Going beyond what you get to see on TV and The WWE Network, WWE: Then. Now. Forever. takes fans through the greatest moments of Sports Entertainment history! Featuring an all-star roster of writers and artists including Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown, Tini Howard, Ed McGuinness, Rob Guillory, Dan Mora, Andy Belanger, Jorge Corona, and Daniel Bayliss, this collection celebrates the rich history of WWE throughout the years. From legendary WrestleMania matches to sizzling SummerSlam feuds, the biggest and best moments are highlighted, showcasing fan-favorite superstars like Dusty Rhodes, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Razor Ramon, Daniel Bryan, Sasha Banks, The New Day, and more!
You don’t have to look much past the credits page to see WWE Then. Now. Forever. Volume 1 is a diverse collection of styles and talent. Collecting the WWE WrestleMania 2017 Special, the WWE Summer Slam 2017 Special, the WWE SDCC 2016 one-page shorts, and the backup shorts from WWE issues #1-8, there are dozens of extremely talented creators that put time in on this one.
Written and illustrated by Rob Schamberger, the first story throws a spotlight on Sasha Banks. There’s a very interesting watercolor aesthetic to the artwork that makes the performers look mysterious and larger than life, especially during action sequences.
Tug Team and The Natural Disasters vs. The Bushwhackers are, interestingly, both about the tag team of Fred Ottman and John Tenta. Tug Team takes place shortly before the two behemoths were paired up as one of the physically largest heel tag teams in WWE history, back when Ottman was still using his Tugboat gimmick. I don’t know how I feel about the caricaturization of these two monsters. Their sheer size made this pairing one of the most intimidating villain duos in the early nineties.
I absolutely love the SDCC 2016 one-page shorts. I get goosebumps revisiting the promo that Steve Austin cut on Jake Roberts at the 1996 King of the Ring. If you had to nail down one moment that cemented Austin’s “Stone Cold” gimmick, that was it. There’s a nice little mix of legends and current roster in these super shorts. The Undertaker, The New Day, Sasha Banks, Triple H, The Rock, Dusty Rhodes, John Cena… All shown in their most defining character moments.
There are stories about Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon’s game changing ladder match that unified the Intercontinental straps, the New Day’s time travelling escapades, Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ obsession with his Burmese python, The Ultimate Warrior, Finn Balor’s struggle with his inner demon, and Sami Zayn’s decades-old relationship with Kevin Owens.
The two standouts for me, though, are I Wined and Dined with Kings and Queens, and Into the Mandible of Madness. I’m always a sucker for Dusty Rhodes stories. Of all the men and women who ever laced up a set of boots and stepped into the squared circle, the American Dream Dusty Rhodes is among the all time greats. Dusty dots on Bayley’s wristbands and Tommy Dreamer’s pants. The Tag Team classic in NXT. Beyond his accomplishments in the ring, Rhodes’ influence is still felt at nearly every show. In I Wined and Dined, Box Brown and Daniel Bayliss spin a little kayfabe yarn about a wayward Dream fan who’s momentarily star-struck by the Macho King, leading into the collision between the two superstars at the 1990 event. It’s a nice posthumous tribute to two WWE Hall of Famers.
With Into the Mandible of Madness, Ryan Ferrier and Clay McCormack take us back to SummerSlam 1996’s Boiler Room Brawl between Mankind and The Undertaker. The Undertaker has a long history of SummerSlam matches, with 16 total matches (officially 15, since his match at SS 2000 with Kane ended in a no-contest). Leading into this event, the WWE did an excellent job building Mick Foley up as a psychotic self-mutilator who was constantly bringing The Phenom to his knees. With Mandible of Madness, Ferrier and McCormack take us deeper into Mankind’s ego, while running a reel of Taker’s greatest SS hits.
Ferrier’s script has some slick smark moments snuck in, like the single panel nod to Mark Callaway’s doppelganger match against “Prime Time” Brian Lee in 1994. McCormack does an insane job on pencils. Mankind presents a unique challenge for artists, where one character rapidly cycles from wide-eyed innocence to pure evil, from slightly confused to coldly calculated, with fugue states mixed in. McCormack nails it.
WWE Then. Now. Forever. Vol 1. collects the WWE WrestleMania 2017 Special, the WWE Summer Slam 2017 Special, and the backup shorts from WWE issues #1-8. Published by BOOM! Studios, released 28 march 2018. Written by Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown, Ryan Ferrier, Tini Howard, Aubrey Sitterson, Andy Belanger, Andrew Stott, Derek Fridolfs, Box Brown, Daniel Bayliss, Aaron Gillespie, Lan Pitts, Mairghread Scott, Ryan Ferrier, Rob Schamberger, and Ross Thibodeaux. Art by Dan Mora, Rob Schamberger, Andy Belanger, Selina Espiritu, Ed McGuinness, Serg Acuña, Daniel Bayliss, Clay McCormack, Jorge Corona, Kendall Goode, Kelly Williams, Max Raynor, and Rob Guillory. Colors by Dee Cuniffe, Fred C. Stresing, Doug Garbark, Gabriel Cassata, Joana Lafuente, Jeremy Lawson, Taylor Wells, Serge Lapointe, Marcio Menez.