Writer: Jason Doring
Artist: Megan Huang
Independently published, December 2020
Before the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, the WWE, adapted “Sports Entertainment” as a descriptor, American professional wrestling mostly thrived under the convention of “kayfabe.” This conceit presents all the wrestling matches and storylines as authentic. The crest of kayfabe in the 1980s and 1990s, when popular wrestlers from the biggest promotions took on outlandish personas and gimmicks.
The concept of kayfabe, while still existing, has since been watered down to the barest minimum. Various public scandals revealed the inner workings of the professional wrestling industry, and the advent of the internet and social media made it that much more difficult for wrestlers to keep their personal identities separate from their in-ring characters.
Warhausen, which is an independently-published comic written by Jason Doring and illustrated by Megan Huang, harkens back to those glory days of kayfabe. Here we have an action comedy comic book revolving around a fictional wrestler named Warhorse. And Warhorse dials kayfabe up to 11 – he doesn’t have a secret identity, and his wrestling persona is genuine. He fights evil, and does so under the auspicious requests of the President herself, under the program called “The Warhorse Protocol.”
Warhorse embodies the quintessential 90s prowrestler: he is idolized by young kids, possesses superhuman strength, and is extremely fond of motorcycles and heavy metal music. His adventures are even more over the top: he goes on tour and fights matches against Frankenstein, or against an astronaut in the surface of the moon. It’s very obvious that Warhausen is a comic that requires heroic amounts of suspension of disbelief.
The main conflict of the comic involves Warhorse’s nemesis, a wrestler called “Mr. Impressive,” who is the complete opposite of the protagonist. Mr. Impressive dresses like a superhero, and described as the “only wrestler approved by the Comics Code Authority.” This nemesis is presented as a force for good, later to be revealed as anything but – Mr. Impressive gets his powers from a large group of mind-controlled people dressed as puritans. The themes present in the comic are fairly obvious, and intentionally cliched like the sport it draws its influences from.
The other half of the comic involves another wildly comical take on a pro-wrestler. A man named Donovan, who is given powers by the devil and can transform into a pro-wrestler named Danhausen. This is where the story pulls out a unique and surprisingly theological twist. The devil tasks Danhausen with helping Warhorse, because Mr. Impressive’s full control of an entire town takes away their free will, thus taking away their ability to sin.
The art in Warhausen will bring to mind highly stylized digital art that was prevalent in webcomics during the early 2000s, when creators started mixing traditional art with digital coloring and effects. Megan Huang’s art, while intentionally foregoing realism in favor of slapstick poses, is accentuated by a healthy dose of color and bloom effects.
It is worth noting that the pacing in Warhausen is extremely chaotic. This might be intentional, as the story relies on quick punchlines and ridiculous premises to deliver humor. This is not to say that there isn’t any coherent plot running throughout. The underlying plot is not remarkable on its own, but the added humor and the outlandish art style help create a single cohesive experience that can be enjoyed, especially if you have enough of a passing familiarity with pro-wrestling to catch all the references.