Michael Kingston Headlocked

Michael Kingston’s ‘Headlocked’ Has Carved Its Own Place Between Two Fields That Are Dominated By Giants

As Michael Kingston, the creator of Headlocked and Headlocked: Tales From The Road, puts it, he’s “basically one dude that’s selling, making, [and] publishing comics out of [his] bedroom.” This responsibility is exhausting, but alongside the artists and wrestlers he collaborates with, Kingston has turned the project into an unlikely success story.

Headlocked continues to grow, and it has already surpassed its Kickstarter target for the second volume of Tales From The Road Volume 2. This anthology of short stories puts the wonderfully wacky world of wrestling into the comic book format with an all-star team of contributing wrestlers, such as AJ Styles, Danhausen, Effy, John Morrison, Matt Cardona & Brian Myers, Thunder Rosa, Pentagon El Zero M, and Rob Van Dam, among other noteworthy names.

In a recent interview with WrestleZone, Kingston shared the origin story of Headlocked and how it was born out of his love for both wrestling and comics. He explained that his mission, from the start, was to produce a wrestling comic that he thought other fans would want because he was disappointed by the other offerings in this field.

“Growing up, I would buy every wrestling comic that came out, and to me, they all just weren’t great,” said Kingston. “I think as a consumer, you always know when something is being made for love or something’s being made for money. And it’s one thing to license a book when wrestling’s hot, you know, there was a WCW book, and a couple of WWE iterations that just, to me as a fan, never quite hit. So I wanted to, it just became apparent to me at some point that nobody was gonna make the wrestling comic that I thought wrestling fans should have, or at least the wrestling comic that I wanted to read and some of my other friends wanted to read.”

Kingston recalled how, when he initially put together a plan for the series years ago, he was literally laughed out of the room by multiple publishers because they didn’t see how the wrestling bubble could overlap with the comic bubble. Still, he persevered; by working two jobs for a year, Kingston funded the project by himself in its early days in order to get the book printed. From there, he sold it out of his backpack at wrestling shows and got it out there however he could. In doing so, he built a solid foundation of a fan base, and the advent of Kickstarter allowed Headlocked to reach new heights because it offered a clear way to circumvent the “gatekeepers” the project previously faced.

As a result, Headlocked continued to grow, and with wrestling shows being an important part of Kingston’s method of distribution, it was only a matter of time before in-ring performers took notice. He described how wrestlers who read his work were impressed with the stories’ authenticity, which paved the way for Kingston to collaborate with them. With the primary “Headlocked” narrative focusing on one character, it was a natural progression to use other perspectives to build the world within this fictional universe.

“The main Headlocked story is told from one person’s perspective, it’s a story of a theater major who falls into wrestling sort of unexpectedly and then he drops out of school, and it’s sort of his journey through the business, like learning the craft of wrestling,” said Kingston. “But you sort of just see what he sees. So we took this opportunity to do stories and sort of flesh out some corners of the universe that you might not see. And it’s also an opportunity to collaborate with people I respect and to just tell fun stories.”

While he was describing this creative purpose of Tales From The Road, Kingston emphasized that readers never have to read the main Headlocked series to enjoy the anthologies. The two titles stand on their own, but those who do read the former will enjoy some additional layers, such as characters or references, that carry over into Tales From The Road. Still, new readers can dive right in and enjoy a diverse group of stories that range from Bigfoot’s attempt to break into the wrestling business to one man’s fantasy about being The Punisher of shady promoters. Kingston highlighted this spectrum of storytelling and noted that he’s enjoying the creative freedom of exploring various genres and styles.

“We’re able to sort of just stretch our legs creatively and sort of just get into everything, any kind of genre, any kind of story and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had making comics,” said Kingston.

Likewise, he discussed how each wrestler brings something different to the table. All wrestlers are storytellers, inside the ring and away from it, but each one of them has a unique perspective or a unique inspiration for a potential narrative on the page.

“You want the stories to all have kind of a different feel, and they are,” said Kingston. “Some of them are more serious and some of them are very funny and some of them are more fantasy-based, and it’s a little bit of everything. It’s been great. I mean wrestlers are all storytellers, whether they know it or not. They’re telling stories in the ring, they’re telling stories in the car. Every time I’m around a group of wrestlers, they’re just telling stories.”

With this in mind, Kingston stressed the power of the collaborative process that goes into Tales From The Road, as the contributing wrestlers have the ability to shape the stories they want to tell. For example, he described one recent collaboration with The IInspiration, who took a body horror story in an unexpected direction and made it even better than Kingston initially anticipated.

“It helps to work out a concept, and you know, to work together and collaborate and stuff,” said Kingston. “And that’s been the fun part, is just the collaboration. I just wrapped a story with the IInspiration that’s the longest story that we’ve done. It’s sort of a body horror story that’s got a little Nightmare on Elm Street kinda feel to it. It’s 20 pages, and they sort of pushed it in a direction that I wouldn’t have taken it, and then that ended up being the thing that made the story.”

Overall, Kingston expressed his happiness with the entire collection and teased that he’s got many more stories in the pipeline.

“They’re all really good, and I’m really proud of the collection,” said Kingston. “I’m really proud of all the stories that we’ve put together. By June, I’ll probably have enough for Volume Four, and this is Volume Two, so we’re really plugging away.”

In hindsight, Kingston also described how Headlocked has carved out its own spot between the wrestling bubble and the comic bubble. Though both fields are ruled by giants, this project is thriving against all odds.

“We made our own brand,” said Kingston. “I’m a double independent, like I’m not a Marvel or a DC comic, I’m a superhero comic, and I’m not affiliated with any wrestling promotions. So I’m in the middle of these two fields that are sort of dominated by giants. But we made our own place.”

More information about the campaign is available on the Headlocked Kickstarter page, or on the brand’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The Kickstarter for Headlocked: Tales From The Road Volume 2 ends at 8 p.m. EST on November 11. If you’re interested, make sure to support it and help Kingston and the contributing wrestlers continue to tell a variety of fun wrestling stories.