WWE Superstars #1: Mick Foley’s Noir ‘N’ Wrestling


As fans of The Book Report podcast will attest, my esteemed colleague Iann Robinson and I tend to go off on enough tangents about professional wrestling that we wish we ran a Comics & Wrestling channel instead of just comics. Well, now those two worlds have combined with WWE Superstars #1, co-written by Shane Riches and former WWE champion and hardcore legend Mick Foley – known professionally as Mankind, Cactus Jack and Dude Love, depending on what costume he felt like wearing at the time. Foley has written best-selling memoirs about his career as well as children’s books, and now he’s bringing wrestling characters back to comics.

The conceit is that Foley and Riches are recasting the archetypes portrayed on WWE programming as characters in a sprawling crime fiction story in the fictional Titan City (named after WWE’s Titan Tower headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. It follows three main characters based on (arguably) WWE’s three biggest stars. John Cena is a man wrongly imprisoned and suspected of having hidden $10 million dollars that everybody wants in a briefcase that is essentially “money in the bank.” Randy Orton is a jerk running for D.A. against Alberto Del Rio. CM Punk is a street-level hero trying to rally the people to take back their city. Then every page of the book is cramming as many other wrestlers into other roles as possible.

HHH (I can’t stand it when people write out Triple H, because “Triple H” is just a way to say “HHH” out loud) is an evil ‘heir apparent to Mr. McMahon,’ who runs Titan City. Undertaker is some mystery badass who refuses Punk’s attempts to recruit him. The Miz is a TV reporter interviewing Orton and Del Rio. Dolph Ziggler is a police detective. The Shield are HHH enforcers, Christian is the One Good Cop in company with Warden Zeb Colter’s goons as corrupt lawmen, Daniel Bryan is a guerilla grafffiti artist raging against Orton, the Wyatt Family are also fringe goons who try to beat up Punk, Paul Heyman and his goons (a lot of goons in the WWE, it seems… might we hope for The Goon?) are extorting something from Cena, AJ Lee is playing all three of them, and so on.

On one level, the concept is a fun one, and it’s kind of neat to play with these characters as if they were in a setting less wacky than professional wrestling. On a writing level, it’s like getting hit in the face with a shovel full of exposition. Yeah, it’s cool to see how each wrestler is going to fit into this particular quilt, but it’s not a good plan to cram it all into one issue as fast as possible. On an artistic level, Alitha Martinez does pretty bang-up job in rendering these characters as the actual humans they are based on and the moves they’re famous for, although it does feel a bit static in the action sequences.

WWE Superstars tries once again to make wrestling characters into comic book characters (see Undertaker comics from 1999, for example), and it’s a nice bit of whimsy if you don’t expect too much, which you really shouldn’t, because it’s a comic book called WWE Superstars, and the fact that they refer to their talent as “superstars” instead of “wrestlers” as a matter of company policy is still off-putting. Foley’s such a great guy that you really want to like whatever he does, but this feels very rushed, as if he and Riches are so excited to get the ‘oh, and the Bellas are Evil Twins!’ ideas out there that any sense of dramatic tension evaporates. It makes for a fine fan fiction, though.