To me, pro wrestling has always had direct parallels with comic books. There are superheroes and supervillains, just as there are babyfaces and heels. Both operate in alternate realities, where the laws of physics and common sense seem to be blurred. I mean, if you think about it, a rope rebound from an Irish whip is about as believable as a radioactive spider granting someone super powers. Even the big pro wrestling companies; currently WWE and AEW, but previously WWF and NWA/WCW; can be seen as counterparts to the "big two" of super hero comics: Marvel and DC. In fact, I always thought of WWF as Marvel (the newer and "cooler" company from New York) and DC and the NWA (the older company, more based in tradition). Both can be enjoyable, as long as you know what type of flavor they're bringing.
I've been into comics since I was 4 and into wrestling since I was 12. Yet I've never been into wrestling comics. To me, it just seems like a strange medium to cross over into. Comics are detached from reality and so is pro wrestling...but it seems redundant to add yet another level of detachment to wrestling by making a second reality, on top of it. A reality where the wrestlers exist solely by their kayfabe characters. For example, in this type of world, someone like the Junkyard Dog really DID live in a junkyard. Max Moon really WAS from outer space. The New Breed really did hail from a future where Dusty Rhodes was president. And someone like Dean Malenko was.... well, still a wrestling bad-ass of few words and 1,000 holds.
Which brings us to this comic. Especially cooked up for DWS Halloween HavoK 13: The Happening! Yes, this is our 13th annual celebration of all things wrestle-y and Halloween-y. It's scary (and/or embarassing) that we've been doing it this long.
Published by Chaos(!) Comics in October 1999, this is (obiviously) a SPECIAL HALLOWEEN ONE-SHOT issue. While I was never into them, Chaos was, perhaps, the quinessential 90's comics company. In fact, they officially ran from 1993 to 2002. Usually producing horror comics, they also tried to angle for a bit of a rockstar flair in their stuff. For example, I remember being at the 1995 San Diego Comic Con and three creators from Chaos were at their booth for a special signing. The booth was blasting 90's rock (think post-grunge, pre-nu metal), while novelty firetruck lights and sirens (probably from Spenser's Gifts) were going off. All the creators were wearing black t-shirts and looked more "metal" than the usual comic creator outfit of a hockey jersey, wacky t-shirt, or a Hawaiian shirt. With the sirens, it made me expect to see Paul Stanley saying "wheewww! Firehouse!" This may have been when I generated one of my old Comic Adages: "no matter what you may think/feel, comic books will never ROCK". Yet the Chaos antics stick in my mind, since I'm babbling about them, almost 30 years later!
Chaos! was probably most notable for publishing creating "Evil Ernie" and "Lady Death". They also secured the license to WWF stuff, as you'll notice by the scratchy "Official Licensed Product" seal--- which, itself, evokes comparison to the 1993 "100% WWF Prime Beef" logo that they used to stamp at the end of their broadcasts. Also, you'll notice that this is the 1999-era "Demonic/Satanic Undertaker". The guy who did evil stuff like burn Stephanie McMahon's teddy bear, stuff Steve Austin into a "damn hearse" (tm, Jim Ross), and turn Mabel into Viscera. EVIL!
The actual story revolves around the evil Samhain; who sort of looks like Gandalf; holding the souls of Undertaker's parents as ransom. In exchange, he wants "Stygian, the Book of the Dead" from the Undertaker. Huh. Well, at least it's not someone trying to get that stupid frickin' URN from Undertaker, for once! It's all happening on Halloween...because that's apparently when the Undertaker makes a annual ritual visit to his parents' graves. Yet, whattabout all those Halloween RAWs and house shows that he performed at, in the past?! Like that one in 1994?! No-Prize Explanation: Taker visited his parents' graves before or after those shows! He still made it to the ring in time to spike ratings and ticket sales.
Evil Gandalf then imprisons Taker in his dungeon. It's not a boiler room, but it just so happens that Mankind is also there. With the help of Mankind and Mr. Socko, Taker is able to escape from the predictament.
After that, it's time for the Main Event, as Taker uses an illegal wooden object to off Samhain. Forget Magnum TA gouging Tully Blanchard with a wooden chair-- Taker just used a wooden stick to straight-up murder somebody. Up next, Taker uses his special err....energy blast powers... to also defeat the demon that Samhain had summoned. Undertaker can shoot blasts from his hands? May seem odd, but if you think about it, the guy has been blasting the ringposts with lightning bolts for years, and you've never complained about it! He's an evil undead magician, who doesn't just throw soupbones and Tombstone Piledrivers, ya' know?
So that's the main story, yet there's also a parallel story that runs in between the larger yarn. Down in Percy, Texas, two kids named Oscar and Billy Pringle make the unfortunate mistake of trick-or-treating at creepy ol' Paul Bearer's house. Bearer rejoices that Halloween is the one night a year when the Undertaker is away, so he do Evil Stuff. he invites the kids into his home, then wants to...errr, basically kill them. I'll give the creative team credit for scripting in an "ooohhh yessss".
Being normal, well adjusted kids, the Pringle boy decide to hide in a coffin inside Bearer's house. They're headed for the incinerator when who should save them... BY GAWD, KING-- THAT'S GOTTA' BE KANE! KANE!
The Big Red Machine rips the lid of the coffin and tells the kids to leave...and that's that. Yet this whole sub-story seems odd, simply because I kept expecting it to tie into the overall plot of Undertaker vs. Samhain. Like, perhaps the kids and Paul were upstairs, and Samhain's lair was below the house. Nope. Just a parallel story involving Undertaker's supporting cast. Well, at least it saved us from a potential "KANE and Paul Bearer Halloween Special" one-shot. Oh, and I'll also give this story credit for giving the kids the last name of PRINGLE; no doubt a reference to Paul Bearer's previous "life" as Percy Pringle III. And hey... if you wanna' kayfabe/comicfabe it: these kids could've used their connection to the Pringle Dynasty and have gotten Maniac Matt Borne, Abdullah the Butcher, Dingo Warrior or even Jos Leduc to chaperone them for trick or treating.
This whole thing is really no worse than a standalone EC Comic (think: "Tales from the Crypt"). Like unlike EC, there's no ironic twist or lesson being presented. It's just Undertaker in anti-hero mode fighting bad guys. If you're REALLY into Undertaker and Friends, you might like this as a silly companion piece to add to your fandom collection. Otherwise, it's just an odd novelty comic, perfectly suited for Halloween HavoK and Da' Wrestling Site!
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