WWE and Boom! Studios have been making comics together for more than a year, but up till now those comics have all began as single issues, combining ongoing lead stories with short backup strips to fill in decidedly kayfabe backstage details around important matches and moments. The partnership is breaking new ground in 2018 with an upcoming graphic novel, WWE: Undertaker, which tells the fictionalized life story of the veteran WWE Superstar.
It’s good timing for the Undertaker, who just returned from a presumptive retirement, and is following up his victory over John Cena at WrestleMania with a Casket Match against Rusev (not, as we briefly thought, Chris Jericho) at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Undertaker is also a great choice for a graphic novel because his unique supernatural character has developed over his 27-year career into something that’s practically mythological.
As Boom! Studios Chris Rosa put it to ESPN:
One of the big challenges is that he is such a unique character in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment. Even though he has gone through multiple phases, multiple looks during that career, he’s been the one constant in that universe for almost 30 years.
The graphic novel will feature art by Rodrigo Lorenzo and a cover by Oliver Barrett. On writing duties will be Chad Dundas, a combat sports journalist who previously published a wrestling-based novel called Champion of the World in 2016. A lifelong WWE fan, Dundas shared his thoughts on digging into the Undertaker’s backstory and his connections with other classic WWE characters:
One of the most fun parts of a project like this is getting to take those deep dives into these big relationships in the Undertaker’s career. Deep-dive into how he got hooked up with Pall Bearer. A deep-dive into his relationship with Kane. Trying to imagine what conversations between the two of them would have been like backstage after Kane debuts and the Undertaker realizes that this brother that he thought had died when he was a child, is still alive.
Everyone knows that comics and pro wrestling are united by a shared interest in spandex-clad musclemen fighting, but the truth is they’re also united by a comfortable relationship with over-the-top melodrama. That’s why a graphic novel illuminating the story of Kane’s debut and feud with the Undertaker can add more to that saga at this late date than any attempt to rehash it in a wrestling ring ever could.
ESPN’s exclusive coverage of the graphic novel announcement features a longer interview with the team, as well as Undertaker sketches from Rodrigo Lorenzo.