Keith Chapagne & Andy Smith talk about WWE HEROES

keith-champagneComics and Wrestling have been together since Valiant produced WWF Battlemania in 1991. This time out the new WWE Comic is produced by the Titans Publishing and features veteran creators Keith Champagne and Andy Smith. Keith and Andy stopped by  to chat about their new comic.

First Comics News: Before getting this assignment, were either of you WWE fans?

Keith Champagne: Yeah, I’ve been a lifelong wrestling fan, not just of WWE but also going back to Georgia Championship Wrestling, Mid-South, NWA/WCW and on and on. We used to read magazines like The Wrestler and Pro Wrestling Illustrated on a regular basis. My dad would take my brothers and me to see the WWE at the New Haven Coliseum when they would come to town and we were lucky enough to see legends like Andre the Giant, Jesse Ventura and Adrian Adonis and on and on, all the way through the Stone Cold/Rock years and into the present. It’s always been in the background of my life.

Andy Smith: Oh yeah. I watched it as a kid in the 80s and then dropped it for awhile and got back into it in the late 90s. I’m friends with a couple of superstars as well so when they come to town I try and make it to the shows.

1st: How did you get involved with WWE Heroes ?

Keith: The editor on the project, Ned, sent me an email mentioning Titan had acquired a new license and if I’d be interested in writing it. He caught me at a good time when I was just starting to look for a new project to write but honestly, once I found out it was WWE, I wouldn’t have said no, no matter how busy I was.

andy-smithAndy: That would be Keith. We were talking last year and he mentioned this new project he was doing and being the fan I am of Keith’s writing and WWE I jumped on the chance to work on the project. So he got me in touch with Ned Hartley the editor and we took it from there.

1st: Titan magazines is known as being the leading publisher of TV /& Sci fi titles in the US, how did this comic come about?

Keith: They acquired the license from WWE and it’s their first original comic published here in America and Canada. I hope they continue to expand their presence in the original market; Titan is a quality outfit all the way.

1st: What makes comics and wrestling fit together?

Andy: I think it’s the fantasy element. Wrestling is the closest you can get to real life heroes and villains. Just like in comics you’ve got to have good characterization, high levels of action, and good plots/stories to move everything forward. It seems like a no brainer.

Keith: At their most basic, both tell stories about good versus evil. Both are populated by larger than life, colorful figures. There are a lot of similarities between the two. That said, wrestling hasn’t always translated well into the comic book arena; it really just depends on the approach taken.

1st: Marvel, Valliant, Chaos and Image Comics have all published wrestling comics. What is going to make Titan Publishing more successful?

Andy: That’s easy, Keith Champagne and Andy Smith! ha! Seriously I hope that ours will be the most successful. I haven’t looked at the other incarnations enough to really give a good evaluation of them. I do know from talking to other people that the previous comics weren’t that serious and more tongue and cheek. I think that the story Keith has come up with just great! It has great action and a nice fantasy element that is intertwined throughout the story.

Keith: I haven’t read all the previous attempts at wrestling comics from all the different companies so I’m not really qualified to answer. I can say that what we’re doing here is a comic about WWE superstars, not a wrestling comic. There are still plenty of signature finishing moves and action but just like, say, the Justice Society embarks on different kinds of adventures, so can our cast of WWE superstars. Not that they’re a super-hero team, they’re people dropped in the middle of a mythology they’re only beginning to become aware of and it opens the doors for different settings and adventures.

1st: So WWE Heroes is going to be a team book?

Keith: I wouldn’t call it a team book. It’s an ensemble.

Andy: Yeah, we focus on a few WWE superstars but most of the roster is in the book.

1st: There are two characters added to the overall storyline, The King of Shadows and the Firstborn. What can you tell us about each of these characters?

Keith: The King of Shadows and the Firstborn are both major parts of the mythology we created for this series. They’ve been battling since the dawn of all things for control of the world. Their last encounter was in Germany in 1944 and since then, The King of Shadows has kept a low profile, biding his time, waiting to strike out again.

Although they don’t realize it, the WWE has a connection to one or both of them and it’s that connection that really starts their world turned upside down.

1st: Do the faces [Note: Wrestling vernacular for “good guys”] line up with the Firstborn and the heels [and “bad guys”] line up withThe King of Shadows?

Keith: Not necessarily.

Andy: I would hope so! Man what a twist that would be if they didn’t! I guess you’ll just have to buy the book to find out. We can’t give away everything now!

1st: With this many real people involved, do they each have to approve their likeness?

Andy: WWE deal with all approvals.

1st: How much of the story involves wrestling and how much of the story involves the supernatural battle?

Andy: I have to give it up to Keith because he has balanced it out really well. I’d say it’s almost a 50/50 split down the line in the overall scheme of the story.

Keith: It’s about half and half, really. We start out in a wrestling ring and we end in the same place but in between, things range pretty far and wide.

1st: WWE has its own writers and storylines. They have their own feuds and alliances that change monthly based on the pay per view of the month. Do you have to relate the stories in WWE Heroes to what is happening on TV?

Keith: No, we’ve got pretty free reign to do what we please. The only instances we’ve had to change something based on the TV stuff has been removing a couple of WWE superstars when they left the WWE. If WWE doesn’t have the rights to use someone, we can’t. Otherwise, it’s the Wild West. By the way, the WWE has an AWESOME website we have access to listing tons of reference and photos of the people we can use, from classic superstars to modern day. I’ve spent hours in there getting lost.

1st: As you mentioned, each month new superstars join the WWE and other superstars leave. Something even their top stars leave quite quickly. How do you deal with being in the middle of a storyline and losing a character that may have been a key player?

Andy: Well most of the WWE superstars we’re dealing with I guess you could say are the top stars. So it’s a safe bet they aren’t going anywhere. There were a couple times I would draw someone and then I’d have to swap them out because of a roster change but overall not much…knock on wood for that!

Keith: It’s only happened a couple of times and with WWE superstars who were more or less being featured in the comic in minor roles. So it’s been pretty easy to just surf the wave and do a little rewriting to line things back up. If Triple H or Undertaker were to suddenly leave, that would be a bit harder to fix at this stage of the game but so far, it’s been a problem so minor it’s not even worth mentioning.

1st: Is the plan for just one comic, or are there already plans to expand the line?

Keith: It’s an ongoing series [but just the one title].

1st: The press release said that the comics will be “available from all good retailers and specialist comic stores.” Will the comics be sold to retailers through Diamond?

Andy: Oh heck yeah! That’s the main way to get them in comic shops after all.

Keith: Yeah, if you want to get into the stores, you’ve gotta go through Diamond. (WWE Heroes comic will be available to order via Diamond in the next issue of Previews)

1st: Will the comics be sold at WWE live events and on their Website?

Andy: I hope so! I say put them everywhere, drop them from planes like propaganda I say!

Keith: Live events, definitely. The website, I’m not sure about. But we kick off at the same time as Wrestlemania next year and I’d imagine they’ll sell quite well at live shows. Comics are a lot cheaper than giant foam fingers and stale nachos. Especially for a family on a budget, it’s a fun and easy piece of memorabilia to bring home. WWE Heroes #1 is currently due on-sale March 23rd 2010For more information on WWE Heroes comic, visit: WWEComics.comJoin the WWE Comics Facebook community!

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