Interview: Michael Kingston Discusses Wrestling, Comics and Bridging That Gap

Posted May 11, 2017 by Jess Camacho in Comic Books

Professional wrestling and comic books seem to go hand in hand. Each feature big, exaggerated heroes and villains. Each feature long, dramatic storylines and the fandom itself overlaps in a big way. It seems kind of absurd that there aren’t more comic books tackling pro wrestling but thanks to a few, dedicated creators, that’s changing. One of the longest running wrestling focused comic books is “Headlocked.” We had the chance to chat with the writer of the series, Michael Kingston, about his latest campaign and what goes into wrangling together the kind of talent this latest project featured.

We The Nerdy: Let’s talk about your recent Kickstarter. You just wrapped it up with great success. What has your personal experience been like with running these campaigns? Have you seen more success as you’ve taken your story further?

Michael Kingston: This is our fourth Kickstarter and its been the biggest one yet, so I think we’re definitely trending in the right direction. Kickstarter is both the best and the worst thing I’ve ever done. Best, in that these books wouldn’t exist without it…it’s essentially become our distribution mechanism. Worst, in that its the most stressful sixty days you can imagine. I did five shows in the last six weeks of this last campaign while working a full-time job…so I was pretty fried by the end. But at the end of the day, this allows us to bring this book to the public in a way that the direct market never could.

WTN: The latest campaign featured some huge stars including Kenny Omega, who’s having one of the biggest years in his career. How do these talents come to the book? As a big wrestling fan myself, I had no idea some of the featured writers had an interest in comics. 

MK: Everyone is different. The guys who love comics usually find me. That’s initially how the idea got started…the wrestlers who were attending comic cons as fans would buy my book. Later on, when Kickstarter became a thing, we figured out that having some stories and art by the wrestlers themselves would help put eyeballs on what we were doing. The wrestlers that have art skills usually find me since I’m kind of the only game in town for that sort of thing. Some guys, like The Young Bucks, we impressed with our hustle. They were on the road every weekend and kept seeing me at all the same shows. Others like our convention presence and we partner that way. But everyone has been amazing…I feel like the wrestling business has been like my guardian angel in a lot of ways.

WTN: I know you’ve tabled at wrestling shows so what I’d like to know is if this has helped get readers that normally ignore comic books. Wrestling and comics seem to have a lot in common so is the experience different from tabling at a convention?

MK: It’s not too much of a different experience really except I get to watch wrestling while I sling my funnybooks. But its definitely helped us build an audience outside of the traditional comic book buying audience. The one thing that I’m most proud of is that we’re a ton of people’s first comic book. A lot of people when they buy a comic, its for some superhero that has ubiquitous brand recognition. For us, people are actually buying our book. It’s pretty cool.

WTN: How did Headlocked initially come to life? What were some of your personal influences as you created this series?

MK: I’ve been a wrestling fan and a comic fan since the mid-eighties. It always stuck me that they never really made any good wrestling comics…they were always silly or featured supernatural elements. It became apparent to me that no one would ever make the books I wanted to read, so I made them myself. The comics industry wasn’t very accommodating…doing a non-superhero, non-WWE wrestling comic was judged as too much of a risk by publishers…so we built our own audience by going to wrestling shows and once Kickstarter became a viable entity to distribute comics, the rest is history.

WTN: Lastly, what’s the future hold for Headlocked? What is next after this Kickstarter?

MK: Now that its funded, we actually have to produce The Hard Way. Wrangling a dozen artists & wrestlers while writing, promoting, and working is pretty much all of my waking hours. In the meantime, we’ll just trying to keep this train going. Wrestling is such an amazing art form and has such a unique culture, I feel like we could explore this for a while. I’ll be criss-crossing the country going to comic cons and wrestling shows trying to bring the books to a bigger audience. I hope you’ll give us a look!

The Kickstarter has ended but you can still buy some of the past books here.

About the Author

Jess Camacho

Jess Camacho is a comic critic who writes for We The Nerdy, Multiversity Comics and Geeked Out Nation. She also hosts Creator Owned Stories. She loves comics, pizza, wrestling and The X-Files. Not necessarily in that order. Follow her on Twitter @CamachoJess.