A powerful character himself, CM Punk doesn’t have much of a connection with many of the Avengers or the X-Men.
Doctor Doom? Well, that’s a different story for the pro wrestler.
“He’s a bad guy but he’s justified in his actions. He’s one of those characters that to me can be misunderstood a lot. There’s a lot of parallels between myself and Doctor Doom,”
says Punk, the World Wrestling Entertainment champion and full-fledged comic-book nerd.
The brash in-ring persona of Chicago native Phil Brooks bills himself as “the best in the world” — a statement some of his co-workers such as John Cena or the intimidating Ryback may argue with —but he’s certainly everywhere in the world and in pop culture.
His WWE schedule has him traveling the world and appearing every Monday night on the USA Network’sMonday Night Raw show, but Punk released his first DVD CM Punk: Best in the World last week, he’s on the cover of the new WWE ’13 video game (out Oct. 30) and the champ is writing the intro for Marvel Comics’Avengers vs. X-Men hardcover collection arriving Nov. 7.
“I worked really hard to get to where I’m at and it’s cool to be afforded opportunities like this. To me, it’s hard work paying off and I’m having a lot of fun right now,” Punk says.
“There’s good and there’s bad, but if you don’t stop to smell the roses, so to speak, it’s all for naught.”
Punk is known for talking a lot in the WWE ring and calling out opponents — or “cutting promos” in wrestling parlance — but when he was asked to do the foreword for AvX, once he stopped freaking out he was able to find the words to write about his own history with comics and the monumental clash between Marvel’s two biggest super-teams.
“Who understands the theatrical nuances of a good smack down more than WWE champ CM Punk, who brings the same muscle and heart he beings to the ring to his brilliant intro for Avengers vs. X-Men,” says Marvel editor in chief Axel Alonso.
Even had he not signed his name to it, his fans would know it’s vintage Punk.
“If I had to describe my writing style, it’s very sarcastic and self-deprecating,” he says. “You’ll be able to tell it in the foreword.”
Punk, who grew up in Chicago in the 1980s, would be excited to know his adult self is still hugely into comics, action figures, monster movies and rock music.
He was a big fan of G.I. Joe toys and cartoons as a youngster, and his life as a comic geek began when he walked into a comic shop and bought his first issue of Larry Hama’s original Marvel G.I. Joe series.
“There was a huge difference between the cartoon and the comic book. A lot of people don’t know that — they think of G.I. Joe, they think of corny, “Yo Joe!” America stuff. But the comic book was so well written, it blew me away,” says the heavily inked Punk, who has tattoos of a G.I. Joe-themed Cobra sigil on his right shoulder and an Arashikage ninja symbol on his right forearm.
Because of all the superhero comics he’s read ever since, Punk feels that at least some has made it into his ring chatter — “I’m sure there’s been some dialogue in a comic book, something Batman said or something pretty heavy like maybe Doctor Doom said that I’ve used,” says the wrestler, whose centerpiece of his comic collection back home in Chicago is a Doctor Doom bust.
Before he ever hits the ring, though, he motions to his wrist and boisterously borrows the Thing’s famous catchphrase “It’s clobberin’ time!” during his entrances, a staple in his repertoire since starting in wrestling in the late 1990s. “I’ve got to explain it a lot,” Punk admits of his call to battle, “but the ones who know know.”
Most of his co-workers get it, and even if they’re not comic fans, if they’re curious enough about comics, Punk will slip them a couple of trade paperbacks for educational purposes. He says Kofi Kingston is almost as much of a fan as he is, and Punk recently turned him on to Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series.
The only time he’s really dropped out of comics was in the early 2000s, when Punk was focusing most of his time and energy on wrestling and making a name for himself on the independent circuit.
It was writer Garth Ennis, though, and his and artist Steve Dillon’s seminal seriesPreacher — about a Texas holy man who inherits a divine power and goes on a quest across the USA to find God after he goes AWOL from heaven — that made him dive back into comics.
“It completely redefined what comic books were. It was smart, it was funny, it was engaging, the art was amazing,” Punk explains.
“It’s one of those unfortunate instances where I think people look down on comic books almost the same way they look down on pro wrestling — maybe it’s this lesser art form or it’s just for kids and it’s goofy. But I defy anybody to read Preacher and tell me they feel the same way after that. That opened my eyes to a whole different world.”
There’s always been an overlap between the audiences for comics and pro wrestling, according to Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort. “We’ve garnered fans from all walks of life — folks who aren’t shy about expressing their love for the Marvel brand of far-out fantasy. It’s just another step on our inexorable march towards world domination.”
Punk would rather not use the word “grownup” (“because I certainly don’t like attaching that tag to myself — I don’t feel like I’m a grownup”) but it was maturity that led to the biggest change in his comic interests over the years.
He originally was more attracted to the art and characters, but now he tends to read comics based on the writers, preferring a good story over a splash page.
The five Avengers vs. X-Men scribes tend to be many of his favorites. Punk is a fan of Brian Michael Bendis and Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four, Jason Aaron’s Punisher MAX, and pretty much anything Brubaker writes.
“I used to loathe the Captain America character,” Punk says, “and seven years ago, (Brubaker) completely revitalized that character and he made me fall in love with it.”
Punk will often tweet out pictures of trade paperbacks and collections he’s reading on the road. He doesn’t have the patience to read monthly issues, he says, and hasn’t gone digital yet at all.
“I hear it’s great, but I’m pretty stubborn. I’m the last guy to jump on things like that,” Punk says. “I need to feel the comic book, I need to read it, I need to hold it in my hands.”
That’s a plus for Punk’s favorite hometown store, Chicago’s Challengers Comics, and others he will stop at while on tour with the WWE. He’ll try to shop incognito, but often the champ will get recognized and sometimes owners try to give him books gratis.
Punk is always quick to pull out his wallet, though.
“I want to support the industry, and if you’re not supporting the mom-and-pop shops, you’re not really supporting the industry,” he says. “They’re trying to throw all these free books at me, and I’m always willing to shell out the money. That’s the point.”
And it’s an industry that might get more Punk sooner than later. Now that he’s written hisAvX introduction for Marvel Comics, he’s pondering having his own comic book.
“We’ve kicked around a couple of ideas. You might see something like that in the future,” Punk teases.
“It was nothing I ever really thought about until they approached me. It was very matter-of-factly like, ‘Hey, you should write a comic book.’ It was pretty cool.”