The following is an interview with Josh Hicks regarding the upcoming release of the graphic novel, Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition, from Lerner’s Graphic Universe imprint. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Hicks about the creative process of bringing the story to life, why Graphic Universe provides the perfect home for the series, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Josh Hicks: Glorious Wrestling Alliance is an ensemble comedy about the behind-the-scenes exploits at an incredibly shambolic wrestling promotion. We follow a big cast of characters backstage over roughly a year at the GWA — we’ve got Great Carp, a champion who is realizing that getting everything he’s ever wanted isn’t a cure-all for his nagging malaise; Miranda Fury, who secretly adopts a masked persona to break into the men’s division and then starts resenting her more-popular alter-ego; Gravy Train, who is stuck in a rut and wants to change his gimmick, but can’t because he’s biologically a big pot of gravy with a head; and Death Machine, who is trying to launch a poetry career but is hampered by the fact that his only reference points are to do with wrestling. There’s a bit of wrestling, a fair amount of inner turmoil and a lot of bickering.
BD: What can you tell us about your creative process in bringing this story to life, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
JH: Each chapter of the book essentially started life as a different minicomic; I’d self-publish one every year and then hustle and send it out to stores and take it around to comics shows here in the UK. My editor, Greg Hunter over at Graphic Universe, was really enthusiastic about putting it together in a big, wide-release, full-colour edition, and here we are! Each chapter was produced a year apart, so they (hopefully) kind of tell one big story, but they’re also somewhat self-contained and probably reflect where my brain was at each year that I made them.
In terms of comics influences, Daniel Clowes’ Ice Haven was probably the thing that spoke to me most when I was first working on the book – it’s another ensemble story that sort of weaves together and has lots of moving pieces. A lot of people remark about there being a Scott Pilgrim vibe to the art, which I cannot refute – I read all of that stuff at a very impressionable age, and it is now irrevocably in my bones. Wrestling-wise, I’ve always played a lot of Fire Pro Wrestling. The impact that series of games has on this comic cannot be overstated. If it was considered a sort of unofficial Fire Pro Wrestling fan-comic, I’d be more than happy.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that the GWA‘s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
JH: Every character in the GWA has some sort of mental foible that is derived — either cathartically or lazily, depending on your point of view — on some mental foible of my own. It’s ultimately a silly comedy about wrestling, but there are real issues that the characters are dealing with around mental health, identity, and creative life that hopefully ring true and can be of some solace to like-minded readers grappling with similar things. I don’t know if or why it was important for me to bring this story to life; it was the most natural start to a project that I’ve ever had, and was just some sort of intuitive, compulsive thing that had to come out. Ultimately, I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything that fully reflects what’s going on in my brain at a given time, and this book is the closest I could get to making that exist.
BD: What makes Graphic Universe/Lerner the perfect home for this title?
JH: What is simultaneously great and strange about Graphic Universe picking the book up is that it was never intended as a YA book; it was just exactly what I wanted to do. That Greg and the team at Lerner felt passionate enough about it to put it out means a lot, and the fact that it can now reach an audience of teen readers who might really get something out of it is amazing. I feel like I personally would have loved this book when I was sixteen. But then I made it, so that is natural, I suppose. Graphic Universe also gave me the go-ahead and the time to really polish the thing up, so it’s the first time these stories have ever been seen in colour, and I think that really adds something to the overall effect.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JH: Yes! I am in the very early stages of a new book for Graphic Universe. It’s called Hotelitor and is about a giant robot that is also a hotel getting stranded in the deepest reaches of space. There’ll be alien fights, epic stakes, and, again, lots of bickering. I also run a tiny micropress here in the UK, Carp Publishing Endeavours, which I am very proud of.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Graphic Universe/Lerner?
JH: The best way to find out about Lerner or their Graphic Universe imprint is to visit their website. They’re also on Twitter here. I’m also on Twitter; that’s a good place to learn more about Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition, or to just see me retweet lots of Ultraman screenshots.