If you’re clicking around on this website, the headline, L.U.C.H.A.: A Wrestling Sci-Fi Thriller should’ve already caught your eye. If not, let the blurb from the comic’s already-successful Kickstarter — which you can check out here, and drop in some cash to help it meet stretch goals, because who doesn’t love a winner — do the heavy lifting.
L.U.C.H.A. is the story of Agente, a luchador detective who spends his life solving low level crimes and murders, taking on any job that falls in his lap. He just so happens to get wrapped up in a murder campaign that involves vampires, wrestlers, and other notorious figures before the rug gets pulled out from under him…and the readers!
As the project lunges into its final 50-odd hours of fundraising, I had a chance to sit down and talk to the creators, CW Cooke and Travis Hymel, and pick their brains about [gestures wildly]. It takes a special kind of creator to launch a science fiction lucha libre comic book, and with Lucha Underground ending its fourth season this week, there’s no better time to fill that Temple-shaped hole in your life.
Heads up: like everything in my life, we ended up talking way too much about WCW.
With Spandex: So the first thing I should ask is where the project came from, as I know it’s got a unique backstory.
CW Cooke: Travis and I came together via Kayfabe, a wrestling anthology on Facebook that happens about once a year. We both were looking to do stories and kind of just happened upon each other. A true meet-cute story.
Travis Hymel: I don’t know about unique, but it was a happy coincidence. Like CW mentioned we met in that Kayfabe Facebook group. We were both looking to collaborate for vol. 2 of the Kayfabe anthology. (I missed out of the first one). We started bouncing ideas off each other and Agente came out of those brainstorming sessions.
Cooke: Originally just a wild noir setting with a luchador detective that then grew and became something real crazy. Also we were both born on a distant planet that was destroyed, ricocheting us to earth to develop our love of wrestling and comics.
Do either of you follow any of the other wrestling comics that have popped up, like Mike Kingston’s Headlocked or any of the Boom Studios WWE projects? Immediate followup, can we talk at length about those old WCW comics?
Cooke: I know pretty much everyone who is working on those comics these days. I’ve known Mike for years through the convention circuit and have met numerous kick-ass wrestlers because of him. Dennis Hopeless is a K.C. guy and he writes WWE and I’ve known him forever and a day, too. And yes we should talk about those old WCW books and the old Chaos comics with Rock, Undertaker, and Mankind.
Hymel: I follow the Boom WWE books. I actually did some fill-in pages along with a friend, Tim Lattie, for The Undertaker TPB that just came out. I never read the wcw comics, however I did read the WWE, then WWF, comics that came out in the late ’90s.
Cooke: Early ’90s. Our first villain is semi-based on [Big Van] Vader, so that’s even funnier.
Hymel: Well there goes my day, because now I’m going to have to track those books down. [laughs]
Cooke: Probably cost you a grand total of $6 for 12 issues.
So what made you decide to fund the project through crowdfunding?
Cooke: I’m broke.
I mean, aren’t we all?
Hymel: I felt it was a great way to get funding for the rest of production and fund the printing of the first issue. And the whole broke thing.
Cooke: But also crowdfunding helps you find an audience. I had a lot of good luck with Solitary, my first big book right out of the gate, getting double funded and I was a non-entity at that point. I probably still am, but people know my name now. So, it helps with the audience and it helps make sure the team gets to eat for a bit.
You mentioned that you double funded your first book and now L.U.C.H.A. is already hitting stretch goals, so what’s the trick to successfully crowdfunding a project like this?
Cooke: Begging and pleading.
Hymel: [laughs] It seems like it at times.
Cooke: Audience participation and doing as many interviews and putting yourself out there as often as you can. It can be a struggle to find the audience because a lot of times social media is just an echo chamber. So we have to cut through that with interviews and press and me basically standing on the street corner with a bullhorn yelling directly into people’s faces.
Hymel: Yeah I agree. You can’t just put it out there and stop promoting after a day. You have to constantly promote when you can and market the book.
Cooke: Or put it out there with zero promotion beforehand. I’ve seen that, too.
What’s your life experience as wrestling fans, and is that what got you into the idea of wrestling comics in the first place? It’s sort of a niche inside an already small niche. Especially when you end up making a sci-fi wrestling comic.
Cooke: Yeah, we’re in a niche Inception, basically. I grew up with two older brothers and one younger brother so wrestling was always around. Rock n Wrestling the cartoon, the toys, those beat em up buddies, the stuffed things or whatever they were, [ed. note: Wrestling Buddies!] the video games. The NES Pro Wrestling game was awesome. And then my brothers and I just beat the shit out of each other and jumped off things.
Hymel: My experience was mostly seeing wrestlers as real-life comic book characters. I grew up in a time where you didn’t have superhero TV shows and movies like we have now. So as a kid who loved comic books, I gravitated to wrestling. They are fun, exciting and over-the-top stories. Which is very similar to what you find in comics.
Cooke: I think Micah Myers is to blame for me getting back into wrestling comics though. I had read the old books and didn’t think anything of making new ones until he came at me with the idea for the Kayfabe anthology which I thought was a brilliant way to bring together crazy fun comic ideas with wrestling fans and comic creators alike. Also Thunder in a Paradise is a thing that used to be on that I watched. Not proud of it, but I watched it nonetheless.
Hymel: There is nothing shameful in that. [laughs] I told you how much I loved No Holds Barred.
L.U.C.H.A. is the closest I’ll get to making No Holds Barred into a comic.
Cooke: True. I have watched that a lot. And saw Suburban Commando in theaters.
I would argue that there is a deep shame in loving Thunder in Paradise, but I’m the guy who watches Nitro for a living. We’re all part of that TNT family, I guess. So why a lucha-flavored comic instead of like, licensing Hulk Hogan and doing a Thunder in Paradise comic season like Joss Whedon did with Buffy?
Cooke: It was easier to put a luchador in crazy sci-fi adventures than it was to figure out how to get that speedboat on land without turning it into a Transformer. Which honestly now sounds like it would have been amazing. A dark Thunder in Paradise reboot where Jack Lemmon’s son is killed and Hulkster teams up with his transforming speedboat to fight against, I don’t know, drug runners? What did they even do in Thunder in Paradise?
It was basically Predator without any Predators.
Cooke: And speedboats. Filmed at Universal Studios Orlando.
You could’ve done a Fitzcarraldo thing with Hogan dragging the boat over a mountain.
Cooke: A loose Fitzcarraldo remake that’s also a Thunder in Paradise reboot sounds exactly like how my brain works with the ideas I come up with sometimes.
Yeah, I have to write it now.
Hymel: That settles it. L.U.C.H.A. is dead. Long live L.U.C.H.A. in Paradise.
Okay, serious question: now that you know you’re making the first issue, where does LUCHA go? Where do you want it to be in a few years?
Cooke: I want to make 200+ issues of L.U.C.H.A. with Travis and then have an afternoon cartoon show. I once called this comic X-Men the Animated Series meets the Crank films. We do have plans for more volumes. Action Lab has said they want us to keep making it so long as the audience shows up. And hopefully they do. Otherwise how will I get Jack Lemmon’s son to play the voice of the transforming speedboat in L.U.C.H.A. in Paradise, brother?
If this sounds like a thing you’re into, and it should, make sure to hop over to Kickstarter this weekend for the final push for funding and drop in a couple of bucks for books. If nothing else, help me inch closer toward my dream of a Werner Herzog Hulk Hogan film.