Former Super League star Keith Mason has launched the first ever rugby league comic this week.
Rugby Blood Origins is a fictional comic that tackles real life struggles faced by rugby league players, with the central character, David King, being based on Mason’s own story.
As well as King, Rugby Blood will feature a number of current Super League stars, including Jake Connor, Daryl Clark, Konrad Hurrell, Jermaine McGillvary, Mark Percival, Jake Trueman and Luther Burrell.
Stars from other sports will also be part of the series, such as former world champion boxer Joe Calzaghe.
As well as creating an entertaining comic, Mason says the meaning behind it holds personal significance that is much more important.
“My playing career came to an end in 2013. I retired at 31 after playing top level Rugby League in the UK and Australia for 15 years,” Mason told Our League.
“What I didn’t anticipate was the struggle I’d ultimately go through after leaving the game I’d devoted my life to.
“I struggled and ended up questioning my whole existence, which led to a bout of depression. I was in massive debt, lost two houses, became homeless, lost my driving licence and was struggling to see my kids. It came to a point where I knew it was give up or re-invent myself.
I’m in a very privileged position to give back and help numerous charity’s that I support, and as a Paton to @ParaDanceUK it’s my absolute pleasure to include you in my New Rugby Blood origins series comic, Keep up the great work guys and also supporting @lifeforakid Honoured ? pic.twitter.com/9uBIjqKcK5
— Keith Mason official (@Realkeithmason) July 22, 2019
“I had done some acting and appearing in a film alongside my good friend Mickey Rourke, which gave me a new focus in life.
“It was also around that time that I met my current partner, Riona. She inspired me to believe in myself again.
“I was also asked to go and speak to an former player who had attempted suicide. I could see similarities between my struggles and his, and I wanted to show him that rugby formed only a part of his life.
“Sadly, this young man lost his battle with depression. When I found out it made me want to reach out to other players in a hope that I could make a difference.
“It was his death that inspired me to come up with a concept that could relate to all players, past and present, not just in rugby and sport but in all areas of life.
“Rugby Blood started as a film script, written by myself and (scriptwriter, director) Ben Von Cronos, but I didn’t want to stop at a film. I wanted it to be bigger, to have a bigger impact.
“So I decided to find an artist who could help me create the first ever rugby comic. Together with Paul Roper we brought it to life.
“By using real players in the comic I wanted to be able to connect with the audience and make the players the heroes.
“Not only will it raise their profile, I also wanted it to raise awareness about the real struggles athletes go through.
“My aim is to make clear to the next generation of rugby players, athletes and everyday people that one chapter of your life doesn’t define the whole story.
“When one door closes, as it did to me, you have to work hard, dedicate yourself and make sacrifices to open a new door. Write your own next chapter.”
Rugby Blood Origins is available from a number of outlets, including Amazon. Click HERE to order your copy.