Who Are You?: An Interview With Albone (Alan Evans)
Alan Evans, known as Albone on his site, writes a comic with what I consider one of the most unconventional premises in webcomics today: Rival Angels. How unconventional? In his review, Ambush Bug of AICN said, “One of the coolest things about comics is that they can be about just about anything, especially webcomics, which don’t have to deal with uptight execs thinking about trends and expectations in the marketplace. In this medium, the artist/writer doesn’t have to worry about all that and can just tell the tale he wants to. Here’s such a concept: female professional wrestlers.”
In particular, Rival Angels follows the struggles of the high-flying blonde-haired, starry-eyed hero, “Ultra-girl” Sabrina Mancini, as she tries to prove her skills in the ring while navigating murkier political waters backstage. What follows is a lot of brawls, a lot of backstabbing, and a lot of redemption.
I relished a chance to do an interview with Alan Evans. Partially to talk shop, but mainly to chat about a shared passion for the warriors of the squared circle.
An Interview With Albone (Alan Evans)
WCO: Wrestling comics do not have a good track record among comics in general. A couple, like the Kevin Nash and Ultimate Warrior comics, have been inducted into Wrestlecrap.com. What do you think these comics did wrong? How do you hope to sidestep their errors in Rival Angels?
Albone: In every instance, including the Undertaker and Kane comics, they strayed away from wrestling. It’s like having Jeff Gordon in a space thriller with space race cars to get around while they’re meeting new life forms. Lex Lugar trying to blow up a boat with Sting on it, showed up in WCW’s comic. Really?! Wrestling will always be the milieu of Rival Angels. Sure, the girls might do things that aren’t wrestlerly at home, or out on the town, but they’ll always be wrestlers in a wrestling federation and I think that’s why it will succeed where those others have failed.
WCO: In your comic, wrestling is presented as a total shoot. It’s more like an MMA match, what with the outcome not being predetermined and the characters taking their rivalries off-camera. Any reason you decided to go this route?
Albone: It felt more entertaining to make the ring action real. For the most part, wrestling in our lifetime has been scripted so this is a way to present a fresh take on pro wrestling, while taking a cue from the rising popularity of MMA. From a character point of view I think it makes them more interesting and I think readers outside of pro wrestling will appreciate that realism.
WCO: In the Rival Angels universe, why would anyone, like the Hell’s Belles, decide to go heel (bad guy)?
Albone: Heel’s are usually revealed through their actions. Normally, they don’t pick to be a heel, their ring work dictates it. For instance, the Hell’s Belles didn’t decide to be heels (they usually think they’re right), actions like bashing fan favorites in the head with a chair chooses that. However, many wrestlers do promote their heel-ness. There’s a certain freedom to it that allows them to break the rules and get away with it (most of the time). There are a few wrestlers that are just natural jerks though and play it up for the negative attention it gives them.
WCO: Women’s wrestling is big time in other countries… Japan and Bolivia come to mind. But in the US, it’s usually takes a backseat eye-candy role to the men’s wrestling. In fact, ignoring a brief resurgence in TNA Wrestling (when Gail Kim was anchoring the division) and minor federations like Shimmer, it’s practically non-existent. So why do a comic about female wrestlers?
Albone: You hit the nail on the head with the current state of women’s wrestling in America. Because women’s wrestler is so neglected here, it seemed to be the more interesting road to take. Men’s wrestling is huge, so it’s pretty easy for one to find it. Women’s wrestling is a little harder to find and so, a bigger canvas for me to work with, so to speak. The creative freedom using women over men makes it that much more appealing.
WCO: A little off-topic, but who’s your favorite women’s wrestler?
Albone: Cheerleader Melissa. She’s so rough and tumble, she’s got great moves and is so entertaining in the ring. Her finisher, the Kudo Driver is amazing as well as the Air Raid crash. The “cheerleader” gimmick is almost a contradiction because of her rough and un-cheerleader like demeanor which makes her that much more interesting. It’s a shame that she’s not in the big leagues.
WCO: By that you mean the gimmick rather than the wrestler, right? It’s been rumored that Raisha Saeed, Awesome Kong’s manager in TNA, is none other than the elusive Melissa Anderson.
Albone: Right, the gimmick though her (rumored) work as Saeed is good too, but my favorite wrestler persona is Cheerleader Melissa.
WCO: Is “Ultra-girl” Sabrina Mancini’s personality, gimmick, or moveset
based on anyone, or is she a totally original creation?
Albone: Ultragirl is more of an original creation but there are definitely certain similarities between her and other wrestlers. Her babyface attitude has been compared to Ricky Steamboat and Sting and I’ve freely drawn on the movesets of RVD and Jeff Hardy to round out her offense.
WCO: Brooke’s entrance during the Halloween comic reminded me a lot of Stacey Kiebler’s infamous ring entrance. Are there any “easter eggs” in Rival Angels that wrestling fans should be looking for?
Albone: That was a good entrance. There hasn’t been anything too direct. There is a part where Kat Smith is retreating from Monica Rumble in an ode to Rain of the Minnesota Home Wrecking Crew, but the people that will get that is pretty small. The initial confrontation in Sabrina and Loretta’s match had shoving and slapping which was taken from any number of opening moments from a Ric Flair match and Loretta’s leg split entrance was a nod to Layla. In the future, I think we’re going to see some similar traits between Rick Rude and Brooke so keep an eye out for that.
WCO: The heel commentator is pretty much a lost art these days, belonging to pre-millennial standouts like Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura, and the old Jerry Lawler. Nowadays, the color guys from TNA and WWE act like faces (good guys). Any reason why you decided to have Jeff (the Rival Angels color guy) be a heel?
Albone: Man you said it. Where have you gone Bobby Heenan? The three you mentioned, Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura, and the old Jerry Lawler were so important to telling the story and something that I’ve personally missed in the 10 years or so. You could consider this a bit of an homage to those greats, and again, this was another way to make Rival Angels more interesting and have a heel commentator help tell the story. I can tell you that its something that the Rival Angels readers appreciate because its often brought up in the comments.
WCO: Oddly enough, my favorite antagonists to the Upstarts (Sabrina,
Krystin, Brooke, and Sun) would be the two gals in zombie gimmicks from the
Halloween comic. Any chance we’ll see more outlandish gimmick
wrestlers in the future? A leprechaun wrestler for St. Patty’s day, maybe?
How about a rappin’ wrestler? It worked for John Cena.
Albone: We’ll definitely be seeing more of the Towers or Terror, Zombie Luna and Lover Lola. They’ll be involved in the Bonus Life Battle Royal beginning in the next chapter. There’s a few more outlandish wrestlers coming in the next chapter, possibly a controversial gimmick or two, so stick around to check them out.
WCO: The storyline alternated between long wrestling sequences with specific moves and emotional squabbles between the Upstarts. Between the two storytelling methods, which do you find more difficult to write?
Albone: Hands down, the quiet, emotional moments are much harder to write. The ring work is much easier to convey what’s going on physically and emotionally. Writing the segments outside of the ring is more challenging because its a real trick to try and get the readers to connect with the characters and what they’re feeling. When it works though, its just as intense and satisfying as the ring action.
WCO: Which of the Upstarts do you, personally, find to be the most intriguing?
Albone: Intriguing? I would say “The Definition of Technician” Krystin Moline. The other girls are pretty much set on their paths but Krystin currently has the most flexibility as a character. It’s going to be a lot of fun to apply that in the story.
WCO: I remember that you submitted a question to Webcomics Weekly about getting your comic in the hands of fans. I think the Half Pixel guys made several suggestions, including working with local indie promotions. Have you followed up on any of their tips?
Albone: Yes! First, I did stay away from dropping off any postcards in the bathrooms like they suggested. I think for all of the SHIMMER shows this year, I was able to give away a special mini-comic for all of the front row attendees. I was also able to hand out flyers and postcards at the local GLCW show as well where I was able to chat up Jerry Lawler, Traci Brooks and Christy Hemme. I’m constantly trying to contact the smaller shows around the country and see if they’d like a stack of mini-comics for their attendees. I’m also a regular over at prowrestling.com forums and I know there’s members there that are regular Rival Angels readers.
WCO: Let’s talk a little about Workshed Studio, the Milwaukee-based comic group you founded with high school friend Randy Malave Jr. and writer Justin Riley. Are you three still working on projects together, or has Rival Angels taken up most of your time?
Albone: Justin and I speak daily about Rival Angels and he wrote the upcoming chapter 10 of Rival Angels. I’m daily bouncing ideas of dialogue, upcoming feuds, new wrestlers, jokes…you name it, we talk about it. He’s been super helpful especially in dialogue. The three of us do have a big fantasy story in the works, but it is on hold as Rival Angels takes up just about all of my free time. I’m hoping to get Randy to do some Rival Angels material in the future when he gets some time. In fact, its my hope to co-opt them into Rival Angels!
WCO: According to your site, Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology is about “Demons, vampires, and super-science gone awry.” If you were to revisit any of the characters or stories from the Anthology, which one would it be?
Albone: Rhagodessa and Fade. In fact, Justin and I were discussing a team up with these two just before I started Rival Angels so that would be a lot of fun to get back to. It was going to be in the “buddy cop” vein, where they don’t like each other but learn to get along, with the twist of them never getting along.