Michael Kingston is back with the third installment of his ongoing professional wrestling comic book series, Headlocked: Tales from the Road. Kingston’s popular “anthology of short stories set in the Headlocked universe, co-created by some of the biggest names in wrestling” completed another successful Kickstarter campaign this past fall, raising $18,627 thanks to 277 individual backers, an impressive feat by just about any metric. 

Kingston shared an update on February 10, 2024 that the books would start shipping from the printer the following week, and backers began receiving their copies of Headlocked: Tales from the Road Volume Three near the end of the month.

While the Kickstarter campaign was still open, backers could select a variety of options, add-ons, and alternative covers, including covers featuring Adam Cole, Powerhouse Hobbs, Switchblade Jay White, and Trinity Fatu, who each co-wrote a story in this volume of Headlocked, but I opted for the standard version of the cover, a Saturday Evening Post Norman Rockwell tribute by Doug Hills, who provided the art for most of the stories.

Norman Rockwell by Doug Hills Headlocked Comic cover variant

Headlocked: Tales from the Road Volume Three includes eight standalone comics set in the fictional “Headlocked universe,” so readers don’t have to have read the previous volumes in order to understand the stories, although they may appreciate them more if they do. This volume includes stories co-written by Adam Cole, Powerhouse Hobbs, Jay White, and Trinity Fatu, as previously mentioned, but it also includes stories by Andrade El Idolo, Cassie Lee and Jessica McKay, Amy “Lita” Dumas, and Dirty Dango, which makes for an impressive roster of talent.

All but one of the stories, “Monster Inside Me” by Powerhouse Hobbs, features art by Doug Hills, which makes for a consistent visual experience, but I also enjoyed it when certain stories, such as “La Sombra: Agent of Lucha” by Andrade El Idolo and Amy Dumas’ “Mackenzie Bell and the Case of the Devil’s Hangman,” had a slightly different look to them, which can likely be attributed to Hill’s collaborators on those stories. 

As for the stories themselves, while the individual comics may not have a unified plot, there’s definitely a couple themes present in many of them. For instance, this volume of Headlocked: Tales from the Road seems to lean-in to horror, with four of the eight stories having outright horror elements, such as Adam Cole’s horror video game story “Independent Evil,” or Cassie Lee and Jessica McKay’s social media nightmare in “No Comment.”

no comment art

Another common theme in these comics is the presence of the internet, and how the wrestlers are impacted by things like social media, podcasters, and “dirt sheets.” For the most part, the depictions of these elements are negative. Nobody in these comics benefits from the presence of the internet.

For example, in Adam Cole’s “Independent Evil,” the main character of the story is trapped inside a video game experiencing the horrors of independent wrestling, and one of the horrors he has to face is a fat, bearded podcaster who invites the character to appear on his Blogtalk Radio Show. In Cassie Lee and Jessica McKay’s “No Comment,” two female pro wrestlers are haunted by a Freddie Kruger-esque version of an anthropomorphic cellphone who tortures them with social media comments about their bodies. And in “The Monster Inside Me,” by Powerhouse Hobbs, a wrestler with a Venom-like alien symbiote inflicts pain on himself by taking unprotected chair shots and doing table spots because the symbiote is obsessed with the “dirt sheets” and makes comments about star ratings.

independent evil art

While I enjoy horror and poking fun at elements of internet culture, because a number of the stories in this book had some similar elements, I most enjoyed the stories in Headlocked: Tales from the Road that were more unique in their presentation. 

For example, “Bump Sell Tango” by Trinity Fatu is an early standout for both the art and storytelling style, in which a woman is led to a prison cell block where the other women in prison dance and sing the stories of why they’re locked up. The visual style, mostly black and white with splashes of color, like the yellow highlights in the main character’s hair, reminded me of Frank Miller’s Sin City. Also, while no names are given, most readers can probably assume who’s being referred to when a woman with blue and red highlights comes to free the protagonist from her cell. Hmm, I wonder who was freeing her, and from what? 

Another standout is Amy “Lita” Dumas’ “Mackenzie Bell and the Case of the Devil’s Hangman.” Dumas’ story features some horror elements, but it’s more like an issue of Tales from the Crypt that morphs into an episode of Scooby-Doo, in that what is initially presented as supernatural turns out to be the doings of a crooked old man. Plus, it stars Dumas’ pooch Mackenzie Bell, who turns out to be the real star of the story. 

devil's hangman art

Finally, “Night of the Brothering,” by Dirty Dango, is another comic worth mentioning, in that it’s a horror comedy in which a group of indie workrate wrestlers get turned into zombie-like “brothers” sporting Zubas and fanny packs and who’s achilles heel is the strip club. And how do they get turned? Not by biting, but by shaking a brother’s hand. It’s a weird, funny little comic by a reliably weird, funny talent. 

brothering art

Headlocked: Tales from the Road Volume Three is a fun book created by a talented cast of characters. The collected volume three was only available for purchase via Kickstarter, but individual comics, art prints, and previous volumes of Kingston’s creations are available on his online Headlocked Comics store.