- Over the Ropes #1
- Mad Cave Studios
- Written by Jay Sandlin
- Art by Antonello Cosentino
- Colors by Francesco Segala
- Letters by Justin Birch
Step Over the Ropes and into 1990s wrestling. Set in a fictional world, Over the Ropes dives into sports entertainment’s biggest era. A young high-flyer named Jason Lynn goes off-script in a match to win the world title and sets the southern territory on fire as the face-painted wrestler, Phoenix. Jason’s battles between the ropes are only outperformed by his struggles outside the ring. First dates. Crooked promoters. Cage matches. Factions and families. No matter what problems smack him with a steel chair, Jason lives by his catchphrase: I. Will. Rise.
In 1992, there was a lot going on. The World Wrestling Federation was THE top of the heap for sports entertainment. The old school warhorses like Tito Santana, Hulk Hogan, & Jake “the Snake” Roberts were still bumping and thumping. Other greats in the business, the likes of the “Rowdy One” Roddy Piper & Randy “Macho Man” Savage were at the top of their popularity, often blurring the lines between face (good guy) & heel (bad guy). Tag teams like Legion of Doom, The Natural Disasters, & Money Incorporated circled each other lie the apex predators they were.
Regardless of alliances, which were constantly shifting according to popular opinion & marketability, whether they were face or heel, or how long they’d been in the business… every wrestler had a single goal in mind. Every time they stepped into the ring, whether they jumped over the top robe, stepped through the middle, or rolled under the bottom, they all wanted a shot at that strap. A gaudy fake gold belt around the waist signified to one and all that the person wearing it was at the top of their game. The one shadow that reared over the status of being a title holder was the knowledge that at some point in time, every champion who rises to the highest peak inevitably falls.
Thus, with that knowledge in firmly in mind, Jason Lynn aspires to be more than he is. In the ring, he’s a shill… a jobber, the guy who’s supposed to take the hits and lose the match to the “better man”. Outside of the ring, he knows that he could be that better man. On the day that he gets a chance to go up against the reigning champion, Ramblin Ricky Raddison, for a shot at the belt, he knows one thing for sure: so long as he follows the script, he’ll get a minute in the spotlight.
If he rolls the dice, if he breaks the rules, if he writes his own story, he could step into the ring and make it his.
So I’ve watched a little wrestling in my time. Not to put too fine a point on how far back my fandom goes, I remember when it was the AWA. A young upstart calling himself Hulk Hogan was making a name for himself by wrestling two opponents at once. Jesse “the Body” Ventura hadn’t even thought of a run for Minnesota Governor, being too busy as one half of the tag team, East/West Connection. They were simpler times, spent rolling around on the living room floor every Sunday morning, waiting to see if The Junkyard Dog was going to win against the Iron Sheik. And when the spectacle of Wrestlemania hit, nothing was ever the same again.
It’s after that Renaissance that Jay Sandlin shines the light, portraying the world of professional wrestling, arguably at its peak. His main character and ambitious would-be champion Jason “Phoenix” Lynn embraces everything that was awesome about being a fan. He wasn’t a “legacy”, inheriting his way to the top. He was the hard working Everyman who entered the ring with the knowledge that he’d be fighting and scraping for every step he took. That was the kind of story people loved, and Sandlin has nailed that attitude in Over the Ropes. Jason is the guy who got into the game because he loved it, not because it owed him anything.
Tagging in off of the top rope is the artistic team of Antonello Cosentino & Francesco Segala. Cosentino beautifully captures the dynamics of a wrestling match, with an eye to how high those athletes (and have no doubt that these guys are athletes and not just actors playing a part) flew, how hard they hit and got hit, and how much dedication to the craft it took to reach those lofty peaks. He handles the normal day to day business very well, with people walking around in street clothes looking like they looked back in the early 90’s. But it’s in the Square Circle that he really shines, the action nailing every mark without a hitch. Backing him up on colors, Segala fleshes out the designs and the world as a whole. Keeping to a relatively basic palette and setting a specific tone for each scene, he brings the whole thing together like The Dude’s living room carpet.
Sorry, that’s not a wrestling reference, but I’m trying not to be one-dimensional.
Over the Ropes is just one more highlight in the toolbox that Mad Cave Studios is building as they kick off their next run of titles to start the new decade right. That this particularly impressive entry is written by Jay Sandlin, winner of a talent search the Mad Cave kicked off last year, is beautifully fitting given the title he’s working on.
There’s new blood in the water, kids. Let the sharks circle as they may, and wish them all the best.
Final Score: 10+