Michael Kingston of Headlocked Comics - Working With Wrestlers, IInspiration Story, Missing The Rock

Headlocked Comics launched in 2008 and followed Mike Hartmann's quest to become a professional wrestler.

Creator Michael Kingston linked up with WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler for the cover art and the series became a hit among wrestling and comic book fans. Over the years, Kingston has brought the project to Comic Con and has worked with other wrestlers, most notably in the spin-off series Tales From The Road.

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Tales From The Road Volume 2, which is currently undergoing funding on Kickstarter, features stories from John Morrison, AJ Styles, Thunder Rosa, Rob Van Dam, Cryme Tyme, and more.

Speaking to Fightful, Kingston discussed the process of collaborating with wrestlers to nail down an idea and eventually bringing it to the page.

"Everybody has been super easy to work with. There have been a couple of people that, it's just not there, and I don't want to force anything. I just had to back away from some that didn't work out. It's not like a 'hard feelings' kind of thing. Ultimately, you can kind of tell the people who are creative versus the people who are derivative. It's been fun. Every collaboration has been different. We did a story with Ric Flair at one point, just sat down in a bar after a Con, hashed out ideas, sent him a script, he sent me some notes, and we were all good. That's how it goes with a lot of them. Some people take a heavier role. The IInspiration were super involved in their story, every step of the way. Mick Foley wrote a whole prose story. Sometimes, the hardest thing is to get them to understand the real estate in comics. Mick sent me basically a 24-page story that we had to condense into six and we ended up compromising and making it into nine. This book has a story with Cryme Tyme, which to the best of my knowledge is one of the last things Shad did before he died. He sent me the edits three days before he passed. It sucks because I love that man. He was an OG supporter from day one and the best dude ever. He loved comics. He sent me the script and I was like, 'this is two comics worth of stuff.' We had to pare it down a little and work on the story to get it where we had to get it. It's fun. It's my favorite part of working on comics, just the collaboration in general between artists, wrestlers, and almost universally the stuff you come up with together is better than the stuff you would come up with on your own.

"This story with the IInspiration, I had an idea, they liked it and then as we got to hashing it out, they pitched something that was kind of completely out of left field that you never would have thought of. My first thought was, 'I kind of hate this.' Then I thought about it for a little bit and it literally was the thing that turned it into the perfect storyline. That's the thing, there is that moment where everything snaps into place and 'that's the story.' That's the best feeling. Otherwise, it's like a scratch in the back of your head and you're thinking of these different avenues and it all clicks. That's the best feeling."

The story with Knockouts Tag Team Champions The IInspiration (Jessica McKay & Cassie Lee) is set to debut in November and Kingston is excited for fans to see what the trio have worked on.

"We just finished a story with the Inspiration for next month. It's the longest story we've ever done. It's 20 pages, a body horror story, and it has sort of an Elm Street vibe to it. I'm pretty excited for people to see that. We have a Christmas story with a surprising collaboration the following month," he said.

Volume One of Tales From The Road was released in 2020 and featured stories by Christian Cage, Christopher Daniels, Dolph Ziggler, Mustafa Ali, and Gangrel.

Kingston is hoping to do more with the Gangrel story, saying, "We did a short story in the first Tales From The Road that I want to make into a series that I co-created with Gangrel about a guy who trains Bigfoot to wrestle in the 1980s in Portland. I feel like that's going to be super fun when we get that out there."

When asked if there are future plans for the series beyond comics, Kingston said it's his dream to do an animated series before revealing he nearly partnered up with The Rock, but the timing didn't work out.

"If it happens, it happens. It was always my dream to do an animated series more than a live action series. At one point, we had a little bit of a flirtation with The Rock. It was bad timing. The subject material for Headlocked was a little darker and it was right when 'Jumanji 'came out and he turned into Disney superhero. I don't think The Rock would do 'Ballers' if 'Ballers' came out right now. He's in a different place. I feel like if I had caught him a couple of years before, it might have been different. I think we caught him at the wrong time. It's a tricky game," he said.

The Kickstarter campaign for Headlocked: Tales From The Road Volume 2 ends on November 11. Fans can make their pledges by clicking here. Different tiers offer different rewards, but a $15 pledge gives you access to Volume 2.

All pledges made towards the Danhausen variant cover will be donated to Danhausen's recovery fund to help him offset his medical bills and living expenses while he's recovering from his broken leg.

To learn more about Headlocked, follow them on Twitter.

You can watch the full interview with Michael in the video above.

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