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Keith Champagne on WWE Heroes

Next week, the first issue of Titan’s WWE Heroes comic series comes out and, being a big wrestling and comics fan, I wanted to get some more info on the series, so I went straight to the most logical source: Keith Champagne, the writer of the book. He provides some background on the series and how it fits into the WWE Universe below the cut.

Layout 1Chad Nevett: For those unaware, what’s the basic premise of WWE Heroes?

Keith Champagne: First off, thanks for your interest and help in promoting these comics, it’s much appreciated.

WWE Heroes is, more than anything, concerned with the eternal rivalry between two brothers: The Firstborn and The King Of Shadows. Since the dawn of time, these two have been fighting for dominance and their conflict has actually helped to shape recorded history. For instance, it’s inferred that the fall of Rome was largely brought about by the machinations of the King Of Shadows.

So there’s a mythology that we’ve created for this series and it actually has a deep connection to the WWE, something that will pull our favorite WWE Superstars and Divas smack dab into a war they could have never imagined.

What makes it different from the weekly WWE TV shows?

I’d say the stakes are much higher than the typical RAW or SMACKDOWN match. We have a lot of wrestling action, don’t get me wrong but here, the matches are an important part of the story, a tool of a sorts in the over-arching story that becomes more increasingly important as we go, something that envelopes the entire roster.

It’s not unlike the build up to a pay-per-view show in terms of structure. We just approach it from a different way.

How are you approaching the characters? How loyal to their on-screen personas are you remaining?

Wrestlers switch allegiances quite a bit so I’m not so concerned with portraying individuals as good or evil, but as real people who have been swept up in a horrible situation. If there’s a long standing relationship, say between Triple H or Shawn Michaels, I try to texture that into the story but I’m really approaching the WWE superstars as the men and women behind the tights, not their public characters.

Are there any specific WWE superstars you’ll be focusing on as the leads?

Primarily the most well-known, main event players: Triple H, Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels probably get the most attention. Vince has a large role. Big Show and John Cena are prominent. And I try to get face time for as many of the mid-card guys as I can but the spotlight is definitely on the biggest names.

Is there a specific time in the WWE’s history that you’re working from continuity-wise?

Nah. WWE continuity changes so much, so quickly that trying to tie it into a specific period would drive me mad. We’re creating our own continuity.

Having said that, I would like to do something that begins in the boom of the 80′s, hits the peak in the 90′s, and concludes today. It’s tricky to pull off because of likeness rights but it’s not impossible.

Layout 1With wrestlers changing from heel to face (or vice versa), obviously some allegiances wouldn’t be possible in the WWE now — do you think that will be problematic for readers? Was that at all problematic for you as a writer? (For example, since the comic appears to have been written and drawn prior to Batista’s heel turn, him working with John
Cena would fly in the face of their current feud.)

This is one of the biggest reasons why we decided to create our own continuity for the comics. Every turn would force continual re-writing and recasting of rolls in the comic and force me to jump off a building. We took the safer, saner path.

Have you consulted with any WWE superstars on their characters in the comic?

No, but I’m told that more than a few of the WWE superstars are excited to see how they’re treated in the comic. So for the record, Big Show? I’m sorry. It was for the story.

The WWE superstars are welcome to contact me if they have ideas for their characters they’d like me to try to implement.

Wrestling is very action-oriented, often quickly paced with fluid movements whereas comics are a more static medium. What can happen in the ring in two or three seconds could take a page to convey. How have you approached the in-ring action in the comic to make it work for the medium?

A good wrestling match tells a story and I’ve tried to approach that the same way in the comic. In some cases, the context of the match is defined by the story. In others, the match becomes the story we’re telling. But every match is designed to peak and valley and unfolds with its own rhythm. The matches have been ridiculously thought out.

Is there a specific audience you’re writing for? Obviously, like any fan community, wrestling fans look for different things. Since the WWE has been targeting kids strongly in the past year, is the comic aimed at children more than, say, smarks who read the dirt sheets and online sites for spoilers, rumours, and backstage gossip? Or are you trying to appeal to as much of the fanbase as possible?

I consider myself a lifelong wrestling fan and I’m writing a wrestling comic that I’d like to read. That’s really my only gauge for any of this. There’s nothing in there that would preclude the younger audience from enjoying it and there’s nothing in it that would alienate the older demographic. But mostly, I asked myself what I’d like to see in a wrestling comic and started from there.

I don’t know how to ask this without seeming too snarky, but you’ve said online that you’re a wrestling fan, so how about we conclude things with a few quick ‘prove your fan cred’ questions? Favourite wrestler of all time? Favourite current wrestler? Favourite match of all time? (If it helps, I’d say my favourite wrestler of all time is Bret Hart, my current favourite is Chris Jericho, and my favourite match is the 1991 Intercontinental Championship match between Bret
Hart and Mr. Perfect.)

My all-time favorite wrestler is Andre The Giant. Kind of an obvious choice but I just always loved Andre when I was young. I make no apologies for it. I was also a big fan of Mil Mascaras and the original Tiger Mask.

Keeping things focused on WWE, as far as in-ring work, I think it’s really hard to top Shawn Michaels. He’s one of the all-time greats. As far as characters, Rick Martel as “The Model” always cracked me up. His blindfold match w/ Jake Roberts is a classic!

Of the current, newer crop of wrestlers I like David Hart Smith, I’m interested in seeing where he and Dibiase Jr go with their careers.

And my all-time favorite match? It’s tough to narrow it to just one, maybe one of the 60 minute Flair/Steamboat classics from the 80′s. Steamboat/Savage from Wrestlemania 3. The Rock and Triple H had a great ladder match at Summerslam 98, which I was backstage for. Does that give me wrestling cred?

***

Thanks to Keith and Titan. WWE Heroes #1 is on sale March 23 and you can view the trailer for the issue here.

20 Comments

Hmm..favorite wrestler…well one I can’t mention, but Foley during the 90′s, Jericho (I played him on a MUD a friend ran, just so I could do a global shout of “RockyMUD is Jericho!” whenever i logged on)…and i appreciated Flair…When I was kid during the Mid South Days it was definitely Jake The Snake (before the dumb WWF “actually carries a snake around” days). I always wanted a DDT: Cruel but Fair t-shirt — I remember marking huge when some giant.who wore a hocky mask..iirc…got up after a DDT…first time that had happened, that I knew, and I just freaked out!

Excellent choice on steamboat vs savage. wrestling cred granted.

maybe i’m wrong, but it seems that when people talk about fave wrestlers of all time, they head back to the eighties. Jake, Steamboat, Andre, Bret, Flair …. no one picks Stone Cold or The Rock.
Is that our age showing, or were the characters just that much stronger back then?
(although I admit Jericho is the worthy contemporary choice)

Keith Champagne sounds like a good name for a heel manager.

adebisi — I think it’s a combination of nostalgia, distance, and differing times. Nostalgia should play a factor in younger wrestling fans and their favourites. I think it’s a matter of a lot of wrestling fans just being a bit older, so their childhood favs aren’t Austin or the Rock… A possibly big factor is how guys like the Rock and Austin were on TV at least once a week and we can remember all of the lame or not-so-great angles and matches whereas the older guys didn’t show up as much… and a lot of the crap just isn’t widely available online or on DVD like more recent wrestlers.

makes a lot of sense Chad.
My way of thinking, now that i’m in my mid thirties, is that i loved the characters of the 80s whereas now i prefer guys who work hard.
guys like JYD, Hillbilly Jim, Jim Neidhart .. loved them all the way I love spiderman … as a fictional character. But in modern day I appreciate guys like Jericho, Jeff Hardy, RVD … because they work their asses off.
My point is that once the WWF/E stopped pretending that it was real, the job of wrestling became more important than the crazy colorful characters. I’m looking at you Adorable Adrian Adonis!

Hey, couldn’t be worse than Countdown Arena — though I suppose it could be exactly the same.

I wonder what their target audience is in theory. Because if it features Triple H more than John Cena, Rey Mysterio or (*sigh*) Hornswoggle, it sure isn’t the audience that is actually buying merchandise at the moment.

At least Keith is motivated and is a wrestling fan…some of the books in the 90′s you could tell the writers couldn’t be bothered with getting the personas to line up….

Really good point about appreciating characters vs. workers as you get older. I’d add that part of the “job of wrestling” is creating and selling characters. Sure Jericho is athletic, sells well, and has a varied move set that he uses in creative ways, but if he didn’t entertain you in promos and with mic work, he wouldn’t consistently rank as a fan favorite. I’d also question Jeff Hardy and RVD as guys who “work their asses off”, but… :-)

Regarding the comic – I hope it works out well. I hope that use some manga techniques to depict the in-ring stuff; I’ve never been overly impressed with the way western comics’ depict sports. The action will be key, given the “focusing on wrestlers as people, not characters” approach.

The Crazed Spruce

March 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I’ve seen some pretty damn horrible wrestling comics over the years, so I wasn’t really planning to check this one out, but I gotta say, after reading this, it actually seems kinda interesting.

(And for the record, my all-time favourite wrestler is either Bret Hart or Chris Jericho (especially towards the end of his WCW run, when he was running around with Ralphus), my current fave is Samoa Joe (just edging out Edge and Jericho), and my favourite match is either the Bret Hart-Shawn Michaels iron man match or the Rob Van Dam-Jerry Lynn match from the first ECW pay-per-view.)

Add me to the Hart/Jericho pile.

s1rude:
“?I’d also question Jeff Hardy and RVD as guys who “work their asses off”, but…

i should have added “work their asses off … in the ring”. Jeff Hardy can hit the bottle for a few months and disappear, i don’t care, as long as when he comes back he still rips it up in the ring.
Now that i’m older, I like technically sound matches. No more Hogan leg drops that take five minutes to materialize
one of the prettiest moves ever in my eyes is Billy Kidman hitting a perfect shooting star press, but when i was a kid, Ricky The Dragon’s diving crossbody would make me poop my pants.

How old is this Keith Champagne? He seems to have been around for awhile. I liked his work at DC comics and I am going to try the wrestling mag. Will let you know.

Favorite wrestler of all time? Ric Flair – He gets it done in and out of the ring, day in, day out.
.
Favorite current wrestler? Randy Orton – The kid gets it like no one else of his generation does. He just exudes ‘heel’ in everything he does, even now with this wrong-headed face push.
.
Favorite match of all time? Geez, that’s really hard. For a long time, the feud-ender between RVD and Jerry Lynn was a favorite. Then the 2003 Royal Rumble match between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit held it, and might still. Regardless of what may have happened with Benoit, that match is a classic. But my favorite is Clash of the Champions VI between Flair and Steamboat. That sucker’s a clinic.

My favorite wrestler is American Dragon Bryan Danielson, Currently on NXT as Daniel Bryan

s1rude:
“I’d also question Jeff Hardy and RVD as guys who “work their asses off”, but…”

As someone said above, you can’t really say anything about their in-ring work. The problem with those two isn’t a wrestling workrate one; it’s that they couldn’t stay out of trouble with the law when their biggest pushes where happening (RVD had to drop both ECW and WWE titles in fiction due to a real life suspension, and Jeff was released and is currently awaiting trials… while appearing on TNA at random. BTW, RVD is also on TNA right now).

Inside the ring, they put their life at risk time and again; you may say they are spot monkeys, but it sure speaks a lot about their quality when they pull them off correctly and work the crowd so well with air maneuvers. Jeff even pulled off some extremely risky spots on his last match on WWE, when he didn’t have anything at stake (in comparison, many wrestlers phone it in on their last matches for a company, one of the most infamous cases being Lesnar vs Goldberg at WMXX).

[...] a copy somewhere of the awful WCW comic! What follows is an interview by Chad Nevett at CBR’s Comics Should be Good Chad Nevett: For those unaware, what’s the basic premise of WWE [...]

Yeah, I’m definitely not looking to seriously knock the charismatic enigma, Mr Monday Night or piss off their many fans. Just being a smart-ass while saying their not my cuppa. I appreciate the risks they take (especially Hardy – dude is insane), that’s just not my favorite kind of match and only constitutes one element of what I consider a great wrestler.

Favorite current wrestler: CM Punk. Go watch any of his promos from the last few weeks (especially the one from last Friday’s Smackdown) to see a heel character at it’s finest. Just beats out perennial fave Jericho.

Favorite wrestler of all-time: Eddie Guerrero. RIP in Papi. Nobody worked harder, sold better or overcame so much.

I don’t really have a favorite match. I usually think in terms of favorite storytelling moments. For example, when Eddie untied his boot to thwart the Ankle Lock in his match against Kurt Angle at WMXX.

totally agree about CM Punk. There’s definitely something special in him and it’s a good example of what I look for in a wrestler. Someone who loves to be in the profession. No phoning it in.
Eddie Geurrero tore my sign out of my hands at a smackdown taping once :)
The fact that he turned out to be an unforgivable nutjob aside, Chris Benoit was probably the most “All In” wrestler I’ve ever seen. Even his poor mic skills added to his persona as the crippler.

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