Wrestling’s depiction in other media usually come in two flavors: they either try to focus on serious character drama, or they completely embrace wrestling’s goofiness and showmanship. Sometimes you get people who try to do both, like the Netflix series GLOW. For me, the wrestling comic that has the best balance of this is Glorious Wrestling Alliance (GWA).
I’ve been aware of Josh Hicks’ GWA series since 2017, collecting the self-published versions before supporting the Kickstarter for the GWA Premium Special. That was where I expected the series to end: An enjoyable book that found a small audience and left a good impression. What I did not expect was for the series to be picked up by a US publisher.
Lerner Publishing Group took the GWA Premium Special, put it under their Graphic Universe imprint and collaborated with Hicks to give it a new coat of paint. The Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition took the full GWA series and added a brand-new element: color. Well, the comics version of color. Not the wrestling world’s meaning of the word.
GWA is a book about wrestling. It’s set in a WWE-inspired wrestling promotion, looking at the drama involved in being part of a (questionably) successful wrestling company. The cast of characters range from “normal” wrestlers like the frustrated Miranda Fury or wannabe poet Death Machine, to more bizarre characters like Great Carp or Gravy Train — the former having a fish for a head and the latter being a human gravy boat. The wrestling itself is downplayed, but it peaks at the right time with a very fitting finale in the fourth chapter. A satisfying main event, as it were.
There is an inherent wackiness to large swathes of this book. Some of the humor is derived from the weird situations, or concepts such as Death Machine, a violent wrestler who just wants to be a poet. But at its heart, GWA: Ultimate Championship Edition is not about wrestling. For me, the true strength of the book is how Hicks has crafted a cast of likable characters with their own personalities, doubts, and frustrations. The book is driven by its characters, both in terms of drama and humor.
Great Carp is at the top of his world while also being plagued by self-doubt and anxiety. Miranda Fury’s frustrations about being held back see her take her destiny into her own hands in a way that mirrors the rise of women’s wrestling in WWE. In many ways, her story arc is the spine of the book. Death Machine is such a fun character, and I love how he is used in the fourth chapter, but he also has his doubts. The book’s core message is about persevering through difficulty and limitations, whether they are internal or in the workplace. It’s a feel-good story that doesn’t take itself seriously and makes you laugh along the way.
Like most comedies, the sense of humor will not suit everyone, and you get more out of the book if you enjoy wrestling. Hick’s art style is a great fit for the tone of the book and the feel of the characters. The color is a good fit considering that the original comic was just line art.
Global Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship edition tells a delightful story about characters beating their self-doubt with metaphorical steel chairs. It’s a mix of silly fun with gentle introspection. Wrestling fans will get a superkick out of this.
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