The King of crackin’ cases: Jerry Lawler teams with Dick Tracy
At this point in his life, there aren’t too many honors that really impress Jerry Lawler. When I called the King to jokingly congratulate him (knowing what his reaction would be) for making the 2007 WWE Hall of Fame (HOF) class, he replied, “Oh, please. That’s like calling someone to congratulate them for winning the belt.”
In other words, he sees the Hall of Fame for what it is: a WWE marketing ploy designed to make money off its past while giving the boys a pat on the back. (Besides, it really irked Lawler that his beloved Cleveland Indians would be playing a rare exhibition game in Memphis the same night as his HOF induction.)
However, when Mike Curtis, writer of the Dick Tracy comic strip called Lawler recently about adding a “Jerry King” character to help crack a case involving a professional wrestler, Lawler was as giddy as a schoolboy. After all, Lawler used to draw his own wrestling comic strip, “The Patriot” for the now-defunct Wrestling Revue in the early ’70s, so he clearly has a true appreciation for this classic art form and onetime staple of American pop culture. (I always thought the Patriot’s finisher, “The Uncle Slam,” would have been a great name for Kurt Angle’s move instead of the “Angle Slam.”)
In fact, it’s was Lawler’s artwork–sketching comic-book renderings of Memphis wrestlers–that led to his break in the wrestling business. Lawler also briefly attended my alma mater, The University of Memphis (the former Memphis State University) on an art scholarship before he decided to work on a different kind of canvas altogether.
The latest story features a criminal wrestler named Thunderchild who finds himself at odds with classic Dick Tracy villain The Mole. During an event where Thunderchild is competing, Jerry “the King” Lawler serves as one of the play-by-play commentators, similar to his role on RAW. An avid comic-book enthusiast and talented artist, Lawler was honored to be featured alongside the legendary detective.
“It’s almost surreal,” gushed the WWE Hall of Famer. “I grew up reading Dick Tracy’s adventures, so to be drawn with him is almost too good to be true.”
Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould and distributed by Tribune, first appeared in newspapers in 1931. “I thought the only thing I had in common with Tracy was that we both started in 1931,” joked Lawler. In the strip, Lawler doesn’t just call the action as Tracy tries to solve the case; he fights right alongside the world-famous detective.
Although lost on many readers, I couldn’t help but laugh at the mention in one panel of Memphis legend Tojo Yamamoto as well as the Mighty Yankees, one of the many masked teams in Memphis in that Lawler was fascinated by as a young fan in the ’60s.
Lawler even got the equivalent of a comics main event: a Sunday morning appearance in the funnies, as he challenges Thunderchild to a “shoot.” (The strap, Jerry, pull the strap!) A shoot? Really? Who’s co-writing this stuff…Vince Russo?
In today’s strip, Lawler’s infamous piledriver is forever immortalized in the funny papers. I love how they apply Memphis rules, which states under normal conditions, the referee would call for an automatic disqualification, as the piledriver is the lone hold barred in the state of Tennessee. Classic stuff! (Incidentally, why was Lawler’s broadcast partner apparently modeled after the character Little Bill from “Boogie Nights”?)
I can’t help but think that Lawler’s past experience with “The World’s Greatest Detective,” Batman, in Memphis in 1976 prepared him for his role in the Dick Tracy strip. Knowing Lawler’s widespread apperances across several mediums, can a Super King appearance in DC’s Superman comic book be far behind?