Written by Mike Lackey, Pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Steve Montano (all creators credited first name in this issue was "Gorilla": Gorilla Lackey, Gorilla Wilson, Gorilla Montano, etc.)
As detailed in Marvel: the Untold Story, for the first several years of the "Marvel Universe," Marvel could only publish a certain number of books per month. In January 1967, for example, Marvel published 15 comics, priced at $.12 each, including Millie the Model, Kid Colt, and Marvel Tales, a reprint book. By 1993, Marvel's situation had completely reversed. They were the #1 publisher in the business in the middle of a boom that saw sales records for "events" like Spider-Man #1 and X-Men #1. Instead of 15 books at $.12 each, Marvel published nearly one hundred comics in January 1993 (most ranging in price between $1.25 and 1.75), including licensed characters like Conan, Barbie, and... World Championship Wrestling! That's right, in 1992, Marvel agreed to publish fictionalized adventures of WCW's wrasslers in a monthly comic! Tonight's main event: Johnny B. Badd vs. Sting for the WCW championship!
|That Steve Austin'll never amount to anything!|
We begin backstage, as fictional wrestler "the Ghoul," a villainous fictional wrestler wearing a green skull mask, is in the midst of a backstage brawl with most of the WCW roster. Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) looks on as the Dangerous Alliance of Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, and a bunch of other dudes get pummeled by one guy in a halloween costume. Scott Steiner, the greatest man who ever lived, tries to hit his patented "Frankensteiner" on the Ghoul, but the Ghoul responds by throwing him into a crowd of wrestlers. Scott's brother Rick threatens to suplex the Ghoul, but he responds with a close-fisted punch (illegal at the time!) that breaks the amateur wrestling headgear off Rick's head. Having defeated most of the WCW roster, the Ghoul is confronted by Cactus Jack (Mick Foley, aka Mankind), who worked for the Ghoul but has now been double-crossed. Ghoul and Max, his cigar-smoking manager, make fun of Mick's weight and intelligence, then tell him to "beat it." Cactus Jack responds by opening a door marked "tools."
In the ring, Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura introduce the big match of the issue, as Johnny B. Badd comes out as women throw roses at him. After that, Sting appears, brainwashed into calling himself the Dark Stinger, and is escorted down by the Ghoul (who can't stay at ringside because he doesn't have a "manager's license." Remember when wrestling had all these obscure rules?). The two wrestle a back and forth contest that finally ends when Sting fakes a knee injury, then rolls up Johnny B. Badd for the 1-2-3. We cut to the crowd, where a bunch of children with Sting face-paint say things like "I hate you!" towards Sting. Cactus Jack then appears and cracks Sting in the head with a shovel several times. The most amazing part about this is that Sting's been under the Ghoul's control ever since Jack hit Sting in the head with a shovel several issues ago, and this shovel-based attack is what finally cures Sting! Cactus Jack is like a surgeon with that shovel! Jack runs off, saying "now all that was done by my hand has been undone!" as though he knew this second shovel attack would have mind-restoring benefits.
Sting revives, but the crowd boos. He goes to explain his actions to good ol' Jim Ross, but J.R. turns his back on the Stinger. Sting watches as the crowd leaves, saying "hey, where's all my little Stingers?" Sting goes through the hallway, plotting revenge on the Ghoul. As he enters the locker room, he says "in a few minutes, the Black Stinger will be laid to rest forever!" It proves to be an unfortunate choice of words, as the now recovered WCW undercard is waiting for Sting. TO BE CONTINUED!
Wow, I don't know where to begin. Nothing shows that a book probably doesn't have great interior art like a photo cover, and here, it's a photo cover of Johnny B. Badd, a mediocre wrestler working an extremely goofy gimmick. And even though it's the cover, it's as though Ron Wilson hasn't seen that image, as the monstrosity within the book only bears a passing resemblance to the wrestler who is supposed to look like Little Richard (part of the fault lies with the colorists, who make his skin tone too dark).
Mike Lackey is trying to tell a multi-part, comic book style story revolving around the mysterious "Ghoul," but it's almost impossible to figure out what's going on from this issue alone. The scenes outside the ring are the best part of the issue, as they feature cameos from guys like Steve Austin and "flyin'" Brian Pillman. Conversely, the middle of the book is dedicated to a tedious, standard "wrestling match," that can't be effectively communicated through individual panels. Although it is hilarious to hear all the wrestler talk mid-match. My personal favorite: "you won't be so sassy once I get brassy!" What does that even mean??? My favorite scenes are the ones involving Cactus Jack's shovel attack, and all the little stingers turning their back on Sting.
Ron Wilson was a solid professional whose most lasting work might've been on the Thing regular series in the 80's. His work here is... not so good. The anatomy is bizarre; I think it might be a conscious choice to make every wrestler incredibly bulky looking so that everyone looks like one of those cartoonish wrestling action figures, but the effect is art that looks odd. Similarly, some of the poses don't look anything like wrestling as I know of it: during their match, Sting two handed shoves Badd against the ropes, instead of making him "run" the ropes the way wrestlers actually do. Then, in the next panel, Badd leaps over Sting, whose arms are forward- the way the ring is drawn it appears as though Badd leapt all the way from outside the ring to over Sting, Spider-Man style. Still, there's a lot of energy in this book, and it's a lot of fun, even if it's objectively kind of a terribly made comic.
As crazy as this issue (and this series) is, it's actually a lot of fun and I'm sure kids at the time probably thought it was pretty cool, even if it very quickly diverged from "real" WCW storylines and into weird amnesia storylines. Note: WCW actually did run an amnesia storyline around this time when Cactus Jack was powerbombed onto concrete and started hanging around homeless people in Cleveland, thinking he was an old sailor. Unfortunately, no shovels were involved.
General Miscelleny: remember the Wayne's World board game?