C.W. Cooke is a font of comic book stories. From his contributions to the anthology Always Punch Nazis to his unique slant on superheroics in his comic Solitary, Cooke has shown both his love and affection for and his nimbleness with the comic book medium.
And that’s no less true for his latest comic endeavor L.U.C.H.A., co-created with Travis Hymel and currently a week into its own Kickstarter campaign. As with Cooke’s genre mashing in Solitary, L.U.C.H.A. blends concepts from luchador wrestling to noir detective work to horror to reality TV to bring readers an immersive, unique storytelling experience like they haven’t before witnessed. And in comics, where it feels like so many people are trying to reinvent the wheel, that’s saying a lot.
Mr. Cooke spoke with us recently about the L.U.C.H.A. Kickstarter campaign, the idea behind the comic, the influences that shaped the story, and big news about Solitary.
FreakSugar: For folks considering checking out the Kickstarter, what is the conceit of L.U.C.H.A.?
C.W. Cooke: Co-created with Travis Hymel, L.U.C.H.A. is a sci-fi/horror/wrestling extravaganza, the story of Agente, a luchador detective. It involves monsters like vampires and werewolves and other wrestlers, but is a big open sandbox style comic that also has a very deep dark secret that we learn at the end of issue one that will throw everyone for a loop. It’s a big fun comic with heart and drama and action and intrigue, and is kind of like a kitchen sink idea factory where just about anything goes.
FS: A luchador detective is definitely not a tale we’ve seen before. What was the gestation of this idea from you and Travis?
Cooke: It started as part of the Kayfabe anthology, an anthology put together yearly through a Facebook group of comics creators and wrestling fans, run by Micah Myers. Travis and I happened upon each other in the group and built the idea of Agente from the ground up, tossing ideas back and forth and coming up with a tale of a luchador detective in a noir world of vampires for the first 10 pages, that is, then immediately blown up into something even more strange and exciting and bewildering.
FS: L.U.C.H.A. has been described as having a splash of The Truman Show in it. What was it about that concept that appealed to you and Travis to explore?
Cooke: I’m a big fan of the genre mashup, taking two vastly different ideas and jamming them together to see what comes of it. [My book] Solitary was Superman on the Green Mile and when we started on L.U.C.H.A., Travis and I had started with a luchador detective in a world of vampires, but it felt very close to the world of El Santo. So we built outward. We took a bunch of ideas and started working them out on how to build the world of Agente and what to jam together with it.
The Truman Show popped in as a very strange and vastly different world and you’ll see why that matters very quickly. It’s a part of something much bigger that is happening and much more insane that people aren’t going to see at first.
FS: What can you tell us about Agente, the hero of the story? What drives him and his work?
Cooke: Agente is a man who will do whatever it takes to get the job done. He’s had a lot of distasteful jobs over the years, has had to fight to survive more times than he can count, and he’s lived a very hard and very long time. So he’s definitely a bit downtrodden and tired, but he’s a survivor. He’s every bit of the hero you want to see in your comic or stories: a bit disheartened, a bit world-weary, but still able to crack a smile and crack some skulls. He initially was a big of a luchador version of Marv from Sin City so he’s got an edge to him as well as the soft center.
FS: As mentioned, there are many different elements at play in L.U.C.H.A., from the luchador aspect to the detective motif to the “we’re always being watched” element. What are some of influences that have impacted how you approach you story?
Cooke: I feel a lot of my work and a lot of my life is influenced by John Carpenter and the comics of my youth. Every single movie John did influences me in some way, and you could probably pinpoint a couple in this story very easily.
Outside of that, this is influenced by Madman by Mike Allred, the El Santo movies, Lucha Underground, a bit Cabin in the Woods, and various other things that joined together to form the backbone of influence of this comic. Travis and I both pulled from our love of comics and wrestling and genre film to make something that feels like a living, breathing entity and I think the audience is going to see that very quickly. Everything will feel like it has a purpose and the world will feel like a place you can live in.
FS: The look and feel of the art is gritty and dynamic. What was the discussion between you and Travis about how L.U.C.H.A. should look like?
Cooke: Most of my work on the look and feel was just suggesting things either based on what I’d like to see or how I’d like things to look. I also write descriptions on the pages of characters and the world but a lot of this is coming from Travis’ mind and definitely his pencil. The fight sequences and action pieces are written for him to draw but whenever he has a suggestion or idea on how things might flow better, we chop things up and work on it together. It’s a true collaboration.
FS: You also have some big news about your book Solitary becoming a motion picture. First of all, congratulations! For reader who may not know about Solitary, what can you tell us about the story and its path to the big screen?
Cooke: Thanks! It’s been a long road for Solitary. It originally started when I was a kid making terrible X-Men fan comics at home with loose leaf paper and markers. Then I started building these worlds in short stories and idea notebooks filled to the brim with characters and places and events that would happen to one of those characters who continued along with me. So starting at about the age of 8, Tim Hill, the hero of Solitary, has been around, and I’m almost 35 now he’s been a part of my life forever.
The story of Solitary is quickly and easily spilled out like this: What if Superman was on the Green Mile? You take a character like Superman with his powers and his abilities and you throw him on death row for a crime he didn’t commit and you execute him within the first seven pages of the first issue. The reader doesn’t know what’s coming, the character thinks he’s dead, but before the issue is over, he’s awake and his life is a living hell.
From there the story deals with why is he in prison, what did he do, and the moral question of if he leaves, does that make him the villain they think he is? It’s a very heavy book dealing with life and death and moral questions, all while using the escapist narrative of superheroes to tell the story. I love the book and I’m so glad it’s caught on like it has. The film/TV development deal has been in ongoing discussions for about three years off and on, so it was another long road to get here. We had a few starts and stops and a few situations where it seemed very close to happening but until just this month, it was never close enough to announce. Having that announcement has been amazing and life-changing, to say the least.
FS: What kind of rewards can contributors to L.U.C.H.A. expect?
Cooke: A little bit of everything. We have original art levels for commissions and head sketches, we have an artist edition black and white version of the comic, we have a digital comics bundle that comes with almost (or very nearly) 1000 pages of CW Cooke Comix Goodness, we have Lucha masks, we have shirts, we have prints, pins, a Skype meeting with me to discuss your comics project or Kickstarter project, retailer bundle, a level to get drawn into the comic, a multi-mask/comic combo pack, the ability to name a character FOREVER, and the big one for an exclusive signing with an exclusive cover.
We’ve got a lot of great levels and rewards with some additional stuff to add-on for all the people who have helped get us there already and from others who are going to help us get even higher. Stretch goals and add-ons and additional prints and things like that are going to be added to the campaign as we go forward, so keep pushing and pledging and sharing so we can get higher and higher. I’m also putting my body on the line twice, the first tattoo level we’ve cleared at $5000 for a Lucha tattoo and the next level will be decided by the fans if/when we hit $8500. So let’s hit $8500 and make me get something really goofy, all coming out of my own pocket and not related to the Kickstarter funds at all.
As of press time, the L.U.C.H.A. Kickstarter has cleared its $5000 funding goal by nearly $1000, but you still have 21 days to contribute! Be sure to check out the Kickstarter official page for L.U.C.H.A. to learn how!