INTERVIEW: Comic writer Lan Pitts spills all details on the WWE-special comics ahead of Sunday night's WrestleMania 34
The WrestleMania season is officially upon us!
Come April 8th and WWE fans will have every reason to excuse their excitement as the grandest of all wrestling events, the 34th edition of the annual extravaganza, gets underway at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Over the years, the WrestleMania weekend has evolved into this muscle-meets-entertainment kind of gala, especially with its impressive line-up, back-to-back matches, and an electrified audience witnessing the action live. A relatively new tradition, however, that has come to be associated with this much-awaited wrestling event is the WWE-centred comics.
Catering to the taste of a multitude of fans - who love the action-laced pages of the WWE special - BOOM! Comics, for some time now, has been bringing out one-shots featuring the biggest names from the world of sports entertainment, and this year would be no different.
Titled WrestleMania 2018 Special, this year's comic iteration attempts to cover some of the noteworthy moments and characters who have appeared in the history of the annual wrestling event. And to walk us through all this excitement, we got writer Lan Pitts himself, to spill some details.
"The WWE WrestleMania Special this year falls in line with previous one-shots BOOM! Studios has put out," Pitts says in an exclusive chat with Meaww, explaining that the comics series "acts as sort of an anthology showcasing some favorite WrestleMania storylines and memorable characters."
For the uninitiated, the character round-up for the 2018 edition is equally fascinating: there are two stories on the all-time great Macho Man Randy Savage, a Miz/John Cena chapter that also features a brief cameo by The Rock, and features on Stephanie and Triple H - whom Pitt describes as "the best bad guys they can be".
"I think the creative team behind the WWE series at BOOM! did a fantastic job of retelling classic stories and expanding on what happens outside the ring," says the comic book writer, before gushing about the fabulous people who aided him in bringing the WWE action to life on pages.
"For my story, I worked with Jake Elphick, who was a blast to collab with. He has this sense of energy that can't really be contained and made me a huge fan. We also have Rodrigo Lorenzo and Kendall Goode returning as well as Michel Mulipola who have all done WWE stories in the past. I've actually worked with Rodrigo and Kendall before on past projects and they're tremendous talents."
Two inked pages from the Macho Man/ Miss Elizabeth story in the Wrestlemania 2018 special @ryanwriter wrote, out today! (get it here: https://t.co/jEXi97XQOC) Ryan is VERY funny and I try my best to translate it to the page. pic.twitter.com/NGjdZavFLr— Kendall Goode (@kendallgoode) April 4, 2018
Speaking of the choice of hand-picked characters for the 2018 version, Pitts explains, "The fact is that there was so much we could do, but with the title still being young, not even two years old, the idea was to try and cover some of the classics and also the bouts that tell the best stories by themselves. With Ricky [Steamboat] and Randy [Savage], it's a bit of a no-brainer, but what [writer] Ryan Ferrier and [artist] Kendall Goode did for their WrestleMania VII story kills me, it's so good."
Indeed, translating a live match, that's part-real and part-kayfabe, into a story-telling format is not your run-of-the-mill style, and as a comic book fan, I can vouch for it. But Pitts makes it sound easy, interesting, and even picks out his favorite moments, just in case one needs a head start.
He quips, "Ryan and Kendall's story here about Randy and Elizabeth is just great. Anytime you get the chance to expand on established mythos and then create something like this, is always a fun time," adding, "Most of the matches outside of Ryan's and mine are fairly contemporary. I translated the Savage/Steamboat fight the best I could within the allotted pages but I hope those uninitiated with that match go back and check it out and discover an instant classic."
It's show time! @wwe Wrestlemania 2018 Special #1 from @boom_studios is out now!🎉Available online and at your local comic book stores, check it out! - (Mad props to @DougGarbark for the incredible job on colours and @pittsed_off for the script! pic.twitter.com/xWD2r1uwpS— Jake Elphick (@JvElphick92) April 4, 2018
While WWE comics sounds like a fine idea, if not novel, there are quite a few challenges associated with this style of comic depiction. From the narration to the illustration, everything's rooted in real-life events. So, unlike other mainstream genres, the brains behind WrestleMania 2018 special had to be especially careful, considering WWE's cult following.
"The most difficult part of writing something like this is that you have to fit around the narrative. This match and these events have already happened, so you have to go in and fill in some spaces," Pitts explains. "What I did with my story, as I wrote the Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat classic at WrestleMania III, was try and give a new perspective in the best way that I could. So I presented it in the style of a classic Greek myth and treated it like the legendary bout that it is."
Some matches tell good stories by themselves, while others, a great match per say, might have a better story outside of it. And herein lies the real hurdle with illustrating a kayfabe event in comics.
"For me," says Pitts, "the challenge is to nail the voices of the characters. We're not writing promos here, we're writing dialogs and trying to make sure that the dialogs fit with their respective characters could be trying."
"I remember writing Bobby Heenan for my Royal Rumble story and I started that right around the time he passed away, so there was this extra bit of pressure, ya know, to get it right. I think I did an okay job, but really trying to nail each character's vernacular outside of their catchphrases could be daunting at times for sure," our guide to the world of WWE comics adds, sharing his personal anecdote.
As for his personal journey, and initiation into this series, Pitts shares, "I have been working on the series on and off since January of last year when I wrote my first backup, which featured the Undertaker and Paul Bearer in WWE #8, from there I was in the Survivor Series special, as well as the Royal Rumble and 25th Anniversary of Raw issues. This WrestleMania Special from this year is just a one-shot, but there will be another in time for WrestleMania next year for sure."
Considering the fact that the comic comes on the heels of this year's WrestleMania 34, the event kickstarting on Sunday night with a special two-hour show, we couldn't resist asking Pitts what his anticipations are. And as expected, the writer has already conjured few plots he would like to explore further.
"With this year's, yeah, I'd love to take a stab at writing either AJ or Shinsuke for their match because that's going to be the barn-burner for sure. I also wouldn't mind doing an Alexa and Nia story because it's pretty basic and would love the chance to give their characters something real, something that gives more breath to their characters and motivations," he said.
Other than this, Pitts seems to have dibs on another iconic duo - "Shawn/Taker, because how great was that second match?"
The excitement before WrestleMania, which has been quite a spectacle for fans in the past, is a given. But will the hype surrounding the biggest event in WWE bring-in the same kind of attention to the WrestleMania Special 2018, a comics that is clearly tied to the monumental matches.
We certainly hope so, as for Pitts, he is no pessimist either.
"This year, BOOM! is promoting the WrestleMania special at WrestleMania itself in New Orleans," he tells us. "There's a huge spread for it in the program book and so much more. WWE is one of BOOM's top books and with top-notch promotion and an established fan base already there, no reason it couldn't."