Champagne: Wrestling With Character
Veteran writer bringing wrestlers to
comics; 3rd time could be the charm!
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.
with the right attitude...
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.
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
McCaw: First of all, what can you tell us about
the plot? It’s vaguely described as “…involving
supernatural and fantasy themes.”
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.
McCaw: How much connection, if any, would
your stories have with regular televised WWE programming?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
alternate cover to the first issue.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
McCaw: Could this experience lead to your appearing
on a broadcast? What would your wrestling persona be?
Champagne: Probably not but if so, The Gynecologist
is ready to show the WWE what a bunch of p*ssies they all
I do feel they should bring me out to Wrestlemania though,
to sign books over the Wrestlemania weekend when we launch.
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.
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.
heroes... for now.