I have a confession to make. I used to watch a lot of wrestling as a kid. I mean, a lot.
Now, to my credit, this was back in the days when there was still some debate as to the validity of wrestling as a sport. I used to turn on WWF and spend my weekends glued to the exploits of Rowdy Roddy Piper, Hulk Hogan, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorf.
Portland had one of the oldest and most respected wrestling organizations in the West. Portland Wrestling produced some fantastic wrestlers who made it all the way to the big times. I would stay up until midnight to watch the broadcast on Channel 12 coming to us “Live from the Portland Sports Arena”. Those were the days.
But, as time wore on, I grew away from wrestling. More interesting things, like girls, got the bulk of my attention. Soon, watching sweaty men in speedos grab each other was just a distant memory.
But, it was a fond memory. So when I saw that Oni was releasing a wrestling comic called Super Pro K.O., I had to pick it up.
Now, let me be clear. I don’t run out and grab every wrestling comic that hits the stands. In fact, this is the first wrestling comic I have ever picked up. So, why did I pick this one up as opposed to the recently released (and much more heavily publicized) WWE Heroes comic? Simple. Super Pro K.O. doesn’t treat me like a child.
I am long past believing that the steroid-fueled characters in the ring are even remotely real people. They are carefully crafted characters who are scripted and manipulated to produce entertainment for the crowds and money for the promoters. They are characters – carefully crafted, scripted, and manipulated to produce maximum entertainment for the crowds and money for the promoters. Super Pro K.O. acknowledges that, embraces it, and manages to tell an engaging and entertaining story that is upbeat, fun, and never pretends to be something more than what it is.
SPKO tells the story of Joe Somiano, a newbie to the world of professional wrestling. He was part of a smaller, regional promotion, but his contract has been picked up by the much larger Super Pro promotion. As the jacket reads, “Joe Somiano … has no clue what awaits him in the rowdy ring! A seasoned sumo wrestler, a jolly luchador, a flamboyant tag team, suspicious executives, and a drunken Heavyweight Champion all stand between him and the superstardom that is his destiny. [H]e’ll need to bring his best moves against the likes of S.P.K.O.! stars Tomahawk Slamson, Yoko No-No, Mr. Awesomeness 2, and many more in this grand slamma jamma event of a graphic novel!” Mean Gene Okerlund couldn’t have said it better himself.
SPKO does a flying suplex in to the slot left vacant by the departing Scott Pilgrim. It is fast paced, action packed, and just the right amount of over the top. Characters come at the reader quickly, but I never felt like anyone was given short shrift. Since this is only the first volume, most of the characters are only as deep as their ring persons. However, there are some moments that hint at much deeper characters and relationships.
In addition to fun action in the ring, SPKO sheds some light on the real behind the scenes action that professional wrestling has tried to keep away from the cameras. Business trumps relationships in professional wrestling. Loyalty isn’t always rewarded. Sometimes the person under the mask isn’t nearly as large and bombastic as the person in the ring. SPKO does a great job of showing the reader some of the ins and outs of the business side of wrestling. The scenes involving the promoter being strong-armed by the shadowy business partners are reminiscent of the real life tactics used by Vince McMahon to push the WWE all the way to the top at the expense smaller promoters and their loyal stars.
SPKO is the kind of book that a grown up can enjoy. It never asks the reader to believe that wrestling is real or that the guys in the tights are the same off stage as they are in the spotlight. Instead, it has fun with the idea of wrestling and the world of wrestling without having to play by all the rules. And, as anyone who has ever watched a wrestling match knows, it always gets more exciting when someone breaks the rules.
In short, SPKO works. It works for fans of wrestling. It works for people who haven’t watched a match since Jesse Ventura was known as “The Body” instead of The Governor of Minnesota. It even works for people who really don’t like wrestling, but are looking for an entertaining read. From entertaining characters and witty dialogue, to fast action and giant sound effects, SPKO has it all. For once there is a multidimensional book that embraces all the lunacy of wrestling while still keeping a sense of perspective. Do yourself a favor and check out SPKO before Hulkamania runs wild over you!