After bodyslamming fans with WWE. Then. Now. Forever one shot, BOOM! Studios has brought the world of WWE back to comics. Today the company released its full-length, debut issue -- and if you're curious about how the two will come together, you've come to the right place.
ComicBook.com had the chance to talk to the WWE #1 writer Dennis Hopeless about the new issue and how he's blended the surreal kayfabe reality of the WWE with a modern day comic narrative.
Hopeless said that being a big fan of professional wrestling is partly what got him the gig and will fuel the project.
"That's how they found me," he said. "Actually, one of the editors followed me on Twitter and saw that I tweet every time there's Pay-Per-View and was familiar my work so I think that's how I got the job.
"I was a big wrestling fan as a kid. As a little kids back in 80's, I was huge into Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant era. And then when I was in high school the NWO thing happened, and I'm a big WCW fan. More recently last couple of years, Jason Aaron actually yanked me back into WWE fandom ... I'm a big every week, every show, WWE fan now."
While Hopeless has an appreciation for the entertaining nostalgia that old WCW bouts can surely bring, his series very much patterns itself after the current times in wrestling.
That's partly why the first major story arc centers around The SHIELD, one of the most dominant factions in WWE over the last decade. The trio has been apart for some time now, but the popularity doesn't seem to wane.
"Well one of the challenges of the book is that you can't stay current with WWE programming, because they change things on the fly. They're always bringing up new storylines, always moving stuff from the front to the back, and it's every week," Hopeless said. "It takes months to make a comic book; so we were never going to be able to be 100% current. We were going to have to go back and tell stories from in the ... past continuity. And The Shield, it's like you said, it's the storyline that is relevant now. It goes back two-three years at this point, and the characters that were involved in the break ... the three former members of The Shield are ... have had really interesting story arcs since then, both together and separately."
If you're going to focus on the SHIELD, what better member to start with than the man who broke them up, the architect Seth Rollins.
"So it just made sense, as a place, as a jumping-off point to use this moment where Seth betrayed his brothers and broke up The Shield," Hopeless said. "It sends all of those characters on a different path moving forward. And so, it just seems like a reasonable place to jump in, and it allows us to do one large three-arc story about the breaking of The Shield and where the characters move from that, and the Triple Threat match they eventually had, while also having three very different, very individual stories that are the arcs."
While the first arc will focus on Rollins, there will be opportunities for the other SHIELD members, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, to shine.
"The first arc is Seth Rollins and the last couple of years for him and his ride to the championship and then his injury and all that," Hopeless said. "Then we get to tell a Dean story, which ... Dean is a very different character, with very different reactions to things that get in his path, which is historically like separate from Seth and it's a different tone, a different everything, but it's still tied to this one thing. But it made sense as a really well-rounded for a three-arc thing to give people. "
Fans of the WWE and watching Dean Ambrose on television are well aware he's a different kind of cat, and that will definitely be explored in future issues.
Hopeless said that tapping into his nuances will make it a fun read.
"Dean, he had other things going on. From Dean's perspective ... he's the lunatic fringe, he's got butts to kick and other things to deal with, and he drives off a cliff and whatever is in front of him, that's what he's punching," Hopeless said. "We really want to take advantage of that and tell a very different toned story. There's an episode of Pinky and the Brain back in the day told from Pinky's perspective, so you understood the crazy stuff that he was saying, and that's kind of what I wanted ... that's what I pitched with Dean Ambrose.
"To do like, Dean's version of reality, it's just off-kilter enough that we can tell a very different kind of story during the same time period. Like, this is what this dude gets up to when you're not directly looking at him. And so this should be a lot of fun."
Hopeless isn't sure the infamous Hot Dog Cart will make an appearance, but he did say it's definitely within the realm of possibility.
As for Rollins, Hopeless absolutely loves writing the at times overconfident character.
"I love writing Seth Rollins' promo. That character, that guy, is so self-obsessed, and so myopic, but also so intense, he ... believes that 100% that he's right all the time, and if the world did revolve around Seth Rollins he would say a lot of stuff in third peson. It's like writing the most interesting supervillain, except in his own mind, he's the hero of the story," Hopeless said. "So I really, really like that, digging into his head and showing the connective tissues between those amazing promos and then the matches, which we've seen, and what is likely just what's hanging out. How does a man that feels like that, that feels that, intentionally that he deserves everything in the world and should be the greatest of all time, what does that guy look like when he's alone? Like, eating French fries and planning his next move. That's the most fun thing, that's it."
The WWE has entered what is often referred to as the Reality Era, where kayfabe and reality are meshed together to create a surreal sort of universe where everyone knows things are being pitched to them but half the time give into it anyway. The WWE series will explore that as well, and won't shy away from showing the reality behind the big lights and superhuman characters that fans see on their television screens every week.
"That's sort of what I do, even in my superhero books," Hopeless said. "There's always punching and fights and bad guys, but I like to make the characters really relatable, I like to dig the person's head and make it so that you understand who they are as a person. WWE television does a really good job of showing you giant, impressive, physical specimens beating the crap out of each other in the ring, us doing ... showing drawings of that for twenty pages every month is not going to add a lot. What we can add is that what you're talking about: the human moments, that character stuff you don't have time to see on a three-hour taping because there's so many matches, there's so many feuds to get to. We can really dig in and show the people as people.
"Now at the same time, Seth Rollins, the man that plays that character, is a different person than the character he plays. So what we get to do is kind of create the fictional character that is Seth Rollins outside the ring, which you see a little bit of it. You see him backstage and see some of it, but it's fun to find the gray area between, Seth in that 24/7 about his injury and coming back with the actual man, and then Seth Rollins as a character. What was the line between that, that makes a relatable character who's also larger than life?"
A perfect example of this is in an encounter between Rollins and Shawn Michaels, a wrestler Rollins idolized as a kid and is partly why he became a wrestler to begin with. These types of moments will be key in showing the person behind the character.
"These are people and they draw from their own lives, at least to build their characters, right? The stuff that works the best is when you get the, "this is a real person." Some of the stuff they say is maybe exaggerated, but they're real feelings. So we can take that and build a more relatable 3D character out of them, and all the better. That's what the book is meant to be. Once Seth gets hurt, we have a lot of that, we have a lot of stuff you didn't see. When a superstar gets injured, for the most part, you don't see them, unless they won a Slammy, they're gone for a while. So we got to really dig in on that issue and show what this guy's up to, what is his mental state, what's it like to think you deserve to be on top and you're not even on TV. So what's that feel like? Yeah, there's a lot more of that coming."
Since behind the scenes, interactions will be frequent in the series, expect to see other superstars roaming about from time to time, including some fan favorites, including a personal favorite of Hopeless.
"Yeah, I love all of them. I get to do a little New Day thing in issue #3 that's super fun, and we're going to be putting at least a couple of the women wrestlers in some of Dean arc, I think," he said. "I'm a huge fan of all that stuff, the Four Horsewomen, and Bayley is my favorite wrestler, so I'm super excited ... super into doing more of that. So we'll see, going forward ... it's all plotted. What happens to The Shield members is all plotted out, but the ins and outs of that, I'll have some room to play and there's always time for cool guest stars and things."
The Miz makes a brief appearance in issue #1, and you can certainly expect more of the talented heel throughout the series.
"Well The Miz ... I'm a huge Miz fan, I'm an unapologetic Miz fan," Hopeless said. "He's an underappreciated gem. Yeah, any chance I have to put The Miz in there is offered to any of those guys. I'm a fan, so I'm going to throw him in there. And same with the artists, the artists are ... want to do the same, so you'll see lots of cameos and hopefully more in-depth guest stars come forth."
If this has you curious, you can head over to your local comic shop and grab WWE #1, which is in stores today.