Headlocked is back on Kickstarter with another volume of Tales from the Road, and Bleeding Cool spoke with creator Michael Kingston about the new anthology that features stories created in collaboration with some of wrestling biggest current and up-and-coming stars. Headlocked: Tales from the Road Volume 2 features stories by Thunder Rosa, AJ Styles, RVD, Danhausen, Matt Cardona, Pentagon, and more, and with multiple covers, including one by the best comic book artist in wrestling, Jerry "The King" Lawler. The project is fully funded on Kickstarter, but there's still two weeks to reserve your own copy of the book for $15 digital, $25 physical, with lots of additional pledge options to suit all your wrestling and comics needs.
But why listen to us when you can hear all about Headlocked: Tales from the Road Volume 2 from writer Michael Kingston himself by reading our interview below.
It's been over a year since we last spoke, and a hell of a lot has changed since then. It's kind of mind-blowing how much has changed since July of 2020. So let me ask you this: are you surprised to see how competitive the wrestling landscape has gotten over the last couple of months? Any thoughts you'd like to share on the state of wrestling?
This is going to make me sound like a grizzled old vet, but I'm honestly not surprised by anything in wrestling anymore. If I'm certain of anything, it's that wrestling probably wouldn't have survived the Monday Night Wars if Twitter had existed back then.
Personally, I'm always interested in that level just below the top where the next generation of stars are finding their characters and their voices…so I know I'm in the minority but I actually love the new NXT. There's a ton of raw talent there essentially workshopping their characters and I just find it fascinating to watch. To me, that's where NXT fell off the rails over the last few years is just taking guys from the indies and plopping them on television without the coat of paint that makes them WWE wrestlers. I never understood running NXT in a way that doesn't prepare anyone for what WWE is and has always been and the course correction has been fun to watch.
I also love GCW. They've definitely captured the spirit of ECW in a way that no one else truly has. They've got a little of everything…death match stuff, bloodsport, technical classics, wild scrambles and ladder matches, crazy imports, and of course, Nick Gage. Effy is one of the most creative guys I've ever met and Cardona's run here has been nothing short of brilliant. The Hammerstein announcement video they dropped the other day literally gave me goosebumps.
With all the exclusive contracts flying around lately, how haven't you been offered one yet?
I'm pretty opinionated and strong-willed creatively. I mean, I have a ten year track record of making dope shit but I'm also not someone who will just tell you what you want to hear. And the truth is that I love what I do with Headlocked and I would never take any kind of position that would take me all the way away from that.
You're back with another volume of Headlocked: Tales from the Road. For those who may not be familiar, this is a spinoff of the main Headlocked series that features stories written in collaboration with wrestlers. What wrestlers have contributed stories this time around? And what artists? And what are the stories about? Basically, tell me everything.
It's a really fun collection. Some of the highlights: a Reefer Madness inspired story with RVD, a silent story that I co-created with Effy that's pretty powerful, a story set at the crossroads of women's wrestling that I did with Thunder Rosa, a story by Danhausen & Lan Pitts that was inspired by a Simpsons gag, and a story about wrestling action figures coming to life with Matt Cardona & Brian Myers. We also have stories with AJ Styles, Pentagon, John Morrison, Frankie Kazarian, Jeff Cobb, & Danny Limelight.
There's also a story that I co-created with Cryme Time that was one of the last things that Shad Gaspard did before he died. He sent me the edits for the script a few days before he passed. Shad was an OG Headlocked supporter and one of the greatest dudes I've ever met in wrestling. His death really hit me hard. I'm so glad we were able to work on something together.
What are some of the cool rewards people can get for pledging to the Kickstarter?
We have three covers for this one: a Rockwell inspired cover by Jerry Lawler, a Grand Budapest hotel inspired cover by Michel Mulipola, and a Kickstarter-exclusive Danhausen cover by Bryan Silverbax.
You can get almost anything we've ever made…older trades, single issues, variants. We also have a ton of signed prints and artwork including prints signed by Undertaker, Sting, Hall & Nash, Becky Lynch and a ton of others.
Speaking of The Road, in-person comic conventions are back. How has it been being able to bring Headlocked directly to the people again? I hear New York Comic Con was interesting…
NYCC was one of the hardest shows I've ever had to put together but I think we ended up with a solid lineup. We had Jerry and JR together for the first time under a HL banner, RVD, Katie Forbes, Jake Roberts, and a signing with the Major Wrestling Figure Podcast crew.
The COVID protocols made it a bit more challenging but in the end, it has been great to be back. For me, one of the hardest parts of the pandemic was being cut off from my creative friends…so it's been really good for the soul to reconnect. It was also great to see just how happy people were to see our booth at the show this year…people were definitely appreciative.
Where can people find you next?
We're closing out the year with a crazy stretch of SDCC: Special Edition, Emerald City Comic Con, and C2E2 in consecutive weeks. If I survive that coming off right off a Kickstarter, it'll be a miracle.
The ratings wars are heating up and wrestling markdom is as divided as it's been in decades. So how does it feel being the one outlet where people can find work by the stars of WWE, AEW, Impact, and Ring of Honor all in one place? Is Headlocked the real Forbidden Door?
One day, when I'm no longer doing this stuff…the stories I could tell you about how some of this stuff came together is definitely a story in its own right.
Tales from the Road is great and everyone should pledge to the Kickstarter, but when can we expect the next volume of Headlocked proper?
We're working on Volume 5 as we speak. It's all written and it's definitely the wildest book yet. But I'd like to have a bit more completed on it than we've had in the past before dropping it on Kickstarter. I want to do multiple projects this year and I don't want any one campaign tying up my sole means of distribution while we wait for it to be finished. We're shooting for mid-2022 for that.
But in the meantime, I have 7 Tales from the Road collaborations lined up between now and June…we'll definitely be dropping Volume 3 late in 2022. I'm also looking to do more Fig Story stuff with Cardona and Myers. We also have a horror project in the works and one more title I'm hoping to develop. So I'm hoping we knock this Kickstarter out of the park because we have a HUGE slate of comics planned for next year!
You can learn more about Headlocked: Tales from the Road Volume 2 and back the Kickstarter here.