An illustrated history of wrestling comic books

An illustrated history of wrestling comic books

Muscular, spandex-clad men flying through the air as they tangle with foes in a battle of good versus evil. What’s the first picture that pops in your head when you read that sentence: A comic book brawl or a match between two WWE Superstars?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other. At various points throughout sports-entertainment history, Superstars have been the focus of some of the most unique books to ever be printed. These comics took some of the most popular Superstars ever (and Virgil) and put them in the types of adventures more often associated with Batman or The Avengers.

Have you ever wanted to see Kevin Nash as a vigilante in the year 2023? Or The Undertaker fighting demons for control of Hell? How about the Ultimate Warrior on an intergalactic adventure of self-discovery? If any of those sound interesting, check out some of these wild comics.

*All images scanned from archived collection

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin — Chaos Comics, 1999

An illustrated history of wrestling comic books

We here at like to imagine that the things “Stone Cold” Steve Austin did in his self-titled comic book are actually what The Texas Rattlesnake did in his downtime away from the squared circle. The four-issue miniseries featured Austin wandering into a small Texas town overrun by religious cultists and drug lords.

Naturally, Austin takes them all out singlehandedly. And yes, every fight — whether Austin was crash-landing a helicopter or firing arrows while riding a motorcycle — ended with some poor sap getting a Stone Cold Stunner.

There’s one strange thing about the comic, though. It’s hinted throughout the four-issue series that “The Corporation” is searching for Austin. Yet, we never get any confirmation that it was Mr. McMahon’s nefarious group that was hunting “Stone Cold” down – the series ends with a secret agent walking into town to scope out The Texas Rattlesnake, only to miss Austin and his black pickup truck heading out on the open road.

Relive Austin's rivalry with Mr. McMahon |  Photos of Austin & McMahon

Nash — Image Comics, 1999

An illustrated history of wrestling comic books

Kevin Nash has parlayed his success in the ring into numerous film and television roles. He also got to star in his very own comic book. Released in 1999 by Image Comics, “Nash” featured Big Sexy as a Punisher-esque warrior, battling against the forces of evil in 2023.

Fighting for the poor as they struggle in wastelands, Nash takes on an upper-class trying to eliminate anyone but themselves in the post-apocalyptic rubble. Everyone loved Nash in 2023, including the random scantily-clad ladies who flocked to Big Sexy on the cover of the preview issue.

Photos of Nash in action |  Watch Big Sexy's career highlights

This wasn’t a comic for younger members of the WWE Universe, as Nash (the comic book character) comes up with some pretty gruesome ways to dispatch of the rich folks’ henchmen.  Clearly, Nash could have given Deadpool a run for his money. 

Undertaker — Chaos Comics, 1999

An illustrated history of wrestling comic books

The Undertaker’s origin story might as well have been ripped straight from the pages of a comic book. Losing his parents and half-brother (or so he thought) to a fire that claimed his childhood home, The Phenom might as well have been WWE’s version of Batman.

Watch The Deadman's unprecedented Streak at WrestleMania |  The Brothers of Destruction do battle

Instead of delving into The Deadman’s past, his 1999 comic book explored The Undertaker’s supernatural side. In this story, The Phenom  is immersed in a power struggle over Stygian, the prison of Hell. (How evil do you have to be to get locked up in Hell?) Battling him for control are The Embalmer, some sort of demon-human hybrid, and Paul Bearer.

Because this is an Undertaker story, it wouldn’t be complete without Kane rising from the flames to try to take out The Deadman. The battle for Stygian included demonic wrestling matches, commentated by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, flashbacks to Undertaker’s youth and a woman claiming to be The Brothers of Destruction’s half-sister. With an engrossing story and cool-looking art, The Undertaker’s comic book was arguably the most successful of WWE’s Attitude Era output.

WWE BattleMania — Valiant Comics, 1991

An illustrated history of wrestling comic books

At the peak of WWE’s popularity in the early 1990s, WWE got into the comic book business, teaming up with Valiant Comics to present “WWE BattleMania.” Appearing in a book drawn by legendary artist Steve Ditko, the caricatures of WWE Superstars were guaranteed to be as bright and bold as their real-life counterparts.

“BattleMania” often found the Superstars trying to enjoy life outside the ring, only to find one of their foes waiting to spring into attack. Want to see The Big Boss Man and The Mountie fighting in the woods? How about The Nasty Boys and The Bushwhackers brawling over a spot of tea? If you answered yes, “BattleMania” is your book.

Our favorite story, though, was “Lifestyles of the Brutal and Infamous,” which featured a look inside the opulent world of The Million Dollar Man. It turns out that, yes, he did have a Scrooge McDuck-style vault of cash that he climbed in for fun. And, just to show how deep the “BattleMania” roster ran, wrestling Superstar Virgil made an appearance, too. 

“Warrior” — Ultimate Creations, 1996

An illustrated history of wrestling comic books

If there’s any WWE Superstar that deserved to have a comic book, it’s Ultimate Warrior. Let’s face facts: the guy looked like a Rob Liefeld drawing come to life. The face paint and tassels put the former WWE Champion’s superhero look over the top.

So it was hardly surprising when, in summer 1996, Ultimate Warrior penned and self-published a comic book starring himself. The first issue of “Warrior” came as a gift to subscribers of WWE Magazine, who were in for an experience only Ultimate Warrior could provide.

Unseen Ultimate Warrior photos |  Warrior's first interview with in 15 years

The premiere issue could be seen as an origin story for Warrior, who crash-landed on a foreign planet amidst the rubble of what looked to be an asteroid. He wandered across the strange land, called out to by a signal in the sky that resembled his trademark face paint. The legendary Superstar engaged in battle with an untold number of foes until he was caught in a strange explosion.  He emerged from the blast with a new version of his famous wrestling gear, which gave him the true power of Ultimate Warrior, and let comic book fans know they were in for one heck of a ride.

WCW — Marvel Comics, 1992

An illustrated history of wrestling comic books

In 1992, WCW teamed up with one of the comic book industry’s titans, Marvel Comics, to produce this series featuring WCW’s top brawlers, like Sting, Lex Luger, Vader and plenty of others.

The action was primarily focused on in-ring competition, with Jim Ross narrating the book and joined by guest announcers such as Johnny B. Badd and Paul Heyman. The action was even occasionally based on real-life WCW goings-on. Rick Rude’s first appearance in the comic mirrored his WCW debut as The Halloween Phantom.

Just because WCW’s comic was based in reality doesn’t mean that things didn’t get weird on occasion. The book gave fans plenty of ridiculous moments, including Arn Anderson dressed up as a popcorn vendor, and Sting and Cactus Jack battling through a cruise ship.

And if you really like superkicks, this is a must-have comic. 

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