Many of my noble readers know of my appreciation for masked wrestling. I’ve been tuned into Lucha since I can remember El Solitario and Mil Mascaras appearing for LeBell promotions in LA. From Parts Unknown, the premier publication for mask aficionados, has been putting out fantastic publications since the mid-1990s. I was lucky enough to get two of FPU’s best, Mr. Unknown and Demonia del Feugo, to answer a few of my questions.
Christopher Garcia– When did the mask first call to you to give its glory to the world? Who was the biggest influence in getting you into the world under the hood? Was it Max Moon?
Mr. Unknown — (laughing) Well, after a fashion, it was Max Moon, but not until later… The FPU hooded staff thing was initially inspired by a mid-80’s issue of this Sunday newspaper insert from Mexico City called “Lucha Espectacular.” They had this photographer/reporter in a silver mask with the paper’s logo stitched on the forehead and sides. He’d be in all kinds of trouble with the rudos for not taking flattering enough pics. Genius!
When “From Parts Unknown” was first put together, the all-masked staff was a must and I came to the forefront as a walking spokesperson for both the mag and the source material. That was around 1995 or so, when the first wave of lucha talent invaded WCW and made words like ‘huracanrana’ sort of household. Konnan was largely responsible for that talent brokerage, and he was Max Moon back in the day, so there you go…
Demonia del Fuego — Loving wrestling most of my life it was around 90 or so when I came across a wrestling tape in Spanish showing these amazing Mexican wrestlers in masks. On this first tape I got a glimpse of Lucha Estrellas such as Blue Panther, Atlantis, and Mascara Sagrada, but seeing Hijo Del Santo against All Star in a mask vs. mask match really started my love for the hood.
Soon after that I was on the hunt for everything Lucha Libre, in particular everything masked. Being in Southern California it wasn’t hard finding magazines and videos, so when I found a female match with Vicky Carranza/La Senorita/Selema vs. Rossy Moreno/La Diabolica/Martha Villalobos I truly heard my calling. I was going to wrestle and I would be in a mask.
CG– Ya’ll have introduced a number of great comics to your readers, including Quebrada, an Italian comic that I can’t understand, but love anyway, and helping get the word out on Sonambulo. Where do you find this stuff? Who do you got working on locating such amazing work? Are you, like us here at Fanboy Planet, big comics fans?
DdF — Personally, I have always been a huge fan of comic books, which is part of being drawn towards the masked luchadores. They have a real super hero/villain quality to them. During a trip to San Diego Comic-Con, I was lucky enough to find From Parts Unknown as well as great comics like Sonambulo and El Gato. I’m a true believer in supporting people with similar visions of giving the public more access to lucha libre culture, and would imagine they all believe the same. We found each other and have become a family. All of the staff keeps their eyes out for new masked wrestling creative ventures and brainstorm with each other on new ideas.
Mr. ? — Discovery and accessibility of exotic media are HUGE parts of what we do. FPU is all about recommending media and merch that’s done right. Before eBay and the net and all, it was next to impossible to score Mexi-mask stuff if you weren’t living along the borders or could make trips into Mexico.
We did all we could in issue #1 to find as many people importing the stuff as we could, and pushed them like crazy on our readership. Most of these guys did REALLY well as a result, and word got out, and from then on a lot of dealers actually sought us out. We never run ads or plugs for anything or anyone we don’t patronize ourselves, so we know we’re hooking readers up with the right dealers.
As for comics – I’m really into them and I’m fascinated by that industry. It has all the ‘inspired madman tilting at windmills’ appeal that, say, indie film and underground rock have, but with far less potential to ever make a nickel. You run into a lot of eccentrics and self-motivated types in comics. Lots of great ideas making the page in one way or another. Comics are actually a great way to get a concept out there and to lock down a property for yourself. Look at what that did for the creator of Men in Black. I found Raf’s “Sonambulo” through a comic store in Michigan, and he was a gateway to guys like Mike Aushenker (El Gato) and Javier Hernandez (El Muerto) and later Ted Seko (Attack of the Super Monsters), and that really inspired me to do the same gateway service as a regular feature of FPU.
…and “Quebrada”… the creators were partly inspired by a chance meeting with myself and La Reina Arana, then came to us a year later with the finished comics and we were absolutely blown away. FPU was a similar ‘common ground’ of sorts for us and others meeting up with Eddie Mort and Lili Chin – who sold “Mucha Lucha” all the way from Australia. They hooked up with guys like Jorge Gutierrez and some of the Spumco alumni and have done great things with that show. Keeping this interlinked family-like network of creators and vendors and other talent has really paid off for a lot of projects, and if we had anything to do with that by putting FPU out there for them, thats just fantastic.
CG– I’ve been on the hunt for the best Masked Wrestler movie. Any suggestions?
Mr. ? — “Santo y Blue Demon contra los monstruos” is absolutely HUGE – a great first lucha film to show a potential convert – two masked heroes fighting a mad scientist, his midget ‘Igor’ and their zombie goons, plus a frankenstein, a wolfman, a Dracula, a bride of Dracula, a mummy, a cyclops, a big brain alien, and an evil clone of Blue Demon thrown in for good measure. [CG note: I’ve seen it and it does rock!]
Also high on my list is Blue Demon’s “La sombra de murcielago” (Blue Demon vs. the Shadow of the Bat) which is one of the few lucha flicks that has a wrestling super-villain that’s equally capable in the ring as the hero. It’s the best wrestled of the wrestling films. The first “Los cameones justicieros” (The Champions of Justice) is really special, and of course “Santo contra las mujeres vampiras” (Santo vs.the Vampire Women) is what I’ve called ‘The Citizen Kane of Mexican masked wrestler films.’
There’s some great DVD’s now, too, a real renaissance of the genre. VCI did a phenomenal job last year with “Santo vs. the Martian Invasion.” The new VAS/Rise Above/Rebel Crew discs aren’t as ambitious, but they do have a TON of films coming and that’s just great to see. Something Weird Video has just put out double features with all the K. Gordon Murray dubbed stuff on them – “Doctor of Doom” “Night of the Bloody Apes” and the “Samson” dubbed Santo flicks, which are all great starting points in the genre.
DdF — Well I have this one from after the FPU Christmas Party last year. oh wait, you don’t mean those kind of movies. Err. “Night of the Bloody Apes”, yeah, open heart surgery, nudity and tons of violence. Of course there are others I love such as “Blue Demon y las diabólicas” and of course “Primate of the Deep”.
Mr. ? — Oh yeah yeah yeah! “Primate of the Deep”, THAT’s the greatest movie of all time… s***. How could I forget to shill my own cinematic turd?
CG– Tell me more of your own cinematic ventures. Anything after Primate of the Deep? Are you looking for a comic sidekick with Curly Hair and odd timing? Do you get any offers to do other folks’ films? (By the way, Tsunami Toyota is a great name.)
Mr. ? — “PotD” was originally conceived as bumpers for a compilation of shorts to run on a public access show. It has this endless fight scene in the middle that was designed to be split. Well, the comp never got off the ground, so we cut the two halves together, and sure enough that padded endless fight scene REALLY watched like a Mexican film or a Japanese hero show. So we released it as-was, threw in some extra swag into the tape package and there you go.
As for future projects, it depends on the governments of the world. If they’d just get together, pool all their financial might, and give us the trillion dollars we truly deserve, then we could save modern cinema. Until then, we’re concentrating on print. I will say this, we’ve got a show pitch sitting on more than one desk around the TV community, and we’ve always mused about a public access talk show, too.
One thing two of our ilk – our FX guy Dave Buscemi (the Paul Blaisdell of FPU) and our graphics monkey Keith Rainville – want to do in the future is FILM some lucha – Super8 or 16mm. Wrestling looks SOOO amazing on film stock, and you never see it.
CG– I’ve been familiar with the Lucha-VaVoom thing for a while now, and I hadn’t realized that there was a From Parts Unknown connection until recently. Ya’ll dig the Velvet Hammer? What’s it like announcing with that fellow who usurped the Beat the Geeks throne, Blaine Kapatch?
Mr. ? — The first VaVOOM was a great experiment put together by Liz Fairbarin, who used to manage GWAR. She, like many of us in the Southern California area, was really frustrated that huge lucha shows were being put on by Latino promoters and marketed exclusively within that community. Some of these promoters go out of their way, it seems, to keep their shows a secret. So, she wanted a lucha show marketed to everyone and anyone.
When she combined efforts with the Velvet Hammer burlesque, it was instantly upgraded to a hipster happening. She signed on local wrestling promotion WPW for the ring talent, and the Latin Cinematheque had film showings in conjunction. We were called relatively late in the game for some advice and graphics help, and were happy to be on board such a cool effort. As good as that first show came off, it was sort of a train wreck with too many chefs, so over the next two shows, they streamlined the operation greatly.
At this point, Liz now books her own wrestling talent, they have their own line up of dancers, and no longer rely on other organizations for promotions. They’ve created their own identity and carved out a serious niche for themselves. We’re on board as advisors, and FPU’s art director does the print chores for them (posters, programs etc.), and I share the live announcing during the events.
As for Blaine, he’s an important part of the show, dating back to the Velvet Hammer. Burlesque is inextricably linked with stand-up comedy, often BAD comedy, which is the point, and Blaine pulls that retro-schtick off perfectly. So he was there as part of the burlesque format, and carried that over to calling the matches. Lucha events don’t have a live caller, but for VaVOOM, whose crowd is mostly newbies, there needs to be a little extra exposition.
I’m there now as the straight guy to call the action, get the names right, and such. The comedians keep the crowd into the show, and I think it all works. Some people don’t get it. Some get offended or pissed when the comedians bag on the ring talent, but it’s all in an effort to sell the show to a not-necessarily-educated crowd of first-timers.
VaVOOM is a dizzying parade of dancers and wrestlers and music and bits, and it needs a mortar to keep it all together for the crowd, and Blaine provides that. If it seems like he’s burying some guy in the ring, he’s not, the respect is there. His efforts are as calculated as any of the dancers or wrestlers.
DdF — Lucha VaVoom has been a great boost to the local lucha wrestling scene, too. Seeing that many people new to lucha be so enthusiastic is really amazing to see. It’s great for everyone involved from the established Mexico City names to our local indy stars and the gorgeous dancers involved. Also some great local lucha vendors got some recognition and much business including From Parts Unknown. We debuted “HoodWink” there, which I’m happy to say did extremely well.
CG– I know you guys have some great fans. I’ve talked to folks from Seattle, Boston, LA, and even Australia who are long-time readers. What’s the average fan mail like? What about the weird fan mail?
Mr. ? — Unanimously grateful. People are thankful for finally having an English language resource on the stuff. People in far flung corners of the globe are thankful for the nugget of masked culture and the gateway it provides to the source material. We’ve reached people coast to coast in the US, as well as Canada, England, France, Italy, Australia, and Japan. They’re STARVED for the material.
There have been some weirdos. Early on I had one androgynous ‘fan’ from some halfway school who sent a picture of a foot and a scrawled note promising additional revelations the more I sent back. I didn’t. We had one alleged wrestler on a hate campaign, calling the staff fakes and posers and challenging us to fights. Really funny. Here’s a guy supposedly in the ‘sports entertainment’ biz who doesn’t get the notion of a worked magazine staff. And also doesn’t understand the notion of NOT attacking the press when you’re in an indy fed trying to get over in the world.
DdF — Our fans are fantastic and mail from them is always greatly appreciated. We get overwhelming support from lucha followers and only rarely receive strange mail or requests. Personally, the strange mail I get are requests from “fans” who would like me to either wrestle them for X amount of money, or remove my mask because according to them I’m “too pretty to be in a mask.”
Neither request will ever be agreed to, but all mail is welcome. Most conventions or shows we go to there is one wierdo around but the good far outweighs the bad, so start sending more mail and make sure to check shows we are attending to meet us in person.
Mr. ? — Considering the fetish-charged girly content we’ve had, the creepy stalker types have been rare. What we do get instead are a lot of are would-be creative types who inexplicably bag on Mexicans with their ideas and then look for our approval. Its a real problem, seriously, all the time we get things like “Hey, I got a really funny idea for a Mexican masked wrestler comic… El Taco Loco! Whadda ya’ think?” Its always from someone on the East coast or up north who’s never met a Latino in his or her life and it hasn’t dawned on them that Mexicans are real people and their culture is more than hot sauce and Tijuana whorehouses.
I can’t even count how many lame ass gimmicks have been proposed to me by the ignorant based on 1.) food, 2.) drunkeness and 3.) criminal activity in some combination. Latinos are as stereotyped with diarrhea jokes and bandito references as, say, Asians are with Bruce Lee imitations. I’m baffled, but then I’ll see the WWE portraying their Latino talent stealing cars and mowing lawns in skits, so there you go… I just have no tolerance for it.
CG– OK, it has to be asked. WHEN THE HELL AM I GONNA GET AN ISSUE 7 OUT OF YA’LL?!?!?!
Mr. ? — FPU Volume 2, #1 is looking good for October. We’re relauncing in a smaller digest format, ala “Video Watchdog.” I’m really in love with that sizing now, and with the bad economy and crapped-out ‘zine and indy comic markets, it’s less of a financial risk.
In the meantime, our second spin-off, HoodWink, is available now, and a second volume in our pulp fiction line Masked Adventures is next out. We also have a secret project in conjunction with Rafael Navarro coming sometime next year.
Since the FPU operation relocated to LA, we’ve all been so busy working IN the lucha industry, we haven’t had nearly enough time to report on it. Great for us, but for our fans worldwide it does them no good. We’re aware of that, though, and more stuff is coming.
Unknown Publications is also tinkering around with a NINJA pop media mag. Our publisher Keith Rainville was an original ninja mark in the 80’s, HARDCORE, and never left it behind. He’s been looking for a window of opportunity since before FPU’s birth.
Now, the underground seems to be catching a wave of ninja-nostalgia, and all the old Japanese films from the 60’s that inspired it all are becoming available on DVD. Ninja humor sites are all over the web. The time may be right… Of course this ninja mag will have all the earmarks of an Unknown Publication: hooded staff of ninjas, ultra-biased film reviews, media and merch recommendations and of course… girls being accosted by gorillas!
AND we’ll be all over Lucha VaVOOM 4 in October! Another shameless plug here, we’re dedicated participants in Ken Kish’s teriffic “Cinema Wasteland” convention in Cleveland, OH. We LOVE doing those midwest horror film cons, the fans there are really greatful for the Mexican and SoCal imports they can’t usually score locally. We’ll have new products there and be hosting a big film night.
If you wanna see more, be sure to check out the recently redesigned From Parts Unknown website for all your lucha-infused information needs. While there, you can also order back issues of From Parts Unknown, Masked Adventure, Hoodwink, and the Primate of the Deep Video.