Written by: Ed Kuehnel and Matt Entin
Illustrated by: Dan Schkade
Colored by: Melissa Louise
Inked by: David Hahn
Lettering by: A Larger World Studious
Published by: Starburns Industries Press
By: The Boy Wonder Press
Watcha gonna do when a pro-wrestler from out of this world challenges you to a match for the championship of the universe while he sends a force of other out-of-this-world wrestlers to invade Earth?
Well, one out-of-his-luck pro-wrestler from our planet that Earth is going to have to answer that question.
And that pro-wrestler is name Rock n’ Roll Rory Landell, the protagonist and reluctant hero of Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia which was written by writing tag team of Ed Kuehnel and Matt Entin. The series is also created by an artistic stable which include illustrator Dan Schkade, inker David Hahn, and colorist Marissa Louise. So far, there have been three issues of the comic series: A Date with Destiny, Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves, and Teo Peas in a Pot.
Wrestletopia begins with a scene somewhere in space in the year 1999 where a Wrestlopian, an out-of-this-world pro-wrestler receives a transmission from 15-years ago. The transmission shows Rory declaring himself a champion of the universe.
And that is when the story begins. Rory Landell is a pro-wrestler in the fictional AWF (American Wrestling Federation) and is booked to win the company’s world heavyweight championship. It is here that Rory is on top of the world: he’s a rising star, has a girlfriend name Spanish Rose, and he’s about to become champion. That is until the boss, Dick Drassin decides to make a last-minute change by having Landell’s opponent, Bob Schultz keep the title for that night’s event. Landell is not too happy about this and after a conversation with his manager and friend, Don, he decides that the AWF Championship is meaningless and creates his own championship from a pizza box and belt: the Galactic Championship of the Universe.
It is here that while his announcement is being taped, Wrestletopia picks up the transmission of this bold declaration. And it is here when the antagonist and the actual champion of the universe, Manifest Destiny decides to challenge. Landell for the title. Little does Destiny know that Landell is not quite the same man he was. Fifteen years later, the wrestler is no longer with the AWF and is fighting in bingo halls. Rory is a shell of his former charismatic self. His manager Don Fong Wong is the only person keeping him together. However, it is not until the Wrestletopians invade Earth and make a deal with Landell’s former boss, Drassin, when the wrestler is going to have to make a choice: either accept Manifest Destiny’s challenge or continue down the path he has been going since leaving the AWF.
I enjoyed this comic series since it paid an homage to the pro-wrestlers of the past and present.
For instance, Rory Landel could be seen as a Ric Flair archetype with a narrative arc similar to Mickey Rourke’s character in the move The Wreslter. Like the Flair, Landell is a charismatic smack talker and a rising heel (or villain) in the AWF who gets denied his championship opportunity. But like Rourke’s character in the Wrestler, Landell tries to relive his glory days working in the independents while his life spirals out of control. Rory could be seen drinking and eat off people’s food as he heads to the ring much to Don’s dismay.
Don Fong Wong is most likely a parody of Mr. Fuji. Harry Fujiwara who was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and portrayed a Japanese heel manager. Don Fong Wong was also born in Hawaii while portraying a Chinese heel manager. Both use dirty tactics or tricks to help the wrestlers they manage claim victory over their opponents. Don Fong Wong would have to be a favorite character of mine due to him being a comic relief while also being a voice of wisdom to the reckless Landell.
Dick Drasslin is an obvious parody of Vince McMahon, the owner and chairman of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). Boy Scout Bob Schultz is a John Cena and Hulk Hogan archetype. And Manifest Destiny seems to be an Ultimate Warrior General Zod character. And Mini Macho (another favorite character of mine) reminds me of Rey Mysterio due to their resolve to stand up to bigger wrestlers despite their smaller statures.
Another thing I like about the comic is that it also utilizes science fiction elements. The scene where the Wrestletopians invade Earth reminds me of the scene in Superman II where General Zod, Ursa, and Non terrorize the Earth and its leaders to root out Superman. Manifest Destiny making a deal with Drassin to find Rory also reminds me of Zod and Lex Luthor joining forces.
The art done by Schkade, Hahn, and Louise in this comic was also what told the story. The artist must either been wrestling fans or researched the moves by watching several wrestling shows. The reason I write this is because the sequential art the artists used was almost like watching WWE Thursday Night Smackdown from a different lens but with the same feel. Arsenio Hall once said that pro-wrestling is a mirror to the real world and this comic’s story and art are a reminder of that.
I’m hoping that more issues from this series come out. I want to see what Rory’s finishing maneuver is. I also want to see what happened to Spanish Rose after Landell walked away from her and the AWF. And what about Boy Scout Bob Schultz? Would he answer the challenge Manifest Destiny not only offered to Landell but to the wrestlers of Earth? And more importantly, will Landell get out of his funk and regain his smile (ala Shawn Michaels) and take on Destiny and win the Galactic Champion of the Universe?
If you enjoy pro-wrestling and, or, a science fiction fan, this book will have you glued to the story like the millions and millions of us fans who were glued to our TV sets watching the Monday Night Wars.
Invasion From the Planet Wrestletopia was published by Starburns Industries Press, the company behind Rick and Morty, HBO’s Animals, and HarmonQuest. You can follow Starburns Industries on Twitter @StarburnsInd. You can also follow team of Keuhnel and Entin, Suspcious Behavior Productions @SBP_Comics.