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Interview Today's Date:

Keith Champagne: Wrestling With Character
Veteran writer bringing wrestlers to comics; 3rd time could be the charm!

Already with the right attitude...
It's no secret that Keith Champagne knows wrestling -- the actual sport as well as the sports entertainment. Years ago he even subbed in here at Fanboy Planet as a wrestling writer.

So when Titan Publishing announced it would revive the WWE in comic book form in 2010, it made sense that they'd tapped Champagne to write the first book -- WWE Heroes and Divas.

Full disclosure: yeah, we know Keith. Yeah, we root for him, and we're looking forward to his upcoming series Death Valley -- but for now, the questions that had to be asked were about taking on Vince McMahon's fantasies...or something like that.

Derek McCaw: First of all, what can you tell us about the plot? It’s vaguely described as “…involving supernatural and fantasy themes.”

Keith Champagne: Not much without giving away too many details but there's a definite supernatural/fantasy slant that becomes an important element of the series.

In a nutshell, as I've mentioned in other interviews, there are two characters we're introducing, The King Of Shadows and The Firstborn. They've been battling back and forth for control of the planet since the dawn of time. As it turns out, one superstar in particular has a hidden connection to this battle and in turn, The WWE find themselves engulfed in the larger conflict, off balance, out of their league, and trying to survive.

Derek McCaw: How much connection, if any, would your stories have with regular televised WWE programming?

Keith Champagne: None at all, aside from featuring the same cast of grapplers. We've got free reign to create our own stories and don't have to worry about tying in to the weekly television continuity.

Triple H Triumphant.
As far as inspiration goes, I would say that Triple H's persona as the King Of Kings was a creative impetus when the series was first being planned.

Derek McCaw: Do you have any freedom or interaction to create new characters that might later be used for the WWE?

Keith Champagne: I'm sure if the WWE wanted, they could cherry pick any new characters or personas I create and use them on TV. But they've got a full staff of writers who understand how to build a character that will connect with a TV audience much better than I ever could. There are different tropes for comics and TV but if they see something that could cross over, why not?

Derek McCaw: The first title is WWE Heroes featuring WWE Superstars and Divas – are there any particular current wrestlers that really stood out for you as a writer?

Keith Champagne: I brought in Roddy Piper because I thought he'd be a fun character to write and it turns out I was right. Mostly, I've been working with the top-level talent in the main roles, guys like Undertaker and Big Show, Cena and Shawn Michaels, while sprinkling in the guys lower on the card whenever I can.

The alternate cover to the first issue.
The biggest problem I've had is that there are so many wrestlers to use, there's no way to feature everyone in one series. So for the first one, I thought it would be smart to use the most recognizable names, then switch up the main roster in subsequent series to give other wrestlers their turn in the spotlight.

Derek McCaw: From the preview pages, it looks like you’re establishing Triple H as the main villain – many might agree. Do you have any concerns with characters shifting from heel to face and back again?

Keith Champagne: The thing about Triple H is he's also a really strong face. I personally prefer him as a heel but he can fit into either role and he's been both so many times on TV, it's easy to use him as hero or villain.

As far as characters shifting back and forth, who they are in the comic doesn't need to match who they are on TV. So if Triple H is a villain in the comic but embraces the forces of good on TV, it doesn't concern me at all.

Derek McCaw: What was the moment that got you hooked on professional wrestling? Which personalities – if any – did you idolize as a kid?

Keith Champagne: I can't really remember ever not watching wrestling as a kid. My dad used to take my brothers and I to the New Haven Coliseum when the WWE (then WWF) was in town. We'd always watch together on Saturday mornings; it was family time.

I think personally, I really got hooked watching Georgia Championship Wrestling in its heyday: Gordon Solie announcing, Ric Flair in his prime, Roddy Piper before he became an icon in the WWE and on and on. Wrestling always gave my family something to bond over.

As far as personal favorites, I always loved Andre The Giant. Mr. Fuji and Saito, Ventura and Adonis, The Million-Dollar Man...then later on, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold, Mick Foley...too many guys to name, really.

The newsstand cover.
Derek McCaw: This is a new venture from Titan – what makes this British publisher the right company for doing such an American project?

Keith Champagne: I think they were willing to look at the property outside the box and do something different with it because they more or less ARE outside the box, at least in the mainstream American comics scene.

My editor, Ned Hartley, is a very sharp fellow and he's brought a great deal of energy and ideas to the series that have really helped to shape the whole bigger picture of the book.

And from a marketing standpoint, I've really been impressed with the way they rolled out the press release and built the initial website for the comic. They're not just throwing this comic at the wall and hoping it sticks. They've got a gameplan, which is refreshing.

Derek McCaw: WWE comics have been tried before, in more of a horror vein – are you going to make any reference to what had been done before, or do you feel any influence from that earlier attempt?

Keith Champagne: None at all. I'm only vaguely familiar with the other projects, I've never read a wrestling comic in my life. I'm just doing what I do, trying to have fun and to write a good comic.

Derek McCaw: Could this experience lead to your appearing on a broadcast? What would your wrestling persona be?

Keith Champagne: Probably not but if so, The Gynecologist is ready to show the WWE what a bunch of p*ssies they all are!

I do feel they should bring me out to Wrestlemania though, to sign books over the Wrestlemania weekend when we launch.

Derek McCaw: Does this mean you could participate in a Comic-Con cage match against, say, Joe Quesada at Comic-Con?

Keith Champagne: If it's to benefit Jim Mclaughlin and the Hero Initiative, I'd take on Quesada and Didio in a handicap match.

I'd even let them win.

Well, let's start the ball rolling here -- cage match at Comic-Con anybody? Thank you, Keith, for your time talking about the book. Now get back to work.

Our heroes... for now.


Derek McCaw

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