Black Nerd Problems caught up with David Walker (Bitter Root, Naomi, Power Man and Iron Fist) and Brett Weldele (Surrogates, Pariah, The Light) about their new crowd-funded comic One Fall.
The story follows Jimmy “Resurrecter” King, a wrestler with an inherited ability to rise from the dead. And it ain’t no gimmick. In a world where vampires, werewolves and other monsters exist, you’d think this would be dope. But when you’re a wrestler who can’t die, everyone wants to be the one who finally takes you out.
Black Nerd Problems: One Fall has got a lot of different ideas meshed together. There’s wrestling, monsters, a little bit of magic. What was the inception of the idea? The one aspect of it that came before everything else?
David Walker: It was definitely the wrestling aspect. Brett can address that a little bit.
Brett Weldele: Yeah I’d been working on One Fall for a while on my own. I was just making drawings and coming up with ideas. The inception was that I’d always wanted to do a wrestling book…and I had a lot of ideas for it. I just didn’t know how to put all the ideas together. So I approached David about a year ago at a show because we both have similar interests in Grindhouse films. I kind of wanted a grittier kind of vibe for it so we just came together and started bouncing ideas back and forth and that’s how we got here.
DW: Yeah I mean it’s been more than ten years since Brett and I met. We see each other at conventions and around town. And I was always like “hey we should work on something together.”
BW: I finally took him up on it. (laughs)
DW: So he kind of pulled me aside and he was like okay let’s do this. I’m like what do you want to do? And he’s like well I kind of had this idea that has something to do with wrestling and he pitched me the basic concept and I was like yeah this is really cool. One of the things we talked about was not just wrestling but our love of other types of entertainment. And we were talking about like old Kung Fu movies and things like that. Italian Exploitation, horror, and stuff like that. And I was like okay, let me just be clear. You’re not talking about just doing a book about wrestlers. Because that’s being done. Some are being done really, really well. We can’t just do that. And he was like no, I want this to go over the top. So I’m like okay how about this? And he was like yes! That’s what I meant by over the top! A lot of times someone will say to you, I want to go dark and gritty. And then you’ll throw out an idea and they’re like “not that dark and gritty!”
BW: I have a deep love for the Attitude Era and how over the top and PG-13 nearing R that it went. The result during that time was very Grindhouse-y and that’s the stuff that’s engaging. And that’s the stuff that you see clips from all the time. Steve Austin with the beer truck, all that you know?
A Tale of Kings
BNP: Tell me a bit about the protagonist of your story.
DW: His name is Jimmy King. Also known as The Resurrecter. He’s a third generation wrestler and his shtick is that if he dies, he comes back to life. But it’s not a gimmick, it’s a real thing. It’s a family curse. He inherited it from his dad. So he’s a working-class wrestler just trying to make a living. But also trying to hide his identity because he doesn’t want people to keep trying to kill him. The part of the story that I really started gravitating towards was the family aspect of it. It’s about him and his wife and his kids but it’s also about what it means to be an independent wrestler because back in the old days there were all these different promoters and these different territories. We’re going back to that era of wrestling. Before the mass consolidation. So it’s about what it’s like to be a wrestler who’s not affiliated with any of the territories. To be a truly independent person vs. someone who’s forced to work for a major corporation. And so the book is slowly becoming this sort of autobiographical memoir thing of my career where it’s like I just want to get away from the corporations. I just wanna do my own thing. So it’s the freedom of that and also the trap of that.
Independence and Kickstarter
BNP: That leads into another one of my questions: Was this always something you were trying to self-publish or was it initially something you were trying to pitch somewhere?
DW: I approached some publishers. There was at least one who was really eager to do it. And I know there’s another one that would have done it. But the deals sucked to be 100% honest. So you have to go like okay do I want to do this through a publisher who’s not gonna move a lot of units? And most of my revenue is gonna be generated from selling it at conventions? And in order to sell it at conventions I have to buy from the publisher, who didn’t give me any money to create it in the first place? So I’m actually paying them to sell my stuff? It just doesn’t make any sense. And so it took some coaxing on my part to get Brett to do this. He was very much Mr. Grumpypants about it.
BNP: Why is that?
BW: Having got my start in the ‘90s, the publishing world was all about finding a publisher and that’s the way that you get your stuff out there. There wasn’t really the internet structure that there is now. In order to reach people, you were literally going through the old ways of doing things. And that could be a hard habit to break. Because that’s been something I’ve done for 20 years. And Kickstarters are a new territory so you just don’t know what to expect.
DW: And you know, I get it. I had my apprehensions too. But I was like what’s the worst that could happen. The worst that could happen is we have something that nobody’s buying. But we own it vs. something that nobody’s buying but it’s co-owned by this other publisher. Now maybe we’re in the hole to them or they’re wondering why it didn’t make any money. And we’re still doing the same amount of interviews. We’re still doing the same amount of promotion. And yet it ain’t selling. What are you gonna do? And this is the thing, I won’t speak for Brett but I believed in what the project was and I believed in his work enough that I was like, I’m willing to go pound the pavement to get the money to print this thing so that we could get the ball rolling. The other thing that Kickstarter allows is the slow burn. If we put One Fall out through any other publisher, any publisher in the industry, if that book comes out in June, and it doesn’t sell well in June, by July it’s dead. There’s no slow burn. And if that first issue doesn’t sell well, maybe you get a few more issues, but they can’t wait to finish publishing it so they can just write it off as a loss. And all of your hard work. Months, maybe years of hard work is kind of in the toilet. This allows for the slow burn. Five years from now, we can still be selling One Fall, preferably trade paperbacks. Whereas, I have projects that I’ve done through other publishers that are out of print now. You could talk to a lot of other creators at a lot of other conventions. Their book goes out of print, nobody wants to touch it again.
BW: Yeah and then you have to go and try to get the rights back and that may be hard.
DW: And there may be a demand for it. But their demand isn’t 5,000 units so they don’t wanna do it whereas I can afford to do 250 units, 750 units. And I’m making money off of that. It’s better for me to print up 250 units on my own than it is to buy 250 units from my publisher.
BW: It’s kind of almost the same cost. It’s pretty close to the same cost and then you just print it.
DW: The hardest part is where you’re gonna store this stuff? That’s why you gotta have a friend with a good dry garage or basement (laughs).
Challenges and Creative Control
BNP: So what would you say has been the most challenging aspect of getting this book off the ground?
DW: Just making it. That’s the hardest challenge with everything, right?
BW: I think the old school sort of DIY aspect of it. I mean, I’ve always done pencils, inks, colors, often even lettering. But I’m also doing all the back matter. I’m doing all the book’s graphic design. It’s like front to back entirely on my own and it’s both empowering and sort of scary.
DW: But I wanna say… I’ve said to you a couple of times “Hey do you want me to get a designer?” This guy is a control freak. He’s good at what he does. And he doesn’t want anyone else messing with it. And I’ve said a couple times “For this part, we need to get somebody else.” And he’s like, no I’ll do it.
BW: I think it was important, for at least the first issue to sort of set the visual style for everything that I was going for a front to back. I can let loose a little bit in the future. But I felt it was important to get down kind of how I envisioned this in my head.
BNP: Which wrestler/actor could you see playing The Resurrecter in a live-action adaptation? Who could embody his characteristics in the best way?
DW: I think most of the characters are based on people we know. Like, Resurrecter is here at this show. And he’s a friend of mine who’s a cosplayer and I was like “you would make a good Resurrecter.” I don’t know. I don’t think about that kinda stuff. Brett might think about it more.
BNP: Is there anyone you think of when you’re illustrating?
BW: Not really. I like pulling references from various things. But it’s more references to things that I like. I’ve done things where they’ve cast actors based off of my characters. They’re very different, you know? I’m not like super attached to what a film version would look like compared to this. I could only do my version and have control over that. I say what I can say with the comic. And if it gets turned into a movie at some point or a TV show then that’s gonna be its own thing.
DW: Yeah, I’m with Brett on that … it’s pretty dangerous to get too married to actors or ideas. Like I’m not making this comic to make a TV show or make a movie out of it. I’m making it because I want to make a comic. Now, if it happens, it happens. But I don’t have any control over that. You just create from your heart and hope for the best.
BNP: What does this comic offer to people who know little to nothing about wrestling?
DW: You don’t have to know anything about wrestling or be a fan of it to appreciate what we’re doing. Because at the end of the day — and this isn’t me going “I’m such a great writer!” — but if you really bust your asses and create about life — everything is about life so there are truths to be found in this story. This doesn’t even have to be about wrestlers. This could be about truck drivers. Or it could be about people working at Dairy Queen. I know that I could write an interesting story no matter what and I also know that Brett could draw that interesting story no matter what. Now the fact that he’s a huge wrestling guy was a positive thing for me. I like wrestling but not like I used to be when I was a kid. But his passion for wrestling and my passion for storytelling is real. This really came through when we finished up the script, and he paid me the best compliment. He was like “I never would have thought to do this stuff.” There are types of stories I’ve been wanting to tell, primarily about family and about finding your way when all the forces around you don’t want you to be doing what you want to do. Wrestling happened to be the perfect metaphor for it. But again I think I could have done it as a story at a fast food joint. You find that humanity there.
BW: Yeah that’s David’s big strength, bringing in that human element. My strengths are more in visual language, set pieces, visual storytelling, and putting in all of the wrestling elements that I think will benefit this story from a wrestling, storytelling perspective. He puts in all of the stuff that I couldn’t have done on my own. I tried for a while, I had some ideas, but you know, leave it to the writers.
BNP: Well, it’s good to get a good creative relationship like that, because it isn’t easy to come by.
BW: Yeah, we’ve found real synergy so far with how we’re working together. And how we’re bouncing off of each other. This is one of the first projects I’ve worked on from the ground up myself. I started working on it a while ago and now it’s become a fully formed thing.
DW: A lot of it was really good timing. I can’t speak for Brett, but I can speak for myself. I needed to reinvent where some of my career was and reinvent myself and reshape the path of my career. And to find an artist whose work you like, who it turns out you also like working with, makes some of these transitions easier. Because this industry will force a transition on you even when you don’t want it, you know? One minute you’re writing three titles a month at Marvel and one day its two titles a month and then it’s one. Then suddenly you’re writing nothing. And oh crap, now I’m persona non grata. What did I do wrong, you know? And then DC comes back around and you’re working for them but you realize this same thing could happen any day. And I can’t allow myself to have my self-worth as a creator be solely dictated by someone else who wants to hire me for something when I have ideas that I know could work. I’ve talked to great creators who have exclusive contracts at one of the big two. I’ve talked to several. They’re just down. They’re terrified with what happens when their contracts expire. Where’s the work gonna come from? And I’m like well I’m like that and I’m not even in your position. But I’m taking control. It’s terrifying. It is. It’s about finding balance.
BW: Yeah I usually get hired for more or less non-action books. I’ve always wanted to do big action set piece comics. Like big budget blockbuster basically. And this is my chance to show what I can do with that. Because I don’t generally get hired for that but I love doing that.
Beyond the Kickstarter
BNP: So what’s your ultimate goal for this book? You’re Kickstarting the first issue, but what comes after that? How long is the arc of the story?
DW: If this was a traditional comic book, it would be a 5 issue mini-series and then a trade. I’m not 100% sure that it’ll manifest quite that way, but it’s the equivalent to about a 100-120 page story. Do we break it up into five issues? How many issues are after this? A lot of that I still need to figure out. Some of the math involved in Kickstarter and self-publishing is very different. But we have a very clear story in mind. I already have a follow-up story if this one goes well and the beautiful thing is that Brett drew out an idea yesterday with the idea of starting every single issue a particular way. And I was like yep, let’s do it. And so it really is a strong collaboration going on. It’s not just me handing him a script.
BW: Which is the way it often happens. It’s like here’s this fully formed thing. It’s creator-owned and yeah I do create the visual language, but with this one, it’s ground up. David actually listens to what I say and my ideas, and he incorporates them in ways that I wouldn’t have expected. One of the things that we found when we first started was that we had a very clear idea of what this first story is, but then we started talking and we started finding out that we could do all types of stories using wrestling as the context to which we can tell the story. You could tell any sort of genre and so we just started coming up with all sorts of different ways that we could do this for a long time and keep building this wrestling universe.
To date, David and Brett have successfully funded their Kickstarter for One Fall. Since this was a self-published comic, getting your hands on it is a little bit different than usual. But don’t worry. If you missed out on the Kickstarter, you can still get a copy. While the site for David’s imprint Solid Comix is still being built, you can visit his website, DavidFWalker.com, where they’ll be selling the book shortly.