I had a seed of an idea in my head. It always starts as a seed. "What if this would happen to such 'n' such person in that environment? How would they react? What got them there in the first place? how would they escape what seems to be certain peril?" My idea was to pit Wrestlers against Zombies and have the fight/action sequences play out like an actual wrestling match.
Already I can hear a collected groan from the cynical and jaded fanboys. "Zombies are so three years ago!" And I empathise, I do. The whole "vs" thing was so played out after both Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, the two most anticipated cinematic battles since King Kong vs. Godzilla, sucked major balls! And Zombies are so passé! Even the Walking Dead, arguably the greatest zombie comic of all time, focuses on the human drama and emotion whilst the zombies just shuffle along in the background and attack once in a while. But there were two things going on in my head that made me give in to this played out cliché of an idea; 1) Stick with what you know, and I know more about both Wrestling and the Horror genre than most people have forgotten. And 2) You don't have a name yet! Which I don't. Nobody knows who Mario the comic book writer is yet, so if I attempt anything too pretentious or high brow, whats to say that anyone will actually go out of their way to read it. Exploitation!!! That's what I need!!! A good old fashion exploitation book that I can sell to people on the promise of a fun action romp with great characterisation, funny banter and a nice bit of gore to boot! So Wrestlers vs. Zombies it is!!!
I already had a cast of characters ready to go. You see, I used to be a Wrestling manager for a British independent promotion called East Anglian Wrestling (or EAW) and during my time I had co-created a stable (a stable for the uninitiated is a group of wrestlers, usually three or more, that fight together under the same banner or for the same cause - See The Four Horsemen, nWo, D-Generation X and the Freebirds for the best examples of said groups) along with my buddies Danny and Jason called the Imperfects. We were a misfit group of sideshow freaks, personified as various clichéd gimmicks; Danny as the Mr J the Clown, Jason as Mister Monster the... Monster and myself as the evil ringmaster Mario the Apocalypse! We ran riot over EAW for all of three months, at which point the promoter saw the unique likability in what we had created and decided to make us good guys, or babyfaces. I was not happy. The gimmick that we had designed screamed "Bad Guy", it was fun to be bad! Taking the piss out of the crowd, mocking the other wrestlers, playing the coward. That was my job, whilst Mr. J and Mister Monster took care of business in the ring, I was on the outside working the crowd up into a rage and giving them a reason to hate us. Being a team of do-gooders meant there was nothing really for me to do. So I quit the company. I felt like Alan Moore probably does now in regards to Before Watchmen, my creation was being bastardised by someone who really didn't care about the concept in any artistic fashion, only in how much money he could make from it. So I took my proverbial ball and went home.
But I was still proud of what I had helped to create. Too often on the indie wrestling scene you see amazing athletes and technicians that don't gain any popularity because they don't have a unique or selling gimmick. As a wrestler, your job is to put a butt in every seat and if you are just Joe Bloggs wrestling another Joe Bloggs, wearing nondescript kit in a match that isn't telling a story, then you're never going to get very far. The Imperfects though have a unique gimmick and charisma to carry it across and I can proudly say that I helped to establish that and I still wanted to be creative with those characters.
So I had my seed, I had my characters and I had fleshed out the plot. What I didn't have was time. Whilst the shop was still up and running I had hardly any time to sit and write, especially towards the end when all was extremely stressful, so I sat on the notes that I had made hoping that one day I could make a script out of it.
Then the shop closed. All of a sudden I had all the time in world and no excuses to put it off any more. I took a couple weeks after the shop closed to clear my head and let the dust settle. The shock wouldn't actually set in until a while later and at the time I felt perfectly fine. On the 24th of January 2011, the day before my 29th Birthday, I began writing Wrestlers vs. Zombies. I would walk into town every morning with my laptop, go into Costa, grab a latte and sit in the corner and type. It was joyous. I found myself falling into the work effortlessly and the words seemed to pour out of my fingertips, through the keyboard and onto the screen. It was a labour of love in the truest sense of the term. On the 13th of February 2011 I had wrapped up the script for my first 90 page original graphic novel. I sat back, sipped my coffee and admired my work. I had an extra skip in my step on my way home that evening. Script done! That's the hard part over. Right? I wish!
My script was finished 15 months ago, so you may be wondering why you haven't seen a finished product yet. That's a bloody good question! You see, it is a book that is guaranteed to be published. Regardless of which publishing companies I pitch it to, I can publish it through Reaper Comics, an independent British publishing company. Sounds to good to be true right? You'd think an artist would snatch the opportunity to boost their portfolio with a piece of professionally printed work! That sadly is not the case and leads to the first bit of advice that I would give to other aspiring writers; prepare yourself to be let down by artists constantly. They will not have the same passion and drive for something that you have created as you have, so don't expect them to work as hard as you. Also, writing may not necessarily be easier than pencilling, but it is certainly quicker, so when you do finally find an artist to work with, be realistic on deadlines, especially if they have a day job too.
All of that would be fine if the artist is straight forward and honest with you. I have collaborated with three artists this past 15 months who all swore that they were committed and on board with the project, only to let me down, curse them!
The book has been called "Wrestlers vs. Zombies" from day one, right from the get go once I decided to make the book an exploitation affair, but unfortunately a year after the script was finished I discovered that a movie was in pre-production with the name "Zombies vs. Wrestlers". I was admittedly in a fluster when I heard. I attempted to get in touch with the Director to ask him to change the name, only to be ignored. The last I heard the name had been changed to "Wrestlers vs. Zombies", which only made things worse. I looked into the production and found some footage online. I immediately wanted to distance myself from the production as the footage I discovered was not anything that I would want to be associated with, even by mistake. Begrudgingly, I changed the name of the script to "An Imperfect World". It wasn't as difficult a decision as I thought as the best thing about the script, in my opinion, is the characterisation of the cast.
Finally, I found an artist for the gig who has begun to breath life into the book. His name is Grim Rascal and his work is phenomenal. He understands wrestling and the movement of the bodies as they fight. He gets the humour and the horror. His work and his genuine enthusiasm has reinvigorated my faith in this project and in working towards creating indie comics in general. I hope that we garner at least a modicum of success and that we are able to continue to work together in the future.
I also have Allan Palmer on colouring duties and Casey Coller will be creating the cover. I will show you more work in the coming months and I hope to have a finished product before the year is out.