If the WWF of the Hulk Hogan era is cartoon wrestling, the Glorious Wrestling Alliance is their direct competition. With this new fully colored graphic novel creator/writer/artist Josh Hicks brings us into a world where wrestling is like it was in the good old days. Where a man with a fish head can be your top champion. Where the greatest battle isn’t in the ring, but is really a war against existential dread inside the heart of the aforementioned fish-headed champion.
Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition feels like it draws inspiration from two main sources, the first being the territory days of American wrestling. While it shares the colorful cartoon aesthetic with the WWF, the GWA has the grit and grime of the NWA or JCP. At any moment it feels like the promoter of the company would launch into a tirade about Vince Jr. In fact, he probably played a role in that legendary discussion about an assassination attempt. Everything from the locker rooms to the tour bus to the visits to the pay window feel a little less nice than they should be.
The other big influence has to be Kinnikuman. Created in 1979 by creative duo Yudetamago, Kinnikuman is a comedy wrestling manga that is still going strong today. All the wrestlers in the GWA have the same toyetic look as the Kinnikuman roster. 80’s kids will probably remember Kinnikuman characters as toys without even realizing it. Among other toy lines, the Kinnikuman toys that are most remembered are the small flesh-colored hard rubber figures called keshi or specifically Kinkeshi in this case. Kinkeshi, which essentially translates to Kinnikuman eraser, were exported outside of Japan to America as M.U.S.C.L.E. There was an entire generation of kids that played with these toys that had no idea there was a wrestling comic franchise attached to them.
Yudetamago’s incredible designs were begging to be made into toys and Josh Hicks’ characters in the GWA are just the same. Just look at Gravy Train! The musclebound Great Carp would fit right in with Robin Mask or Warsman. Basically the entire point of my review today is to float the idea of a GWA set of keshi into the world. Please someone make them and I will buy them. Thank you.
Let’s talk about the characters for a bit because they’re all great. There’s Death Machine, the rabid beast brawler that spends his free time working on poems. While the tattoo on his forehead might say “KILL” don’t judge this book by it’s cover. No, really. He wrote a book of poems called Poems by Death Machine. The previously mentioned Gravy Train is a man with the body of a gravy boat that desperately wants to have any other gimmick. Try as he may, even if you dress like a tank, the gravy will spill out. One of my favorite characters in the book is Miranda Fury, a wrestler in the women’s division that is tired of being objectified and wants more from her career. This frustration just happens to coincide with the debut of a new masked wrestler, Hyper Mask, whose identity is a secret to even the promoter, but is quickly working their way up the card.
And, of course, there’s our main character, Great Carp. He’s the ace of the company, the king of the mountain. He’s got money, fame, and tons of licensing deals. He also has a giant void inside himself that can’t be filled with any of these things no matter how hard he tries. We’ve all been there. Getting exactly what you want and discovering that it isn’t actually fulfilling so you drown your sorrows in vodka out of a bottle shaped like your head is very relatable. Okay, maybe not that last part, but the point stands. While this is primarily a comedy comic, there is a relatable heart to it with Carp’s existential crisis and Miranda Fury’s drive to be more than what the promoter sees as a woman’s place in wrestling.
Josh Hicks knocks it out of the park with Glorious Wrestling Alliance.
The book not only brings lots of laughs, but it places you into a world that feels familiar and lived in. The highest compliment I can pay this comic is that it makes me wish there was more. I want to see what happens next in these character’s lives. I want to see more wrestlers from different companies. Josh Hicks gets pro wrestling and it shows on every page of this book. Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition gets my highest recommendation. Pick up a copy for yourself when it gets released on October 5, 2021 from finer book and comics shops.