Daily Illuminator

October 12, 2023: Fight Night With The League Of Swords

League of SwordsWhen most people picture a swordfighting show, they probably imagine two people swinging swords on a stage during a Renaissance festival, or maybe two lightsaber-wielding characters duking it out at Galaxy's Edge in the Disney theme parks. But in the League of Swords, mastery of the blade is just the beginning. As creator Mike Fatum says, "Imagine the world of professional wrestling, but with the wrestling replaced with sword fights, and the wrestlers replaced with wild characters like an arcade game boss who literally punched his way out of the cabinet and an immortal wandering samurai, traveling the universe to find his own justice. If it sounds cartoony and over the top, that's because it is."
Mike was gracious enough to answer some questions about the League of Swords, how it came to be, how pro wrestler Kidd Bandit got involved with the League, and why people should check out the League's next show on October 21 in Burbank, California. 
[This interview has been edited for length.]
Steve Jackson Games: How did you get the idea for League of Swords?
Mike Fatum, League of Swords Creator: I've loved swords my entire life – I don't really know when it started. But they've always been such a huge part of me. When I was in middle school, my school put on what was called a "Roots Festival," which was basically a science fair but for the arts. I wrote a play that was very much a rip-off of Star Wars (with some dialogue taken directly from X-men comics) and included several sword fights. A professional fight choreographer named Eben Young was in residence at the school, and he taught all of us kids how to do stage combat with swords. For the first time in my life, I got to do a swordfight in front of the audience, and it was the biggest rush I'd ever had. When the adrenaline hit, my opponent and I went way faster than we ever had before, and I actually almost fell off the stage. 
So swordfighting became a huge passion of mine, but about a year later I discovered professional wrestling, which became another hyperfocus. Fast forward about 20 years, and I observed a class at a local wrestling school to see if it was something I'd like. The instructors put on a practice match with the students, something went wrong, and one particular instructor started screaming at his students. I'm real bad with people yelling, so I reached out to my friend who is a pro wrestler, and he confirmed that this stuff was kind of common. And I was feeling sorry for myself, because it felt like one of my dreams was going away. 
And then lightning struck. What if I made my own performance combat thing? With my true love, swords! And it felt . . . better than any idea I'd ever had. Suddenly my whole life seemed to click together, and this is what I was meant to do. Sounds crazy, I know, but it was an incredible feeling.
SJG: You describe League of Swords as, ". . . the world of professional wrestling, but with the wrestling replaced with sword fights and the wrestlers replaced with wild characters." What do you think makes this setup more compelling than wrestling – or your average sword fighting show, for that matter?
Mike: Since we're using the same storytelling style as pro wrestling, I think the thing that makes us more compelling is going to be storytelling. And we're aiming for a different crowd than the WWE or AEW are going for. The goal is to bring back a style of storytelling that was lost long ago in the US. The complete sincerity of something like WMAC Masters, with an eye on entertaining kids while also making something fun for adults, with a dark, edgy atmosphere but heroic storytelling. But while that storytelling style was pretty huge in the 90s, the thing we're not taking from that era is the homophobia, racism, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry that ran rampant. The League of Swords is for everyone, and if your definition of "everyone" excludes people, then you can never be a Swordmaster.
Then you take something like Medieval Times, which is an excellent show except for the fact that they aren't respecting their performers' attempts to form a union and are ignoring their demands for better pay and better care for their animals. If you go to a Medieval Times, you're going to see the same show every time you go – different choreography or actors, for sure, but the story of the show itself will be the same "day," repeated endlessly for all eternity. Our shows are going to have a continuing storyline that you'll be able to follow on our Youtube channel if you couldn't make the show in person. Characters will grow and change, and the world will change with them.


SJG: How did Kidd Bandit become involved in your show?
Mike: I first saw Kidd Bandit on DPW, and she immediately stood out. She had one of the coolest presentations and was one of the most unique characters I'd ever seen. Then she and I became Facebook friends at some point in the distant past – I think we had some mutual friends in the wrestling world or something – and she made a post asking for folks to hype up their projects. I mentioned the League, and she messaged me almost immediately.
However, life got in the way and she wasn't able to make our first performance at last year's Los Angeles Comic Con, and we sort of lost track of each other. When I started planning this show, I had planned to do it without her – and then fate kind of intervened. I was putting up posters around LA and I walked into this tiny martial arts supply store. There was only one person in there – a famous wrestler who used to work for the WWE. I chatted with him for a bit and gave him a poster, and when he asked who was going to be in the show, I mentioned Kidd Bandit. Apparently, he texted her and told her to get back in touch with me, and the rest is history.
I'm so excited to work with her, too. We had our first rehearsal the other day, and she was an immediate natural for stage combat. She's a font of ideas and energy and it's such a pleasure working with her.
SJG: What's next for the League of Swords? What do you have planned going forward?
Mike: My thoughts are so filled with promoting this show and getting people in the door that it feels like the universe kind of ends on October 21. But of course it doesn't, and the exciting thing is that we are already booked for our next show at LA Comic Con from December 2-3. Exact dates and times haven't been announced yet, but if you're coming to that convention, look for us in the program! And sign up for the League's mailing list for more info as it comes in.

-- Katie Duffy

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