WWE_Kids_Magazine_May_June_2008In 2008, I was doing a freelance-staff gig in DC Comics’ Collected Editions department. I was brought in to do all the prep work on the next couple years worth of (then) scheduled Showcase Presents volumes. I would create dummy books (essentially Xerox copies of all the stories in the book in their proper order), book maps (the complete list of all the stories), and Tables of Content, so that when that book came up on the schedule, all they had to do was pull the appropriate binder from the shelf to get that particular volume immediately into production.

One afternoon, I received a call from Tony Romando, V.P. and editor-in-chief of WWE Magazine. Tony wasn’t specifically calling me, but the receptionist at DC would often forward such cold calls to me, knowing I knew my way around the joint. He said that World Wrestling Entertainment was launching a kids magazine and was calling to see if we could recommend a good editor with cartooning and comics experience to help bring in quality illustrators and to launch a comics section. I told him I knew just the guy for him: Me.

Long story short, I went in and interviewed (WWE is located in Stamford, Connecticut, about a fifteen minute drive from where I was living at the time) and was hired. The magazine’s art director had been trolling the internet for cartoonists and came up with a truly wretched pool of talent whose contributions I wouldn’t have considered using in a fanzine. So I trashed what they had commissioned, wrote a whole new crop of strips, and broke out my Rolodex to replace it with better:

The Mighty Krozor, art by Rick Burchett, color by Lee Loughridge

Time Rumble With Ric Flair and Maria, art by Steve Lightle, color by Loughridge

Turnbuckle & Tag, art by Joe Staton, color by Matt Webb

The Hardys In Space, art by John Byrne, color by Loughridge

I also lined up a few artists to provide illustrations for other parts of the magazine, including by Craig Rousseau for the article, “Is Your Teacher A Luchador?”, Jason Armstrong (“Suitcase Scramble”), and Craig Boldman, who was to draw a comic strip starring WWE wrestler, Hornswoggle.

Tony and the rest of the editors loved the strips and the art. Then, after the first issue was published, they did a focus group study on it with a dozen nine to thirteen year olds. WWE Kids scored pretty well overall, except for one surly kid who said he didn’t like the comics, which another kid half-heartedly agreed with, so they decided to drop the section. This was cited as the excuse for letting me go ten weeks after they hired me; I later learned that Tony had gone horrendously over budget on the launch and needed to cut my salary and then some, so me being the last hired, I was the first fired. There were no second episodes of any of the strips I started in the next issue or, as far as I know, ever, all the way through the mag’s demise in 2014, when WWE shut down its entire magazine publishing division.

My gig at WWE had its good and its bad. On the good side, the money and benefits were aces, the company cafeteria was delicious, and the office was the aforementioned fifteen minute drive from home, and the work was not all that taxing. On the other hand, I didn’t care about or like wrestling (which I now needed to watch hours a week of in order to keep up with the current story lines), the office, with its hideous open floor plan, staffed with  was mostly twenty-somethings (I was the oldest guy on staff at fifty-three; Tony was something like forty-one, the deputy editor in his early thirties, and everybody else in their twenties), and I never got the sense that anyone was actually in control or that Tony knew what came next.

Plus, my desk was right across from the office of WWE heir and blockhead, Shane McMahon; it seemed to me like if not for his assistant, Shane couldn’t have found his own ass with both hands, much less make it to the right airport for the correct flight. Boxer Floyd Merriweater was somehow affiliated with WWE at the time, and he would sometimes try to squeeze his ego into Shane’s office, but I doubt there was room in there for both of them. Overall, the place was a clusterfuck, but I suppose if you’ve got eight or ten hours a week of live, lucrative television events to broadcast and frequent high-end pay-for-view specials, profits kind of take care of themselves.







Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply