Deadlines Are More Nerve-Wracking Than Being Punched In The Face: CM Punk On ‘Strange Sports Stories’ And His Debut At Vertigo
After a 434-day tenure as the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the modern era and a departure from the world of pro wrestling, CM Punk has settled into two careers that don't usually go together: Training as an MMA fighter for his debut in UFC, and writing comic books. This week, he makes his debut at Vertigo in the pages of Strange Sports Stories #3, alongside artist Andy MacDonald, for "The Most Cursed," an eight-pager about a baseball team plagued by the supernatural.
To find out more, we spoke to Punk about the influences on his comics writing, balancing training with writing, and why deadlines are worse than being punched in the face.
ComicsAlliance: I know that you've been a comics reader for a long time, so when it came time to make the transition into writing, was there anything specific that you went back to in order to figure out the writing side of things?
CM Punk: No, aside from anything editors would send me. They would send me scripts of comic books that I already had that were finished so I could see the breakdowns. I didn't want to read anyone in particular's work, because I didn't want to be freshly influenced by it, but I broke down the skeletons of stories based off of books that I got sent to me. I'd break it down, read the script, and then read the finished book to see how it all translates.
CA: When they were sending you things, was it just other Vertigo stuff, or did you get the chance to go back and look at those original Silver Age Strange Sports Stories?
CMP: No, I didn't get sent any Silver Age scripts. Just the more recent, like Garth Ennis stuff.
CA: You're obviously a Chicago guy, and your story is very much influenced by the curse on the Cubs. Was that something that you wanted to take on from the start?
CMP: It was definitely one of the first ones, because I pitched a couple of ideas right away, and my editor, Will Dennis, picked the one that he thought was best. For baseball, that was definitely the first one that popped in my head. I also had an idea about a hockey goalie, because they're the most superstitious people in the world that I've ever known. You never know, I don't want to reveal too much about that, because we might end up doing something with it.
CA: It's a very heartwarming story for something that opens with a man getting mauled by a tiger.
CMP: Aw, c'mon, don't give anything away! So you read it, obviously.
CA: Yeah, I very much enjoyed that opening.
CMP: And it's heartwarming?
CA: I thought so! You talk about the curse in a way that makes it about enduring and overcoming the odds. I thought it was very feel-good story!
CMP: Well, good. Thank you very much. That's what I was going for, so mission accomplished. I can't wait until everybody gets to read it.
CA: I'm also going to guess that you're the only person writing comics right now who is also training for their debut in UFC.
CMP: I've got a lot of weird jobs. But yeah, I'm the only one who can say all that.
CA: That obviously has to be exhausting, so is it something that you find difficult to balance with writing? Do you just get in the ring all day and then come home to sit down and write? Do you break it out into different days?
CMP: I've come to find out that the easiest way to do it is to just do it. I can prepare and think all day about stepping in the cage, or wrestling, or jiu-jitsu, or striking, but the easiest way to get it done is to just go and do it. Same with writing a comic book. If I have my phone near me, or if I have the TV on and I'm trying to write, it's just not going to get done. I need some peace and quiet. I almost have to lock myself in a room with just my computer and my imagination, and just kind of go for it. You can always tweak things later and rewrite stuff, but the way for me to get stuff on paper is just to focus. Balancing the two, it's not really that hard. I can give 100% at both of them, just at different times of the day.
CA: Is writing comics something that you want to stick with for the long term?
CMP: Yeah, definitely. Just writing in general, it doesn't necessarily have to be comic books, but those are the opportunities that have presented themselves. It's fun, and everyone I've worked with has been super awesome. Obviously, I've never written a comic before, so just learning as I go is fun as well, all the ins and outs and kind of breaking rules because I don't know any better. So yeah, I'm definitely sticking with this.
CA: Writing a shorter story for an anthology can be really difficult. It might seem like it can be easier because you're doing something that only takes up eight pages, but it's hard to cram everything that you want to do into such a limited space. Was that your experience with "The Most Cursed?"
CMP: Well, I have yet to write a longer story, so no, I really can't compare. I will tell you that it's more nerve-wracking staring at a deadline than being punched in the face. I've had a harder time cranking out this book than sparring with a striker.
CA: Do you think that's a matter of comics just being a new thing that's scary and exciting? You've been a wrestler for years.
CMP: Yeah, that definitely has a lot to do with it, but I want to do these books justice. I want to write good stories, and I don't want to write something just to get out there. I'm pouring a lot into them, so I want that to be conveyed when people read it, like "Oh, this is actually a good story." This isn't a cash grab. I think everybody knows that writers don't get paid that much.
CA: Was there anything specifically in "The Most Cursed" that you saw and thought, "That's exactly what I wanted it to be?"
CMP: You know, a lot of the art, when pages were being completed, I was just blown away. I really feel like it captured everything I was going for. I've been fortunate so far, I've written two stories, I've worked with two artists, and I think we all clicked. When people read this, there's a couple of the bigger panels showing calamities with the pitcher that were captured beautifully.
CA: I would honestly just read an entire comic about that poor guy.
CMP: I'd love to write one. We'll see what happens.