WCW Comic Book Issue # 1
Much has been written on this site about BattleMania, the WWF-inspired series of comic books that were published in the early-1990's, but I haven't yet addressed Marvel's WCW comic book series that began publication in 1992.
This is probably the one pre-Monday Night War competition where WCW beat the WWF hands down. Unlike WWF's cartoony offering, WCW was gritty, reality-based and was appealing to actual comic book fans because it played out like one!
Take the debut issue, for example. Lex Luger was WCW Champion and Marvel went through great pains to describe the character and his motivation. Luger could have battled Spidey and it wouldn't have looked out of place!
We're then introduced (somewhat quickly) to the rest of the locker room, who are competing this evening in a battle royale for a shot at Luger's title. Once again - a simple, reality-based storyline that doesn't end with funeral parlor visits or tea parties gone wrong like its WWF equivalent.
Sure, we could nitpick about the artwork here (why is Johnny B. Badd black?) or some of their comments ("I shouldn't have to compete with these losers!"), but you get that Marvel is trying to establish several brand-new characters at once.
A bit more focus is placed on Ron Simmons and Sting, as they figure in more prominently to this and upcoming issues. Again, the dialogue is a bit hokey, but it's hard to establish a bunch of new characters in just a few panels, you know?
The battle royale begins, and - just like in real life - everyone goes after the biggest guy in the ring. El Gigante is all like Vitruvian Man fending off all of the wrestlers.
Johnny B. Badd (who is appearing much more prominently in this comic book than his character has any right to be), is eliminating guys left and right and taking time out to tell everyone how beautiful he is.
Z-Man's comment that he hopes no one saw his elimination is probably truer than he imagines, because there's no way anyone would give a shit if he were tossed out.
Rick Steiner is among those thrown out of the ring next, and when he lands on the cold, unforgiving concrete (must have been the Bill Watts era), he's heckled by a couple of mysterious men at ringside wearing trenchcoats and old-timey hats to conceal their indentity. There were probably much better ways to hide themselves. Just saying.
Fairly soon, Sting delivers the most dangerous piledriver this side of AJ Styles, knocking out Arn Anderson and possibly paralyzing him.
Look, I get that some wrestling moves may be difficult to replicate via artwork, but this just looks sloppy. Never once have I seen a piledriver executed in quite this manner, and I've watched years and years of bad indy performances.
Apparently, the piledriver is Lex Luger's move. This becomes important later...
We're soon down to two competitors in the battle royale: Ron Simmons and.... Johnny B. Badd? Seriously?!?
Forget for a second that Marvel may not have exactly known who JBB was, given they couldn't get his skin color quite right. Surely someone, anyone involved in booking WCW could have told them that this was not the guy who would end up in the finals of a match this important. Unless, I dunno, he hid under the ring for the duration of the match. I mean, seriously, Dusty Rhodes wouldn't have given him a push this big!
Anyways, Simmons finally says Damn! to the Badd Man and tosses him the hell out, winningthe battle royale, a trophy and the WCW championship match with Lex Luger.
Remember the two guys in the front row dressed up like Dick Tracy who were heckling Rick Steiner? Well, one of them (we never find out who the other one is) is Lex Luger, who is apparently none too happy that Simmons won the battle royale.
But why? I mean, someone was destined to win the match, whether it be Sting, Big Van Vader or, yes, even Johnny B. Badd. Surely Luger figured he'd have to face someone at some point?
Remember when we were making fun of Sting's piledriver attempt earlier in the match?
Well, it turns out he did steal that move from Luger, right down to the shitty way he delivers it. I get that this is a comic book, suspension of disbelief and all that, but Lex should still be protecting Ron's noggin a little bit better.
And to add insult to (career-threatening) injury, Luger piledrives Simmons on top of the trophy he just won. Apparently Luger's regular style of delivering a piledriver wasn't risking quite enough paralysis on its own.
But you do have to love the Marvel-esque sound effect of "CRUNCH!", as though Lex isn't murdering his rival but, say, chomping down on a potato chip.
On the final page, Missy Hyatt catches up to Luger to ask him why he did what he did. If this were today's wrestling product, he'd probably wait a week and then deliver a promo in which he says "I don't need to give you people an explanation!"
Instead, Marvel uses this opportunity to build up Luger's heel persona - he will stop at nothing to retain his championship belt, even if that means breaking Ron Simmons' neck with a so-called piledriver.
Nevertheless, this was excellent character development and it drew readers like me in to see what would happen next with Luger, Simmons, Sting and all the rest of the WCW guys.