Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
All images: IDW

GLOW nails the TV show’s tone as it delves deeper into wrestling culture

Netflix’s GLOW returns this weekend for its third season, and after the binge is done and viewers are hungry for more of the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, they should check out IDW’s GLOW comic book. This is a TV show run by women with a predominantly female ensemble, so it’s nice to see IDW assemble a creative team of women for the comic adaptation. Written by Tini Howard with art by Hannah Templer, colorist Rebecca Nalty, and letterer Christa Meisner, this four-issue miniseries is like an extra episode showing how the performers of GLOW fit into the larger landscape of professional wrestling.

Howard’s passion for professional wrestling is especially valuable here, providing insights into the culture that enriches both the comic and the TV show. A trip to Reseda Wrestlefest forces these actors to up their wrestling game to gain the respect of the only other team of women, the Star Primas, and Howard’s story explores how tokenism breeds competition and the importance of marginalized groups finding ways to unite in order to succeed. GLOW #4 (IDW) wraps up this conflict with the big showdown between GLOW and the Star Primas. GLOW is prepared to lose, but it’s a victory if the Star Primas embrace the theatricality of their competitors while beating their asses.

The strength of Howard’s writing for this series is a testament to how well the TV series has developed the characters’ distinct voices. Howard taps into the qualities that set each performer apart, making GLOW the kind of licensed comic where you can hear the actors delivering these lines in your head. There’s no shortage of comedic hijinks as the characters discover what the festival has to offer, and Howard makes strong use of the setting for fish-out-of-water humor. A particularly delightful subplot has a drugged-up, post-dentist Tammé selling adorable stuffed Welfare Queen plushies, wandering the festival with a look of pure euphoria on her swollen face.

Templer and Nalty’s bright, bubbly artwork gives the cast a Saturday-morning-cartoon makeover, exaggerating characterizations without sacrificing likenesses. Templer is very specific with each actor’s facial features and how they carry themselves, which reinforces the comic’s connection to its source while also accentuating the emotional beats of Howard’s script. Working within the comic-book medium also allows the creators to go bigger with the wrestling moves, and they can have a character jump on a bed of thumbtacks without having to worry about coordinating a stunt. The GLOW comic engages with the wrestling world far more actively than the TV series, making the characters even more endearing by showing how they persevere despite their outcast-underdog status.

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