Total Suplex of the Heart

Written by Joanne Starer
Art by Ornella Greco
Lettered by Nathan Kempf
Published by Life Drawn by Humanoids
Release date: June 18th, 2024

In wrestling, romance storylines naturally progress towards heartbreak. The number of failed relationships that play out on national television for the sake of sports entertainment considerably outnumber the ones that make it all the way to a happy ending. Macho Man and Elizabeth, the Hardy Boyz and Lita, Sandman and Peaches (and the possibility their son would get a new dad in Raven), Chris Candido and Tammy, and many more were just car crashes waiting to happen. Dive into the world of interviews and docuseries that go beyond kayfabe and the odds for love succeeding grow even dimmer. Sometimes you trick yourself into believing love can kick out at the last second from that 1-2-3 count, but all you end up doing is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Joanne Starer and Ornella Greco’s Total Suplex of the Heart is a book that faces this type of romance head-on. It freely maneuvers between the in-ring drama and the backstage chaos to tell the story of Georgie, a writer that entered the world of wrestling and stayed, met the love of her life, and then got her heart powerbombed through a burning table.

In the process, she meets female wrestlers that try to tell her never to date wrestlers and male wrestlers that employ every ounce of sexism and sexual prowess to win her over. Each decision is painstakingly explored, and it’s every bit as explosive as a 5-star match. The story changes tune somewhat when she goes steady with a wrestler that slowly forces Georgie to make her life revolve entirely around his. And then it’s all about the consequences that follow.

Georgie, who’s based on Starer’s own experience in the industry and her time running a short-lived wrestling promotion, is a special kind of protagonist. There’s an honesty to her dialogue and narration that makes her easy to root for even when you want to crawl into the comic and steer her away from making a bad decision. In a sense, that’s what the comic is all about: bad decisions and the people that come attached to it.

Starer and Greco frame all this within the glorious dysfunction that is at the heart of wrestling. In fact, it’s the mix of sexist, misogynistic, and discriminate attitudes that wrestling attracts along with the rush and excitement that comes with being in a world of musclebound giants and choreographed violence that gives the story the ability to comment on the exquisite dangers of dating in such an unique way. Sometimes you just get involved with someone that’ll break you, but not before having the time of your life before it gets to that point. Starer reckons with this well and offers no easy paths towards enlightenment. As she states in the foreword herself, the journey is one of reaching self-awareness. And that’s not an easy thing to do.

Greco captures a very expressive and kinetic sense of physicality for each character to get this across. She manages to portray crucial parts of their individual stories in how they move and vault across each panel. Each character exudes a fair amount of sexual energy, too. It’s easy to see how being among wrestlers can light up anyone’s fire, and the art approaches this with a degree of playfulness that allows for understanding rather than judgment. In addition, whenever things get a bit dark, the art adjusts and repositions the necessary elements to make each moment leave an impression. It’s quite a display of visual versatility from Greco.

For those interested in knowing more about how Starer built her wrestling promotion and why it was but a flash of what could’ve been, there’s a short comic she did with art by Ellen Lindner that sheds more light on it. It can be found on her author website. I recommend seeking it after reading Total Suplex of The Heart so you don’t spoil some of the latter parts of the story.

Total Suplex of the Heart creates a formidable tag team of wrestling and romance. It tries to shed light on love by using the language of suplexes and elbow drops, and it makes total sense. Wrestling loves a good heartbreak, to the point it prefers the pain that comes with it than the happiness we all want from it. But it’s all in favor of a tough lesson. Turns out wrestling can be quite good in getting the point across. Starer and Greco know this and they’ll grind you into submission in parts to make sure it lands, but they’ll do it so you can enter your next relationship with enough scars to make a good match out of it.