Professional wrestling in comic books recently made headlines when Bleeding Cool reported that a comic book from 1951, Police Comics #104 (Quality Comics), featuring a wrestling storyline, went up for auction as part of a lot of 12 issues of Police Comics. According to Bleeding Cool, the writer of said comic book, Joe Millard, “was a professional wrestling fan, because his Ken Shannon story in Police Comics #104 (Quality Comics, 1951) seems to have been inspired by the May 23, 1950 Gorgeous George vs. Cyclone Anaya match at the Chicago Coliseum, and the May 26, 1950 Gorgeous George vs Chief Don Eagle match at the International Amphitheater in Chicago.” 

Police Comics #104 (Quality, 1951)

Police Comics #104 featuring Luscious Louie, inspired by Gorgeous George.

I don’t own a copy of this comic (yet!), but I think it’s very cool that this hidden gem could potentially be the earliest reference to professional wrestling in an English-language, non-wrestling comic book, and that there’s still great examples of wrestling in non-wrestling comics to be discovered. 

In a previous article about hunting for wrestling collectibles at Motor City Comic Con, I mentioned that I picked up a copy of The Mighty Thor #290 (Marvel), from 1979, which features the debut appearance of a relatively minor character named El Toro Rojo. As previously mentioned, I’m generally not a fan of Thor, but this comic features a great cover depicting Thor and El Toro Rojo in a wrestling ring, with El Toro Rojo bull-rushing Thor, while Thor’s hammer bounces off the back of El Toro Rojo, so I had to add it to my collection.

mighty thor 290

The Mighty Thor #290 featuring El Toro Rojo.

That installment of Motor City Comic Con featured an appearance by Danhausen, who’s been depicted in several comic books himself, which leads me to the recent purchase of a comic book that’s been on my wish list since last fall. The 2023 New York Comic Con variant of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (IDW) is an extra special comic book because the cover is drawn by Do A Power Bomb! creator Daniel Warren Johnson, but in addition to this, the cover features guest appearances by Danhausen and Brody King, locked in a wrestling match with TMNT enemy Shredder, while Splinter referees and all four Ninja Turtles watch. This comic was limited to only 500 copies, so I feel quite lucky to have recently scored a copy for my collection, and for quite a bit less than what they were selling for last fall. 

tmnt dwj danhausen brody

Daniel Warren Johnson NYCC TMNT variant featuring Danhausen and Brody King.

Another item I recently added to my collection was found at an antique mall while visiting family in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In my first installment of this series of articles, I wrote about how often MAD Magazine used to feature, and parody, professional wrestling, with a series of amazing covers by Mort Drucker, and earlier this June, I found a copy of the February 1999 issue of MAD Magazine #378, featuring a caricature of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on the cover. Back when I was a kid, I used to dread trips to the antique store with my mom, but now that I often find wrestling collectibles there, it’s one of my favorite places to go.

MAD magazine 378

MAD Magazine #378 featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin.

And speaking of antiques, while recently helping a friend evaluate his silver and bronze age comic book collection, I found two more non-wrestling comic books that prominently feature professional wrestling. The first one might not be a true antique (unless that means I’m an antique, as well), but it’s an issue of Captain America #271 (Marvel) from 1982. This issue, like so many other comic books with a wrestling tie-in, features an appearance by a short-lived, minor character, this time known as Mr. X, who wears nothing but boots, trunks, and a mask with an X over his face. As usual, the cover is the real draw for me, and this cover shows Captain America in a wrestling ring getting drop kicked by Mr. X. 

Captain America 271

Captain America #271 featuring Mr. X.

The true antique, and a real discovery, if you ask me, is a comic book I found near the bottom of a stack of my friend’s comic books. Bobby Benson’s B-Bar-B Riders #9, published by Magazine Enterprises, is a gorgeous, golden age comic book featuring a stunning cover by renowned artist Frank Frazetta. The caption on the cover reads, “The Lemonade Kid meets the Monster!” and shows a blond, Buddy Rogers-esque figure (The Lemonade Kid) locked in battle with a hairy beast of a man (think George “The Animal” Steele). It’s a truly spectacular cover, a genuine work of art, in my opinion. My friend’s copy is aged and worn beyond repair, but in a way, it adds to the charm, even if that means it decreases the value for potential buyers. Another interesting detail is this comic is from 1951, like the issue of Police Comics #104 that was up for auction, which makes this one of the two earliest references to professional wrestling in an English-language, non-wrestling comic book that I’ve seen, and the oldest example I’ve actually held in my hands. 

Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders 9

Bobby Benson’s B-Bar-B Riders #9

I find it extremely satisfying that I’m still finding nods to professional wrestling in non-wrestling comic books. Even though the examples now are becoming more and more obscure, as long as there’s boxes of old comic books to search through, and as long as contemporary artists like Daniel Warren Johnson keep finding inspiration in professional wrestling, I believe my collection will continue to grow, and I’ll continue to report my findings back to