Rudo Can’t Fail: Lucha Libre & Lucha Culture Worldwide, a zine that ran monthly for 2 years from November 2015-November 2017 and paved the path for the launch of LuchaCentral.com, was inspired by two things – punk rock zines like Maximum Rock and Roll and the only lucha libre zine RCF publisher Kevin Kleinrock had ever seen – Keith J. Rainville’s From Parts Unknown. Kevin asked Keith to pen an article about FPU for RCF issue 8. Here is that story.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, pre-Internet, when nerds and geeks really were outcasts, you lived life thinking you were the only fan of whatever you were into on Earth and no one else out there understood the awesomeness. Back then, you either wallowed in that loneliness or you did what a generation of “zine-sters” did — you got frustrated and attacked the world’s ignorance.
In 1996, pulp — newsprint paper — was still cheap and presses plentiful. Desktop publishing became a reality, I was learning it like the rest of the workforce, on the job, and as a result of that job, had some disposable income. The means were there.
The second ingredient was the frustration.
That came from the job, too. I was writing catalog copy for a comic book distributor in Michigan, and one of my beats was superhero-related video tape offerings. Thanks to Mike Vraney’s Something Weird Video, those were in abundance in the form of vintage lucha-hero flicks. Thing was, I kept having to explain the entire genre to bosses and store owners over and over. It wasn’t common sense for a comic store to stock copies of Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos, even though that’s clearly the only thing that makes sense in this damn world, so I kept having to summarize and sell the notion.
Despite champions like Johnny Legend; pioneering writers like Damon Foster, August Ragone, and Steve Fenton; newsletters like Brian Moran’s Santo Street and David Wilt’s Mexican Film Bulletin, there just wasn’t enough reference out there for me to lean back on in my groveling with resistant audiences.
So like any other “zine-ster” of the era, and with no one to tell me I couldn’t, I published the magazine I wanted to read myself. I threw together 32 pages in the style of Maximum Rock-n-Roll — cruddy newsprint, no cover, fonts, and design aesthetic all over the map. I unleashed it on a world that seemed to care way less than I thought it would. From Parts Unknown #1 wasn’t exactly a runaway hit, but the audiences who did see it really responded, and eager contributors for a next issue started lining up. Over the next five years, the staff and talent pool exploded and the print runs grew to five times what that first one was. Our weirdo publication found readers via newsstands, comic shops, record stores, and alt-culture boutiques on five continents.
So how did we get all those folks, mostly non-ring fans, to buy a niche wrestling magazine? We mixed it up. The wrestling mask may have been the central pillar of FPU, but we turkey-basted those masks into any and every other pop culture phenom we could find — surf music, pin-up girls, science-fiction, film noir, cars, toys, Japanese junk food, outsider art… nothing was out of bounds.
We also wore our passion on our sleeves, or rather on our heads — FPU stood out via its all-masked staff, a core of industry pros who ,under gimmicks that took the ‘pen name’ to a whole new level, could write about weird stuff under the security of anonymity. I myself never donned one of those head-bags, I mean, what kind of a-hole would put a decade’s worth of writing in and not get the credit for it while some exaggerated clown version of himself is paraded around conventions?
Anyway… The FPU magazine run (I use “magazine” because we got increasingly professional and less “zine” like with each issue) produced some real gems — the first ever English-language interviews with Dr. Wagner Jr. and Michinoku Pro’s Great Sasuke, exclusive art from legends like Bernie Wrightson and Jaime Hernandez, Dita Von Tease modeling for us in mummy bandages, and a different ‘volunteer’ wearing our 50-year-old gorilla suit in every issue.
All those years of toil and forging connections paid off, and after relocating to Los Angeles I was suddenly consulted on lucha-oriented films and cartoons, designing posters for Lucha VaVOOM and events at the legendary Olympic Auditorium, and eventually got to give back to the film genre I so loved by writing the animated feature film Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre for Mucha-Lucha creators FWAK! Animation. In between the craziness, I turned the mag’s title into a publishing imprint and still release books whenever time allows.
20 years removed, I may not miss schlepping heavy boxes of printed magazines anymore, but I’ll always love that original newsprint run, and appreciate where it got me to later.
Keith J. Rainville is the publisher of books like ZOMBI MEXICANO, HOODTOWN and the upcoming RENCOR: LIFE IN GRUDGE CITY. Vintage issues from the original 90s run of FPU are still sold at FromPartsUnknown.net.