|JOE KEATINGE & NICK BARBER
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DF Interview: Joe Keatinge, Nick Barber put the strangle hold on pro wrestling in Ringside
By Byron Brewer
Ringside is a new ongoing series from Image Comics set within the world of pro wrestling (“sports entertainment”?). Written by Joe Keatinge and drawn by Nick Barber, it combines the ensemble drama of The Walking Dead with interconnected rotating perspectives akin to The Wire. Each issue will explore the relation between art and industry from the view of the wrestlers themselves, the creatives they work with, the suits in charge and the fans cheering them all on.
But that is just the beginning. The real violence is outside the ring!
To get more of a scoop on this unique comic, Dynamic Forces put both Keatinge and Barber in the figure-four leglock and pried the following information out of the creators.
Dynamic Forces: Joe, obviously the first question I ask is: how did you become a fan of professional wrestling (as I am) and what inspired you to do a comic based on the “sports entertainment” industry? (I hear former WWE Champion and Hardcore Legend Mick Foley had something to do with it?)
Joe Keatinge: Wrestling has always been a life pursuit, from the 1980s WWF Superstar era to the 1990s Attitude Era, then getting into the indie and international circuits whether it's New Japan or Portland's own DOA Wrestling. I love it in all its forms.
That said, the Mick Foley thing has been a little overblown in the reporting. I was asked who my favorite wrestler is and I answered Foley, no question, but I wouldn’t say he was the inspiration for the series.
The true inspiration isn’t just one wrestler. It’s working in an industry for over eleven years and seeing that everything you buy has tons of lives behind it, beyond the person who stars in it or wrote it or whatever. There are also real costs to this. That’s what’s inspired Ringside more than anything.
DF: So tell us about the scope of Ringside and what it examines. I am interested in the tag line of the series: “The real violence is outside the ring.”
JK: Ringside’s not just about one person and their life. The scope will open up as time goes on, well beyond wrestlers, whether it’s the people behind the scenes or the fans cheering them on.
DF: What can you tell us about your protagonists in the series, and will we see any appearances by actual wrestlers?
JK: Our first protagonist hasn’t worked in the industry in years. His story merely brushes against wrestling as we know it, which may be an odd way to kick off a book like this, but it’s what we’re doing.
There will absolutely be no appearances by actual wrestlers. Ringside exists in an entirely fictionalized and dramatized world.
DF: Nick, tell us the story about Joe finding you as an artist for this book online.
Nick Barber: Joe saw my stuff on Tumblr and liked it, so we started talking on Twitter. I was plucked from obscurity, haha. We're both big fans of Hugo Pratt and think maybe that's a quality Joe saw in my stuff ... or that type of style anyway. After talking to Joe, it was pretty clear we were on the same page in terms of stuff we liked and what we would like to work on.
DF: As an artist, did you do any character designs for this book? If so, which character did you enjoy designing the most?
NB: I played around with some designs, but I usually just do it organically -- once I read the script, I know right away how the character should look and then I just start drawing them. Personally, I hate model sheets and that type of thing (from working in animation). This is how the character looks happy, this is how they look sad, etc. It ends up pretty stale if you work that way. So it wasn't really about design, but I do enjoy pushing the various characters in various ways to get the right acting from the script. Dan and Terrance are probably my favorite in that sense. I probably draw them differently on every page, trying to get the right “performance.”
DF: Did you do any viewing of taped wrestling matches in order to get some perspective on life inside the ring? Are you yourself a wrestling fan?
NB: I've always been a wrestling fan. I didn't really watch any specific matches or anything for Ringside, but I did watch a LOT of documentaries, ideally the ones that delved into the lives of wrestlers outside of the ring. Those were really fascinating.
DF: I always thought it curious that most folks who like wrestling also like comics, although I have found the converse is not always the case. And wrestlers – famously Jerry Lawler, Rob Van Dam, C.M. Punk – are big comic book fans. Any thoughts?
NB: Well, just to mention that Ringside is a book for both fans of wrestling and also people that don't know anything about it. It's a drama, so hopefully it will appeal to everyone.
DF: Are there other projects, current or near future, you would like to let readers know about?
JK: Ringside and Shutter are my primary ongoing concerns, but I’ve got a lot coming up the pike and I’m excited for people to read it all.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Joe Keatinge and Nick Barber for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Ringside #1 hits stores November 25th!
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