Wrestling with Comics… Oh, Please Yourselves.
When Tripwire got wind of Jared Davis and Josh Taylor’s new Wrestling, Horror and all-around craziness focused project To Be the Man we were… Intrigued. We’d interviewed Josh and his collaborator Jon Chang on the amazing Black Powder, Red Earth before (here, and here). But who did we know who liked both comics and wrestling? No doubt about it, Tripwire writer and newly published author Jack Graves was the man for the job
Jack Graves: So, how did you and Josh decide on an insanity-fueled wrestling/horror hybrid for your first comic book?
Jared: Josh has been a successful comic illustrator for years, and I’ve wanted to write something that he would be interested in illustrating since our friendship began in the late 90’s. We’ve both been huge pro wrestling fans since childhood, and we share a similar sense of humor and a love of wrestling’s outlandish comedy (both intentional and unintentional), along with a love of the horror and sci-fi genres. The story of a couple of pro wrestlers traveling up and down the road and getting into zany adventures had been stewing in my head for a couple of years, and after our paths came back together in New York City after my many years abroad, we basically began developing the idea on the couch while pounding whisky and watching hours of wrestling and bad horror films. In some sense, it’s a project that’s been almost twenty years in the making.
Jack Graves: It’s a pretty spectacular production – how are you funding this?
Jared: At this point, it’s a completely independent production. The funding of Chapter 1 came directly out of my shallow pockets, and unless something miraculous happens and a big pile of money lands on our laps, our plan is to use the sales of each chapter and contributions from the members of our recently launched Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/tobethemancomic) to fund each subsequent chapter. Josh is definitely sacrificing a lot on his end to produce all of the artwork, but we’re hoping that we can gain some steam with these first few chapters so that we can confidently continue the series for a long time to come.
Jack Graves: How long is the series going to run/graphic novel going to be?
Jared: Book 1, “Evil Ain’t Good,” is a total of thirteen chapters, which we’ll be releasing individually and collecting as a graphic novel at the end of the story. If we’re not completely bankrupted by producing this first book, we’ll continue the adventures of our protagonists through several more stories, and even have some grand aspirations for an animated series or film much farther down the road.
Jack Graves: How the heck did you and Josh get together?
Jared: We met in college at the Pratt Institute, an art university in New York City, where Josh studied Illustration and I studied Communications Design: Art Direction. From 1998 to 2002, we spent many boozy Mondays watching WWE Raw, and with a group of equally insane friends, created an absurd backyard wrestling spoof that was aired on the school’s closed-circuit network. All these years later, some of the characters from our show, aptly called “UVW (Ultraviolent Wrestling) Slaughterhaus,” even make their way into the “To Be The Man” series.
Jack Graves: What are your influences?
Jared: Clearly, the biggest influence on the story is professional wrestling. I still enjoy watching the shows from the 1980s and 90s (specifically Mid-South and Mid- Atlantic Wrestling, NWA/WCW, World Class Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation), and I’ve also read pretty much every wrestling biography ever written. Over the years I’ve watched countless hours of “shoot videos” and “road stories” from professional wrestlers, so a lot of the “inside” wrestling terms and general knowledge of the “sport”/genre comes from being a wrestling-geek for so long.
As for the horror/comedy side of things, classics such as Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Dead Alive, Return of the Living Dead, and Ghostbusters are obvious influences. Since my day job is as a corporate Art Director and my fine art practice tends to focus on the more serious side of topics like philosophy and science, writing this comic has given me the opportunity to have an outlet for the side of my personality that adores schlock horror films and so-terrible-they’re-awesome B-movies like Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Demolition Man, Troll 2, Deep Blue Sea, Mortal Kombat, Over the Top, and Masters of the Universe.
Josh: Like Jared, my aesthetic for this book is heavily influenced by the neon-splattered, over-the-top wrestling characters from the 1980’s like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Ric Flair. Takashi Miike and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules) are definitely huge influences on the way I’ve visualized the gore and excessive violence, and I’ve also derived some of the look and feel from slapstick horror comedies such as Sharknado, The Evil Within, Castle Freak, Ghoulies, and Puppet Master. Although I wouldn’t necessarily categorize the aesthetic of this project as being directly linked to that of Japanese anime or 80s ninja/kung fu films, I am broadly inspired by the work of Studio Ghibli and movies like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and kitschy classics like Ninja 2, Revenge of the Ninja, and American Ninja.
Jack Graves: We’ve seen Josh’s art before in the classic Black Powder Red Earth graphic novel series, and it’s been powerful, yet restrained. In this book the art is kinetic – to the extreme. What happened?
Josh: Since 2011, I’ve been working on a popular military-themed graphic novel series, Black Powder Red Earth, that focuses on a group of Special Forces contractors waging a war of ruthless clandestine violence against ISIS and Iranian proxies in the failed states of the Middle East. I’m currently at work on illustrations for the third series (which takes place in Yemen), while simultaneously working on the series’s first video game, a turn-based tactical strategy game with a 16-bit aesthetic. Undoubtedly, the BPRE series is an entirely different beast from the gonzo-style ridiculousness of To Be The Man, but for fans of the military comic genre, you can find my work at http://www.blackpowderredearth.com/ and https://www.patreon.com/blackpowderredearth.
Jack Graves is the author of After the Angels, which you can find here! You can follow Jack at www.jackgraves.co
To Be The Man can be purchased from these fine people
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|Josh Taylor: Buy my comic, dammit!!|