Not content with living amongst comics’ upper crust thanks to his brand new movie development deal for Solitary, writer C.W. Cooke, named “the Mark Millar of Kansas City” by at least one prestigious comic book website, and his co-creator, Travis Hymel, are Kickstarting a new comic springing out of their story in the Kayfabe wrestling anthology. Billed as Lucha Underground meets The Truman Show, or X-Men: The Animated Series meets the Crank movies, lucha libre inspired sci-fi thrilller L.U.C.H.A. is already funded, but continues to unlock stretch goals, with the next on the horizon being “thumb wrestlers.”
We spoke with Cooke about the Kickstarter and his new Hollywood riches. Check out the interview below, and pledge to the Kickstarter here.
Tell us about L.U.C.H.A. What’s it about? Where and when does it take place? What’s the hook?
L.U.C.H.A. is about Agente, a luchador detective who does work in a very seedy area. It’s not set anywhere specific and it’s definitely not set in a normal place, but it was built around a Sin City type world, initially, that would grow and become its own character as the story progressed. But that’s where the hook comes in, nothing is as it seems. It isn’t really about monsters and it isn’t really about a detective. Everything swerves immediately after the first ten pages and we blow the doors off it, adding an element to the story of the luchador detective that is going to kick people’s teeth in. I’m a big fan of bluster but I think the mashup/twist is worth the price of admission.
Why do you need to kickstart this project? Aren’t you filthy rich with Hollywood money now?
If only! If I didn’t need to run this Kickstarter to make sure the team was paid, I would have just used my big Hollywood money to pay them and keep making comics forever. But alas, the development deal is strictly that: we are developing Solitary for movies and TV, so the money comes later. The Kickstarter, for L.U.C.H.A. is to pay the team and make sure that the book keeps happening. Travis is an incredible artist and co-creator, and he needs to be paid, just like Micah and Jeremy. And if the Kickstarter does well enough, maybe I’ll make some money on this thing too. That’d be the dream, right? To quit my day job and make comics full time. But I have a day job and Kickstarter to ensure that I can pay the people I work with (whether now or later), so that’s why we’re doing this. We want people to see what we’re doing, we want to build an audience, and we want to pay the team for their hard work. It’s a big goal, I know.
It seems like it’s a golden age for wrestling comics these days. Besides WWE’s comics at BOOM!, the new Luchaverse comics universe, the recent Comic Book Story of Pro Wrestling by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno, the ever-present Headlocked, and now L.U.C.H.A., which itself springs out of an annual wrestling comics anthology. How does L.U.C.H.A. stand out in this competitive genre?
Again, it all comes back to the twist. We are dealing with a luchador detective in a world filled with monsters, aliens, and the big twist that I’ve hinted at numerous times which becomes evident in the first issue. It’s there, I’m not hiding it, I just want the readers to find it and get bowled over when they read it. Anyone who has read anything I’ve ever done knows I love a good mashup. I love taking two wildly different things and jamming them together to see what happens, and L.U.C.H.A. is no different. It started as a luchador detective vs vampires as a love letter to the El Santo movies, and then it just blossomed from there with a ton of weird elements and ideas that Travis and I had building this thing. We had a strong first 10 pages from our Kayfabe short, and instead of just continuing forward, we felt like making this a kitchen sink style idea where everything can and should happen. Plus, all of the other comics you mentioned are by folks I know and respect in comics. I’m excited for all of that stuff and want there to be wildly different and crazy wrestling comics everywhere, telling all kinds of different stories and taking cool concepts and spinning them on their heads. L.U.C.H.A. is going to be a bit of everything, a fun romp of a comic that has action and sci-fi and horror and romance and everything in between.
And to specifically talk about Luchaverse and Marco Lopez, he has been a big help with L.U.C.H.A. and he and I are working together on something in the future. I’d love to be able to do a big team-up event between our two worlds, but I’m a big fan of what he’s doing and he’s, hopefully, a big fan of mine.
I’ve seen you in other interviews (that’s right, I do research) discussing your collaboration with artist and co-creator Travis Hymel on LUCHA. Can you tell us a little about that? And also about the other people on the creative team, Jeremy Kahn, Micah Myers, and your editors.
I respectfully call Travis the Byrne to my Claremont or the Ottley to my Kirkman, or to use your phrase I guess he’s the JRJR to my Millar. Travis and I built this thing together, as weirdo comic fans and wrestling fans just throwing ideas at each other. We took the things we loved from both and mashed them together and kept trying to one up the other with how crazy our ideas got. And because it’s a collaboration, I know to respect his opinions as much as he knows to respect mine. It’s our baby, together, and we are building this thing so that it has legs to continue for a very long time. I’d love to get a run like Ottley and Kirkman’s Invincible where we do hundreds of issues together. I’d love to get a Byrne/Claremont style Uncanny run together without the breakup at the end. He and I sometimes have ideas that differ and sometimes we bicker and nitpick them, but it’s for the good of the book. He’s told me I’m wrong before about stuff and I’ve done the same, but we both do it so the book can be better. I write things that I want to see and I want to see him draw, and he goes nuts on them and makes them better sometimes. The stairwell scene is something that he put together after my scripting. I wrote it out in a different way where it was panel by panel, and he came up with the fluid idea to make it move the page. It looks better the way he did it, but now that I know that’s how he thinks, it helps me come up with even cooler things for him to draw. But we are always, still, trying to one up the other.
And to talk about the rest of the team, Micah Myers is my ride or die for life. I’ve known him a good long while and he saved my ass on Solitary. He jumped in when we lost our first letterer due to a loss in the family and ever since then, we’ve been through thick and thin together. I work with him on every pitch, he’s always the first person in my head when I’m developing an idea for the logo or the story or the lettering scheme, and he’s a dude whose back I will always have. If it wasn’t for him and the Kayfabe anthology that he does, I wouldn’t have L.U.C.H.A. and I wouldn’t be working with Travis. Pure and simple. He works his ass off and he is always there in a pinch, and I love the guy to death.
Jeremy Kahn is a colorist I’ve known for a bit and met through other friends in comics. He was working on a pitch for me that I pulled from another publisher earlier this year because of, well, you know why. Quitting a book is tough and pulling a pitch is even tougher, but we stood by our morals and did it. Jeremy has also been working on Solitary vol 2 while continuing to grow and develop as a colorist and his name is going to be well known soon.
Shawn Pryor and Shawn Gabborin are my editors on this, and I’ve known those guys for a very long time too. The Shawns are probably two of the first people I pitched to in comics, and helped me develop a stronger voice over the years. Shawn Pryor talked me through the pitching process on Solitary (even though it didn’t end up at Action Lab) and Shawn Gabborin did too, even going so far as Gabborin was my editor on Solitary at Devil’s Due and Stillwater from Action Lab’s Danger Zone. I trust both of them to tell me what I’m doing that needs to be fixed and I have been through thick and thin with those two Shawns.
You’re looking to fund four issues of L.U.C.H.A., but the Kickstarter reward is for the first issue. What happens after that? Are you planning to work with a publisher (I just got a PR from Action Lab about the Kickstarter, so is it safe to assume it’s them)? Where can people who back the comic and then want to keep reading get the following issues?
Action Lab, officially, has picked it up to series. That’s a very recent thing that just happened. It happened because of the success of the Kickstarter and the audience response so far. The Kickstarter is for a specific Kickstarter exclusive version of issue one with a special variant cover and all the fix-ins to make it special and different from the regular release, which will be down the road. The Kickstarter made the Action Lab pick up possible. Having the Shawns involved in the editing was great, but it didn’t mean it would definitely be an Action Lab book (see Solitary for an example of that). So the Kickstarter is funding for issue one, has helped us get picked up to series, and the additional funding is to pay the team to keep making the book going forward. We have an initial 4 issue arc planned and then more arcs in the works after that. If you back issue one, I will ABSOLUTELY be screaming it from the rooftops where you can find the nationwide comic shop release of the full series. I’m a loudmouth and a brash dude, so it will be very obvious and easy to find it once the news is available on official releases and whatnot. But for now, we need to keep pushing the Kickstarter forward so we can fund this thing to eternity. And help me quit my soul-sucking awful day job, ha.
You’ve got a lot of quotes on the Kickstarter page from comics folk praising L.U.C.H.A… have you shown it to any wrestlers and gotten feedback yet?
I feel like we should talk first about all of the people I somehow swindled into looking at this thing and providing quotes. Mark Waid, Mark Russell, Brian Augustyn, Mike Deodato Jr, Richard Pace, Justin Gray…these are big names in the comics field. People I’ve respected and admired for a long time who I’ve been lucky enough to either work alongside (in some ways already or will in the future, there’s a tease for ya!) or have been lucky to stand beside in the fight against a certain contingent of insane people. People I can call friends now, people who look at me like I’m a peer. That won’t ever stop being crazy to me, to be treated like a peer by these people. I’ve talked with Gail Simone about this too and I’m still hoping she will be able to look at it and possibly provide a quote for it, and Ryan Prows directed a movie called Lowlife which has a luchador in it and is wonderful. We already talked about Marco and his lucha comics too a bit and he and I might also have something coming up in the next few months (another tease!).
As for wrestlers, I haven’t had a chance to send it to any just yet but I plan to. I’ve sent this to tons of people to look at and have lots of friends in comics and around comics who have read it and given me notes or taken the time to help me push this thing forward. And I’ll always be lucky to have had that help and that assistance. I did give the first volume of Kayfabe to Jake The Snake Roberts a few years back and got to spend time with him, take a picture with him, and shared texts with his daughter about how much Jake loved that book. So maybe I’ll send him this and the other volumes of Kayfabe and see if he wants to get quoted for the releases down the line.
What’s the best wrestling show on TV these days?
Lucha Underground is my favorite right now. I usually watch it on streaming as I somehow manage to miss the regular airing of it, but that’s my favorite right now. I will always have a soft spot for Smackdown and Raw and all of the WWE stuff as I grew up with that (and WCW and NWO and various other wrestling programs, plus movies like No Holds Barred and Suburban Commando and on and on). I’m hoping someday that maybe there’s a L.U.C.H.A. show because I think that would blow people away. It’d be like the old X-men animated series mixed with the Crank movies. Maybe I should have pitched my Kickstarter like that and more people would be giving it money right now.
Anything else you want to tell the readers of Bleeding Cool about the L.U.C.H.A. Kickstarter
As you called me, I’m the Mark Millar of Kansas City, but comics is my passion. I’ve been making them since 2007 so I’m not really an overnight success, as much as I want to be. It takes hard work and dedication and it takes the right project to get people to notice you. Solitary was the right project, and the Kickstarter for that book helped me get a development deal for film and TV. L.U.C.H.A. is running right now and we want it to go crazy and over-succeed. We want to beat the Solitary Kickstarter and we want to open every mystery stretch goal and go beyond them. We want to give you more cool things to add to each of the packages that are coming your way. We want the book to be special and we want to make this whole process unbelievable.
Outside of that, a lot of you know me and know what I stand for. All you have to do is look at the names of the people providing quotes for my book and you know what I’m about. I’ve wanted to make comics my whole life and making them, even in spite of my awful day job that makes me want to jump into traffic, is a dream come true. So I owe that to the fans and the audience I’ve found so far, and I hope to keep building that audience as more things happen and more comics come out. So stick around, you’re going to see some very cool stuff from me and L.U.C.H.A. and the teams I’m blessed to work with. So hit that pledge button, tell your friends, share it across the globe, and keep pushing us forward. As a fan of wrestling and comics, you will dig this book.
L.U.C.H.A. can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter for the next 12 days.