Killer Bees Comic Biography

Wrestling Comics

This is the last of the Inverse Press comics biographies I purchased as a part of a Humble Bundle.

In my last blog post, I nodded to the place of religion in the Bobby Fulton story;  this comic opens with the same theme:

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It’s possible, though, that I am out of steam on these — the narratives are looking more and more alike, despite the fact that I know that the lived experience of these men is in fact very different.

This story, I have heard told orally, at an AWA event [about which I blogged several weeks ago].  It’s good to see it on the page.

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I can imagine some classroom uses for these books, both to learn about wrestling history and to teach the celebratory genres of biography – the hagiographic and the mythic forms of storytelling.  And they are fun reads, in moderation.

Bobby Fulton Comic Biography

Wrestling Comics

Inverse Comics offers a biography of Bobby Fulton — not a wrestler I have heard of, and by the end of this first issue, I can see why — my wrestling consciousness starts with the AWA and WWE, and Fulton signed to the Stampede promotion in Alberta at the end of this comic.

This is the first comic in the Inverse series to address religion and wrestling — the scene is worth noting here.

For many wrestling fans of the eighties, wrestling was network TV on Fridays or Saturdays [the Main Event, on NBC].  But for those who watched wrestling on syndicated TV, wrestling was on when the local stations could make it fit.  That might include Sunday afternoons…  This scene was fun to read.

I’ve been working my way through the Inverse Comics catalog, and for the first time, I find the art not just “working,” telling the story, but absolutely innovative.  In the next two pages, we see a child watching wrestling, and the image is magic — the color is muted, like the TVs we watched wrestling on, in the syndicated era.  And, we see a novice wrestler, on fire in the ring.

Honestly, I don’t feel a connection to the wrestler or to the writing in this issue, but the art makes it worth a look.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan Comic Biography

Works-In-Process, Wrestler Studies, Wrestling Comics

This comic biography of Hacksaw Jim Duggan begins “in medias res” — “into the middle of things,” in a Royal Rumble.

Like many mythical births, Hacksaw Jim Duggan was born special.  Consider the baby years of Paul Bunyan:

Now I hear tell that Paul Bunyan was born in Bangor, Maine. It took five giant storks to deliver Paul to his parents. His first bed was a lumber wagon pulled by a team of horses. His father had to drive the wagon up to the top of Maine and back whenever he wanted to rock the baby to sleep.

As a newborn, Paul Bunyan could hollar so loud he scared all the fish out of the rivers and streams. All the local frogs started wearing earmuffs so they wouldn’t go deaf when Paul screamed for his breakfast. His parents had to milk two dozen cows morning and night to keep his milk bottle full and his mother had to feed him ten barrels of porridge every two hours to keep his stomach from rumbling and knocking the house down.

It’s a bit bigger than life, but not much bigger than imagining Hacksaw Jim Duggan born with his signature whoop in place.

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But then, that’s what makes these biography comics fun, not historical drudgery.

The rest of issue one is drudgery, relatively speaking — the story of a promising young football player whose football dreams are squashed.  But this will be a multiple issue series, so I look forward to the rest.

 

 

A Comic Biography of Nikolai Volkov

Wrestling Comics

It says something about the theater of professional wrestling that I did not know that Nikolai Volkov was not Russian.

 

 

Volkoff was born Josip Hrvoje Peruzović (October 14, 1947 – July 29, 2018). He was born in Croatia, and from childhood, envisioned an escape to the West.  The first issue of this new comic biography traces some family pre-history and a childhood designed to prepare body and mind to flee to the West.

Issue Two of this new comic biography, more info here, traces his arrival in Calgary and his first career as as Bepo of the Mongols tag team.  It also traces his desire to go solo and premiere competition against Bruno Sammartino.

 

Issue three, the final issue of this series by John Crowther, carries the story forward through his turn from “Communism” as a gimmick and joining the rank of “face” wrestlers.  It then skips the late period of his career, jumping to the induction into the Hall of Fame.

The biography is an example of old-fashioned “hagiography,” an uncomplicated way of depicting a biography in a largely celebratory mode.  The best example, in my world, were the “Lives of the Saints” books I read as a Catholic kid — stories washed of any narrative complexity or internal conflict within the Saint figures.

But they are fun and worth a look [esp. as a textbook in a class on Wrestling taught to high school or college kids].  They map enough history to make the story accessible and meaningful to youngsters.

Andre the Giant [Critical Reflections on a Graphic Novel, part one]

Works-In-Process, Wrestling Comics, WWE

Research in comics studies has gone a great distance toward defining comics as a medium, not a genre.  Within the American context, comics as a medium was, for decades, conflated with comics as a genre, typically the superhero genre.  In some ways, the scholar of wrestling studies might see such conflation as similar to the period in which wrestling and boxing were operated by the same promoters.  The most significant initial investment was the ring, which could then hold both the sport of boxing and the entertainment of wrestling.  The ring was a medium that could host two genres of performance.

Comics scholars divided medium from genre by two lines of argument.

The first line of argument proceeds by noting that comics have historically hosted many genres: superhero, yes, but also funny animal, teen humor, romance, science fiction, horror, autobiography, memoir, educational, and literary fiction and nonfiction.   One medium, multiple genres.

The second line of argument proceeds from analysis of how comics work as text.  Neil Cohn describes the Visual Language of Comics:  A language requires an interaction between three primary components: meaning, modality, and grammar. First, it combines the mapping of meaning to a modality. Spoken languages express meaning using the modality of phonology (sound), while visual languages use graphic structure (drawn lines). Systematic mappings between a modality and meanings create a stored lexicon. However, meaningful expressions alone—systematic or unsystematic—are not enough to become a language. Rather, those expressions must be ordered using a grammar.  [“Visual Language Theory and the Scientific Study of Comics”]  Comics constitute a system of meaning, modality and grammar, through which many kinds of stories may be told.

So when I learned of Box Brown’s Andre the Giant, Life and Legend, my aca-fan wires crossed in a series of sparks.  The ten year old who loved the larger-than-life heroes of superhero comics as much as he loved the larger-than-life heroes of the Avengers and Justice League shivered;  this is the genre I love, exploring a figure close to my heart.

The scholar in me wanted to see what this language, this deployment of meaning, modality and grammar, would look like — especially, what it could do that no other language could.

Over the course of a few posts, I hope to explore these questions.


The comic opens with a series of panels that use the relationship between the reader and the content to reframe readerly expectations.  Cohn tells us to be aware of the ways that “independent components mutually interact to form the perception of a holistic experience” — in this case, an experience that moves us from focus on Hulk Hogan, arguably the most famous figure in professional wrestling for thirty year, to Andre.  Hogan looms as a giant figure in the early panels, but diminishes in size until he is the same size as Andre, unnamed in the first panel.

Interior Image

Box Brown uses Hogan to tell open Andre’s story, but Andre is still not… quite… visible.  Most poignantly, in a series of panels on page thirteen, Andre exists only at a distance, his back to the audience.  Interior Image

As a result of the framing in this sequence, we know that Hogan can tell us part of Andre’s story, but he, too, doesn’t understand the “big picture.”

Boxer does, and he sets out to tell us, by moving Andre to the center stage, the center of the story…

[more in next post.]