Monday, October 22, 2018
Pop Culture

Professional wrestlers are telling their stories through comic books

Due to its salacious scripted story lines mixed with choreographed violence, professional wrestling is often referred to as a kind of soap opera.

But Palm Harborís John Crowther sees it differently. Professional wrestling, he said, is a comic book story played out on TV.

"When you think of a superhero, itís someone who puts on a costume, is bigger than life and can fly," Crowther, 46, said. "That describes wrestlers. They can even fly ó from the top rope."

Crowther is now further merging the two through his Squared Circle Comics, colorful comic books he writes that tell the authorized biographies of those who portrayed some of professional wrestlingís iconic characters. Some of the wrestlers even hail from Tampa Bay.

Comic Nikolai, for instance, tells the tale of how Josip Nikolai Peruzovic defected from Communist Yugoslavia and later became the Russian wrestler Nikolai Volkoff.

A book he is currently writing on the recently deceased Bruno Sammartino includes how, during World War II, as a young boy, the future heavyweight champion hid from the Nazis by living in a tent village in the mountains of Italy.

In the case of Clearwaterís Lanny Poffo, known as "Leaping Lanny" and "The Genius," his time spent feuding with Hulk Hogan is the culmination of the tale.

"Itís like the USA Today version of my story," said Poffo, 63, whose book mentions his late brother, Randy Poffo, also known as Randy "Macho Man" Savage. "Itís a synopsis. And the comics are fun."

Poffoís story took one book. Tampaís Brian Blairís story will take three. The first has already been released.

"As a kid, I used to get on my knees and pray to become Superman," said Blair, 59, best known in the wrestling industry as "B. Brian Blair" and one half of the Killer Bees tag team. Blair went on to become a Hillsborough County commissioner.

"I never had an S on my chest or could leap tall buildings, but I was able to leap over a 6í3 man while wearing tights and survive having a 350-pound man jump on my chest," he said. "And now, like Superman, I have a comic."

Comics on four wrestlers ó Volkoff, Poffo, Blair and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan ó are currently available at inversepress.com.

And besides the pending book on Sammartino, Crowther is also working on stories about World Wrestling Entertainmentís Hall of Famers Rocky Johnson, who fans may know as the father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and the Rock íní Roll Express tag team, among others.

"We are booked through 2020," Crowther said.

Like those grapplers he chronicles, Crowther also has an alter ego. By night, heís a comic book writer. But by day, heís a lawyer who was once deputy court council for Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court in Hillsborough County and today specializes in real estate and probate law.

Itís a combo career he said he should have seen coming.

As a kid growing up in Orange City, he would purchase comic books at the local drugstore and then read them at his dadís law office before heading home to watch professional wrestling.

Still, it wasnít until a few years ago that Crowther decided to delve into comic writing. He came up with the story of superhero Rochelle: The Teen Cockroach, a teenage girl with that bugís DNA, and took a chance by mailing the idea to Dell Barras, a comic illustrator whose credits include Batman and Superman.

Barras agreed to work with Crowther, and Rochelle was picked up by AC Comics in 2015 before later signing with the larger Antarctic Press.

Through a friend, Crowther met Peruzovic, who portrays grappler Volkoff and who was interested in turning his life story into a comic.

Once it was published by Inverse Press, other wrestlers took notice and the Squared Circle Comics brand grew.

"These guys are superheroes," Crowther said. "And like comics, if you can suspend reality while you watch wrestling, there are few things more entertaining."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected]
Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

     
 
Comments
Weekend concert picks: Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Bob Dylan, Rae Sremmurd and more

Weekend concert picks: Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Bob Dylan, Rae Sremmurd and more

This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Bob Dylan, Toto, Rae Sremmurd, the Breeders, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, with George Thorogood, the Doobie Brothers and more.
Published: 10/17/18
Toto’s Steve Lukather talks ‘Africa,’ Weezer, being a punch line and more

Toto’s Steve Lukather talks ‘Africa,’ Weezer, being a punch line and more

Why is Toto’s Africa (well, technically a Weezer cover) one of the most talked-about songs of 2018? Before playing Ruth Eckerd Hall, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather talks about getting the last laugh.
Published: 10/16/18
After Weezer’s ‘Africa,’ here are 5 more ’80s cheese-pop covers we’d like to see

After Weezer’s ‘Africa,’ here are 5 more ’80s cheese-pop covers we’d like to see

Can Drake pull off Phil Collins? Does Post Malone just need a friend? We think so.
Published: 10/16/18
Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, back on the road solo, reflects on grief, healing and Chester Bennington

Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, back on the road solo, reflects on grief, healing and Chester Bennington

A year after the suicide of bandmate Chester Bennington, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda talks about grief, healing and the future of the band before his first solo show in Tampa.
Published: 10/11/18
Top things to do this weekend Eddie Izzard, A Night at the Museum, birding and nature festival, Sesame Street Live and more

Top things to do this weekend Eddie Izzard, A Night at the Museum, birding and nature festival, Sesame Street Live and more

Catch a comedian reflect on his life, spend a wild night at the museum and go birding this weekend.
Published: 10/10/18
Updated: 10/12/18
Weekend music picks: Kid Rock, Romeo Santos, Latin and country festivals

Weekend music picks: Kid Rock, Romeo Santos, Latin and country festivals

Across Tampa Bay, it's a big week for rock (Kid Rock, the Struts), country (Brantley Gilbert, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Scotty McCreery), Latin music (Romeo Santos, Gente de Zona) and more.
Published: 10/10/18
Listen to our new culture podcast 'Life of the Party'

Listen to our new culture podcast 'Life of the Party'

Need just enough pop culture to be able to get by at a cocktail party? Check out our podcast, "Life of the Party."
Published: 10/09/18
Updated: 10/11/18
Tell us, whatís the creepiest thing in Tampa Bay?

Tell us, whatís the creepiest thing in Tampa Bay?

What is the creepiest thing in Tampa Bay?It could be a place, too, or maybe a person (but letís try to be nice).Maybe itís that old, empty house in your neighborhood. Didnít you used to bicycle past it just a little faster, like a kid in some kind of...
Updated one month ago
Why are there so many Tangerine Dream CDs at the St. Petersburg library?

Why are there so many Tangerine Dream CDs at the St. Petersburg library?

ST. PETERSBURG ó The mystery begins on the top shelf of a section labeled MISC, between JAZZ and LATIN and RAP AND REGGAE.This is where the St. Petersburg Main Library keeps its Tangerine Dream. Thirteen CDs by the groupís founder, Edgar Froese, and ...
Updated one month ago