Over 30 years ago I had the idea to combine super heroes and professional wrestling in a tabletop card game, Champions of the Galaxy. Loving both genres, it was easy to write and produce.
The way I saw it, professional wrestling matches were like fight scenes between two comic book heroes…the Hulk and Thor battling it out. I also viewed professional wrestlers as larger-than-life superheroes, which they would later become with wrestlers like the Ultimate Warrior and the Undertaker.
A week ago I finished writing the 45th expansion in the Champions of the Galaxy series (Future Shock 2131) and I’ve plotted new story arcs through game year 2134. It’ll take at least three years to see all these ideas released and produced for game fans to enjoy, but I’ve learned by now that writing annual game editions requires patience on my part.
Combining the cultures of comic books and professional wrestling is like walking a fine line. It’s not always easy. Melding the two together is usually seamless, but sometimes they clash.
For example, Marvel and DC have been running ambitious and intricate story arcs lately, filled with cosmic themes involving time travel, parallel universes, and interstellar battles. Marvel’s current huge crossover arc is called Secret Wars (hearkening back to the 1980s series of the same name) and features amazing multiverse story angles.
By contrast, professional wrestling stories are more grounded, focused entirely on personal conflict. “I’m bigger and stronger than you!” “You cheated me in our last match…I’ll kick your ass!” “You turned on me, you backstabber, I thought you were my friend!” And on and on. Sometimes, when all else fails, wrestling turns to fundamental patriotism, like the feud between United States Champion and super patriot John Cena vs evil foreigner, Russian strongman, Rusev.
When I’m writing Champions of the Galaxy, I do a bit of both. Melding science fiction stories with down-to-earth personal conflict is a lot of fun as a storyteller, but it can be challenging. My goal is to not upset the balance too far in either direction.
The current story arc, Future Shock 2130-2131, features a science fiction scenario where wrestlers from the GWF in a different era (game year 2109) cross from one universe to another, entering the current GWF in game year 2130. This follows a three-part story called Black Death (2127-2129) where entities from a higher dimension possessed the minds of wrestlers in the GWF, making them essentially their slaves.
These stories are as comic book and sci-fi as it gets. But when it comes to writing about the characters in the game handbooks, I use standard booking scenarios seen in wrestling promotions, focusing on backstabbing, deceit, and macho posturing. Even patriotism, with one planet struggling against another for honor.
There’s one place where comic books and wrestling are very divergent and that’s with the aging of the characters. Sometimes I find this frustrating and I’ll explain why.
Comic books progress year after year as if the central characters don’t age. Bruce Wayne first saw a bat fly past his window and became Batman in 1939. He hasn’t aged a day since. Peter Parker’s Aunt May was constantly on the verge of dying of old age in the 1960s. Today, 50 years later, she’s portrayed as a healthy, hip senior citizen in tennis shoes, even though she should be about 130 years old. Peter Parker himself was a teenager in the 60s. He aged briefly, went from high school to college, and promptly stopped aging sometime in his twenties. Somebody figured out if comic book characters age in normal years they’ll be old limping men in a few decades and who wants to see Captain America fighting crime in a wheelchair?
Wrestling, on the other hand, has a more realistic time line for characters because the wrestlers are real people playing the roles. Hulk Hogan was at his peak in the 80s and 90s, and then it was pretty much over. The Undertaker finally lost his undefeated WrestleMania streak last year. It would have been unrealistic for a 50-year old man that was wrestling basically once a year to beat the “beast,” Brock Lesnar, so Lesnar was booked to win.
Then there’s Champions of the Galaxy, a game universe that combines super heroes and wrestling. What to do about aging? Some characters in the game look like humans, like Star Warrior and Thantos, but who’s to say they wouldn’t have a longer lifespan being born in other galaxies a hundred years in the future?
Despite the fact that much artistic license could have been taken, I adopted an approach more consistent with professional wrestling than comic books: that all these aliens age pretty much like humans on earth in our time period. Which doesn’t make the least bit of sense, but it gave me an excuse to have wrestlers decline in ability and retire, making way for new characters to be introduced. If I had used the comic book approach, the GWF would be overcrowded with hundreds of wrestlers with no one ever retiring due to getting older.
I’ll admit though, as a creator sometimes I get jealous. Marvel gets to keep using Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Thor indefinitely, as does DC with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But not me. Star Warrior, Thantos, Brute, Massacre, and almost all the GWF characters from early game editions are absent in 2131. They disappeared from action long ago.
Champions of the Galaxy characters are aging in roughly human terms, although even the concept of “years” is human and Earth-centric. It’d be like DC saying, “Batman is old now now and retired, we’ll come up with new heroes to replace him,” and Marvel doing the same with Spider-Man and all the rest. Never gonna happen.
On the plus side, this means I’ll always have to come up with new characters to invade the GWF, and that’s no problem. I love creating characters and constantly have new ideas.
There’s only one iconic character I saved from the aging problem and that was Wolf. I wrote that Wolf was from an alien race that ages slowly, the AniMen of Andromeda. I could, however, have said this for pretty much any alien race in the game.
The current Future Shock 2130-2131 era is the exception. Games fans are now able to revisit old-time favorites like Chaos, Mandrill, Wolf, Star Warrior, Dark Justice, and more, but with a twist. Being from a parallel universe, they are sometimes similar, but sometimes radically different (Lope, Star Slayer). It’s really been a blast coming up with alternative versions of some of the characters.
For now, I hope all our loyal fans are having fun with Future Shock. It’ll be an amazing year of game-playing with 2131 and then BANG, there’ll be some new shockers in 2132! This ride will keep being crazy!
Like a good science fiction story arc, there’s something bigger and bolder being hidden. It won’t play out until 2134, making this an epic-length story (Black Death, Future Shock, etc) an 8-year project. And the best news is, we’re only about half way through it!
How many comic book story arcs and professional wrestling angles last that long? The answer is they don’t. One of the few places you’ll find these kind of epic-length stories is Champions of the Galaxy.
Until Wolf battles Batman and the Undertaker in a Triple Threat Match…