WrestleMania week is busy for the entire wrestling industry, not just for those that work for WWE.
Wrestlers from promotions big and small will journey to Orlando, Fla. in the coming days hoping to capitalize on the drawing power of the annual extravaganza.
Michael Kingston will be one of those people hoping to cash in on the fervor that surrounds the event, as he will trade the chilly conditions of Syracuse, N.Y in exchange for the luminous, balmy conditions of the City Beautiful.
However, Kingston is not a member of the wrestling industry in the way of taking bumps inside the ring. Instead, he is the author of a comic book about the professional wrestling business titled Headlocked, which is about an up-and-coming wrestler named Mike Hartmann and his trials and tribulations of making it big in the wrestling business.
Kingston’s stories have garnered attention from comic book and wrestling fans alike. It has also helped him gain some new friends in the form of the wrestlers he has watched during his time as die-hard fan.
Contemporary wrestlers such as Samoa Joe, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, and legends such as Booker T, Jerry “The King” Lawler and even the “Nature Boy” himself, Ric Flair, have all collaborated with Kingston to lend their expertise and creativity to the series. Kingston has essentially become one of “the boys.”
“You hear all of those stories about the wrestling business being so shady or whatever, but I’ve never experienced any of that,” Kingston said during an interview with philly.com. “Everybody in the business has been great to me, from the promoters right on down.”
According to Kingston, wrestlers recognize his hustle and they respect it. Just like most wrestlers, Kingston is on the road at comic book conventions every weekend promoting his work. He does this while working 70 hours a week managing a warehouse overnight.
Despite the positive feedback Kingston has received from the wrestling industry, specifically from names like Flair and Lawler, he still feels that he has been largely ignored by the comic book industry.
Kingston does not have a major comic book publisher backing him, which means he has to do all of the legwork to spread the word of Headlocked virtually on his own.
When Kingston approached major publishers about potentially adding a comic book based on pro wrestling to their respective lineups, he was routinely denied and said that some literally laughed in his face.
Even the comic book store in his hometown turned down an offer to sell his books, fearing that no one would be interested in a book about professional wrestling.
None of that deterred Kingston, though, as he remained steadfast in his pursuit of making Headlocked a book to be reckoned with.
So far, being independent has worked out for Kingston. Kingston is currently running a Kickstarter for the latest edition of Headlocked titled The Hard Way. The contributors for this book include, Flair, Foley, Lawler, Omega and Cody Rhodes.
Kingston hopes to raise $20,000 for this specific campaign. As of this writing, people have pledged nearly $17,000 with more than a month to go.
He recently partnered up with Wrestle Crate, which purchased 2,000 copies of his book to include in one of its monthly subscription crates.
“Wrestle Crate was a really good way for us to get out in front of a lot of people,” he said. “Maybe people who wouldn’t have tried us, but then we eventually won them over.”
Because of that success, Kingston no longer feels he needs the backing of a major publisher.
“It’s such a weird business,” Kingston said about the comic book industry.
“It’s fine,” he added. “I thought I needed those guys and I didn’t. In a way, I think that forced me to build a stronger product. It forced me to build a more sustainable product.”
Not having a major publisher used to be a source of frustration for Kingston. Now, it has turned into a source of pride. It has become gratifying for Kingston to know that he has built a budding comic book franchise solely on the hard work of himself and the people he has collaborated with over the years.
The only negative is that the constant travel has hampered his ability to pump out more content. Other than that, he is more than pleased with how Headlocked has progressed.
“At this point, why am I going to give somebody a chunk of my rights and whatever just for them to slap a name on the top of the cover,” Kingston asked. “I’m already doing all of the work. That’s not going to change.”
“If there’s a situation where someone could really help advance me, you know if somebody has got some licensing connections to television or whatever, I would consider it, but I think for the most part, at this point, I’m pretty happy with where we’re at and where we’re going,” he added.
Where Kingston is going next is Orlando, where he will rub shoulders with wrestlers from all across the industry. In only a few years, Kingston has gone from a fan to a published author that wrestlers are reaching out to in an effort to provide content for his next book.
And according to Kingston, the lineup for the next edition is going to be stellar.