Indy comic an unexpected surprise
By ERIC BENNER -- For SLAM! Wrestling
When I first picked up the first issue of "Masters of the Ring", I wasn't
entirely sure what to expect. I'd never heard of the brand Master Comics, so
the name did not inspire the immediate and unwavering confidence of a Marvel
or a DC. Still, the cover art was proficient and in some ways reminiscent of
some of Dark Horse's earlier publications.
Inside, the comic was closer to what I expected. The art is black and white,
but penciled proficiently by Master Comics artist James Hislope. I'd even go
so far to call Brian Steward's layout of the comic impressive, but I do miss
the rich colour that tempted me on the cover, making it seem more absent
within the pages.
"Masters of the Ring" follows two stories that become intertwined as the
comic progresses. The first story is that of the fictitious NAW, a bustling
and successful independent wrestling federation. The second is that of
Ruban, a young orphan with a strange yet somehow appropriate power. He seems
to have the ability to control outcomes simply by wishing for them, or more
specifically, by typing them up as 'news' on his web page. As you might
guess, his web page is a wrestling site, and that's how his story connects
with that of NAW.
In the first issue, Ruban causes a lowly jobber, ironically named Champ, to
defeat John J. Rocker and win NAW's prestigious heavyweight title. But when
Ruban finally gets the chance to meet Champ, the newly-crowned champion lets
his ego get the best of him and berates the poor boy. Ruban is none too
happy, and he uses his powers to take action.
Aside from the comic itself, "Masters of the Ring" also features interviews
with Indy wrestling stars, starting in the first issue with northeastern-based wrestler Donnie B of the NWA.
"Masters of the Ring" is different from what I'm used to from comics. Much
like the independent wrestling organizations it hopes to represent through
its fiction, the comic has potential, but lacks the slick look of the
industry's major players. Though perhaps necessary for start-up comics, this
is somewhat appropriate. Notes writer/publisher Andrew Maurer, "We feel the
key is the Indy wrestling scene. The Indies need an avenue to show their
True as that may be, there's a reason that independent wrestling federations
are independent -- they generally lack the money, talent, and know-how to go
national. This is a huge obstacle. All of this is to say that Indy wrestling
organizations are likely not Indy by choice, but by necessity. Still, Maurer
is not simply offering his comic as a platform for Indy support out of the
goodness of his heart. "Now that the WWF controls WCW and ECW, the market is now more open for small market competition," he remarked to SLAM! Wrestling. Apparently, that includes competition from small market comics.
DID YOU WIN IN OUR CONTEST?
Sean Murley of Whitby, ON won a framed page of the original art from the first issue of "Masters of the Ring", signed by the creator and artists from the good folks at Master Comics. Unframed, it's 11" x 17". Congrats Sean!
The following 20 people won a copy of Masters of the Ring from Master Comics:
1. Daniel Williams, Chicago, IL
2. Reed Gully, Edmonton, AB
3. Tarun Suri, Toronto, ON
4. Bryce Robinson, Burnaby BC
5. Andrew McMahon, Quispamsis, NB
6. Buz Rountree, Dallas, TX 75206
7. Mathieu Talbot, Montreal, QC
8. Darr Ratchie, London, ON
9. Mike Mastrandrea, Toronto, ON
10.Shane Bennett, Thames, New Zealand
11. George Halas, North York, ON
12. Mark Burnett, Aurora, CO
13. Mike Cross, Bedford, Nova Scotia
14. Jason Hogan, Chang Hua City, Taiwan
15. Jeff Drake, Saskatoon, SK
16. Andrew Miragliotta, Oceanport, NJ
17. Ted Thomas, Stoneham MA
18. Brent Zlukosky, Humboldt SK
19. Rev. Nolan J. Werner, Louisville, KY
20. Alvin E. Lake III, Ann Arbor, MI
Thanks to everyone who entered and to Master Comics for the prizes!
One remarkable aspect of "Masters of the Ring" is that the comic completely
obeys kayfabe. "We work in our books as if wrestling is real," explained
Maurer. "There is no such thing as kayfabe. The WWF has produced some
successful comic book series. These comics were based on their characters in
non-wrestling or limited wrestling situations. We wanted to create a comic
where the characters interact in a wrestling environment."
That's exactly what they've done. I can't help but wonder, though, if the
same hip, smart internet crowd that follows wrestling beyond the arenas and
the television shows will also follow it to a comic that portrays wrestling
as real. "We just want to tell a good story. Long term, we would like to get
as many Indy promotions involved in this project as possible. We have even
heard from an entire federation of hardcore midget wrestlers," said Maurer. Hardcore midget wrestlers -- now that sounds like a winning comic formula.
"Masters of the Ring", despite its infancy, isn't a bad read. I'm actually
curious enough to read more, and find out what happens to young Ruban and
the wrestlers he manipulates. If the comic succeeds, maybe they'll be able
to make me happy and offer it in full colour. Until then, those curious
enough to try it can head to www.mastercomics.com
or ask for it at
your local comic retailer.