Gone Too Soon: My Friend Scott Bowden

I’ve been doing this internet nonsense where I get online every week and babble about comic books and movies and whatever else crosses my mind for so long now that it just feels instinctive. This is what I do every week for Wednesdays.

And then something happens that takes your legs out from under you, knocks the wind out of your chest, and leaves you absolutely wrecked.

My longtime columnist, collaborator and, more important than all of that, longtime friend Travis Scott Bowden passed away on Monday at the shockingly cruel and unjust age of 48.

Bowden first walked into my office at the advertising agency in the summer of 1999, looking for a job as a freelance proofreader. And when he spotted the comic books strewn about my desk and bookcase, immediately began dropping names like Stan Lee and Steve Ditko into the conversation, which made me think this may be someone I could work with; there was that, along with his very impressive score on our in-house proofreading test, known around town as one of the toughest tests in the business.

Not long after hiring him, I learned about Bowden’s other career highlight, as a referee and heel manager for the USWA professional wrestling promotion in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.  Bowden’s hilarious tales of wrestling glory and humiliation prompted Chris Ryall and myself to offer him a spot writing a wrestling column for director Kevin Smith’s pop-culture web site Movie Poop Shoot.com, which we had recently taken over and turned into a going concern following its debut as a promotional gimmick for Smith’s film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Bowden’s weekly wrestling column, Kentucky Fried Rasslin’, immediately became one of the site’s most popular features, captivating both wrestling fans and newbies alike with Bowden’s tales of his entry into the wrestling business while still a college student, finding himself booed and hissed even on campus for the villainous deeds he’d done the week before at ringside. (Bowden even landed us our first cease-and-desist order, when a certain chicken-frying Colonel decided he didn’t like how the red striped bucket in Bowden’s logo resembled his own.)

Scott Bowden makes a guest appearance as the hapless Captain Travis in my 2008 Star Trek graphic novel Intelligence Gathering. Art by David Messina.

When Chris Ryall and I left the site in 2007, I began my own website based on my comic-book history column COMICS 101, but I took my favorite columnists with me: Ryall’s One Hand Clapping, Josh Jabcuga’s Squib Central, and of course Bowden’s Kentucky Fried Rasslin’. Bowden contributed to my site for years to follow, before spinning off KFR to its own website, and years later a popular podcast. But, most important, Bowden remained a close friend, working with me at the ad agency for 14 years, then leaving to find success as a copywriter at another agency, and in recent years, having grown disenchanted with copywriting, returned to the fold to work for me once more, while still finding an ever-growing audience with his website and podcast and becoming more and more well known as the preeminent historian regarding territory wrestling of the South.

And now, cruelly, shockingly, mystifyingly, he’s gone. And for those of us who knew and loved him, there’s a void that will never be filled.

Scott Bowden and I man the MOVIE POOP SHOOT booth at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2003. Abhay Khosla peers over my shoulder.

If you’ve never encountered his work, head over to Kentucky Fried Rasslin’ and read some of his hilarious and incisive columns about not just his own wrestling career, but the history of the Memphis wrestling promotion he so loved. Or go to http://kfrpod.com/ and listen to his podcasts. Or go to YouTube and watch some of his misadventures back in the day as the fiendish heel referee-turned-manager “Scott Bowden from Germantown.”

If there is anything to be taken from Scott’s passing, it’s only this: treasure your loved ones and make sure to let them know how much they mean to you. Because life can be fleeting and often unfair.

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