“We combined three of the greatest things ever created by man: Cartoons, Science Fiction and Pro Wrestling.”
—Bob Howard, co-writer and co-creator of The Adventures of the GWF
If Bad Kids Press has a flagship title then it has to be The Adventures of the GWF by writers Bob Howard, Max Wolman and artist supreme EC Yi. Which would make its protagonist, The Red Menace, kind of like our Mickey Mouse or Astro Boy, which ain’t half bad. GWF stands for Galactic Wrestling Federation and the comic book is billed as a “tale of cosmic fisticuffs” replete with a main character who’s a big red robot with a blockhead and his adorable mechanical dog sidekick. Clearly this book doesn’t just speak to the kid in all of us so much as it screams to it. “Robots, wrestling, robot puppies in outer space! READ ME! READ ME NOW!”
Despite having already achieved a close spiritual connection with the material I made it a point to look even deeper for your sake. So in an effort to gain some more insight and an extra dabble of perspective on the GWF I went to the two writers on the book, Bob Howard and Max Wolman, and asked them a bunch of questions.
GWF’s characters and world have a very distinct look and feel, where did the initial inspiration come for these characters and their stories?
Bob: I made my wife a statue of a red robot for Valentine’s Day and named it “The Red Menace” after her online persona. Then I felt like he needed a friend, enter "Rusty" the robotic dog, and then he needed an enemy and then… It's been going on like that for 6 years now and we've created over 60 characters. Every one on the team brought something to the table.
Max: Bob came to me a while ago with his idea for a comic book about alien gladiators. I've always been crazy about professional wrestling and that's the first thing I thought of when he showed me his series of statues. There were the six original characters: Red Menace, Rusty, Mama, Dr. Chaka and The Loan Shark. I thought that their classic gimmicky names really lent themselves to the genre of Sport Entertainment.
Try explaining the insanity that is GWF to me like I’m a five year old?
Bob: The GWF is a funny story about a league of galactic wrestlers that fight in a colossal space station the size of a planet. We follow the Red Menace, the son of the greatest champion of all time, as he tries to win back his dad's title from the clutches of the evil Dr. Chaka. The very same Dr. Chaka whose victory at the Klash of the Kosmos over RMD (the Red Menace’s dad) set Red on the road to redemption!
You’ve described the book as all ages, why was it important to you to make a book like that? Did the story dictate a trip in that direction or did you make a conscious effort to shoot for something all-inclusive?
Bob: It's a concept that really lends itself to an all ages sort of crowd. So we try and be thoughtful of how we present every character.
Max: A book doesn't have to be "mature" to have resonance. I want this story to have a lot of layers and being something that everyone can enjoy is one them.
An issue of GWF is always packed to the brim with extra goodies like crossword puzzles, connect the dots pinups, etc. Do you enjoying coming up with that sort of stuff? Is there anything you’ve been raring to do that you haven’t done yet?
Bob: Everyone loves that kind of stuff. Marvel had the Fun and Games title that I always liked. Next issue we got paper dolls, sudoku and more mazes. I love a good maze.
Max: That stuff was Bob's idea. Good stuff.
So let’s dream big here: What would be your ideal vehicle for an adaptation of GWF?
Bob: CARTOONS, CARTOONS, CARTOONS! I want a cartoon of this now. That's my pie in the sky.
Max: I want a big screen adaptation that people argue about. Starring nothing but professional wrestlers.
I’m guessing that both of you grew up on Pro Wrestling, did some of your favorite “faces” and “heels” serve to influence the cast of GWF?
Bob: I grew up with Rowdy Roddy, Bob Backlund and the Hulkster. My personal favorite feud was Chief Jay Strongbow and Jules vs. The Wild Samoans, Apa and Sika, who were managed by the Dastardly Mr. Fuji. Mr Fuji had all those wacky gimmicks to help his team win. Pro Wrestling is the wackiest theater of all time. It's the best collection of colorful characters you'll ever see.
Max: I was all about the crazy characters. Mankind, Undertaker, Kane, Sting. I loved the mysteriousness of it all. The huge personalities of Chris Jericho, The Rock and Stone Cold… I'm a diehard fan. Now that I'm older I can really appreciate the subtle storytelling behind those guys.
I love that the character Axel Greese’s description reads:
“What are the chances that the last human in the galaxy would turn out to be a complete jerk? Actually, pretty good, if you know anything about Earth culture.”
Since Axel is the lone human figure in the book I was wondering if that was a decision you guys made for artistic reasons (monsters and robots are more fun to draw, right?) or was there a purpose story-wise to make this whole saga post-human?
Bob: …You are very deep.
Max: I think it makes the character more unique and also it's not hard to think of crazy aliens, especially when your book is in black and white.
What’s the process of designing and creating the characters?
Bob: All three of us (EC Yi included) do it all. We can make any type of character to fit a particular story, much like pro wrestling.
Max: I like making characters that really show off a strong influence to something recognizable like a cowboy or a space cop superhero. It's real easy.
After the “Road to Redemption” story arc is complete what can we expect next from GWF?
Bob: We got another six issues planned out. We'll definitely see the origins of Dr. Chaka and more about Red's quest to unify the belts.
Max: Possibly the official debut of "Team Quar-Menace."
There you have it. For now “The Road to Redemption” continues with issue #4 of The Adventures of the GWF, coming later this year from Bad Kids Press. Watch the skies, kids.