When Comic Books Go Lucha Libre
Lucha libre! When it comes to creating interesting comic book characters, one key attribute they need is the ability to dispatch villains. Whether it’s Batman with his armada of weaponry and devices in his hands to outwit his opponents; Spider-Man utilizing his agility; Iron Man with his illustrious suit. But taking inspiration for other superheroes often relies on real life. One such example is the luchador – known for the freestyle wrestling that eschews rules and allows competitors to throw their everything into the fight. Already equipped with the tenacious fighting ability required to defeat the bad guys, a luchador in a comic book would make the perfect character to get in on the comic-book-style POW! action. See the video above with some very cool comic book imagery.
While other luchadores in comics take inspiration from the luchador to build a character in another world or universe, Lucha Libre takes the theme of the luchador and runs with it. The comic follows five middle-aged men who don lucha masks and fight crime (from rednecks to werewolves). The comic – published in several languages – helps showcase to comic fans how strong the luchador theme can be. Indeed, we have seen the theme spread from comics to TV series, including ¡Mucha Lucha!, as Voodoo Games shows us, as a slot game, Lucha Maniacs. The infusion of the luchador into pop culture helps bring to many something that is not as familiar and played out as other themes, and enables fans to engage with a new type of warrior.
While Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) doesn’t give much attention to the luchador story, Bane in the comic books is clearly inspired by lucha libre: from the mask he wears, to his demeanour, to the fact he even uses a pro-wrestling finisher move in his fights. Bane’s prolific nature allows a new dimension to be given to Batman villains, who largely resemble the schemer and not the brawny fighter. Compared to The Joker or Penguin, Bane’s brand of roughnecking perfectly represents the spirit of the luchador fighter. An honourable mention goes to El Sombrero, a character introduced by Grant Morrison for his take on the series, who is actually directly inspired by lucha libre.
In the Marvel Universe, we have Ape-X representing the luchadores. The storyline focuses on a race of apes in Marvel Apes, who engaged in a civil war of their own. The powers of Ape-X came directly from his magic luchador mask, which showcased the luchador style of wrestling (albeit in gorilla form) in comic books and tapped into the mythology that goes alongside it. While Ape-X might not have made it onto screens (yet!), the luchador helped raise the profile for luchadores in comics. This helps explain the popularity of El Gorgo, another luchador gorilla who is also lead guitarist of a rock band.
Luchadores are few and far between in pop culture, which is why they gain so much attention when they break out on the pages of a comic book. The instantly recognizable characters are often embodied with the characteristics which make real-life luchadores so formidable.