Fight for the Title: Jarrett Williams on ‘Super Pro K.O.!: Gold for Glory’
Writer/artist Jarrett Williams loves pro wrestling as much as anyone can. If you’ve read the first two volumes of his Super Pro K.O. graphic novel series, you can see his love for the sport on every page. The long-awaited third volume, Super Pro K.O.!: Gold for Glory, is finally out this week, so I sat down to talk with Jarrett about the book, the series, and of course our shared favorite topic, pro wrestling.
Comics Alliance: It’s been a few years since the previous volume of Super Pro K.O. Did your plans for the series change in that time, or was it just a matter of getting back on the original track?
Jarrett Williams: A lot changed in my life that prolonged the most recent volume of Super Pro K.O.. I was working a full-time job that really cut into my comic time. On average, I worked 60 -70 hours a week, traveled a ton, and would try to draw for a few hours when I wasn’t completely exhausted. I was really ambitious there and wanted to move up the ladder but it sort of made me realize how much I missed being able to crank out comics.
I’m drawing comics full-time now and it’s definitely made for a faster production schedule on my end. I think this volume is also the most I’ve scrutinized over within the SPKO series. I went through about eight script drafts with my editor, Charlie Chu, and I think the final outcome truly reflects that. I’m really proud of Super Pro K.O.: Gold for Glory. I think it’s a great jumping on point for new readers too! I feel like the overall story and matches really gel phenomenally. The intro sequence, where you’re introduced to the cast, etc. is almost exactly how I envisioned it in my mind. I’m really excited for everyone to be able to read it! I think anyone will leave feeling like they just watched an episode of SPKO: Tuesday Night Clash on Acid TV!
CA: It’s always interesting to see where wrestling comics draw the line on kayfabe. You’ve struck a good balance here, where the matches and outcomes are genuine, but you acknowledge that most of the wrestlers are playing characters and stuff like that. There are also hints that things are more fixed than Joe has realized so far. How did you decide where to draw that line for this world, between the “sports” and the “entertainment” in Sports Entertainment?
JW: Thanks! I’ve always viewed that time when I was 7-14 years old as my favorite time to be a fan of pro wrestling. It’s was its own world and I wasn’t as privy to behind-the-scene info on backstage politics or upcoming storylines. I don’t remember getting into the dirt sheets until I was around 15. It was just a lot more fun to watch and discuss without the spoilers.
When developing Super Pro K.O., I wanted to tap into that aspect of wrestling. I wanted the match outcomes to be as real as I imagined them to be as a kid. I think it makes the matches that much more intense as well. The reader can suspend their disbelief because things are playing out with Joe Somiano in real time. You really don’t know if he’ll be able to overcome his opponents.
As far as the “Powers That Be” in SPKO, I really like that they’re kinda looming over the organization but their plans/intents have yet to be revealed. The full extent of their influence over SPKO owner, Mr. Puff, will be revealed in due time.
CA: Some of the characters in the comic are recognizably inspired by real-life wrestlers (Yoko’s name and finishing move are pretty recognizable, for example), but others are a lot more vague. I'm particularly wondering, though, if there’s a real person you’re thinking about as you write and draw Joe Somiano.
JW: Ha! It’s interesting because I worked at Banana Republic years ago and there was this guy who’s last name was Miano. He was pretty loud and hilarious. I remember hearing certain quips from him and thinking, “That’s so Miano.” Thus, the name for Joe Somiano was born.
Also, when I first began conceptualizing, Super Pro K.O., Joe Somiano was a kid and the wrestling organization was going to be full of teen pro wrestlers. I eventually ditched that idea and decided to make everyone full-grown adults. However, I might still do a story with a bunch of junior pro-wrestlers one day.
CA: Who’s your favorite jobber in SPKO? Mean, what character do you wish you had more time to focus on? I’m pretty curious about Nega Spider myself.
JW: Nega Spider really is a total Jobber! (laughs) I like SPKO though because anyone can lose on any given night. Hell, even Joe was beginning to feel like a Jobber after losing against Prince Swagger in volume one.
I really want to build the SPKO Women’s division and you can see hints to that at the end of SPKO: Chaos In The Cage in the extras section. I’ve done a mini-comic with the women of SPKO. I’d love to do a Queen of the Ring special with a newly instated SPKO Women’s Championship. Then again, Elicity is one of the most respected women on the roster and has wrestled men and women all over the world. Perhaps she could just fight for the SPKO Heavyweight Championship one day.
CA: Can we talk about the Other for a second? Is he just a guy in a freaky mask, or is he in fact something freakier than that? Or is that something you’d rather not give away?
JW: The Other is one of my favorite characters!!! I’d love to do a one-shot focused on him. He’s definitely in the super heavyweight category but I haven’t really been able to showcase his backstory just yet. I think there’s an odd, creepy factor about him that lends itself to a one shot at least.
I love the idea of his face never being revealed. Currently, we know he DJ’s at some nightclubs during his travels between cities but that’s really about it. I kinda like the idea of keeping it that way too.
CA: King Crown Jr. becomes a much more complicated figure in this volume. I still wouldn’t exactly call him likable, but he’s definitely becoming more sympathetic. Have your feelings about him changed over the course of the series?
JW: Totally. I remember being really surprised that readers actually seemed to like him after his actions in SPKO, Vol 1. His motivations are so interesting to me because he comes from this lineage of wrestlers and has a lot on his shoulders. Cherry is a little glimmer of hope in his world because she doesn’t bite her tongue around him.
Crown Jr. is carrying SPKO on his shoulders and is definitely hyper-aware of his tool-bag behavior. He was a “Super Heel” in volume one, but has kinda entered into “Tweener” category by SPKO 2: Chaos In the Cage. With Butch O’ Rowdy’s arrival (and horrific level of intensity), it almost makes Crown Jr. the “Face” in their heavyweight championship match in SPKO: Gold for Glory. I love that I’ve gotten to show him in these varying roles!
I also dig that you get hints of his earlier incarnations in flashback scenes throughout various volumes. Of all the characters, I think Crown Jr. feels the most of the pro-wrestler journey. We’ve watched him from his teen development years and first title win all the way through carrying the SPKO championship multiple times.
CA: You’re obviously a huge wrestling fan. How regularly do you watch these days? How do you feel about what’s going on in pro wrestling right now?
JW: I’m a NXT-fanatic for sure. I watch that faithfully weekly. I really dig how all the characters there behave so consistently. Even when certain stars lose, it’s acknowledged in a way on the follow-up show that makes total sense for their character. I only catch recaps of RAW on YouTube but I’m hoping the brand-split brings me back into the WWE more consistently.
I began watching Ring of Honor online and I dig Jay Lethal ever since his back-and-forth with Ric Flair in TNA. Speaking of which, I’ve also been keeping up with TNA via clips online lately, too. I really want to get into more New Japan stuff along with Lucha Underground. I actually really dig the odd intensity of those Lucha Underground vignettes. Ha! There’s really so much pro-wrestling content but it’s so hard for me to keep up with it all.
Overall, I wish there were more huge, storyline pay-offs at pay-per-views. I also think certain concepts like Money In The Bank should disappear for a year and some months just to make them feel more important. I dig factions in wrestling, too. I liked NWO a lot as a kid so I miss the super-huge-wild-group that’s a constant threat to the company.
CA: Who are your favorite pro wrestlers of all time?
JW: I like a few wrestlers for different reasons. I love Rick Rude. His visual, character, and charisma just connected with me as a kid. I really prefer the villains to the heroes. I also dug Macho Man and Elizabeth. They made a great team and I actually didn’t mind their run in WCW. Seeing Elizabeth in a heelish role was so interesting to me.They’ve definitely influenced the characters of Mr. Awesomeness 2 and Mrs. Awesomeness in SPKO. Eddie Guerrero is also a fave of mine. His matches with Rey Mysterio are still so dope. HHH gets a lot of flack but I love the dude. You can see his influence on King Crown Jr. for sure.
CA: I’ll be honest, I hadn’t even thought about the Triple H/King Crown Jr. connection, but it’s obvious now that you mention it. Who are some people working right now that you’re really into?
JW: Hmmmm... I love watching current matches with Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Austin Aries, Asuka, AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, Emma, and Nia Jax. I usually stop whatever else I’m doing when they’re performing. I usually ink comics while watching wrestling, and I noticed I don’t get anything accomplished when they’re on the screen! (laughs)
CA: Is there anybody you wish you could give a walk-on role in the comic, without changing their name?
JW: I think certain wrestlers who would naturally fit in SPKO walk-in rolls would be (in no particular order): Kurt Angle, Dolph Ziggler, Samoa Joe, Kofi Kingston, Finn Balor, Robbie E., Brock Lesnar, Sasha Banks, Shinsuke Nakamura, Emma, Asuka, Tye Dillinger, CM Punk, and Enzo. Hell, I could even see Tazz, Corey Graves or Renee Young on SPKO commentary! Ha! I guess all the above wrestlers appeal to me in a lot of ways that many of the characters I’ve created for SPKO have as well. They’re really distinct and unique but make for a colorful cast of characters.
Wrestlers and managers from the past that would naturally fit in SPKO: Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Rock, Stone Cold, Booker T, The Von Erichs, Bobby Heenan, Yokozuna, Shawn Michaels, The Hurricane, Eddie Guerrero, Sting, Undertaker... I could go on and on.
King Crown Jr. vs HHH would be pretty epic now that I think about it. And Joe Somiano vs. John Cena makes sense in my mind, too. Maybe I should draw a fantasy match-up with those characters!
Super Pro K.O.!: Gold for Glory is available June 29 from Oni Press.