Interview with Headlocked’s Mike Kingston

by Jeff

Headlocked, a dramatic series set in the world of professional wrestling, is due to hit comic book stores everywhere in October from AAM / Markosia Enterprises and Visionary Comics Studio. The story follows a skinny theater major and his unlikely quest to become a professional wrestler.

Convinced that wrestling is the highest form of performance art, Mike Hartmann decides to quit school to pursue his new dream of wrestling for the WFW. But before he can perform under the bright lights of big time televised wrestling, he will have to negotiate the seedy underbelly of a business that in some ways hasn’t progressed much from its carnival roots. It’s a journey filled with con men, racism, drugs, money, sex, and violence–both scripted and unscripted.

The series launches in October with Headlocked: The Work of Art, a 48 page one shot that serves as a prequel to the series. We sat down with Michael Kingston, the writer and creator of the series to ask him a few questions.

The FIRST LOOK at the Headlocked Convention Exclusive can be viewed here.

VCS: So why this story?

MK: Headlocked is essentially my love letter to professional wrestling – even though it won’t seem like it at first. I’ve been a fan of wrestling for 23 years and I have nothing but respect and admiration for the craft of wrestling and wrestlers themselves. I’ve been all over the east coast and the Midwest following it. A lot of people look down on it but when you really think of what goes into a wrestling match, it’s really an incredible feat of both athleticism and storytelling. I wanted to tell that story…

VCS: What does the world of wrestling in Headlocked look like?

MK: It’s much like wrestling in the real world but as we get deeper into the story you’ll see it really has its own identity. There is the one dominant wrestling organization, the WFW. They present a cartoony family friendly product similar to the way the WWE used to be in the 80’s. That is the company that Hartmann (and every other wrestler in the world) aspires to work for. Hartmann won’t really be directly interacting with their wrestlers for a long time but what they are doing is very important to the story so we’ll be keeping tabs on that.

Underneath that there are quite a few tiny independent organizations that are scattered all over the country. Each will have its own sort of style and personality and of course its own set of wrestlers. This is the level where a lot of Hartmann’s story will take place. It’s a fairly expansive environment for him to explore.

VCS: So how do you plan to flesh out such a large cast of characters?

MK: Well I’m hoping that Hartmann ends up exploring most of the setting as the story progresses. One of the things I am going to be doing with the series

is including a couple of pages of supplemental material in each issue to help flesh out the cast and world. These will be magazine articles, news stories, wrestling profiles. You’ll see examples of that in the Convention Exclusive Preview Book, on sale now at select conventions (check below for the full list).

VCS: Who is handling the art chores on this book?

MK: Headlocked is penciled by Randy Valiente. He brings a ton of energy to the book. A lot of wrestling is so exaggerated and over the top and I feel like he really handled the fine line between making it realistic but at the same time conveying the energy and excitement of a wrestling match.

Jessika Gravel is the colorist for Headlocked. I think she has done a phenomenal job really bringing Randy’s pencils to life. They make a fantastic team, Randy provides the energy and she makes them really pop off the page. I’ve been very lucky to have them both on the book.

Jason Arthur is handling the lettering for the series. A lot of people don’t pay attention to lettering but it’s so important to the story. I think people will be pleased with what Jason adds to the book. I know I am.

C. Edward Sellner is the editor for the series. He’s been fantastic in not trying to direct the story but helping me tell the story I wanted to tell in the best way possible.

VCS: Are you excited to be working with Markosia?

MK: I couldn’t be happier with Markosia. It was really important for me to be able to keep Headlocked as a creator owned title and Markosia has published some terrific creator owned stuff, like Smoke and Mirror and Of Bitter Souls, so I felt comfortable bringing the book there.

It was also very important to me to have the freedom to tell the story that I wanted to tell because Headlocked is certainly not a traditional comic book story. The story has more in common with a primetime cable series like The Shield or Deadwood than say, Smallville. A lot of publishers tend to shy away from the unconventional but Harry Markos has been terrific in giving me the freedom as a creator to tell a story that I want to tell.

VCS: What role did Visionary Comics Studio play in bringing this book to publication?

MK: To put it simply, I wouldn’t be where I am right now without the help of VCS. First and foremost, they were the first people to really “get” the concept behind Headlocked. They helped me assemble my art team, they helped edit and shape my work, and now they’ve helped me get hooked up with Markosia. In this business right now, there aren’t a lot of breaks out there for unpublished writers so I am very grateful for what they have done for me.

VCS: How much wrestling knowledge would you need to enjoy this book?

MK: Absolutely nothing. That’s why I picked Hartmann as the lead character. He’s a blank slate. He’s starting out at the absolute beginning and the readers can follow him as he makes his way through the ranks. It is entirely accessible to anyone.

VCS: What does this book offer to people who aren’t wrestling fans?

MK: Well first of all, it’s not just a wrestling story. Wrestling is the backdrop. The series deals a lot with the concepts of reality and identity. One of the underlying themes of Headlocked is how people define themselves and why they choose to define themselves in certain ways. Hartmann has spent his whole life being a certain type of person and now after one night he’s decided to scrap all that and be something else. So we’ll get to follow Hartmann as he rebuilds his identity from the ground up and see how doing that in such an unorthodox environment affects that.

VCS: Do you think Headlocked will be a realistic portrayal of the wrestling business?

MK: I am shooting for as much authenticity as possible. Of course, in any good work of fiction, there will be a lot of embellishments…I mean how many plastic surgeons have had lives like the two guys on Nip/Tuck? So it’s definitely a line we’re walking.

VCS: Do you think you’ll be given any flack from wrestlers for exposing the secrets of the wrestling business?

MK: I really hope not. I think at this point, the business is pretty well exposed for one. Secondly, I think if people realized exactly how much goes into a wrestling match that they would be more appreciative of it. People think its fake but wrestlers get hurt more than MMA fighters. So many people can see a chair shot and laugh because they think in some way that the chair must be gimmicked…but it’s not. I mean guys get concussions from those.

VCS: Any parting words?

MK: If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ll like Headlocked. If you are one of those people who get hung up on the fake thing or think its stupid, just give the story a try. I think you’ll wind up with a very different perspective on pro wrestling.

The Convention Exclusive will still be available at Wizard World Chicago August 9-12, the Toronto Fan Expo Aug. 24th-26th and the Orlando Comic Con September 21-23. It will also be the centerpiece of the Visionary Booth at their home con, the Baltimore Comic Con September 8-9. The Headlocked Preview Convention Exclusive will feature 20 pages of ORIGINAL MATERIAL, including two exclusive short stories, and special features! This is not just rehashed material in the main book, but ALL ORIGINAL for a low cover price of $2.00!

VCS Creative Director C. Edward Sellner added, “we’re celebrating Headlocked in a big way because its going to be a big book! We know there are tons of fans out there who have been asking, pleading, and just about threatening to put US in a headlock if this book didn’t come out soon. We have a strong promotional presence in the wrestling media market which will ensure that the literally millions of fans of pro-wrestling will know about and be looking for this book! We’ve had folks offering interviews and reviews to get word out since late last year! We also are pretty confident that a lot of comic retailers are going to see the natural crossover market of comic fans who are into wrestling and wrestling fans into comics. So, you’re going to want to be early in line to get your copies!”

Interested? Headlocked is listed in the August Issue of Previews, Order Number: AUG073844 . Pre-order your copy today! Check these sites for the latest Headlocked news and information:

www.markosia.com www.visionarycomics.com

About AAM / Markosia: AAM / Markosia Enterprises, Ltd. is a multi-faceted publishing company specializing in sequential story-telling. From well known properties like KING KONG (this fall) and STARSHIP TROOPERS to creator owned works like THE LEXIAN CHRONICLES, MIDNIGHT KISS and OF BITTER SOULS, Markosia has become known for quality art and stories. Founded in 2005, the company has always been committed to integrity and excellence in our craft. For more information, visit www.markosia.com .

About Visionary Comics Studio: Having launched in 2006, VCS is the world’s first Teaching Studio for aspiring comics creators. Working with creators on series they own, VCS paves the way for those creators to bring their works to the mainstream market. With a line of creator-owned books, its own studio line, licensed work and other special projects, Visionary is all about bringing something new to the comics industry.

For more information, check out our web site: www.visionarycomics.com

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