Tuesday, November 15, 2011

13 Questions with Headlocked creator, Mike Kingston!

Wrestling fans and comic book fans both get the same kind of stigma from the world at large.  And for those who are fans of both, the meshing of the two worlds has not been easy.  There have been wrestling comic books before, but they were frankly, usually pretty bad.  That all changed with the debut of Headlocked, from creator Mike Kingston.  We had a chance to talk with Kingston about his passions involving both pro wrestling and comics, and how they came together in his mind to create Headlocked!  Enjoy!

1. What are your first memories of pro wrestling and how long have you been a fan?

I hate to date myself here, but I've been a fan for roughly 29 years. The first wrestling match I ever saw was a Saturday Night's Main Event that I had stumbled on while flipping channels. The match that hooked me was a 6-man tag with Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, Mike Rotundo vs. Iron Shiek, Nikolai Volkoff, and George "The Animal" Steele. At 8 years old, I thought George Steele was just about the craziest thing I had ever seen. He was creating all of this chaos and did his turnbuckle eating thing....I couldn't stop watching. And I've been following wrestling in some form or another, ever since. 

2. What are your favorite pro wrestling memories and why?

That's a tough question, there are definitely so many. I think my all-time favorite pro wrestling memories all stem around going to live shows with my family. My experience with wrestling as a kid tends to be almost the exact opposite of everyone else's. You always hear these stories about kids growing up watching wrestling with their grandmother's.....well, I actually got my grandmother into wrestling! When I was in high school and the WWF would come around to do a three day swing of TV Tapings for the old Superstars and Wrestling Challenge shows, me and my friends would bag out of school and go to all of them. That was always a lot of fun. 

3. What wrestling do you still actively follow today? Who are some of your favorite wrestlers?

I watch anything and everything. WWE, TNA, ROH, Independents. I've been to a bunch of Wrestlemanias and I've been to even more shows in high school gyms and VFW Halls. You know how you always hear about those tiny indy shows with 25 fans? If its within driving distance, chances are, I'm one of the 25. As for my favorite wrestlers, I definitely appreciate a wide variety of talents. Some of my favorite wrestlers growing up were Shawn Michaels, Tito Santana, Randy Savage, Undertaker, Jamie Noble, Barry Windham, Hurricane Helms, Jerry Lawler, Raven, William Regal, and Terry Funk. Its harder to talk about my favorite wrestlers now because my understanding of the business has changed so much. There are a ton of guys with a lot of talent that I respect but its a matter of them being given the chance to showcase their talents. With that being said Kevin Steen, Christopher Daniels, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, Beer Money, Samoa Joe, and CM Punk are some of guys that I make a point never to miss.

4. When, Where and How was the idea for Headlocked born?

You'd think that with all of the similarities between the two mediums that an entertaining wrestling comic book would be a natural. But for whatever reason, that really hasn't been the case. With the exception of Raven's Spider-Man story and Jamie Hernandezs' Whoa Nellie, wrestling comics have been just awful. So when I decided I wanted to write comic books, my first thought was to write a wrestling comic book that I would want to read. So I wrote a wrestling comic book about wrestling....not about wrestlers fighting demons, solving crimes, or beating up Santa Claus. 

5. Describe the process of getting from the idea stage to actually having a comic book published? What was the biggest challenge in the process? What surprised you in terms of how smooth something went versus how you expected it to be?

When it comes to breaking in, I don't think the process is the same for any two people. One thing I can tell you about this process is that its been anything but smooth. I think any time you're an independent, just about everything is a struggle. I've really had to fight for everything I've gotten. And to be honest, the comic book industry can be a little backwards at times....kind of like the wrestling business. In a lot of ways I feel like Zack Ryder a few months back...I know there's an audience for the book, its sold out anywhere its been carried, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive but its hard to get the "powers that be" in the comic book industry to look outside of their tiny little bubble.

6. How did the relationship and opportunity with Jerry Lawler come about to provide cover art?

Its the craziest thing....I literally e-mailed him through his website. Simple as that. It was such a long shot that I completely forgot that I did it. A few days later, he e-mailed me back and asked me to send him some books. So I sent him some books in the mail. A few days after that he called me up and told me he liked what I was doing and wanted to be a part of it. It was such a surreal experience. 

7. Through doing Headlocked you’ve been able to meet a fair number of wrestlers and personalities, and have pictures of many of them holding Headlocked up on your Facebook page. Which of the stars you’ve got on there was the biggest thrill for you to get to give Headlocked an endorsement? Have there been any wrestlers that have refused to do the picture for you?

As far as refusing to do the picture, I generally don't have to ask for the pictures. So far everyone has been super supportive of what I'm trying to do, so they've been willing to help me out however they can. There were a couple of super carny old school guys that approached me about taking a picture but wanted money for it....I politely declined. 

Without a doubt the biggest thrills for me were initially meeting Lawler and then meeting Steve Austin. I was huge fans of both growing up. Dennis Miller was also a really cool guy...he was probably the last person that I would've expected would be into a wrestling comic. 

8. Who would be your top three wrestlers that you’ve yet to get a picture of holding Headlocked, but would like to in the future? 
My ultimate picture...which I realize will never happen, which is probably why its my ultimate....would be a picture of Vince McMahon holding Headlocked. Although one time I did a convention that was next door to a big political convention and for the whole weekend I was somewhat obsessed with the idea of getting a picture of Newt Gingrich holding my book. But thats more because of my oddball sense of humor...

9. There are plenty of wrestlers you’ve created for the stories, are any of them based a bit off of wrestlers you grew up watching?
One of my goals with Headlocked is for it to be accessible to anyone. For a lot of people, wrestling still means 80's WWF. So a lot of the gimmicks are created with that flavor initially b/c thats what most people associate with wrestling. Of course, the gimmicks aren't really that integral to the story...its more of the idea of the people behind the characters. 

10. What opportunities that you have received by being the creator of Headlocked do you value most?
The most gratifying thing for me is having people that I have admired creatively...both in wrestling and comics... tell me that they've enjoyed my work. Having a legend like Joe Landsdale tell me that he was impressed with Headlocked damn near blew my mind. 

But there have been some pretty cool perks as well. I've been backstage at a lot of different wrestling shows, I was referenced on a segment on a TNA PPV, I've been to Hollywood parties, and I've met a ton of wrestlers that I grew up idolizing. All in all, not too shabby, for some guy with an independent comic book! 

11. I know that Headlocked was, at least for a time, also available via electronic means. Can you talk a bit about how that came to be, and whether you prefer people to view your work electronically, or in the hard copy version?

One of the real challenges we've had as an independent comic book is getting wider distribution in comic books stores...I think that challenge holds true for any independent artist or creator. When our first issues came through comic book stores I got a ton of emails from fans who had a lot of difficulty in getting the books from their local shops. So once digital comics started taking off, I thought it would be a good fit for my book to be involved with that. Also it gives wrestling fans who might be interested in our story but aren't traditional comic book fans a way to check it out. So its been a definite win for us! 

As for what delivery system I prefer? Quite honestly, I'm just happy that people are checking it out....as long as they're checking out legally! Folks can download the books digitally at www.drivethrucomics.com...issues are only a buck! You can beat that! We also have a preview issue that folks can check out for free. 

12. What is next for Headlocked?
I've been working on new stories and we have a new art team moving forward. We're delighted to have JC Grande on art and Chuck Sellner on colors. Our first story together was just released in our Comic Con exclusive Headlocked Chronicles book. So Mike Hartmann's journey will definitely continue! I've been in negotiations with a few publishers who are interested in what we've got going on and will hopefully get us some wider distribution in the direct market. Unfortunately nothing moves quickly in the comic book industry so technically I'm kind of on radio silence until I get that stuff sorted out. In the meantime, I'm just trying to grow our readership so when our next books do hit the stands, we can blow people away! 

13. Plug time, if someone reading this interview wants to check out more about Headlocked and pick up the issues that you’ve got available, how should they go about doing that?

First and foremost, if you want to see what we're all about, you can check out our website at www.headlockedcomic.com. You can order the books both in print or digitally at our online store. We also have news, bios, artwork, pictures, etc. You can also follow us on Twitter @headlockedcomic or hit up our facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/headlockedcomic.

Two Spot Monkeys would like to thank Mike for chatting with us about his work!  Go check out Headlocked!  You won't be sorry!

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