There is no bigger event for fans and superstars than WWE's Wrestlemania weekend, and the event known as the "Showcase of the Immortals" takes place this Sunday night.
BOOM! Studios' WWE comic series has lifted the curtain on what happens backstage and in the off-camera lives of WWE superstars, and who better to depict that then someone who knows what it's like to be in the industry?
That's where Andy Belanger comes in. He is the writer of the Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn story in BOOM! Studios' WrestleMania 2017 special. The storyline depicts their history before they ever made it into the WWE, and their journeys through ROH, NXT, and ultimately the WWE roster. Belanger brings a unique knowledge to the story, as someone who's also thrown down in the squared circle.
"I've been pro wrestling for about a year now. My first pro match was in July for HeavyMania, a wrestling show that is part of the Evenko promotion, Heavy MTL. It's a giant Montreal metal festival on the Island. I am part of the IWS Fed here in Montreal and train out of the IWS Dojo under Manny J. Doe and Andrew Stott, who I wrote the Kevin Owens comic with."
"Andrew, who is my trainer, has been a pro wrestler since he was a teenager and trained under Sami Zayn," says Belanger. "Kevin and Sami were part of the IWS Fed when they were coming up in wrestling. So, this project was a real hometown labor of love. The two of them had a great match against each other last Friday night in the Bell center. The IWS gang were all in attendance."
Knowing what the superstars go through in the ring, Belanger wanted to depict the journey of someone aspiring to be a pro. "What I really wanted to capture in the story was what it takes for someone down the road to becoming a wrestler, capturing that childhood love for it and watching it grow. I think the first few pages capture a universal aspect of what ignites a wrestling fan. All Pro wrestlers are major fans of the sport, just like comic creators are massive fans of comics. I got into wrestling to help me write and draw the world’s greatest wrestling comic that I presently have in the works. Wrestling has its own language and is an art that is based on pure storytelling.
You can view the official synopsis for the issue below, and hit the next slide to find out what he hopes to get across in this new story as well as his interactions with WWE superstars like Kevin Owens and Cesaro. You can also see some exclusive pages from the upcoming issue. The WrestleMania 2017 Special is written by Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown, Aubrey Sitterson, Ross Thibodeaux, Andy Belanger & Andrew Stott, with art by Andy Belanger, Rob Guillory, Kendall Goode, Dan Mora, Jorge Corona. The special is in stores this Wednesday.
Every late March/early April, WrestleMania takes the world by storm as the biggest, most prestigious live event in Sports Entertainment.
What better way to celebrate the Granddaddy of Them All than with a collection of stories featuring the most exciting creators, the biggest Superstars, and the best moments throughout WWE history?
WWE: WrestleMania 2017 #1 is an oversized one-shot that features a variety of stories showcasing the rich history and wealth of Superstars WWE has to offer.
From the seminal ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, to the heart of the Attitude Era, all the way up through Daniel Bryan’s legendary tour de force performance at WM XXX, this special has something for all WWE fans!
Narratives And Pop Up Powerbombs
Belanger's wrestling experience hasn't just helped him craft a story in comic form, but it's also helped him in the ring. "In a lot of ways, being a comic artist and writer has been an amazing asset to me in the ring. I'm obsessed with creating a narrative in the ring and how to create larger-than-life moments. Last Thursday night I gave a good trouncing to Big Magic and Buster B and Max Testosterone with a huge fish! Wrestling is pure comics and Wrestling is everything. We had Jake the Snake in the Wrestling dojo a few months ago and he said something really amazing. He said, “Life is fake, Wrestling is for real!" Awesome!"
While the more eccentric elements of pro wrestling seem perfect for the medium of comics, Belanger also strived to get across the impact and theatrics of a superstar's move-set.
"Well, comics have so many ways to translate action onto the page. Take Kevin Owens’ Pop-Up Powerbomb. It has three parts. Getting the opponent into position off the ropes, the lift, and the strike. As a comic artist, do you draw that in three panels? The best part of the move is the height before the strike. But you need the aftermath to sell it. It's all super fun to think about as an artist. And as a pro wrestler, I have a unique insight into which parts of a move to capture and that they are correct and not made up. I brought Andrew in to help as well because he's lived wrestling his entire life and has an encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling stored in his head. He grew up with Kevin and Sami and I think he even told me when he was a teenager he worked at a gas station with Kevin. Super cool!"
Hit the next slide for more on getting approval from Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, and the best moment from their longtime rivalry.
Cesaro, ROH, And A New Secret Project
Ironically it was comics that kept Belanger from getting to see Owens recently, saying "Well, I was at a comic con the last time Kevin came to the Dojo so I missed him, but he and Andrew are in contact with each other. Like comics, wrestling is a small world. We really wanted to capture their feud from childhood so we sent the script to Sami and Kevin to check out before we started. They were super down with our plans. I did, however, meet Cesaro yesterday at my local cafe and we chatted. Gave him a copy of the new comic. That was amazing! I hope I absorbed some of his power from that handshake. That man is crazy strong!"
Hopefully, there's a Cesaro story coming somewhere down the pike, but in the meantime, there is one set of matches between Owens and Zayn that ranks as Belanger's favorite. "The ladder matches in ROH were a real high for me! They were so epic and had so much drama to them. Kevin really is a gifted heel, a classic bully who has a real relatable duality. I think in a few years their feud will be a main event. It feels like Sami may become the next Cena as far as Raw goes. The history of that feud is so rich that it has real dramatic weight."
Belanger also teased another related project in the works, saying "It was a treat to work on this story! I really want to thank our editor Jasmine [Amiri]. She was so fantastic in this process! And keep an eye out—I have a major new wrestling comic in the works! It will be something no one has ever seen!"
Hit the next slides to check out ComicBook.com's exclusive preview!