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Headlocked: Combining the Love for Comics and Pro Wrestling

Comic books and professional wrestling are actually quite similar. Both are storyline driven, both feature costumed muscle bound heroes, and both preach the gospel of good versus evil. So, what if you were taken behind the curtain of professional wrestling to learn the real stories behind the over the top wrestling characters we know and love and learn their true nature as people and the motivations they have for being in the business of professional wrestling.

That’s the premise for Michael Kingston’s title, Headlocked, which tells those stories of his characters with the turning of every page. Kingston has been writing Headlocked for years now and is trying to Kickstart his latest project The Last Territory. I had a conversation with Kingston about his latest project and his journey through the world of comics.

IR: Tell us about your upcoming independent comic projects?

MK: The main project that takes most of my focus is Headlocked. It’s a cable drama style story about a kid who falls in love with wrestling and his journey through the underbelly of the wrestling business. Jerry “The King” Lawler does covers for the book and we use a lot of wrestlers artistically on the book. My interior artist, Michel Mulipola is a wrestler from New Zealand and wrestlers Scott Lost, Ken Anderson, Beth Phoenix, and Sinn Bodhi have all contributed art to the book!

IR: How have you been able to fund your project/s?

MK: So far everything associated with Headlocked has come out of my pocket. I’ve been very lucky that the books and T-shirts sell really well at conventions but I think like most independent comics, we operate at a deficit. For our second arc, we decided to try and fund it through Kickstarter and we’re currently in the middle of our campaign.

IR: What have been your influences in creating comics and what made you want to do so in the first place?

MK: I’ve read comics in some form or another since I was 6 years old. I always loved them. But it wasn’t until I read Concrete: Think Like A Mountain that I thought I’d like to try my hand at writing them. I love stuff that can be insightful and entertaining at the same time. Unknown Soldier, Transmetropolitan, and American Virgin were probably my favorite comics of the past ten years.

IR: What would you like people to take in when reading your comics?

MK: Ultimately, I just want people to be entertained and to feel something. For being what a lot of people consider a “wrestling comic,” Headlocked has a lot of themes that anyone can identify with. It’s basically the story of a kid chasing his dreams and I think everyone can connect with that on some level.

IR: How did you first break into comics?

MK: It’s been pretty much me pushing my way through the door. It took a while to understand this dysfunctional business and on some level, I’m still learning it. I’ve had some help from a few key people along the way that have given me advice and encouragement: C. Edward Sellner, Jill Thompson, Christian Berenak, Bryan Augustyn to name a few.

IR: What other projects have you been working on and what kind of stuff would you like to do in comics?

MK: Headlocked is my passion project. If I never do anything else in comics, I’d be okay with that. As far as other projects, I have a few others brewing and honestly, I’d be open to writing anything.

IR: What are you reading right now, any comics right now you are really into?

MK: A lot of stuff I was reading recently ended…Scalped, Sweet Tooth, The Boys. Right now, I really dig Saga, Criminal, Fatale, Walking Dead, Fables, Powers. As far as superhero stuff, I really love Ultimate Spider-Man.

IR: What are your plans for the future?

MK: Trying to raise enough awareness about Headlocked to make it self-sustaining as far as my art costs go. We have a number of professional wrestlers that are impressed with what we’re doing and have offered to contribute artistically to help raise awareness.

IR: What is your method of writing/creating how do you come up with your content?

MK: I start with a big idea and then progressively work down to the details…the arc, then the individual chapters, and then the scenes that make up those chapters. Then I tweak the dialogue for about a decade because I’m way too neurotic about it.

IR: Why did you want to write about professional wrestling?

MK: If you’ve been a fan of wrestling for any length of time, you’ve been forced to defend your fandom. Headlocked is an examination of the craft of wrestling through the eyes of a performance artist…the reader will learn the craft of wrestling right along with Mike Hartmann. My hope is that when its all said and done, people who have a bias towards wrestling will look at it in a different light. They don’t have to go buy tickets to Smackdown but at least have some respect for what the wrestlers do and what they go through to entertain.

IR: What are the most rewarding parts of working in comics and the toughest part?

MK: The most rewarding part is doing it. I love telling stories. I love creating and I love meeting people at shows. The toughest part is how ass backwards the business is. It’s so impenetrable to people with new ideas.

IR: Anything else you would like to add?

MK: Help support our Kickstarter. We’ve put our heart and soul into this project and we think it deserves a bigger audience. If you know people who like wrestling, independent projects, dramas….there’s a little something for everyone in Headlocked.

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