Review: Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia #1 to #3

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.

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Lio Rush: Is He a Hero or a Villain?

In addition to following the world of comics and popular culture, I also follow the world of professional wrestling. I watch a lot of WWE, some of Impact Wrestling and some of the Indies. I am looking forward to seeing All Elite Wrestling. Overall, I enjoy pro-wrestling and have done so ever since I was 11-years old.

And since I am a wrestling fan, there is one story that has caught my interest and one that I felt I needed to write about. The story involves a wrestler name Lio Rush, who was viewed by many in the wrestling community to be a prodigy and a WWE hopeful with a promising future. At 22-years old, Rush was signed to a full-time WWE contract on July 2017.

However, as Rush transitioned into the WWE, his troubles began. Around October 2017, tweeted a joke on his Twitter account about Tennile Dashwood (formerly known as Emma) getting fired from the WWE because she was not ready for Asuka. The tweet ended with a clown emoji which got several WWE wrestlers incensed. Many wrestlers called Rush out on social media for his conduct and the newcomer quickly apologize but the damage had been done. Lio Rush had a black spot in his WWE career that would follow him up to this day.

Despite being called up to the 205 Live roster and becoming the mouthpiece to the quiet and Bobby Lashley, Rush’s troubles did not end after that infamous tweet he posted.

Rush was reported to have rubbed people in a narcissistic manner. Several reports viewed Rush in an arrogant light by saying that he and his wife were going to have a reality show about their lives on the road and that he was this huge megastar. Other reports had shown Rush being argumentative with wrestlers like Finn Balor who reportedly tried to advised him on the ramifications of bringing loved ones to WWE meetings. One report even went into detail how he disrespected WWE veterans by not doing the tasks asked of him as a junior member of the roster; such tasks range from offering veterans water after a match or helping to set up the WWE rings. As a result, Rush was apparently blacklisted from appearing on Raw this past Monday or future shows going forward. Not so surprising, the segment between The Miz and Bobby Lashley had no mention of Lio Rush.

One thing is clear from all this, Rush’s career with the WWE  seems to be in serious jeopardy.

But is it really? It depends on who you really ask. After all, the only people who could answer that question is the WWE brass and Lio Rush himself. The real question here since it involves Lio Rush, both the man and wrestler, is is he a hero or a villain?

Here’s my answer that only as a fan I can give: in some respects, he is a hero…in other respects, he is a villain.

First off, here’s why I say that Lio Rush is a hero.

The intrepid Lio Rush has been seen in various independent promotions showcasing his repertoire of wrestling skills and breathtaking stunts. To me, the young star is the epitome of the American Dream having to come from very little only to work hard and make a name for himself in something that some portray as choreographed fighting. As Rush showcased his amazing talent in Maryland Championship Wrestling, Combat Zone Wrestling and Ring of Honor, the WWE began to take notice and eventually hired the young talent. In my view, Lio Rush stuck to his goal of wanting to be a WWE superstar and made it. In the WWE, he had stellar matches against his real life buddy, Patrick Clark better known as the flamboyant Velveteen Dream. Things were looking promising until the Emma-Asuka tweet came out and that was when I began to see a more cocky and sinister side to Rush which brings me to my second argument of why I view him as a villain.

Knowing that the WWE has rules and procedures on how to go about things, Rush should have known better than to break those rules. As stringent as they are, there is a reason behind those rules. WWE is a publicly owned company known world wide. They have a brand. If anyone were to get out of line, it would be a mark on the WWE. And if the reports of Rush’s behavior are true, it would mean big trouble for not only Rush but Vince McMahon’s empire. Let’s play devil’s advocate and let’s say that Lio Rush does become a big megastar that he had foreseen. Rush is maybe a four time WWE Champion or Universal Champion. One day, the news breaks of him doing something that could damage not only his reputation but ruin the WWE’s image which is now considered a family friendly product.

How would that look to a billion dollar company? Just ask Bill DeMont, formerly Hugh Morris, who was once a former wrestler and trainer in the WWE Performance Center. News of his bullying his trainees got so viral that he had to resign in fear of casting WWE in a bad light. Or what about Eric Arndt better known as Enzo Amore? Amore, known for being a menace backstage was eventually fired for allegedly sexually assaulting a young woman battling mental health issues. Or how about Hulk Hogan? The legendary wrestler was recorded muttering the N-word to the point where the WWE had no choice but to fire him. A year ago, Hogan has been reinstated back into the WWE Hall of Fame and appeared on some WWE shows with strong applause.

With these examples, it is no wonder that WWE is always so quick to put out a small fire before it gets big. Rush’s behavior, regardless of his position in the company, is a liability and this is what would make him a villain in the eyes of his fellow wrestlers, the WWE brass, and the WWE Universe.

In conclusion, I am no fan of Lio Rush but I don’t want him to fail either. If what is being said in the news wires is true, then Rush has two choices he can make. In my opinion, he should quit the WWE and go back to the Indies where he probably would feel more comfortable and less restricted. Or he can get his act together and learn to follow the WWE’s rules and policies. Mike “The Miz” Mizanin was in a similar predicament and he decided to get his act together. Today, he is one of the WWE’s biggest stars and more respected in the locker room than he was when he started out.

As for the fans, I would not be so quick to say awful things about someone we do not know personally. For all we know, Lio Rush could have went through something in his childhood or some period in his life to act the way he does. I understand that there is no excuse for bad behavior but, their should also be some understanding. I feel that if someone were to understand Rush, that person could get him the help that he needs. Maybe that person was Finn Balor or maybe it might be someone outside the wrestling business.

Finn-Balor-Lio-Rush
Lio Rush taking on Finn Balor. Credit: WWE

Either way, to see someone fail in what they love or have a passion for is heart breaking. I’ve been there and it is not a good feeling.  This essay is not aimed at knocking down Rush but it is just a fan’s understanding of how conducting yourself a certain way can predicate certain reactions from peers. In short, Rush is not an evil person. He may need to meditate on what is working for him and what he can improve on. I think we as the WWE Universe of pro-wrestling fans owe him that.

What are your thoughts? Please comment on what you think about the whole situation and remember constant readers, stay ever so awesome.