Yes, fellow ‘Crappers, I have returned. After a long hiatus due to my duties working for Marvel Comics (cheap shill! R.D. isn’t the only one who can do that!) I’m back for one more entry peering into the (cue the Dr. Philo echo voice) Weird World of Wrestling! And seeing as how I have Marvel on the brain, I figured hell, why not take a look at how the two worlds have collided in the past.
Marvel Comics have a long association with pro wrestling, going all the way back to the days when they didn’t have superheroes running around. At the time (the late fifties and early sixties) monsters and aliens were all the rage, so naturally, there’d be an alien wrestler showing up sooner or later. And that he did, challenging humanity to beat him in any sort of sport they could think of. After the spandex brigade made their debut, rasslers began showing up all the time, and well-known characters would either dive into the squared ring or have it as part of their past. Whirlwind, the Beast, Armadillo, Unus the Untouchable, the ever-lovable A Guy Named Joe. A whole group of female wrestlers known as the Grapplers became super-villains, with names like Poundcakes and Screaming Mimi.
In the mid-1980s, during the height of Wrestlemania, Marvel hit upon a big idea. Well, sort of, seeing as how it was contained mostly to the pages of The Thing, one of their b-list titles. Seeing as how there were so many freaks running around the Marvel Universe, obviously not all of them would be out to save the world or conquer it. And thus was born the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation. Here, every superhuman who wanted to could compete in front of thousands of fans in a ring. Sure, it was kind of lame, but it after the Fantastic Four’s own Thing joined up, the fed got even weirder. The roster, originally comprised of lame-o’s like Doc Sawbones and Red Zepplin suddenly gave way to the likes of Gator, the man who turned into a real reptile in the middle of a match (let’s see Jake Roberts pull that stunt!); Demolition Dunphy, who went on to become D-Man, the Avenger no one can talk about with a straight face; and the new Grapplers, the womens’ division headed by the most evil little grandmother you’ve ever seen, Auntie Freeze (think GLOW on horse steroids). After the trend died out, wrestling went into the background of Marvel for the most part, though one wrestler from the UCWF, the aforementioned Armadillo, went on to become champion of an underground UFC-style MMA fed.
Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, it’s time to take a look at what this humble writer considers the top five moments in Marvel/wrestling history:
5. WCW: The Comic
Okay, not a great starting point, but we had to start somewhere. Near the beginning of Ted Turner’s reign after buying out Jim Crockett, Marvel launched this short-lived series featuring WCW’s finest (as well as P.N. News and El Gigante). It only lasted 12 issues (I think Marty Jannetty was hired and fired from the WWF on seven different occasions during the meantime), and it pretty much stunk. Bad stunk. The entire first issue was nothing more than an illustrated battle royal with some extremely inane dialogue (Arn Anderson to Rick Steiner: “Darn you, Steiner! My insurance don’t cover reverse knife-edges!”). So who won? Well, certainly not anyone who paid the $1.25 cover price.
4. The Thing Meets the Golden Angel
Jack Kirby, the man behind around 90% of Marvel’s original line of characters, must have been a wrestling fan. Wrestlers showed up all the time in his books. Very often, they moonlighted as hired thugs who tried to outmuscle the likes of Captain America. One of the funniest times he used a grappler was in Fantastic Four #14, from that way-back year of 1963. Long before he became a wrestler himself, the Thing was confronted on the street by the Golden Angel. The angel and his manager basically wanted to prove the Thing wasn’t all that, but as you can see, Ben Grimm didn’t really go for that sort of…er, thing.
3. The Beyonder: God, Villain, Pro Wrestler
During the infamous Secret Wars II series, the Beyonder, that all-powerful being who couldn’t think of anyone better to look like than a white Michael Jackson (before there WAS a white Michael Jackson, anyway) did a lot of stuff during his brief time roaming around on Earth. Mostly he went batsh*t insane, but before that, he dabbled in pro wrestling. Seriously. In one issue of The Thing (geez, that guy’s all over the place here), the One from Beyond donned a big “B” belt and the silliest boots this side of Chris Jericho to try his hand at beating up people for money. And then he threw the match and jobbed out to the Thing. So now we know – McMahon and Ben Grimm: the two men who can beat God in a wrestling match.
2. Spider-Man: High Spot Artist
As Spider-Man learned in his early days, with great power comes great moonsaults. Before jumping into superheroics, Peter Parker wanted to use his newfound powers to make a little cash. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s pretty faithful to the books. A masked Parker decided to rake in a little extra dough trouncing the local bruiser, Crusher Hogan (Bonesaw McGraw in the film, played by Randy Savage. Guess they didn’t want to confuse anyone with the Hogan name). In the very first Spider-Man story, Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter beat the Hogan handily, and got out of the sport shortly after. Years later, a writer/artist/demogogue named John Byrne tried to redo the scene, giving the fairly generic bald-headed Hogan a more WWE-style makeover, but it didn’t stick. Hogan remained in virtual obscurity for decades, but a few years back, showed up in a story co-written by none other than Raven himself for Spider-Man’s Tangled Web.
And finally, since we’re on the subject of all things Hogan, our number one pick:
1. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk
No, you’re not seeing things. In an issue of Marvel Comics Presents, the then-grey-skinned Hulk attended some wrestling matches, only to find the main event starred a guy with a very familiar name. Mr. Don’t Make Me Angry wasn’t too happy about the copyright infringement (shades of Marvel originally suing the real Hogan over the name), and everyone’s favorite green (er, grey) goliath didn’t care about silly things like creative control or backstage politics. Wha’chu gonna do, brotha’, when a pissed off radioactive behemoth runs wild over you?!?!?! Yeah, about what you’d think.
So there you have it, folks. The Top 5 moments in Marvel / Wrestling history. And another WwoW comes to a close. I’d like to thank Sean McQuaid, Mike Fichera, Jeff Christiansen and all the folks at www.marvunapp.com/Appendix for their aid in helping me put this together.