Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia
Writers: Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin (Lumberjack Man)
Artists: Dan Schkade (The Spirit) & Kendall Goode (WWE)
Colorist: Marissa Louise (Hex Wives)
Letterer: A Larger World (Ninja•K)
One of the things I love most about wrestling is just how much it appreciates the high levels of glory it achieved in the 1980s. While there’s a lot of nostalgia for the age of Jake the Snake, King Kong Bundy, and Andre The Giant, the industry takes this decade as an eternal reminder how great it was and can still be. In essence, remembering the 80’s in wrestling is about honoring the pinnacle of sports entertainment. SBI Press’ Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia does this in spectacular fashion, by taking the squared circle into an intergalactic setting to remind us once more why we should never forget the decade when wrestlers became gods.
Written by Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin and illustrated by Dan Schkade & Kendall Goode, with colors by Marissa Luoise, Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia follows “Rock ‘n’ Roll” Rory Landell, a wrestler who’s playing the bad guy angle (or ‘heel,’ as it’s known in the business) as he goes for a shot at the AWF World Championship title. While taping a promo spot for the pay-per-view event where the match will take place, which is perfectly titled ‘Summer Slam-A-Bration,’ Rory claims to be the best wrestler in the galaxy. The galaxy listened and it looks like it wants to challenge the claim in kind.
The comic unfolds like a wrestling fan’s dream come true. It is filled with Easter eggs and homages to the 1980’s wrestling scene, which was dominated by a mythical sense of grandeur and glory that created god-like personalities, many of which could’ve easily fitted into any given superhero universe. In addition to the three wrestlers mentioned before, this is the decade of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Koko B. Ware, just to name a few.
Each of these wrestlers built their image on a ‘gimmick’ that dictated their allegiance to good or evil and the ideas they represented once they got in the ring. This was visual storytelling at its finest. You knew what each wrestler stood for just by looking at them. Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia uses these ideas as a springboard into their own wrestling world. It takes from legendary times to do some fast and furious world-building from the human side before jumping into the more sci-fi elements of the story in full.
The book does a fantastic job explaining how the wrestling world works in the first few pages alone. We’re presented with a promo tape of Rory explaining why he wants to fight the reigning world champ, “Boy Scout” Bob Schultz (who bears a striking resemblance to John Cena, which I’m sure will lead to some commentary on how far wrestling has gone or fallen since the 80’s), we’re introduced to Rory’s manager Don Fong Wong (a Hawaiian guy playing a Chinese character, which accurately depicts the racial politics and stereotypes of the times and how they were exploited for entertainment), and we meet the wrestling company’s promoter Dick Drasin (a stand-in for the WWE’s own Vince McMahon and his infamous streak of screwing wrestlers over).
These quick dives into the business of wrestling feel carefully constructed and do a lot to keep readers in the loop. You don’t require decades of wrestling knowledge to enjoy this book, but you’ll appreciate more of it if you do have it.
This first entry into the series spends most of its time setting up the rules of wrestling and the conflicts brewing with the wrestlers outside the ring. The sci-fi elements come in more as teasers of what we’ll definitely see more of as the story progresses. Schkade and Goode’s art, with Luoise’s colors, feels appropriately cartoony as it captures the excesses of light and color that gave 80’s wrestling such a distinctive look. They capture the spectacle, the explosion of brightly colored headbands and tanned muscles that converted so many into wrestling back then.
On the other hand, this cartoony approach also makes the darker parts of the story feel particularly somber as Rory’s journey takes a turn not too uncommon in the lives of wrestlers that are pushed out of the spotlight due to controversy or one of many other misfortunes. Expect to see how these wrestlers become gods in the ring only to be reminded of their mortality outside it. It’ll be interesting to see how the art handles this layered approach. It’s already doing great things with the material.
To reveal each and everyone of the many Easter eggs one can find in the pages of Invasion from Planet Wresltetopia is to spoil half the fun. The book invites several walks down memory lane, or several Irish whips if you allow me the wrestling reference, to not only set the tone for the story’s bare-knuckled space invasion, but to also reward those fans that have invested so much into the history of the sport. Few books achieve the level of glee Wrestletopia produces.
Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia promises an intergalactic wrestling war that is sure to create a few legends along the way. Kuehnel and Entin’s script makes sure we’re ready to welcome the coming cosmic contenders by pinning down the fundamentals of wrestling. In the process, we get wrestling references galore and hints of a story that carries within its DNA a big chunk of redemption and a celebratory sense of spectacle, which will inevitably result in a match for the ages with the intergalactic championship belt on the line. It’ll be a rumble to remember, set to the glorious tune of 1980’s wrestling mayhem.
Read. This. Book.
Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia is now available on SBI Press via Comixology.
Ricardo Serrano is a Social Studies teacher with a Master’s Degree in Comic Books from the University of Dundee in Scotland. He’s also the co-creator of Se Habla Comics, a Puerto Rican podcast geared towards Spanish-speaking comic book readers.