Back in the 1990′s the-then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) teamed with Chaos! Comics, home to Lady Death and Evil Ernie, to put out a series of comics featuring the top wrestling talents the WWF had at the time. So, since this is the WWE‘s time of the year, let’s take a look at some of the books offered during the 90′s…
First up was The Undertaker. This was a given, for the most part, considering the type of books Chaos! was known for. In the WWE, the Undertaker is a legend. While others like to toss the word ‘icon’ around, it’s been used to much it no longer has meaning. For The Undertaker the term ‘legend’ seems to fit mostly because it still has meaning. First introduced during the 1990 Survivor Series as the mystery partner of the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, The Undertaker was fast to establish himself as a future legend. His first year in the Federation he was undefeated and his first title shot was against Hulk Hogan in the 1991 Survivor Series in the match dubbed the Gravest Challenge. He won the title that night, but would lose it days later when Hogan would use underhanded tactics to regain the title during the Tuesday In Texas pay per view.
From then on, The Undertaker would go to create one of the most impressive legacies in the history of the WWE and in the world or professional wrestling in general: his perfect record at WrestleMania. Beginning with Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka at WrestleMania VII he would rack up 19 victories over 17 opponents (He faced Kane, Triple H and Shawn Michaels on more than one occasion and faced two opponents, Big Show and Albert, at WrestleMania XIX) and this year he will make it 20-0 when he Faces Triple H again, this time in Hell In A Cell!
With his persona as The Dead Man and all the supernatural aspects given to the character, from the entrance to the high threshold for pain, it would seem the concept of The Undertaker would translate perfectly into a comic book.
Written by Beau Smith with art by Manny Clark, the series began with a preview issue in February 1999 followed by a #0 and #1/2 issues from Wizard Magazine before the first issue came out in April 1999 and would take the Undertaker out of the wrestling ring and given him a bigger back story. Sadly, it became a total train wreck as the series progressed. The Undertaker was given the role of ruler over Stygian, Hell’s Prison, the place where the absolute worst of all souls went. On top of this was the introduction of the three Books of Death which held the prophecy that The Undertaker was bound for greater power and glory.
The Books are the main focus of the story as the mysterious Embalmer, a druid master of black magic, and the grossly rotund Paul Bearer both make plays for the books in order to use their power to reshape the universe in their images.
From there we get something of a confusing back story for the Undertaker that builds on the wrestling story line that a young Undertaker burned down the family funeral home and that of Paul Bearer taking the Undertaker’s younger brother, Kane, and raising him as his own but the addition of Embalmer, and later Jezebelle as Kane’s half-sister, makes this a mess.
The series ran for 10 issues and featured two covers, one art and the other photo, and a special WrestleMania XV premium cover that you could get for mailing in your cable bill proving you ordered the event. Yes, I did that and it’s in my collection to this day.
While the story was forgetful and, honestly, not very easy to read, it was still an interesting concept. Taking the character of The Undertaker and creating a world around him. But, 90′s comics being what they were, it tried to run before it could crawl and ended up tripping over its own shoelaces and face planted itself on the sidewalk. The covers were nice, however, along with a lot of the interior art but, again, it was very 90′s.
For more WrestleMania and Comic Book fun check out the CM Punk interview courtesy of Marvel Comics!
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