Considering how similar the two are, you would expect a significant cultural overlap between pro wrestling and comic books. Pro wrestling’s colourful characters, heightened melodrama, and rather simple ‘good vs evil’ storylines should translate easily onto the pages of a comic book, at least in theory, but that hasn’t always been the case. It is easy to see why, though. Pro wrestling is an experiential sport, that works best when you see it live with an audience, one that is losing their collective mind at every move in the ring, as you clap and cheer until you are left with a hoarse voice. Capturing that magic on paper has proven… difficult, to say the least. That being said, when Daniel Warren Johnson drops a pro wrestling comic book, you sit up and take notice.
Johnson is one of the most exciting creators working in comics right now, and has accumulated an impressive body of work in a rather short amount of time. Space-Mullet!, Extremity, Murder Falcon, Wonder Woman: Dead Earth, Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star are all worth your time and money. The visuals hook you in as you flip through the pages of these books – the perfect marriage of the hyper-detailed rendering that has become the staple of modern western comics and the sketchy, kinetic linework more commonly associated with manga – but it’s the stories, full of heart and human emotions, that make his work so special. His latest, with regular collaborators Mike Spicer and Rus Wooton, is set in the crazy world of pro wrestling. Advertised as – very ambitiously, if I may say so myself – “The Wrestler meets Dragonball Z” by the publisher, it is a passion project. Not just in terms of a creator taking their rather weird and extremely personal interest/hobby and exploring them in great detail through their work, which it very much is, but in the sense that it is designed to bring you, the readers, into pro wrestling through the inviting medium of comic books. “The goal,” as Johnson puts it in the back pages of the first issue, “is and always has been to invite people in, no matter where they’re at. So if you aren’t into pro-wrestling, damn am I glad you made it this far! And if you are into it,” which I, of course, am, “welcome, old friends!”
Looking back at his work now, it seems as if this was perhaps the book Johnson was always meant to do at some point. Pro wrestling exists in all his stories – from powerbombs in Extremity, his Eisner-nominated limited series that brought him into the spotlight, to suplexes in Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star, his last Big Two project. Death and grief exists in all his stories too, and Do a Powerbomb! is no different. This is a story of loss, and mourning, and the seven stages of grief explored over seven issues.