Comic book artist Andy Belanger has been moonlighting the past few years as a professional wrestler on the independent circuit, but he's now bringing his two loves - comics and wrestling - together for his own comic book series, Mother Trucker.
"[Mother Trucker is a] space truckin', ass stompin', wrestling goddess, who is trucking throughout the galaxy looking for her long-lost daughter," Belanger tells Newsarama.
Mother Trucker launched this week on Kickstarter, already surpassing its initial $6824 goal and on its way to delivering the 36-page first issue in December.
Wait, wait... you're probably still chewing on the idea of a comic artist-turned-pro-wrestler, right? We asked Belanger about his other life as wrestler Bob 'The Animal' Anger.
"I became a wrestler to make the craziest wrestling comic, that was the origin of this whole Mother Trucker idea," Belanger says. "In Montreal, I was going to IWS indie shows, and my buddy Andrew Stott who wrote all my WWE comic stuff, he goes by Shane Hawke, got me out training. I had another few buddies in video games and when we went out to wrestling shows and partied we would just toss around concepts for wrestling comics and cool wrestling personas."
Their mutual love of futuristic and weird comic book titles such as New York Outlaws, ROM Space Knight, and Crystar fed into that - leading inadvertently to the name and idea of Mother Trucker.
"It was about the main guy who was the amalgamation of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, but in space," says Belanger. " So the comic was originally about him and his relationship with his daughter, which is what I was going through at the time having just had my own daughter."
While on a sojourn to Italy, Belanger came up with the idea of changing Mother Trucker to being about an actual mother, and not a father. That original hero became Big Rig, who also appears in the book now.
Belanger found an opening to work on Mother Trucker for lost a year due to some successes and how the COVID-19 pandemic landed.
"I actually found myself in a rare situation where my year was covered, and comics were pretty much on hold and now I could actually start working on this thing I've been talking about for so long," he says. "I even took a big job in animation at the beginning of the year because of how COVID worked out with everything, but it covered my year. Southern Cross got optioned by NBC Universal, so I got paid for that."
Mother Trucker's aesthetic is based on a Japanese trucking trend called 'Dekotora' where truckers have extravagantly decorated trucks with neon lights, crazy detailed painted murals, and adding golden and chrome parts. Usually done by truck drivers on their rigs for fun, it's even grown to be adopted by hobbyists for special events.
"I got hooked on those designs and my first attempt at drawing something like it was in Southern Cross. So what I was going for was something that really felt like He-Man," Belanger explains. "Mother Trucker is meant to be my He-Man and my love of Heavy Metal magazine."
It's also influenced by Belanger's 'Holy Trinity' of comic book creators: Moebius, Jack Kirby, and Katsuhiro Otomo.
"I look at those guys every single day and measure my work by those guys every single day. I'm pushing myself to make books that I loved when I was 13 but also where I'm pushing my artwork in a scenario where this is my AKIRA. I'm obsessed with AKIRA since I saw it as a teen," he exclaims. "You know it's funny in America we're expected to do like 200 pages a year but in Europe, we get a whole week on a page and it shows. 'Oh, that's why it looks like this!' I'm going for that, that Euro feel. Those are my benchmarks."
Belanger says he has found a stigma in the comic industry against wrestling comics when developing Mother Trucker. He said he had pitched it to Image Comics, TKO Studios, and even DC's Black Label imprint, but says "when you mention wrestling to a publisher, it's like a switch that turns them off."
"I'll have creators, big-name people too, come up to me and say 'I don't know why you like this wrestling stuff?' and I'm always like 'you draw Batman! You draw people in costumes beating up other people in costumes.' It's literally the same thing, but maybe you don't like it all in a ring?" Belanger says. "The way a match plays out is all sort of based on a hero's journey, right?"
The path to completing Mother Trucker has been a hero's journey for Belanger, uniting two sides of his life into one project.
"I've kept my comics career and my wrestling career separate but now, with this, they're coming together and it's out there for everyone to see," says Belanger. "Sometimes I know what I'm doing is so silly, but it's also so me."
Although Kickstarter wasn't his first choice, he says he appreciates the idea of "not having gatekeepers and going straight to the reader."