Mike Quackenbush (the guy with the M on his shirt), the guy who created CHIKARA in the first place. Unlike many others in these situations, Quackenbush is nice enough to hold himself back from the marquee and helps push up the other talent. Still, he remains a major player anyway, due to his popularity and his great ability.
Based on: Amazing Spider-Man #50
This cover is a bit problematic. We have the Kings of Wrestling, Chris Hero (with his Superman homage shirt) and Claudio Castagnoli, on the cover, accompanied by the blurb, “Campeones no more!” The main event of the DVD is Hero and Claudio – longtime tag champs – defending against Team FIST.
Not only does the cover illustrate their loss and break-up, but one of the discs has an image of Team FIST carrying the belts. CHIKARA is hell bent on spoiling their matches for us.
Talent Borrows; Genius Steals
Based on: Fantastic Four #1
Nice. We have Cheech, Cloudy, Hallowicked and Delirious taking on a giant Ultramantis Black, sadly without the word bubbles. Ultramantis is probably the most enjoyable and entertaining personality in CHIKARA. As leader of the Order of the Neo-Solar Temple, Ultramantis is a less-than-competent cultist supervillain of sorts with a hammy voice that sounds like something you’d hear from an evil henchman in a bad 80’s cartoon. When he isn’t barking orders at the Hydra or getting his ass handed to him in the ring, Ultramantis moonlights as one hell of a commentator.
Just between you and me, Ultramantis Black isn’t actually several stories tall. This DVD cover is a lie.
King of Trios Night 1
Based on: Watchmen #1
This is just museum worthy. Look at that.
The first in a three-night event called King of Trios, where sixteen teams of three compete in a tournament over the course of the three nights. One of the teams included Los Ice Creams and the short-lived debut of their third member, a Very Mysterious Ice Cream, who happened to have the same size and build as a guy who left the company several months earlier. Hm…
King of Trios Night 2
Based on: Amazing Spider-Man #129
Lince Dorado makes his CHIKARA debut and is immediately granted Spider-Man status on this cover. I love how Hallowicked’s torn up shirt resembles a skull insignia. The Super-Soaker’s just there for flavor.
King of Trios Night 3 didn’t look to be based on any comic cover, but it was another example of CHIKARA telling us who wins certain matches before we have a chance to watch them. Come on, guys.
Time Will Prove Everything
Based on: Spider-Man #1
More of Lance Dorado as Spider-Man, this time sitting on a web made of CHIKARA logos. The bottom-left probably could have been done better, but that’s just nitpicking.
Rey De Voladores
Based on: Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1
Hey, this is that show I went to!
Honestly, I only recognize Nick Fury and Dum Dum on the original cover. Rey De Voladores is an eight-man tournament between some of the lightweights, in the style of two four-man matches and a one-on-one finals match. These are five of the entries. I dig the inclusion of their logos, such as the jigsaw piece drawn over the eyepatch skull.
The guy taking Nick Fury’s spot on the cover is Jigsaw. I’ve always thought he sort of resembles Deadpool.
He used to wear a reverse of the color scheme, looking more like Weapon X Deadpool.
Maybe it’s just me.
CHIKARA Yearbook 2007
Based on: Kingdom Come
Finally, we have a cover from something that isn’t a DVD, but a book instead. Not so much going for exactness, it’s more of just a style homage. Also not going for height accuracy, I see. No way is Gran Akuma (menacing bald guy extraordinaire) as tall as Chris Hero and Claudio. Akuma must have stared at Marco de Alfonso with his intense, creepy, knowing grin until he caved in and drew him that tall. Then he broke Marco’s nose, because he’s a jerk.
This front cover is made up of the company’s heels. The back cover is a grouping of CHIKARA’s faces.
That’s the end of the line for these. What we still need is Delirious doing the Crazy Hal Jordan Emerald Twilight deal. That or “Chris Hero Pins the CHIKARA Universe”.
And that’s it for this article. Special thanks to Cromulent for an awful lot of the images. If any of you are interested in CHIKARA, you can order their DVDs at Smart Mark Video. Personally, I suggest the King of Trios tournament.
I’ll be back to making fun of bad wrestling comics later. But before I go…
(and thanks to Dr. Destructo for that gif)