Dennis Hopeless Talks Body Slams, Kayfabe, and WWE

The current run of WWE comics has been great so far, a peek into the in-character lives of wrestlers the meshes far better than other attempts at WWE ongoing series. Graphic Policy got a chance to chat with writer Dennis Hopeless and get a little insight on the series, where it’s headed, and of course pro wrestling.

Graphic Policy: First things first, how did you get pro wrestling to mesh so well with comics this go ‘round? Comics and wrestling seem like an obvious fit, with the larger-than-life personalities, but previous attempts didn’t click as naturally. What sets this ongoing apart and just how did you capture lightning in a bottle?

Dennis Hopeless: To start, artist Serg Acuña is absolutely crushing it every issue. He somehow manages to capture the humanity of the WWE Superstars while also nailing the likenesses and giving us super exciting action sequences. On top of that, our editorial team is fantastic. It was obvious to me from our first conversations about the project that BOOM! and WWE had a very clear vision. They understood that the comics needed to be something different from what fans see on Raw and Smackdown, but the tone and voice also needed to remain consistent.

So, instead of trying to make the Superstars more comic book-y, we’re telling the character-driven stories that take place behind the scenes. Our focus is on character motivation and making the Superstars even more relatable. That exact sort of character work is my bread and butter as a writer. It’s what I love to do and what I’m known for. It’s great to see that fans are responding. I’m just writing what I’d want to read with an incredible team of collaborators who always make us look good.

GP: One thing I really loved from Seth Rollins’ arc was that you didn’t just handwave away his recovery but instead had him cope with and process it. That humanity, for me, makes him more relatable as a character. It’s something that was also shown in his WWE 24 episode. Is that where you got the inspiration?

DH: I didn’t actually watch Seth’s WWE 24 until after I’d written that issue, but yeah, I can definitely see the parallels. Seth’s character arc was so brilliantly paced just as it happened; I didn’t have to do a lot of plotting. Betrayal. Rise. Injury and fall. The road back. And redemption. It was already right there. All we had to do was dramatize the behind-the-scenes beats and tie it all together. It was such a fun arc to write and served as the perfect gateway point for fans. Anyone who had been following Seth’s story on television since the breakup of The Shield now gets to see his journey from the other side of the curtain.

GP: Speaking of Seth’s recovery, making sure that the New Day were pretty consistently there to help Seth when he needed it was pretty brilliant. Any chances we’ll be seeing them around more in Dean and Roman’s stories?

DH: I love the New Day so I certainly wouldn’t put it past us, but Dean’s arc takes place in a wholly different corner of the WWE Universe. Dean spends a lot of time with Sasha Banks and a few other superstars while he’s on the road. It’s a really weird and fun story that couldn’t be much more different from Seth’s arc… but New Day still very much ROCKS so we’ll see.

GP: So the current arc is about Dean Ambrose and seems to be focusing first on his feud with Brock Lesnar. However, it doesn’t look like a lot is going to be in the ring at the moment. Is this going to be Dean and Sasha’s Road Trip Adventure or will they be heading for the next arena for a showdown with Brock?

DH: Almost all of Dean’s story takes place on the road. Both Dean and Sasha have a sort of Road to Money in the Bank thing going on by the end of issue #5, so we decided to lean into that. Superstars spend a lot of time driving from city to city. It’s a fact of their lives that we all sort of know, but rarely gets addressed in the stories. Dean seemed like the perfect character to takes us there… And I’m not sure what possessed me to team him up with Sasha Banks, but that might have been the best decision of my career. Those two together are an absolute blast. The weirdest (plutonic) odd couple ever.

GP: Any chance of the women’s divisions coming more into play? I loved the scene between Sasha and Charlotte as well as other glimpses of them in backstage bits but, as this is about Dean primarily, was this more of a cameo than an ongoing thing?

DH: Sasha plays a huge roll in this arc. It’s more or less a buddy road trip story from the end of #5 on. You’ll also be seeing more of Charlotte as we move forward, as she’s Sasha’s primary rival in this. Now that I think about it, this whole arc might be my backdoor pitch for a Women’s Revolution series.

GP: If you’re still keeping to the plan of three arcs about the Shield, the only one that’s left is Roman Reigns. He’s got a very complicated relationship with the WWE Universe at the moment. Does that play into how you’ve chosen to write him so far at all? Could that change once he’s the focus?

DH: Roman’s will be another very human story. I want to show you what makes the Big Dog tick. We’ll be dealing with his family legacy, rage issues, and unique relationship with fans. I’m not ashamed to admit that Roman Reigns fascinates me. I can’t wait to dig in.

GP: Once the Shield’s stories have been told, who would you like to tell the story of next if you could pick and would it be in the same kayfabe-as-life style? There’s a lot of supernatural stories and weirdness in WWE but there’s also the latest influx of superstars from the indies and Japan, like DIY in NXT, Finn Balor, and Shinsuke Nakamura. Anything particularly stand out?

DH: Like I mentioned before, I’d love to tell a Women’s Revolution story of some kind. Bayley is my favorite wrestler and I think the Women’s Division is just crazy stacked with talent right now. That will be my first pitch for sure. Beyond that, I think there’s a lot of fun stuff to be mined right now. Both Finn and Shinsuke are fascinating characters. I’d tell their stories in a heartbeat.

As for tone, I don’t expect any wild shifts. This slice-of-life thing seems to be working and we love doing it.

GP: One last question: if you could have an on-screen storyline with any one WWE wrestler, team, or stable, who would it be?

DH: All time: Probably Razor Ramon or Early NOW Hall and Nash. I was the perfect age for that stuff and it holds a special place in my heart.

Right Now: The Miz. I just love everything Miz and Maryse have been doing lately. He’s a killer on the mic and isn’t afraid to dig in and be hated. It’s perfect.

GP: Thanks for chatting!