Rugged Action – The Homoerotic Wrestling Imagination

During my visit to BG East this summer, I had an opportunity to get a sneak peak at stills from their upcoming releases. Turns out, one of the new releases will be the next story from the Rugged Action wrestling comic series. Since I’m a fan, this caught my eye. The Boss generously put me in touch with Rugged Action artist Dan, who in turn graciously granted me an interview.

Bard: Thanks so much for being open to answering some questions! I love your Rugged Action series, and I’m fascinated to hear about what inspires you.  So which came first for you: drawing or your interest in wrestling?

Dan: Drawing. It’s the old cliche, I was drawing before I could read or write.  I used to make up stories in picture book form.  My dad thought I was a genius, my mom thought I was nuts.  I basically taught myself, although once I discovered comic books, I tried to copy them.  First it was the Harvey books (Casper, Hot Stuff) but later it was Archie.  I was a huge Archie fanatic.  I wanted to work for them when I grew up so I practiced that style for hours.  Wrote them a letter in my teens, with some samples of my work.  They sent me a polite rejection letter advising me to get an education first, so I went to University to study art, for a while.  It was there that I came out, and soon dropped out.  I discovered Tom of Finland in this period, and I admired the way he drew leather pants and boots, so he was a huge influence on me as well.  Other artists I admired were Jack Cole (Plastic Man), H. G. Peter (Wonder Woman), Will Eisner (Spirit) and more recently Michael Allred (Madman) & Jaime Hernandez (Love & Rockets).

My interest in wrestling came around the same time I discovered Archie, during puberty.  I’m convinced that what makes my strip so likeable to some is that they probably also developed their sexuality while watching pro wrestling on TV and reading Archie comics.  I was around ten when I had my first wrestling experience with a neighbor boy a year older than me.  We were friends and one day he confided in me that he liked to get into fights.  Oh, I said…he went on to say that he REALLY liked to fight.  Hmmmm.  One day he turns to me and says, “Let’s pretend we’re drunk!,” and he got me into a headlock.  I countered, and the wrestling match was on.  I’d been a very shy and somewhat effeminate boy, and there was a thrill to be doing something so “manly.”  We both had huge hard-ons, and we wrestled for what seemed like hours.  I could feel the heat from his crotch, and we must have cum, because later I discovered my underpants caked in something.  I didn’t know I was having sex.  I was so innocent.  I just thought the hard penis meant I was tough! [Laughing].  We wrestled for about 3 years everyday, and the matches would get sooo intense.  We would push it further every time, rougher and rougher.  Soon I found another boy to “fight.”  And those matches were even wilder.  By the time, I reached junior high, however, it was over.  My friends must have been clued in as to what we were “really” doing and told everybody in school.  After that I suffered the usual homophobia.  But nobody ever bashed me though. They thought it would turn me on. [Laughing]
Bard: I had the same experience of having a wrestling buddy as a kid, and it was intensely arousing for me. One day he announced that he didn’t want to wrestle anymore, and I could tell the he knew that it meant something more for me than it did for him. So, tell me about when you started working on the Rugged Action series.
Buff – Rugged Action headliner

Dan: I started working on Rugged Action in ’97.  Wrestling had not been a part of my gay life when I came out, and the only reference to it I found was a brief entry in “The Joy of Gay Sex”.  I didn’t meet anyone in the scene, so I had sex and relationships without it.  Still I was never quite satisfied.  Something was missing.  The 90’s were a great time of discovery.  Interest in Bettie Page and fetish grew in the mainstream media.  I discovered a reprint of Bob Mizer’s “Physique Pictorial” full of Tom of Finland stuff, but also to my surprise and delight, wrestling!  I hadn’t done any artwork since leaving school, and I was on disability for chronic pain when someone suggested I take it up again.  A friend said, “Do something twisted!”  So I thought, how about a gay wrestling fetish Archie comic drawn by Tom of Finland with a punk rock look and attitude!?  And so Biff and Buff were born.

Bard: What a fantastic formula for inspiration! Who’s your favorite character that you draw, and why?
Dan: My favorite character is probably Buff.  He’s the guy I wished I’d been.  He’s a cross between Alan M from Josie and the Pussycats, Billy Idol, the Vegetable from the cult movie “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” and Arch Hall Jr. [Laughing]. I don’t really have a favorite; I’m fickle.  I fall in love with one, draw him until I’m sick of him then move on to someone else.  They are all guys I would have loved to wrestle in real life.
Buck Hunter – Bard’s #1 favorite
Rugged Action star

Bard: Personally, I have to say I have a crush on Buck Hunter. I was pulling for him to really lower the boom on Buff in Rugged Action 3. Any wrestling hunk who seems to enjoy pulling hair that much is tops with me! Do you have any particular favorites when it comes to moves, holds, gear or gimmicks in wrestling?

Dan: [Laughing] Hair pulling is definitely a favourite of mine (when I still had hair to pull).  I especially liked it when my opponent pulled mine first, then watch out!  Poor guy. You’ll see Buck Hunter in a Mud match with Biff.  You’re gonna love that one. When it comes to moves, no holds barred.  Loved bearhugs and scissors of course, but the piece de resistance for me was at the climax, clenched together on the ground, sweaty, exhausted, grunting, punching, biting, rolling back and forth, pounding our crotches together, then whammo! The tense rigid moment as we both shoot our loads.  As for gear, boots are a must.  Black is my fave, but brown, red, blue or white will do.  Actually you’ll see all kinds of gear in the strip from singlets to leather pants.
Bard: Whammo, indeed! Does your art turn you on (obviously, it does me!)? I work out some of my own fantasies in fiction text-based wrestling, and I find it powerfully erotic to pull from my imagination and put it on the page. Is your art similar to that?
Dan: Yeah, in fact Tom of Finland always said that if a drawing didn’t give him a hard-on, it was no good.  I try to maintain that level.  Of course they are my fantasies, but increasingly they are gaining a life of their own. [Laughing]
Bard: What’s the toughest aspect of wrestling to convey in your artwork?

Previews from Rugged Action 4 –
Buff goes muscle-to-muscle with
Britboy Bull Savage
Dan: Wrestling is the hardest thing to draw.  All those limbs entangled and twisting this way and that.  It doesn’t come easy, and I have to struggle to recreate the various holds.  When it works, it’s very satisfying.
Bard: Clearly, there are a lot of us that find your work very satisfying, as well! It seems like you have quite an eye for the massively muscled boys with huge pecs, shoulders, nips and six packs. Is that the body-type that turns you on in live-action wrestling? Any hot lean twinks or big-bellied bear daddies likely to take a shot in pages of Rugged Action?

Preview from Rugged Action 4 –
Bull Savage gives Buff a hard pounding
Dan: Well I just love those pecs, and nipples are for twisting and biting in my book. [Laughing]. The strip exaggerates the physiques that we all imagine we possess while wrestling.  I’ve personally always preferred someone built like me, average (I’ve been skinny, I’ve been buff, now I’m out-of shape [laughing]).  I think it works best for cartoons.  It’s that pneumatic quality that Russ Meyer spoke of in his movies, and is definitely a feature of Tom of Finland as well.  Everything gets inflated including the reader’s dick (I hope).  As for bears, well, wait until you see Hot Stuff Hooligan.
Bard: Excellent! I’ve seen Hot Stuff Hooligan’s profile in the roster from the BG East Arena, and I’m on the record many times over as a rabid fan of a freckled, red-headed bad boy! What’s your working relationship like with Kid Leopard and BG East?
Dan: Working with Kid Leopard and BG East is great.  I discovered them in an ad for various kink vhs order companies in BIZARRE magazine.  I ordered one of their tapes and sent them samples of my work, and KL liked it and got back to me.  He’s very nurturing of talent and my biggest supporter and fan.  I don’t think I could have picked a better company.  Besides their product is the best!
Bard: I have to agree that they’re work is simply the best to be had. Glad to hear that it’s a mutually satisfying working relationship. During my recent visit to BG East, I learned that another chapter of Rugged Action is about to be released. Any hints about future story lines in Rugged Action?
Dan: I am so far ahead in writing and drawing these things that you can expect a long run.  In fact I’ve written 50 stories so far and counting. There are 21 different characters (so far) that will be introduced as well as a couple of non-fictional guest-stars.  Expect the Biff and Buff rivalry to heat up, when Biff also joins BG East.  There will be all kinds of matches (fetish, superhero, tag, nude, battle royale, etc.) It just never ends! [Laughing]
Bard: Fantastic! I think your work is incredibly hot, so I’m looking forward to seeing lots more of the boys. Can’t wait to see Buck Hunter and Biff’s mud match!
Dan: I’m happy you like the strip.  It’s just a hobby for me but it’s very satisfying.  I may be a little too much in poor health to have a wrestling sex life, so it’s a blast to know I can turn guys around the globe on with my drawings.  Thanks so much for you interest.

Bard: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!

Preview from Rugged Action 4 –
Side headlocks, ball claws, abdominal stretches…
fantastic homoerotic wrestling!

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