Follow Daniel Bryan’s Journey To The WWE Championship In Boom’s ‘WWE: WrestleMania’ Special [Exclusive]
I was going to start off here with a few jokes about the complicated task of figuring out WWE's twisted continuity --- because we all know that Sheamus is canonically related to Beaker the Muppet, but where does Scooby-Doo And The WrestleMania Mystery fit in? --- but I'm going to be real with you instead: Daniel Bryan's journey to the main event of WrestleMania XXX in 2014 is one of my all-time favorite wrestling stories, and one of the most inspirational.
And now, as we approach WrestleMania season, Aubrey Sitterson, Kendall Goode, and Jim Campbell are taking Bryan's life-long journey into comics in the pages of Boom's WWE: WrestleMania special.
Check out a preview --- and find out what other famous WrestleMania moments are making it to the page --- below, along with an interview with Sitterson and Goode about adapting Bryan's story!
ComicsAlliance: I know that you were watching Daniel Bryan's story play out as a fan, Aubrey, but what was it like to go back and revisit it like this, now that you know how it ends --- not just at WrestleMania, but for Bryan's career as a whole?
Aubrey Sitterson: Honestly? Heartbreaking. I've been a fan of Bryan for years, ever since watching him chop down Takeshi Morishima in ROH at the Hammerstein Ballroom. I was there for his final match in ROH against Nigel McGuinness. I was working at WWE.com when he first debuted on NXT, and I pushed my bosses to let me conduct and run an interview with him on the site. I'm a die-hard Daniel Bryan fan. He's in my top five of all time, easy. So watching him retire from in-ring competition, so soon after reaching the pinnacle of his profession, in one of the best wrestling stories of the past 25 years, maybe more…it was tragic.
Tragic in the traditional, Aristotelian definition of the word, as what brought him such success — his intense, hard-hitting, believable style — was ultimately what cut his career short. It's a brutal, gut-punch of a story — it's that Dynamite Kid pattern that gets repeated so very often in wrestling, so it was definitely bittersweet to go back and look at it as a whole.
But one of the great things about wrestling —a nd this is nothing new, proponents of the "reality era" concept notwithstanding — is the way that it doesn't merely blend fact and fiction, but rather, it absorbs real life stories into its own narratives. The fact that Bryan, after sacrificing so much, after reaching a goal that was supposed to be far, far outside of his reach, that his injuries eventually caught up with him… it creates this beautiful, tragic symmetry.
This sounds crass (crassness is a big part of the medium, so I think we can get away with it), but Bryan's retirement has actually made his career more meaningful in a way, and while we've been robbed of however many great matches, especially that one against Brock Lesnar I still dream about, I think that Bryan's career will end up having perhaps even more impact, especially since we'll never see him miss a step in the ring. If there's a silver lining to it all, I'd say that's it.
Kendal Goode: Aubrey is clearly the expert on all things wrestling. I only recently got back into watching, and by that time Bryan had done everything in our story. Even with only about a year of seeing him wrestle, it was brutal when he retired. Last year I went back and watched the last decade or so of pay-per-views. I was able to experience his WWE wrestling career, at least, after the fact. With this short, I gained a better picture of what his journey was and why it's so important to modern wrestling.
CA: How did you pick which moments to highlight? Were there others --- like the big "Yes Movement" night on Raw --- that you considered but didn't make the cut?
AS: The Occupy Raw moment? It's in there! Second panel on the last page.
AS: I thought that was not only a crucial moment in Bryan's ascendancy, but also an incredible visual, so it absolutely had to be included. That was the thought process that I used throughout picking our moments. I started with a massive list of them all the times that Bryan was told he couldn't do something, then turned around and proved that person wrong. It was a truly gargantuan list, going back to Bryan in grade school even, and running up through his moment of triumph at WrestleMania XXX.
From there, I went about the extremely difficult task of figuring out what I could stand to lose — stuff that was too similar to other moments, extraneous stuff that I dug but didn't really fit the narrative, etc. One of the things I was really disappointed to not be able to squeeze in was Bryan's wrestling training. But that's mostly just because I wanted to write dialogue for Shawn Michaels. Oh! And I was also bummed to leave Bryan's time in Japan on the cutting room floor.
KG: Being only eight pages, it's incredible how many moments are in there. I think you really get to see what made Bryan stand out and how something like the Yes Movement could have happened. It may be a handful of years and moments singled out, but they are some really important beats in the story of a dedicated wrestler who was always fighting against assumed mediocrity. Honestly though, I'm just glad I got to draw the bits with Kane and Randy Orton's smug face.
CA: Along those same lines, how did you present this story to readers who might be coming to it for the first time through the comics, who don't have that knowledge of wrestling behind it?
AS: I know this is the part of the interview where I'm supposed to say, "Good stories are meant for everyone! This short is meant for experts, laymen and everyone in between!" But truthfully… I don't believe any that. Thinking that way is how you end up with lowest-common denominator pap that doesn't truly appeal to anyone.
I always try to keep my audience in mind when I'm writing — whether we're talking WWE shorts, GI Joe or my fantasy podcast SKALD — so this is very much geared toward people who are already familiar with not only wrestling and WWE, but Daniel Bryan as well. I certainly don't expect people to know as much about him as I do, but if they're buying a WrestleMania comic, I have to assume they know the general beats surrounding a wrestler who was the star of WrestleMania XXX, shows up on the E! reality shows and currently acts as SmackDown's general manager.
This is a story for people who already know Daniel Bryan, and if you're anything like me, to know the guy is to love him.
KG: Daniel Bryan's story is one that almost anyone should understand; being told you don't fit the mold, or can't accomplish something and doing it anyway. So whether you are a die-hard fan or are just wondering what a WrestleMania comic might be like, I think this story speaks to those personal experiences. Everything else on top of that is just the greater trappings and spectacle of professional wrestling and Sports Entertainment.
WWE: WrestleMania 2017 Special goes on sale 29 March. Check out the full solicitation below:
WWE: WrestleMania 2017 Special
Writers: Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown, Aubrey Sitterson, Ross Thibodeaux, Andy Belanger & Andrew Stott
Artists: Andy Belanger, Rob Guillory, Kendall Goode, Dan Mora, Jorge Corona
Main Cover: Rob Schamberger
Fight Card Variant Cover: Adam X Vass
WWE What If? Variant Cover: Jim Rugg
Format: 40 pages, full color
On sale: 3/39/17
Every late March/early April, WrestleMania takes the world by storm as the biggest, most prestigious live event in Sports Entertainment.
What better way to celebrate the Granddaddy of Them All than with a collection of stories featuring the most exciting creators, the biggest Superstars, and the best moments throughout WWE history?
WWE: WrestleMania 2017 #1 is an oversized one-shot that features a variety of stories showcasing the rich history and wealth of Superstars WWE has to offer.
From the seminal ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, to the heart of the Attitude Era, all the way up through Daniel Bryan’s legendary tour de force performance at WM XXX, this special has something for all WWE fans!