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The 8 Greatest Luchadores in Comics

For the past few years, I’ve been hoping with all my might that masked Mexican wrestlers would follow the towering success of pirates and zombies to become the next big meme to hit comics, and this week’s “Hellboy in Mexico” looks to bring that dream one step closer to reality.

Hitting shelves, appropriately enough, on Cinco de Mayo, this comic has promised an El Santo and the Blue Demon-style adventure that will join the great tradition of lucha comics. And a great tradition it is! That’s why today, I’m bringing you a look at eight of the best luchadores in comics!

Why eight? Because ocho is one of my favorite words of all time.

8.

As the star of Mike McGee and Tamas Jakab’s online comic, El Gorgoisn’t just a luchador, he’s a luchador gorilla who is also a historical novelist, a super-hero, and the lead guitarist of the world’s most popular surf rock band, Gorgo A-Go-Go! And he fights the ancient demon Dagon. In space.In other words, he’s the high concept distilled into its purest form, and the result is phenomenal. Not only because of Gorgo himself, but because he also comes along with a world in which his presence has made lucha libre the most popular thing in the world. That means that “El Gorgo” is full of masked wrestlers, from Gorgo’s Blue Demon-inspired sidekick Eddie Devil and boss/world champion Señor Grande to his research assistant Lucy, who wears her standard-issue Nerd Hot glasses over a bright purple mask.

El Gorgo lives in a world that’s constantly under attack by sea monsters and horrors from beyond space and time, but it’s still a world I want to live in.

7.

Grant Morrison’s made an attempt to ad a little lucha flavor to his Batman run by introducing El Sombrero, but you’d have to go a long way to top Batman’s greatest rudo opponent: Bane!I don’t think it’s ever actually been mentioned that the South American super-villain draws an awful lot of inspiration from the world of the squared circle, but it’s pretty obvious if you ever actually look at the guy. The mask, the tights, the lace-up wrestling boots–heck, the guy even has an actual pro wrestling finishing move. The only way he could be more lucha is if he’d hit Batman with a steel chair instead of doing the Backbreaker!

So yes: when you get right down to it, “Knightfall” was a story about Batman getting his back injured by a ‘roided-up luchador, and the fact that it didn’t end with Batman and Robin teaming up as Batman and El Hijo De Batman to win the titles from Bane and KGBeast in the Steel Cage is one of the biggest tragedies of the ’90s.

6.

Widely known as a former Avenger and New Warrior, Rage was a viewpoint character who answered the question “What would youdo if you were a 13-year-old kid who got exposed to Official Marvel Comics Issue Toxic Waste™ and got a new body where you looked ten years older, were super-strong, and invulnerable?”It’s an alarmingly specific question, yes, but it’s one that young comics readers have been pondering for the past seven decades, and most of them have come to the conclusion that they’d do what Elvin Haliday did: Put on a tiger-print lucha mask and hang out with Captain America until everyone found out you were actually in 8th Grade. Which, now that I think of it, basically makes Rage the Marvel Comics Luchador version of Billy Batson.

5.

On the off chance that El Gorgo wasn’t enough gorilla luchador to satisfy you (a phrase I’m not sure I ever expected to type), we have Ape-X. Gaining his powers from a magic lucha mask (which also came with a super-sweet championship belt), he made his debut in the pages of the sadly underrated “Marvel Apes,” wherein a bunch of simian versions of Marvel Universe characters fought a secret Civil War because a solid half of them were actually vampires. And yes: It was as awesome as it sounds.Unlike the rest of the “Marvel Apes” characters, however, Ape-X didn’t have a counterpart in the regular Marvel Universe, although at the end of the story, his mask did get transferred between dimensions, ending up in the hands of a young man named Roy Reyna in Los Angeles, who has unfortunately never made another appearance.

Yet.

4.

El Fuertemight not count as a comic book luchador since he originated in the world of video games, but Udon’s “Street Fighter” comics saw him gaining a little more depth and characterization than he showed in 90-second punchouts with Akuma and M. Bison.Specifically, they cast him as a man whose twin passions were pro wrestling and his career as a chef, which managed to mitigate some of the problems inherent in having a Mexican character whose moves all had names like “Tostada Press” and “Guacamole Leg Throw.”

3.

In comics’ greatest example of Scooby-Doovian hijinx, the Amazing Joy Buzzards (from the comic of the same name) are a three-man rock band that also works for the C.I.A., investigating sinister incidents that occasionally involve monstrous spiders.As you might expect, it’s dangerous work for what amounts to an all-male Josie and the Pussycats, which is why the Joy Buzzards also have the ability to summon their mystical luchador bodyguard, El Campeon, by using a magic amulet and shouting “Go El Campon Go!” Although he’s usually pretty hungry (and thus easily distracted by food), El Campeon is quite possibly the most decorated luchador in comics history, being a former Tag Team Champion.

His partner? Santa Claus.

2.

Sensei Ping, of the comic-turned-TV-show-turned-comic-again “The Middleman” didn’t start out as a luchdaor at all. Instead, he was an unparalleled master of the Martial Arts who was sought out by the similarly unparalleled El Sapo Dorado to provide the ultimate challenge. The two men fought for twenty-five straight days using everything from martial arts to swords to submachine guns to World War I-era biplanes, until finally, El Sapo Dorado died of an unrelated heart attack, leaving Sensei Ping to take his mask in tribute.Still, he acquitted himself pretty well in “The Middleman’s” second volume, defeating an entire gang of rudos bent on revenge and unleashing his ultimate technique — the Wu-Han Thumb of Death — on a guy who looked an awful lot like a luchador version of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon.

1.

And finally, we have the greatest comic book luchador of them all: The Amazing Spider-Man! Sure, he’s more widely known for crime-fighting and freelance photography, but never forget that his firstact upon gaining super-powers was to don a mask and enter the wrestling ring to face Crusher Hogan, and if that’s not lucha, I don’t know what is.Sadly, his wrestling career was cut short before he could battle Norman Osborn in a Mask vs. Hair match (which would’ve set pay-per-view records if only because people wanted to see what happened when you tried to shave Osborn’s non-Euclidean mop), but we all learned a valuable lesson from his story: Un gran poder conlleva una gran responsabilidad.

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