With its grandiose characters, flamboyant fashions, and fanciful serialized plots, professional wrestling has long shared a connection with the American comic-book tradition, which was largely built on those same three elements in the pages of superhero series. There have been plenty of wrestling comics over the decades, but none with the perspective of GLOW, the Netflix series that focuses on the real people underneath the over-the-top performances.
In a new four-issue comic-book miniseries, the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling get a cartoon makeover courtesy of an all-women creative team: writer Tini Howard, artist Hannah Templer, colorist Rebecca Nalty, and letterer Christa Miesner. They use the Netflix series as a launchpad for an original story that follows the series’ cast to Reseda Wrestlefest, where Sam has booked them to cover the loss of revenue after an advertiser abandons the show, forcing the GLOW team to take on highly trained female wrestlers who don’t respect them. It’s an outstanding adaptation, with Howard fully capturing the cast’s unique personalities and voices, while the art team offers a fresh view of this world through a vibrant, animated lens.
Howard and Templer recently spoke to Vulture about adapting GLOW for a new medium, delving into their personal attachments to the show, the challenges of licensed comics, and bringing GLOW into the wider world of professional wrestling. GLOW #2 hits stands June 12, and you can read an exclusive preview in the images below.
This Q&A has been combined and condensed for clarity.
How did you get involved with the GLOW comic?
Tini Howard: I had worked with [publisher] IDW before on my creator-owned books. They reached out to me, I think mostly because I had written the WWE comics before, so I was a fan of [GLOW] and a woman with a lot of experience writing wrestling comics. When they first asked me, I was like, “I am dying to do this but I do not have time.” It was really cool, they took the time to work with me. It was one of those things where they really wanted me and I really wanted them. We had to work to make that happen, but once I was in, we hit the ground running. Hannah Templer and Rebecca Nalty are making an amazing book. I just get to write cute funny wrestling girls and they do all the magic.
Hannah Templer: I had worked on a Jem And The Holograms short comic for IDW last year, and they’re actually going to do another one this year, but I wasn’t available and then my schedule changed and I was available to do GLOW. Totally a dream gig for me. It’s one of my favorite shows of all time, so it was huge when they asked me if I wanted to work on it. I had actually done some fanart for it over the summer that some of the cast had seen, so I’m super excited.
I was told to watch it by the editor of my book [Cosmoknights], because it has a lot of really similar themes like feminism and empowerment. I like the tone of [GLOW]. It’s got a comedic edge that is really refreshing. It takes its issues very seriously but it’s really thought out and well done. It doesn’t dwell too much on these women’s pain. So much is their victories.
Did IDW want an all-women creative team?
Tini Howard: No one specifically ever said that, but it seems like a natural fit for the book. The showrunners are women. You’re looking for the best creators for the book and women are really connected to these characters. It’s a story where women don’t have to be good and perfect. Someone said that about Mad Max: Fury Road, which I love. They kill one of the girls in it, but there are so many women that when you kill one off, it doesn’t seem like you’re killing all women. That’s the benefit of not tokenizing people. When one of them has a problem or is flawed, they don’t have to be the one representative. GLOW is great for that. Just personality-wise — casting aside the really great cast diversity, body diversity — the women are different people. It’s not a team of girls who are all the same but they look different for points. They’re genuinely different women. Different backgrounds, different bodies, different lives, different ambitions.
There aren’t many shows that have such a huge cast of women that come from so many different backgrounds.
Tini Howard: The only show I can actually think of like that is WWE! When I watch wrestling, it’s one of those things like, wow, look at all these different women with all these different stories. It’s great. Wrestling has become a really cool space for women right now, and it’s fun to be a female wrestling fan. And it’s fun to make other female wrestling fans. I have friends who were never interested in wrestling and then they watched GLOW and the documentary [2012’s GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling] and were like, “Man, that was so cool.” And I’m like, “You know, there are still a ton of amazing women wrestlers working at different companies.”
I like wrestling for the same reason I like drag queens and superheroes. I think identity is fun, and how we look at ourselves and turn that into a shareable identity is compelling stuff.
Hannah, are you also into wrestling at all?
Hannah Templer: I mean, now I am! [Laughs.] I was not at all until GLOW. Watching the show, I then watched the documentary and started to understand that whole world a little more. And women’s wrestling is a lot more appealing to me in general. Now I’ve watched a ton of wrestling videos and Tini sends them to me all the time, which is really funny.
Tini, how do you think your time writing WWE comics informed your writing on GLOW?
Tini Howard: A lot. One of the cool things about writing wrestling is how visually distinct it is. People have specific finishing moves that they use to signify that they’re at their max power, and it’s really fun to write the wrestling with intent. Because it’s a comic, I can take my time and every move can mean something. In a real wrestling match, there’s an amount of improv that goes on between two very skilled athletic performers, but in a comic, I can have her choose this move for this reason because that’s how she’s feeling.
Hannah, did you look to the GLOW TV show for any inspiration in the visual storytelling?
Hannah Templer: A lot of the outfits are referenced from the show and a lot of general reference is from screencaps. But the bigger parallel for the comic is the one episode of season two where they actually do an episode of the show [“The Good Twin”]. I feel like that is tonally closer to the comic. It’s a little more hammy and it has more of that ’80s Saturday-morning cartoon vibe. That’s closer to making the comic actually a comic.
The miniseries has the characters going up against more “legitimate” professional wrestlers. How did you come up with that idea, Tini?
Tini Howard: Being that they’re in SoCal and it’s the ’80s, the first thing I wanted to do was take them out of their comfort zone. For me, that was about making them encounter serious wrestlers. In the solicit we used the term “real wrestlers” and a couple people bristled at that. They were like, “Aren’t they real wrestlers?” And of course they are, but they’re not viewed that way by the people there. That’s what the story is about. They meet other wrestlers and they meet other women wrestlers who approach it completely different from them and they don’t immediately have respect for each other. The GLOW girls, who are all about female empowerment, don’t like that these women don’t instantly want to be friends with them, so you get this conflict between two teams of powerful women. It’s a big wrestling event, and the unifying thing is that it’s a bunch of guys and then these girls who don’t like each other are the only girls there, and they get shunted into being “the girls.” It’s not uncommon from other convention experiences [Laughs].
Was there anything you did to get into the characters’ distinct voices? I was really impressed with just how much they sound like the actors, and it makes Hannah’s likenesses even stronger.
Tini Howard: To me that’s the sign of great cartooning: Dialing a likeness down to its most basic features to make it recognizable as the person it’s supposed to be but still its own piece of art. That is the kind of genius cartooning that blows my mind, and Hannah is that cartoonist. Licensed books are so often about likenesses, and she’s able to do such on-key likenesses that add to the tone of the book and the show and keeps the body diversity. As for the voices, I rewatched a couple episodes of the show, but I think that’s just one of my strengths. I do a lot of Rick & Morty and work for Marvel. The voices are the first thing I hear, that’s the easy part, making them sound like them. The hard part is giving them good challenges.
Hannah, what was your approach to nailing those likenesses down?
Hannah Templer: It’s actually something I’ve been practicing outside of this comic for a long time. It’s really difficult. [Laughs.] There’s no real trick beyond practicing. It takes an eye to figure out people’s features and face shapes and how to boil those down simply. It was a lot of looking at the cast and figuring out what makes them look like them without exaggerating it too much.
Were there any particularly challenging likenesses?
Hannah Templer: Not specifically. It’s funny drawing essentially just one man. I want to make sure Sam still looks like Sam and he isn’t just Sam because he’s the one dude. It was looking closely at not only their physical appearance, but the way they move and the way they emote and nailing down what it is that separates them from the other characters.
What do you think Rebecca Nalty’s coloring adds to your linework?
Hannah Templer: I was so glad she was available to work on this because I’ve been a fan of her work for a while. Since Heavy Vinyl. I’m a big fan of her approach because my linework is super stylized, so anything rendered or that uses a lot of texture or tries to make things really atmospheric, it clashes because it gets really cartoony. I was looking for someone who has a really good sense of shape and dimension but doesn’t rely on effects and a lot of gradients and stuff like that. Rebecca’s an amazing fit, and she likes to use bright colors and knows when to use them, which I really appreciate.
Who is your favorite GLOW character?
Tini Howard: I love writing Melrose and Britannica. Carmen is one of the big hearts of the series. Carmen is such a wonderful character with such a great tie to wrestling, so Carmen is really cathartic to write. Yolanda’s a lot of fun, too, because Yo-Yo gets to say all the horny stuff about the other girls. She gets to be like, “Damn these wrestlers are cute, why are we fighting them?”
Hannah Templer: I love Sheila! Everyone loves Sheila. And I love Yo-Yo, too. Having queer representation, that’s a character I really connect with. Sheila’s really fun to draw because she has such a distinct look and I do appreciate her character. She has a lot of layers that are really appealing to me, and her one episode from season one [“The Dusty Spur”] really got me. When she talked about who she is, and that she does it for herself, that’s something I really relate to.