Headlocked: A Fake Truth About Fakeness

January 23rd, 2008 by | Tags: , ,

It’s a good time to be Gavok because in just a couple days, I’ll be going to the WWE Royal Rumble in Madison Square Garden. The event has always been my own little “Wrestling Christmas” and I look forward to it every year. I felt that I needed to prepare in my own little way.

Like I recently acquired the DVD set of all 20 Royal Rumble shows in a big, white cube. Considering I also have a collection of the first 20 Wrestlemanias sitting around, gathering dust, I figured I would watch them all in chronological order. Right now I’m in the middle of Wrestlemania 9 (taking place in 1993). I figure by the time I’m completely caught up, it’ll be time for this year’s Wrestlemania.

That at least explains why I’ve been kind of lax here lately, though it’s hardly noticeable with the good job hermanos and Hoatzin have been doing. I knew I needed to do another Wrestlecomic article. I could cover the Chaos Comics WWF stuff from the late-90’s, but I think I’ll wait until I reach those years in my Royal Rumble/Wrestlemania watching to dive into that. I found a guy selling a manga from what appears to be the same people behind the Hulk Hogan manga, making a big deal about a huge battle royal featuring a bunch of big 80’s wrestlers.

I got the idea that this was some big all-star crossover fight that would last for an entire comic, so even if I couldn’t read any of it, I could at least follow what was going on. When I got my book, I discovered that this battle royal was extremely brief. I tried pretending I could follow what was going on in the manga, but it wasn’t working. I know when I’m beat. At least the Engrish cover refers to the story as “Super Real Fiction!” which, now that I think about it, is a strangely accurate description of professional wrestling.

So the manga thing was a bust. Now what? I decided that if fishing in the past wasn’t going to work, I’d see what’s going on in the present. I picked up a comic called Headlocked: Work of Art, written by Michael Kingston and drawn by Randy Valiente.

If you look at the WWF comic, the WCW comic, the Hulk Hogan manga and any appearance of a superhero or villain who moonlights as a professional wrestler (Spider-Man, Grizzly, Armadillo, Thing, etc), it’s always the same: the story depicts wrestling as completely real. Everyone exists within the 4th wall of wrestling’s kayfabe. I mean, in real life you don’t have someone like the Ultimate Warrior running around like a lunatic, taking himself seriously, answering only to “Warrior” and foaming at the mouth about who knows what… Wait. That was a bad example. But you know what I mean. It’s not like the comics have any scenes where Sting whispers into Rick Rude’s ear that he’s going to duck the next clothesline and follow through with a dropkick.

I’m going to let you in on a secret for a lot of us wrestling fans who have endured the medium for so long: we’re almost as interested in the real stuff as we are the entertainment. A lot of the backstage or unscripted stuff is more interesting than the actual product. Look up the Montreal Incident or Clique Curtain Call, for instance. Read stories about Psycho Sid’s outside-the-ring misadventures. See the tragic stories of wrestlers who never made it all the way to the top because of personal demons or real-life rivalries. Hell, look at the entirety of WCW’s fall from grace. A lot of it is intriguing stuff. That’s why there are so many documentaries about the subject and why the wrestler autobiographies sell so damn well.

The main character of our story is Mike Hartmann, an artistic renaissance man, who loves the concepts of self-expression and theater. He’s a great painter, great actor and a great writer. His cousin obligates him to join him to a live WFW show (World… something starting with F… Wrestling, I guess. Frisbee?). Mike reluctantly goes and tries to power through the show with feelings that he’d rather be grooming his nostrils than watching this fake crap.

Screw you, dude. I’m a Bingomaniac.

As the night goes on, his opinion changes. He gets into the Black Death (seemingly based on the Undertaker) making his dark, theatrical entrance. Then there’s the excitement of the high-flier matches and the human chess game of two technical wrestlers applying and reversing countless holds. It all comes to a head at the main event, where Brian “Golden” Boulder defends his title against Mohamed “The Madman” Farouk. Farouk comes across as a mixture between the Iron Shiek and Abdullah the Butcher, but more to the point, Boulder is your usual Hulk Hogan/John Cena archetype. If you’ve ever seen a Hogan/Cena vs. evil monster guy match, you can figure how this one turns out.

Mike becomes completely enthralled by what he considers to be an unappreciated form of art. His obsession leads him to the decision to become a wrestler. Smartly, he dedicates about a year to bulking up and getting into good shape, since he learns that in the business, a lot of success comes from size rather than skill. To illustrate this, we get a page that criticizes a thinly-veiled knockoff of Batista, though due to the guy’s name and description, I’m sure it’s a knock on Lex Luger as well.

Due to his decision, he comes across just about every single closed-minded blanket insult you can expect from people who look down on wrestling.

“What kind of person gives up Shakespeare to be in some redneck soap opera?”

“Hartmann, you know it’s fake right? How can you even get into that shit?”

“That’ll be the day you catch me watching a bunch of oiled up hairless guys rollin around in their underwear.”

All that’s missing is some bonehead quoting that, “It’s still real to me!” douche.

With Mike Hartmann’s career path, I’m split here as a comic fan and as a wrestling fan. The comic in me fan roots for Mike and wants to succeed, since he is our main character. As a wrestling fan, I feel like smacking the guy in the face. He throws away his promising future and relationships with just about everyone he holds dear (excluding his cousin, which is strangely never touched on) for a future in a business he really knows nothing about. His sacrifices aren’t all too tragic when you realize that this guy did it to himself.

At one point, to get advice, he stalks wrestler Killer Creegan after a show. Creegan is a bald dude with a bandage over his forehead, who wears an overcoat, threatens Mike with a knife at one point and really just acts like a likeable piece of scum. I keep thinking that Mike is just hanging out with Bullseye here.

Long story short, Creegan gets Mike on the right track and we’re set up for the beginning of the actual Headlocked series, which will begin… um… some time.

The story side of things is pretty great. Kingston does a great job painting the picture of what makes the wrestling business tick, from his descriptions of how wrestlers cut open their own foreheads in order to drive the story to the peek at the independent wrestling circuit. Despite that, some of the better scenes in the comic come from Mike’s strained relationship with his mother, who has practically disowned him for his decision. While Mike’s friends and peers give him the, “Ha! Wrestling’s for fags!” treatment, his mother outright refuses to speak with him, which is far more effective.

The art is decent. It has almost a Scott Kolins feel to it, but with without the bug-eyed aspect. Very scratchy, but fits the story well enough. One thing that doesn’t sit too well with me is the way motion is portrayed here. Big scraps of color are tossed here and there to illustrate any major movement, such as Creegan pulling Mike by the collar or someone kicking out of a pin.

Personally, I think it needs to stick out a bit less. Maybe make the pieces narrower.

The comic has some definite editing problems. There are a handful of grammar mishaps here and there, such as getting “its” confused with “it’s”. The most blatant mistake is Mike trying to call his mother and getting the message that, “she can’t comevto the phone right now.” Come on, now.

Another thing that irks me is this piece that explains Madman Farouk and how weathered he appears.

The text and the art disagree with each other here. That’s a fairly close shot of Farouk’s head and it looks rather fine to me.

All in all, it’s not a bad start. It’s definitely a worthy read for the type of fan who laughed their ass off at Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesner and realized the real reason why it was such a bad match. Things should pick up once the main series starts and we get to see more of the WFW roster. This image itself just sells it for me.

I wonder if the Black Death has photographic reflexes.

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7 comments to “Headlocked: A Fake Truth About Fakeness”

  1. Well on the plus side, this year’s Rumble will have no Chris Masters. On the negative: Randy Orton. Plus: Edge and Jericho. Negative: Khali and Mark Henry.

    Kind of a toss-up really…

  2. Phlexy Phelps could be any of a number of wrestlers, really: Luger, Buff Bagwell, Scott Steiner (post roids). Looks like an interesting book.

    Who’s better than Black Death?

  3. Kudos to their talent relations. Looks like they somehow managed to sign both Zangief and Hillbilly Jim.

  4. Screw Zangief, they managed to wrangle Taskmaster from his Initiative duties and made him the baddest dude on the block. I don’t understand who Christopher Coleman is supposed to be though, Matt Hardy?

  5. I’d argue that Coleman is less an individual than an archetype–he’s Dean Malenko and Brian Kendrick and Matt Hardy and TAKA Michinoku and every other guy who Internet fans loved but never got his due from the promoter or the “rednecks” who came to see Stone Cold/Hogan/Cena/whoever.

  6. WFW strikes me as World Famous Wrestling, but isn’t that a real promotion?

  7. I think the thing about the short guy with talent not going far because he isn’t good on the mic and is short was weird. I mean, Bret Hart and Chris Benoit could both fit there, and they both got to the top. Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio got to the top too, and they weren’t the hugest guys.