Mike Kingston combines wrestling with comics in ‘Headlocked’

 

Miami Herald Writer

Mike Kingston found a way to combine his love of pro wrestling and comics by creating “Headlocked.”

The comic series follows Mike Hartmann, a college theater major, through his journey into the business.

“He quits school and moves to Philadelphia to chase his dream,” said Kingston, who sold many “Headlocked” books at the Florida Supercon earlier this summer in Miami.

“As he learns the business, we learn the business through him. So on one hand, it’s an examination of the craft of wrestling through the eyes of a performance artist, but on the other hand, it’s a young man trying to navigate the underbelly of the wrestling business trying to get to the big lights and the big stage. I feel like if AMC or FX did a wrestling show, it would be very much like ‘Headlocked.’

For Kingston, the motivation to create “Headlocked” came out of frustration regarding the quality of wrestling comics on the market.

“I would always be excited when I saw a new book on the shelves and I would invariably be disappointed,” Kingston said.

“When I decided I was going to write comics, I decided that I was going to write a wrestling comic book that I, as a wrestling fan, would want to read.”

Since 2007 the project came together with four issues collected in a single edition called “Headlocked: A Single Step.” The book was painted by Jerry “The King” Lawler with an introduction written by TNA Impact Wrestling’s Christopher Daniels. Kingston’s received the stamp of approval from the superstars in WWE and TNA, some of which have come on board to work on issues.

“We’ve been lucky enough to impress some folks with our work,” Kingston said.“They all realize the challenges of trying to promote an original, non-licensed property without the backing of a major promotion or comic book publisher. Many of them have been more than willing to help out, artistically, in order to raise our profile.

“Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler is contributing his third cover to the series. We also have Shane ‘Hurricane’ Helms, Christopher Daniels and Rob Van Dam writing short comic stories, while Ken Anderson, Sinn Bodhi, Beth Phoenix and Scott Lost are contributing art to the series.”

For Kingston, it wasn’t difficult getting the likes of Lawler on board. After all the Memphis Wrestling legend had a dream of becoming a comic book cover artist before he made it in the ring.

“He's a huge fan of comics and art,” Kingston said.

“It was really the perfect storm. The cover to ‘Headlocked: The Tryout #1’ was his first ever published comic book work. That piece has been showcased at the WrestleMania Art Shows and is also featured at the new Jerry Lawler museum in Tunica, Mississippi.”

He believes the thing that separates the project from other wrestling comics is the passion the creators have for the industry and comics.

“You can tell in a lot of previous licensed wrestling comics that the creators were just assigned the book by a publisher that wanted to cash in when wrestling was hot,” Kingston said.

“Wrestling is a very polarizing thing and I think when wrestling products are created by people that don't have a real passion for it, you can feel that when you're experiencing it. Everyone working on the book is a huge wrestling fan.

“The artist, Michel Mulipola, is actually a wrestler from New Zealand that runs a comic book store. All the wrestlers that are contributing are passionate about wrestling, comics and art. I think people know RVD, Helms and Daniels as huge comic book fans. Sinn actually self published his own comic before he broke in. We're not trying to put over anyone or sell any action figures…We're just trying to tell an entertaining story about wrestling and the passion it inspires.”

Kingston decided to start a Kickstarter fundraising campaign for “Headlocked: the Last Territory” in July. He received a tremendous response and is currently at almost $21,000 and counting. With the book funded, he is looking to take the project to another level by reaching his $23,000 goal by September 13.

“With so many awful wrestling comics over the years, publishers are understandably wary about them,” Kingston said.

“We know the difference between ‘Headlocked’ and licensed wrestling comics, but they don't. So we decided to take it to the people with Kickstarter. We need people to show publishers that there is a market for good wrestling products and that wrestling fans deserve better than what they've been given. So at this point, it’s not about funding…it’s about making a statement. Every single dollar matters.

“To show our appreciation to the fans that are supporting us through Kickstarter, we've created an amazing special edition of the book that you can only get by backing our campaign. All of the content that's generated by wrestlers is Kickstarter Exclusive. The cover by Lawler, the short stories, the pinups…it-s all being created exclusively for the people who back our campaign. You won't be able to get this book in stores, at [comic conventions] or online. So on top of having all of those awesome features, it’s going to be super collectible as well.”

Kingston has high hopes for “Headlocked” beyond the pages of a book.

“A lot of people say they'd like to see this as a TV show or a cartoon, but if you want that to happen, you have to support it here. That's how the industry works these days,” Kingston said.

“…Since our book is funded, our new stretch goal is to fund an animated demo that we can use to pitch the series to a couple of networks. Ken Anderson and Juggalo Championship Wrestling’s Kevin Gill are going to voice it. While I'm happy that the book is funded, I really, really want to hit this stretch goal because hopefully it means expanding into other forms of media.

“…We've worked really hard to make a product that we think wrestlers, wrestling fans, and comic book fans will really appreciate and enjoy. We'd like to prove everyone wrong that said that wrestling comics can't be done successfully, but we can't do it without your help!”

For information on the “Headlocked” Kickstarter campaign or to help fund the project, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/180977151/headlocked-the-last-territory.

Visit www.headlockedcomic.com or follow on Twitter @HeadlockedComic.

Kingston has already been announced to return to Florida Supercon July 3-6 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Visit www.floridasupercon.com for details.

• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, http://twitter.com/#!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.

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