Since his well-publicized walk-out from WWE the night after last year's Royal Rumble event, there's really only been one place where fans were sure they could see former WWE Champion CM Punk: Comics. Not only was it recently announced that he'd be writing for both Marvel and Vertigo, but until the story caught up with his real-life departure from the company, he was a regular character in WWE Superstars, the truly bizarre, nominally wrestling-themed comic being published by Papercutz. Now, it seems that is no longer the case.

As reported by WrestlingInc.com, WWE is removing Punk from the comic for all future printings, presumably replacing him with a different character in what has to be one of the weirdest retcons of all time.

As you might expect, there's been a lot of fan speculation for why they're taking such a complicated move, and most of it has characterized it as being a product of WWE's notoriously vindictive policies towards former employees. The report comes hot on the heels of Punk doing a hugely popular two-part interview on independent wrestler Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling podcast where he talked at length about his dissatisfaction with and antipathy for his former employer, as well as the announcement that Punk would be fighting in the UFC, which is ostensibly a competitor to the King of Sports.

WWE has a pretty notorious history of attempting to erase parts of its history that it can't control, especially when it comes to wrestlers who leave the company for competitors, so while it's surprising that they'd go to the lengths with a small part of the company's output, it's not entirely unprecedented. On the other hand, it might just be a simple matter of likeness rights -- Punk leaving WWE might mean that it's necessary to remove him if they want to keep the comic in print.

If that's the case, it might actually be one of the few times where the pretty dodgy art of the book works in its favor. The biggest problem with it for me as a reader is that it's just not that great in terms of visuals, and the wrestlers who show up as characters don't often look like their real-life inspirations. Of course, it'd be pretty hard to argue that the guy being referred to as "CM Punk" by all the other characters was not, in fact, CM Punk.

As for who's going to replace him, that's pretty up in the air. WWE has no shortage of wrestlers they could slide into the comics, but figuring out who would make a good fit for Punk's anti-establishment troublemaker character seems like it'd be the tricky part. My guess would be Dean Ambrose, WWE's current top anti-establishment troublemaker star, but I guess we won't really know until WWE Superstars v.1: Money in the Bank gets reprinted.

Incidentally, if you want to preserve your collection, the original versions of the paperbacks are still available at Amazon and your local comic book store... for now.

Either way, it's pretty weird, and it's one of those strange instances of real people and fictional characters colliding that you can only really get from wrestling, although it does make me think about how weird it would be if, say, Wally West suddenly left DC Comics and started talking about how mad he was that he lost his spot in all the big crossovers to Barry Allen and how he never got proper medical treatment from being sent into a mirror dimension for four issues back in the early 2000s.