CW Cooke is a simple man who believes that if you see a Nazi, you should punch that Nazi. Cooke is also a fantastic independent comic book writer. One of his titles, Solitary, has just been optioned to be developed into a television show or film. On top of this fantastic news he is currently working on a new comic book series called LUCHA. Wanting to learn more about his career and LUCHA, I was able to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were stories you loved experiencing? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
CW Cooke: I’ve always been a fan of superheroes and comics in general. I’ve always loved the big name characters like the X-Men and Batman and Superman and Spider-man and all of them, but I really love books like Madman and Bone. Growing up it was all superheroes all the time, and then I found out about those two books at a relatively young age and I was hooked on them. Savage Dragon is another one that was a different style of superhero book that I dug. Hellboy too. Those are the ones I revisit often, and the most recent one I do is probably Invincible, if we’re just looking outside of the big two. I really still love and read a lot of the old 90s comics I grew up with, all the tie-ins and crossovers for Spidey and the X-Men especially.
Yanes: When did you realize that you wanted to have a career as a comic book creator? Was there a specific moment in which this goal crystallized for you?
Cooke: I wanted to be a comic artist going back as far as some of my first memories. Reading the comics of my youth, I’d start making my own which were just my own X-Men comics or whatever they were which then turned into other characters that I made. Some of those characters, like Tim from Solitary, are still around today and still in my work, born out of those days as a kid goofing off. My art prowess didn’t grow with my age though, so I started writing. And I fell in love with it in high school. I had a great teacher who pushed me to be better and to strive to understand what I was writing and why I was writing it, not to just write a story to get the project done. So high school and college shaped me into the writer I am today, but meeting guys like Phil Hester and Ande Parks and various other creators at comic conventions crystallized the goal. I wanted to make comics and I wanted to make my own comics, not just complain about the state of comics as I saw them. So I got to work.
Yanes: Given that people frequently ask you what CW stands for, could you provide a list of wrong answers?
Cooke: Cowboy Wrangler, Carnuba Wax, Civil War, Clockwise, Chemical Warfare, Conventional Wisdom, and there’s quite a few more. Colonial Williamsburg is one I just saw online
Yanes: It was recently announced that your story Solitary is part of a development deal to turn it into a film or television show. So one, congrats. Two, could you take a moment to describe how this feels?
Cooke: It’s weird because it’s exciting and unnerving and nerve-wracking and insane and hilarious and just the entire gamut of emotions runs through you, especially when you get to announce something as big as this that you’ve been working on for 3 years. It comes out of the blue to everyone else, but to the people who worked on this deal (Josh and Adam and I worked on this forever and never let it die), it wasn’t out of the blue. It was hard work, but it felt amazing. I was on top of the world and still am, thinking about how the news affected me personally and professionally and how important it was to get out there. I have a lot of fans who have supported me for a long time, so I hope to them it felt like a win as well. It still feels like a win, and seemingly every day something cool has happened because of the news. So I’m pumped and excited and also terrified that I’ll flop on my face soon ha.
Yanes: You have been part of a few Kickstarter projects. What advice would you offer people interested in using Kickstarter for their own projects?
Cooke: First part isn’t advice really, but Kickstarter will cause you some of the worst kinds of anxiety you may ever feel. You might not but everyone I’ve ever known who has run one or I’ve helped or on any I’ve run, I have had severe anxiety while running it. Again, it’s a tough process because you’re putting yourself out there in a way a lot of people haven’t yet. You’re showing the work and telling people this is who you are and you’re hoping they respond to it. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people you think will promote it or push it or will champion it will ignore you and sometimes people you didn’t really know will become your biggest supporters. You just have to go with the flow and let it happen. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, there’s always next time. It’s not a personal attack on you or your project if people don’t respond to it, you just have to keep building and keep going.
Beyond that, I’d say to be honest and trustworthy in the project. People want the project to succeed, otherwise they wouldn’t bother. So if they want it to succeed, you can’t leave them in the lurch and ignore their messages nor can you just not finish the project. Finish it first and then Kickstart it, or get it to a point where the lag between the finished campaign and the finished product is small. People will greatly appreciate that.
Yanes: Your latest book is LUCHA. What was the inspiration behind this project?
Cooke: First and foremost, the idea of doing a fun wrestling comic was the initial inspiration. There’s a group of creators who make an anthology called Kayfabe (Micah Myers runs the show with his team), and every year or so we put together short stories about wrestling. My first story was a trip through time where two wrestlers fought in different eras, my second story featured Agente and will be part of this Kickstarter, and the third story is a horror story called Camp Killfabe.
All of them came from the desire to do something fun and exciting and out of the ordinary and even a little absurd. I was inspired to make a fun book that captured how I felt as a kid reading Madman and various other comics, a book that at one level seems to be about a groovy cat and then on the next level is telling a slightly mature story about the world this person is living in.
It’s not all fluff. I’m a big believer in having comics reflect the world around us, so this book is telling a story that is both fun but in my opinion, important too. It’s looking at the world from a specific angle, one that is reflected through Agente, just like Madman was reflected through Frank.
Yanes: One of your many strengths is how effectively you and the artists you work with communicate actions and movements. What steps did you and the artist for LUCHA take to make sure readers can easily understand pro-wrestling moves?
Cooke: The internet is a wonderful place where people have compiled lists and pictures of lucha libre moves and styles. It makes things like this fun to do and fun to research, but we want the reader to be able to follow along without having to do a ton of research. I am a very open person and I think that helps Travis and I work together well on this because if he has a question or wants to change something to fit the page better, I’m always open to those changes because it’s his project too. This is a big collaborative effort that will be a blast to show off to others. And Travis’ style is so dynamic that the pages move and hum in a way that some others might not. His pages are incredible and routinely blow me away.
Yanes: Agente is the main character in LUCHA and is a great love-letter to classic wrestling and detective characters. Are there any well known characters you specifically turned to when developing Agente?
Cooke: El Santo was a big one. El Santo was a luchador who starred in a series of films, often fighting vampires and monsters and various other luchadors. He is still very popular. His character basically influenced Angel de la Plata from Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain and numerous other luchador characters throughout genre fiction. Outside of him and other luchadors (El Monstruo from the film Lowlife is a recent example that was amazing and happened to come out right after we started work on the series), I’m influenced often by the work of Mike Allred, as I’ve mentioned before, and John Carpenter films – including Big Trouble in Little China as a very specific example.
You can learn more about El Santo by checking out this video
Yanes: When people finish reading LUCHA, what do you hope they take away from the story?
Cooke: Since I know what the ending is and know what we’ve got planned if/when we get to do more, I don’t want to say too much, but I hope they’ve read a story that they love and will want to read over and over again and will want to see remade on film and television and everywhere else. I also want to break their hearts and make them feel like the characters are alive and they want them back as soon as possible, that they need more stories from them. There’s also a big aspect of the story that I don’t want to spoil but I will leave it at that, I just want them to want more.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Cooke: Quite a lot actually. The Solitary development deal has been huge and I’m unbelievably grateful that the news is out there, because I’ve got numerous other projects in the works or closer than they’ve ever been because of this announcement. I had one project picked up already, a few that are very close to begin picked up, and then a number of others in pitch form. I’m still working on Kayfabe once a year (which should be available as a digital bonus with the Kickstarter as well as available for sale before the end of the year), Terminal Anthology, Always Punch Nazis (volumes two through FOUR now), and so much more. Over a year ago, I didn’t have too much going on and I thought my career was winding down before it ever really started, but look at me now. Don’t ever give up is the moral of this story because it might take 3 years for something to happen and it might take 11. You just have to keep going, which is what I’m going to do.