Professional wrestling has often been described as a comic book come to life.
Professional wrestlers showcase the same energy and exuberance that our favorite super heroes exhibit on the pages of our favorite comic books.
Despite the obvious parallels between professional wrestling and traditional comic books, the wrestling industry has yet to make a successful and sustainable endeavor into the world of comics.
For whatever reason, a comic about professional wrestling simply hasn’t stuck.
Michael Kingston, a lifelong wrestling fan, is looking to change that.
Kingston is the creator of Headlocked, a comic book about a young man chasing his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. (Visit Headlocked's website HERE)
With Headlocked, the Syracuse, N.Y. native is chasing his dream of releasing a comic about wrestling to the masses, and believes he has crafted a story that will change people’s perception about comics based around the world of arm drags and leg drops.
“There’s a long history of awful wrestling comics, which is really why I wanted to write Headlocked,” Kingston said during an interview with philly.com. “If you’re a comic book publisher and you don’t know anything about wrestling, you just know that people don’t buy wrestling comics.”
“But the reason why people don’t buy wrestling comics is because they’ve been awful, hacked-out licensed books,” he added.
Headlocked does not have a major license behind it, but does have the fingerprints of wrestling stars all over it.
In very short time, Kingston has managed to gain the approval of members of the wrestling industry and enlist their help. Major names such as Jerry “The King” Lawler and Booker T have personally done art work for the books while others like Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, two comic book men in their own right, have personally written stories for the series.
“All of the guys in wrestling that like comics and art are very appreciative of what I’m trying to do and they’ve all been super helpful,” Kingston said.
“As a wrestling fan, it’s a dream come true,” he said about working with Lawler. “I grew up watching Memphis wrestling and trading for tapes. I was a big fan of Shane Helms as a wrestler and a lot of these guys I was a fan of growing up.”
“They always tell you, ‘Don’t meet your heroes because they’ll let you down,’ but all of the guys that I’ve met have been amazing,” he added. “People have a lot of harsh things to say about the wrestling business, but all of these guys have been so supportive and generous in a way that they totally don’t have to be.”
Despite receiving widespread approval and support from the wrestlers and its personalities, Kingston still hasn’t received the support of a very major resource — the comic book industry.
“Our big issue is being independent,” he said. “We’re not supported by a wrestling promotion, we’re not supported by a major comic book publisher, so awareness is our thing and those guys have really helped get the word out.”
Kingston is not back by a major publisher, thus making Headlocked an independent endeavor. A major publisher can help in a myriad of ways, including financially and with its publicity.
Without a major financial backer, Kingston has been forced to start a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds for the book.
Kickstarter helped get the first volume of Headlocked off the ground and Kingston is hoping to have the same success with volume two.
The goal for the second book is $20,000 and it needs every penny in order for the project to move forward. The Kickstarter ends Tuesday, Nov. 4.
As of this writing, the campaign has raised more than $18,000 with seven days to go. Kingston is confident that the goal will be met before the deadline, as lot of funding tends to be given right before the cut off. (To donate to Headlocked's Kickstarter, click HERE)
Although Kingston has received a lot of financial support from Kickstarter, being an independent still has its share of frustrations.
“It’s nerve-racking,” Kingston said. “It’s a passion project. I don’t make any money off of Headlocked and honestly I don’t care if I do. I love doing what I do.”
Kingston is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. with a degree in biochemistry. He has a normal job to make ends meet, but dedicates almost entire weekends traveling to various conventions and shows spreading the word about Headlocked.
“It’s frustrating when you have a product that you believe in and other people believe in, but you don’t have the right logo on the upper left hand corner of your book or you don’t have the right three-letter wrestling promotion attached and people don’t necessarily get to find out about it,” he said.
Being independent, however, allows Kingston to maintain the creative vision of the comic without any obstruction from outside forces. Despite all of the peaks and valleys of not having a major financial backer and publisher, that perk alone gives Kingston a great deal of satisfaction.
“You have to really love wrestling, and I do, to sort of capture what you want to capture and I’ve been very fortunate,” Kingston said. “You’re walking a lot of lines and trying to serve a lot of masters, but thankfully we’ve pulled it off pretty well so far.”
Kingston has had conversations with publishers about putting Headlocked on a major platform. Some of his talks have been productive. Others have not.
“I’ve been told a million things like, ‘Wrestling fans don’t read’ and ‘Wrestling comics don’t sell’ and ‘No one will buy this book,’” Kingston said. “This is our second Kickstarter. Our first one was very successful and this one is shaping up to successful as well. I really think that we’ve kind of proven them wrong, especially considering we get very minor coverage from the comic book media.”
“Comics is a super hero-dominated business, so that is difficult on some level,” he added. “It’s not a genre book. It’s a reality-based book, so when you’re doing something out of the box I think people are always reluctant to take risks.”
The next seven days will some of the most important in Kingston’s life. All of the hard work he’s putting in putting pen to paper will come down to dollars and cents, and whether the rocky marriage between wrestling comic books will see another chapter.
“It’s a vindication of everything that I’ve done, that there is a market for this book and that this is something that wrestling fans enjoy,” Kingston said.