Jay Sandlin is a writer with feet in a lot of doors. He’s active on Twitter, runs a podcast, writes books and now he’s writing a comic book for Mad Cave Studios.
Over the Ropes, written by Sandlin with art by Antonenllo Cosentino, explores indie wrestling in the south during the 1990s. It follows underdog Jason Lynn aka Phoenix trying to make it in the golden age of wrestling. You’ll get heroes, heels, sharp writing with action-packed visuals.
The book is set to hit comic shops in December.
Jay took some time to talk to me about OTR and sent me an advanced copy of the book. So I’ll let him tell you about it with our interview:
COMIC LOUNGE: Is OTR going to be ongoing or a miniseries?
JAY SANDLIN: It depends on how you consider something to be mini. It’ll be ongoing for five issues and then we don’t know what after that.
The story I have set for Over the Ropes is self contained for these five issues. 100 pages of pro-wrestling in the 90s set in a fictional town of Alabama I came up with. There’s a southern territory tour that the SFW, Southern Fried Wrestling promotion, puts on in the book to try and gain a major television contract. Kind of like the one the AEW (All Elite Wrestling) landed with TNT.
COMIC LOUNGE: How did this go from an idea to becoming a book? I’m guessing you’re a big wrestling fan.
JAY: I am a big wrestling fan, which is actually how it happened in the first place. Mad Cave hired me in September of 2018. They told me that they already had a few genres in mind for their recent hires. They had hired maybe five others, including me at that time. They said, ‘we have a few genres but we’ve been looking at your social media and we see that you like to talk about wrestling a good bit.’ And I didn’t even realizing that I talked about it that much. They said “it seems you know about wrestling and we think you’d be right for a wrestling story that we want to do.”
All they knew they wanted to do was tell a pro-wrestling underdog story. That was where that came from.
COMIC LOUNGE: Okay, so the rest was you.
JAY: It was. I had to decide, first off, when it was going to take place. I had to decide about the characters. Once I decided that it was going to take place in the 90s, because that’s the era that means the most to me, everything else kind of fell into place.
COMIC LOUNGE: Did you pick the creative team?
JAY: As a work for hire, which is what this project is, I am part of the creative team that Mad Cave chose. The editor chose me as the writer. They say “we pay you x amount.” In this case, it’s a page rate and “for this page rate, you’ll give us the scripts.” But it’s not just the scripts because for every page you see, theres’ a lot of outlining, character design, there’s research.
For me and my process of writing a comic, theres’ always hundreds of picture files. I collect copious amounts of reference files, which in this case, was absolutely necessary. Aside from some of the higher up guys at Mad Cave, the actual day-to-day editors on this project and the first artist they hired were people who didn’t know anything about wrestling. So it took hundreds of photos to fill in the gaps. Like here’s what the match looks like, here’s what this particular move looks like, here are some YouTube videos.
Everything in wrestling has been done and redone because wrestling is just telling stories. That’s why is works well in a visual medium like graphic novels.
COMIC LOUNGE: Have you always been interested in writing? Or was it something you grew into over time?
JAY: Yes and yes. I was always interested in writing but I didn’t put in the work into the writing that I needed to get better at it. I would do it off and on, show flashes of it my whole life. It was in 2016, I’ve always been a reader but something just clicked for me on a trip to the beach. I was reading a couple of e-books that my friend let me borrow. I just said to myself while reading them, “I can do this. There’s no reason that I can’t do this and I would be very happy doing it.”
From 2016 up until today, I have done something every day to try and work towards that goal of being a writer. I thought in 2016 that I would have instant success, write a Harry Potter level novel and gain movie deals within the first six months and just go on from there. Y’know, it’s that easy. I learned a lot about that since so that’s why I’ve used my website as a writers’ resource tool for writers at various stages to find some help.
COMIC LOUNGE: How did you collaborate with your artist, Antonello Cosentino?
JAY: Antonello and I have to date never had a conversation.
The truth is, Antonello is the second artist. The first artist was let go from the book after a long time. Antonello came in and really put the work in. The reason that we haven’t talked, I would hope part of the reason is my script.
When a comic book writer writes a script, he only writes it for an audience of maybe one to five people at most and it’s mainly for the artist. You could say editors as well.
When Antonello came on the book is when it really kicked into overdrive and I really love the look he’s created for this story. I think he really gets the characters and gives them all a unique design that really fits the characters as I put it in the script. I’m thrilled he’s on the book.
COMIC LOUNGE: Were there any challenges you bumped into while working on the book?
JAY: No, no really. I had a really smooth relationship with Mad Cave and working with the editors on the book. I worked with two different editors on it and they were 100% supportive of the story that I wanted to tell.
COMIC LOUNGE: Why did you set the book in Alabama?
JAY: When I started watching wrestling, it was on the TBS superstation. Which, when we had 35 channels was a big deal on our cable networks on the south was a big deal because of Ted Turner and the Turner media empire based in Atlanta.
It was also important to set it in the South because that’s how wrestling was organized. Before cable TV took off, wrestling was divided into territories. Each region of the United States had a region of a territory when they ran shows and invited wrestlers to come in for their seasons.
By the 90s, the territory system was dying. I live in the South, I watched a lot of southern wrestling on early cable TV. So I decided I would set a story there about a southern promotion in the 90s that’s probably on its last legs and it’s going to go for broke in trying to gain this TV contract with the southern tour.
COMIC LOUNGE: What have you been reading?
JAY: I’m reading The Dresden Files’ Brief Cases for some short story prose. I’ve been reading a lot of the Vault Comics titles right now. Heathen, Vagrant Queen and also Wasted Space. I’ve been reading a lot of the other Mad Cave titles to keep up. This year I read the entire run of Invincible, another great creator owned series.
Mad Cave Studios’ southern-fried wrestling story by Jay Sandlin and Antonello Cosentino will be out in shops on Dec. 4
Find Jay here: