San Diego Comic-Con saw the launch of the Masked Republic Luchaverse, a shared comics universe featuring top Lucha Libre stars and icons from Chido Comics, the production team behind the Lucha Underground comics and Joey Ryan: Big in Japan, and Masked Republic, who represent the biggest stars of Mexican professional wrestling. Rey Mysterio’s one-shot launched at the show, and September sees the release of Lucha Brothers #1, the one-shot starring lucha legends Penta Zero M and Rey Fenix.
Both comics are written by Marco Lopez and Chido founder Ivan Plaza, with art by Javier Caba on Lucha Brothers #1 and art by Ben Harvey and Bryan Magnaye on Rey Mysterio #1. Micah Myers lettered both books. More information can be found at Chido Comics’ website, and Lucha Brothers #1 can be ordered here.
Lopez and Plaza sat down to talk about the Luchaverse ahead of the Lucha Brothers #1 release.
BC: A comic book universe based on Lucha Libre wrestling seems like the kind of idea that makes so much sense, it’s amazing no one has tried it before now. How did this come about?
Ivan Plaza: This is going to sound like the typically cliché answer, but it’s the truth! I’ve been a lucha libre fan since a very young age. People who watch and enjoy the sport of professional wrestling know that the human beings who portray these good guys or bad guys are the closest thing to real-life superheroes and villains on television. Now that I’m running a publishing company, it was one of my goals to somehow work on a project that involved lucha libre personalities. Kevin Kleinrock, my partner on this and good friend, runs a multimedia company called Masked Republic which represents several lucha libre legends in the U.S. and help them with licensing opportunities. Once Chido Comics and Masked Republic made the connection a couple of years ago we immediately started conversations on how to bring these characters into comic books, I started assembling the creative teams together, and here we are.
Marco Lopez: How I got involved in all of this is pretty simple. I used to work for a comic shop that Ivan was an owner in. We had gotten to know each other previously when I was a contributing writer for Bleeding Cool. We became friends and then eventually while working on this and at the shop good friends. He told me what he had going on with Masked Republic. Knew of some of the work I had done and that I had co-created Puerto Rico Strong. So, he suggested I come on board, and away we went creating this new world. It’s been a lot of fun, and I think each book gets better than the one before. We’re really tapping into something here that was only (in my opinion) done just as well once before — when Brian Pulido and Chaos Comics had the WWE license. I haven’t had the chance to read the new WWE comics, so I can’t speak on them. These characters are already superheroes in their own stories and in the ring. So, it was only natural that they work in the world of comics in genre stories.
BC: There are some wrestling comics out there now, probably more than there have been since the 1990s, but, these books have more to offer than just wrestling. In the Rey Mysterio comic, I’m personally feeling vibes similar to Iron Fist, G.I. Joe, and Indiana Jones. What makes wrestling, and specifically Lucha Libre, so well suited to a crossover of genres?
Ivan: Other than the fighting style of lucha libre itself, the one thing that draws me the most are the masks. They have a historical significance, and most of them have a legacy attached if it happens to be character that either a family member or someone chosen by their predecessor continues the legacy of a character. The very nature of a lucha libre character when it’s created — they automatically draw from fantasy, sci-fi, and horror elements. Nothing is really out of bounds when these characters are created, so naturally they make the crossover into comics books a lot easier. This is why we can play and have fun with any genre because most likely there is already a luchador out there that can fit any of those genres.
Marco: Like I said in my previous answer, these guys are real-life superheroes. You take the amazing moves they do and the high flying and their personas and backstories and masks, and how is that any different than superhero comics? Or books like Hellboy and Invincible? And it’s not like this hasn’t been done before. What we’re doing goes back to the ’60s and ’70s in Mexico. We’re just bringing it back and better than ever. Lucha storytelling in comics to me is the equivalent of great pulp hero storytelling. I am a huge fan of pulp characters like the Shadow, The Phantom, Flash Gordon, and such. And those are the type of stories I wanna tell with these characters, and I feel we’re accomplishing that.
BC: How involved are Rey Mysterio and the other wrestlers who exist in the Luchaverse in the creation of the books?
Ivan: They are all involved in the creative process in one way or another. For example, Rey Mysterio has been part of every step in terms of reviewing what we do with the character and where we take the story. Same thing can be said about the other luchadores. Also, having Masked Republic as mediator has helped our teams tremendously by keeping the lines of communication with the luchadores while we have any questions since most of them are still active and wrestling around the world. These books are technically licensed material, so they all have to be personally involved no matter what.
Marco: I think Ivan pretty much answered that but I gotta say. There is nothing more satisfying than when these guys approve of the work you’re doing. And to hear how excited they are and to see the long lines at SDCC when Rey was there signing the books and the outpouring of support from the fans. Especially when Ivan told me about some fans who were so ecstatic or grateful for something like this and what it means to my Mexican brothers. It just makes this Puerto Rican heart incredibly happy. It shows all this hard work was for something and that we were right.
BC: The Rey Mysterio one-shot debuted at Comic-Con, and there are more one-shots on the way. Can you tell us about those? And can you reveal anything about the plans for the next phase of the Luchaverse?
Ivan: All these one-shots were designed to establish what we are calling “The Luchaverse”. A shared universe where all these real-life luchadores exist and their individual stories will intersect at some point in the near future. Each one-shot ends with events that not only take place at the same time in the other one-shots but are pieces to a puzzle that will continue to unfold when each of the one-shots get their own mini-series in 2019. We are taking our time to not just re-introduce fan favorites like Rey Mysterio, but also lucha libre legends that might not be as recognizable in the U.S but wildly loved in Mexico, South America, and Japan.
Marco: The next one-shot is Lucha Brothers, and man I can’t wait ’til people read it. I’ve been showing it to some pros in the business to see what they think, and already the love is pouring in. This story is my love of old-school beat-’em-up videogames, ’70s and ’80s kung-fu flicks and Shonen manga. It’s a wild ride and throws a lot of exciting ideas at you.
BC: What’s the plan for promoting these? Will they be available to purchase at live wrestling events?
Ivan: Right now, we are selling directly to shops from our websites (TheLuchaverse.com and LuchaShop.com), while we wait for Diamond to help with distribution in the U.S. A lot of stores have already contacted us directly and are supporting the books, which is a big deal! I come from comic book retail as well, having helped run a comic book store for 5-6 years, when a store takes the chance on an independent publisher like Chido Comics, it means the world to me. The Rey Mysterio one-shot has already been available at lucha libre arenas in Mexico and became a huge hit! We’ll have to wait and see which independent wrestling promoters that currently use talent like Penta Zero M and Rey Fenix, stars of our next one-shot called “Lucha Brothers”, and two of the most acclaimed breakout lucha libre stars right now would like to sell the books while they book them at their shows.
Marco: Ivan and I live in Florida (Tampa area but willing to drive out to other close by areas) and we’re lining up signings and the response has been great. So, if any Floridians are reading this then be on the lookout for those on social media. And maybe I’m jumping the gun here in the interview but if anyone’s interested in following me then you can do so on twitter @atomicrexent and you can friend me on Facebook.
BC: The word going around the dirt sheets is that Rey Mysterio is headed back to WWE. If true, how would this affect his place in the Luchaverse, if at all?
Marco: I’m gonna be honest I have no idea. As I am just a lowly writer. But a cog in the machine. I’ll leave this one to Ivan. (laughs)
Ivan: Well, back when this whole idea came together there were no rumors or interest of him going back. He was doing his thing with Lucha Underground and Lucha Libre AAA. My partners at Masked Republic currently represent him in a multitude of licensing deals and being part of our comic book Luchaverse is one of them. I assume one of the reasons his negotiations with WWE have taken so long is based on the fact that he’s got plenty of outside deals that WWE wouldn’t necesaraly be part of. We live in a world where guys like Pentagon Jr and Rey Fenix have contracts with almost every major wrestling promotion not just in Mexico, but also in the United States, outside of WWE. That’s never happened before. So, I can’t speak of what would happen when he eventually goes back to WWE to finish his career, as he’s said on multiple occasions, but I will still be grateful of having the opportunity to work with him to publish his first solo series. We’ll see what happens in the future.
BC: Tell us a little bit about the pairing of the books and the artists, on Rey Mysterio, Ben Harvey and Bryan Magnaye, and on Lucha Brothers, Javier Caba. Also, can we expect them to stick around for the next phase?
Marco: These dudes are fantastic. They poured their heart and souls into these books. I’ll let Ivan talk about how they came to be on the books, but I loved working with them and the energy they brought. Without them these books wouldn’t be as awesome as they are. Everything I wrote they realized on the page or improved upon. They’re the best examples of the artist working to tell the best story possible. I also want to mention Micah Myers. He did a stellar job and honestly his passion and love for wrestling and comics shows in his work. I always say lettering is an art, and Micah always shows that. He makes those pages pop.
Ivan: It was very important for me to pick the right talent and carefully select each style for these books. All of the up-and-coming talent, with the exception of a few, that have worked on these books are superstar material! They just needed a great platform, a great script, and a great series to showcase their talents. The goal is to have all of them come back for each of the mini-series we have planned. I’m more than happy to be the platform that can help point the spotlight to everyone that works with Chido Comics.
BC: One of Chido Comics’ stated goals is to produce “Art and stories that can capture and reflect the diversity in our world.” Why is that so important?
Marco: Because the world is an ever-evolving and changing place and it should reflect the world outside your window. I always grew up with a diverse group of people. I don’t remember a moment of my life where I wasn’t surrounded by it. As a military brat growing up I got to live in Puerto Rico, NYC, California, Massachusetts, etc. Plus we’re talking the world of Lucha here. It would only make sense given its Latin-X origins.
Ivan: Like Marco mentioned, I’m interested in showcasing talent that can represent the world as they see it. Where ethnicity or background doesn’t matter, only what’s on the page. We want to create characters that can represent everyone with all types of creators, whether you are a mainstream seasoned veteran or an underrepresented creator. Our goal is not to make diversity for diversity’s sake — I just want fans who don’t see themselves represented authentically elsewhere to know that when they pick up a Chido book they know we’ll have stories that at least reflect a bit of their reality, and on top of that it involves creators they can identify with.
BC: I understand that the Lucha Brothers one-shot will debut at Expo Lucha in Las Vegas. Do you have anything special planned for the show?
Marco: I won’t be able to attend the show but I look forward to seeing and hearing the reactions of the fans to the comics and I think it’s gonna be a big turn out and everyone is going to be pleasantly surprised this one shot and how different it is from Rey Mysterio.
Ivan: We’ll have a booth with Rey Mysterio and Lucha Brother books. We’ll also be revealing a prominent lucha libre legend that will be joining the Luchaverse which is very exciting! Also, tons of Expo Lucha exclusive items and of course, Rey Mysterio and the Lucha Brothers will be present to sign books. Expo Lucha is the first one of its kind, and it goes back to the point of diversity we just discussed. I mean, this is a two-day convention that heavily features luchadores from Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. The fact that this exists and that is close to being sold out, it just another example of that reflection and the diversity in our world today we just talked about.
BC: Where should people go if they want to keep up to date with the Luchaverse and future plans?