An interview with WWE Heroes' writer Keith Champagne
By Kevin Scott
March 23, 2010 - 19:08
Comic Book Bin: Hello Keith, welcome to the 'Bin' and thanks for your time
Keith Champagne: Thanks! I appreciate the interest in WWE Heroes comic.
CBB: For those that don't know you (don't worry, we'll track them down once his is done), how did you break into comics?
K.C.: I'm a proud graduate of the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, class of 94. I started inking backgrounds for Tom Mandrake and Ken Branch in my second year at the school and, after getting samples into the right hands, starting inking professionally for Marvel and DC in my third year. I think I may have had the easiest path in history breaking into the business, I never got rejected once.
After about ten years of inking, I started to manage to line up some writing work. Currenly, my workload is about half writing, half inking every month. I've got the best of both worlds.
K.C.: Money and some misguided notion that I was the greatest writer in the history of comics in spite of the fact that I had never written a comic before. I cut my teeth writing screenplays as a hobby, something to stimulate myself creatively in a different way when producing art became a job. When my wife had our first child and stopped working to go back to school full-time, I started to really push to make up for that lost income by writing comics instead. That's lead to writing work in a variety of fields, including video games, film and later this year, my first novel.
CBB: Did you find it difficult getting people to see you as a writer?
K.C.: Totally! For a couple of years, I stopped inking and just wrote full-time to try to break that image. Nowadays, I think most people who follow comics know me as both (and I find inking strangely relaxing and stress free) so I've started sliding back behind my drawing table again. Now, it becomes about moving up the ladder. I followed up some high profile writing assignments at DC with a lower profile, creator-owned book with my friend Peter. This year, I'd like to do some work for Marvel and Vertigo, in addition to the fun I'm having writing WWE Heroes.
CBB: And what are the big draws of the DC Universe for you?
K.C.:I've been working for DC for 17 years now, pretty much uninterrupted. I sometimes feel overlooked or taken for granted there but I know and like the people behind the scenes, and I love the characters.
CBB: So, a little birdie tells me you have a BIG comic coming out this week. Do you want to tell all those fans what it is?
K.C.: This week sees the debut of WWE Heroes #1, a brand new series from Titan Publishing featuring the roster of WWE Superstars and Divas translated into comic book form! Check out our trailer:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzY9cN9ee24
CBB: Man that's a different move from superheroes. How did you land the gig?
K.C.: They asked. I've actually thought, from time to time, about what I would do with a WWE comic. How would I make it NOT stupid or a joke. And when Titan filled me in on their rough plans, it seemed like something we could really run with and have fun with.
CBB: Have you always been a wrestling fan?
K.C.: Lifelong and proud of it. My dad used to take my brothers and I to matches when we were kids and Saturday mornings were always about watching wrestling. Even afternoons, when Georgia Championship Wrestling was in full bloom.
I've continued to follow wrestling over the years, through all its peaks and valleys. There's nothing else quite like it.
CBB: Who were your favourites?
K.C.: Andre The Giant is my all-time fave. Abdullah The Butcher. Buzz Sawyer and Tommy Rich had a hell of a feud. For WWE superstars, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Owen Hart. I still think Sunny is the best Diva ever. Too many to list really.
CBB: Now there have been a lot of attempts at wrestling comics in the past. Why do you think they didn't take off?
K.C.: It's hard for me to judge because aside from maybe one issue of a WCW comic, I've never paid much attention to them. That book, sorry, wasn't exactly Watchmen. From what I understand, Chaos tried pretty hard with their line a few years ago but I don't really know.
CBB: And what do you think is going to get fans excited about WWE Heros?
K.C.:Well, what we're trying to do with this 'wrestling comic' is actually pretty ambitious. We're telling a really big story over the course of this series, and the people producing this book: myself, Andy Smith, our editor Ned...we're all genuine fans of wrestling. We love comics, we love wrestling and we're doing our best to create something that also appeals to fans of both.
K.C.: Honestly, you can't. Comic fans are used to Power Rings and Super Strength and flying heroes and villains. Compared to that, a static image of Big Show bodyslamming Kane is kind of tame. So we've tried really hard to make readers care about WHY Big Show is bodyslamming Kane, you know? We invested in the superstars, and build a larger mythology that plays with some
supernatural stuff to give it an edge.
CBB: Have you been backstage at Monday Night RAW or other events doing research?
K.C.: I have been backstage for a few different events, but not in about ten years. I even worked out in the WWE gym in Titan Towers once, and then got in the ring at the TV Studio in Stamford. Some cool experiences, but long before I got this gig.
CBB: Do you know what Vince and the WWE superstars think of the book and how you captured them?
K.C.: I have no idea. I hope to hear from all of them once they read what we've been doing. The impression I have so far, through our approval process with WWE, is that those who are reading it have enjoyed the comics.
CBB: Who's going to be your art team on the book?
K.C.: We've got Andy Smith doing full pencils and inks for the first six-issue arc. A second artist, someone I've worked with a couple of times before, is slated to start working on the second series, which hasn't been announced yet. We've also got some great artists doing variant covers for the different issues.
CBB: Did you have any decision picking them?
K.C.: Definitely! I suggested Andy, then blackmailed him into accepting the gig. And with the second artist, my editor Ned asked about him and I threw my full support behind the choice.
CBB: What was it like when you first saw the pages coming in?
K.C.: It's always gratifying and educational to see how my imagination is interpreted and drawn by someone else. I've worked with Andy a bunch of times and he still surprises me with his storytelling choices. In a good way, of course!
CBB: Have you written the scripts specific for these guys or are you just confident they can handle whatever you throw at them?
CBB: What is the collaborative process, do they suggest changes or ideas with you?
K.C.: They are my art monkeys and they draw what I tell them to draw, no matter how many crowd scenes I indicate in the script.
Seriously, I always make it clear that the script is just a guide and they are more than welcome to interpret it in any way they see fit, so long as the story gets told. I find that people do better work if they invest themselves creatively in it, not just serve as a robot being dictated to.
CBB: So which WWE superstars can we expect to see within these pages?
K.C.: Triple H. Undertaker. John Cena. Batista. Shawn Michaels. Chris Jericho. Edge. And on and on, pretty much the entire roster, including the Divas, will be making appearances here and there even if some of them are limited to cameos.
K.C.: No new superstars, the WWE roster is large enough to begin with! But we are creating new villains to bounce our beloved grapplers off the ropes, spiritually and physically.
CBB: And what type of stories can we expect. Is this going to be in the ring action with the over arcing storylines (like when Vince kidnapped his daughter) or are the WWE crew going to be out in the world righting crimes?
K.C.: There will be no crime fighting involved in this book! This is more of a life-or-death situation for our WWE Superstars. There's an overarcing story running through this book, and it's about a
50/50 mix of that larger story being told and the in-ring action. One affects the other and the other affects the one.
CBB: Can you give the fans any hints of what is going to be coming up?
K.C.: By the end of the second issue, two of the biggest stars in the WWE have been killed. I hope that gives fans an indication that anything can happen in this series, that all gloves are off.
CBB: And what do you hope people will be thinking once they've read issue one................and can you give your answer in a wrestling promo style :-)
K.C.: "WWE COMIC, I thought you were going to be a piece of trash and you know what I do to garbage?! I take it out before it stinks up my kitchen! But I found myself surprisingly...intrigued...by you. You're making me question myself in ways I never thought possible.
I want more and if I have to reign down upon my local comic book shop with an open-wallet and raised expectations, then that's what's going to happen. You only have yourself to blame to blame for what I do next!"
CBB: Outstanding Keith, thank you for your time, you've been great :-)
Will you come back for a catch up down the line?
K.C.: Sure, but can you ask me more questions next time? I was just getting warmed up.
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