The last time I spoke with him, Christopher Daniels was swinging through Chicago as part of the "Ring of Honor" wrestling promotion. Now the self-professed comic book geek - and one-half of the wrestling tag team known as "Bad Influence" - is back in town. This time though, it's not to wrestle but to promote his new comic book, a special edition that he wrote for Chicago-based publisher "Aw Yeah Comics."
This week has seen Daniels appearing at "Challengers Comics and Conversation" in Chicago, as well as the "Aw Yeah Comics" comic shop in Skokie, to promote and sign copies of his new book. This weekend he'll be appearing at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) to do the same.
We spoke by phone earlier this week to discuss the comic book; the differences between comics and pro wrestling; and whether comics have replaced wrestling as his greatest passion:
Elliott Serrano: Hey Chris, how are you doing?
Christopher Daniels: All is well man, I’ve got some good things happening and I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks to see how the comic book is received.
ES: Tell me a little bit about it. Where did the genesis of your partnership with Aw Yeah Comics start?
CD: Well I had the opportunity to meet Art Baltazar and Franco - those are the guys that run "Aw Yeah Comics", write and draw and create the entire deal - I had the chance to meet those guys at San Diego Comic Con a couple years back. And in addition to being award-winning artists and all around great fellows, they are also pro-wrestling fans.
So, as Ken Anderson and I were walking by one day, they flagged us down and we got to talking, you know that was the genesis of our friendship.
And I think a couple months later I did a signing at "Challengers Comics" - which is an outstanding comic shop in Chicago - and Artie is friends with the owners of Challengers, Patrick Brower and Dal Bush. Those guys are all good friends. So when I went to Challengers Artie was there and we struck up a good friendship. So we’ve been friends for a while.
So as far as the book goes, they recently put out a book - they had a Kickstarter - they started their own comic book publishing company called "Aw Yeah Comics", a comic book based around the characters Action Cat, Adventure Bug and Awesome Bear.
That’s when I started to write a story where Frankie Kazarian and I interacted with these characters. And completely unsolicited and unknown to Art and Franco, I sent it to the guy that ran their Kickstarter - his name is Chris Smith and also one of the guys that helps publish "Aw Yeah Comics" - and asked if maybe they’d be interested in doing this.
And the next thing I knew Art answered back with a hearty "heck yeah", and decided to publish the comic book. So a couple months down the road and here we are where the book is coming out on Wednesday.
ES: How does Chris Daniels, the real-life guy, differ from Chris Daniels the comic-book guy?
CD: Oh, I’m much more handsome in real life…
CD: I’m very jacked, both in cartoon form and in real-life, but I’m much more handsome in real life. But honestly the character I play on television, the guy you see on Impact Wrestling and in wrestling shows around the United States, that’s not too far off from the real guy that I am.
I mean I’m sort of a wise guy, a snark dude, I’ve always got a quick-witted response for anybody around. And that was sort of part of the reason I decided to write the book. The one thing that Frankie and I have been concentrating on the last year/year and a half that we’ve been the tag-team “Bad Influence” is always trying to be entertaining. Whether it’s with our wrestling or our microphone skills.
And so we always try to go out and have fun, and we want to give the people who watch our wrestling that same experience. Watching us whether we’re getting beat up or joking around on the microphone. And that’s sort of the spirit that I took into writing the story where Frankie and I go to the world where Action Cat and Adventure Bug live, and interact with those guys.
ES: Besides interacting with other cartoon characters, what are other kinds of stories that you feel you can only tell in comics and not in the wrestling ring?
CD: Well there’s no flying in wrestling, unless you’re Rey Mysterio or Tigre Uno or whatnot. But it’s hard to say that there’s a story that you can’t tell in wrestling that you can tell in comic books. Because I think the closest thing to real-life comic books is professional wrestling.
I mean you look at the stories we tell in the wrestling ring and the stories that are told in comic books, and they’re very similar. Guys fighting for what they believe in. Some guys out there have high standards in their principals and other guys sort of take the easy road, the underhanded way to get the things that they want.
And in professional wrestling you have guys that are high-flyers and guys that are brawlers, and guys that are technically smart, and those are their “super powers” so to speak, you know?
And in the end of the day, we’re telling stories that people can get involved with, basic good versus evil. And aside from the cosmic battles, alien spacecraft and things lie that, there’s pretty much nothing that you can’t do in a wrestling ring that you’ve already seen in a comic book.
ES: Captain America versus Batman, who comes out on top?
CD: Oooooo…you know what it depends on who’s writing and drawing it, man. I’ve seen Batman come out on top. I’ve seen Captain America come out on top. It could go either way with those guys.
ES: So given a choice, would you rather be an Eisner Award-winning comic book creator or the TNA World Heavyweight Champion?
CD: Ah man, my first love is wrestling. As much as I love comic books and how much fun this has been to write this story, and just the anticipation of the book coming out, you know really what brought me to the dance was wrestling. If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet Art.
And really, the last twenty-one years of my life would have been drastically different if it wasn’t for pro wrestling. So that’s still a goal of mine, to be world champion one day. And I’m not giving that up.
ES: You do realize that comic book writers don’t take as many bumps as wrestlers do?
CD: That’s what I’ve heard. But ever since I’ve met Artie he’s wanted me to beat up Franco, and I’m not sure Franco knows that. Maybe those guys take more bumps than I did?
ES: Maybe it will happen at Challengers?
CD: Maybe it will happen at Challengers, maybe at Aw Yeah Comics in Skokie, or maybe at C2E2 where there will be a big audience to see it? Who knows? I’m unpredictable!