Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #216: The Road to Suplex City is Paved with Bodies

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #216 by Drew Barth

The Road to Suplex City is Paved with Bodies

There’s an inherent allure to wrestling. Outside of big meaty men slapping meat, there’s long-running storylines that can span decades and the kind of iconography that’s only rivaled in its cultural ubiquity by superheros. But that’s mostly what happens in the ring. Outside, there’s real people despite any undead sorcerers they’ve been playing for twenty years. And, as they’re real people, there’s the inevitable mess of what happens when egos meet perceived needs. We all want safety, security, and just a bit more money to make sure we’re comfortable. Hell is a Squared Circle by Chris Condon, Francesco Biagini, Mark Englert, and Dave Sharpe brings us into the fold of those

real human needs. 

Ted Walsh is your typical down-on-his-luck, piece-of-shit-adjacent heel jobber who never makes enough for rent or child support, but always has enough for another drink. More than anything, though, he has ambitions. His manager keeps puffing him up, dangling the carrot of fame in his face every night, but he’s never more than fodder for whichever face needs to get over with the crowd. Thinking he deserves more, Ted brings his grievances up with his manager. This, naturally, leads to murder. It’s almost fated—we know how violent Walsh is from the first time we see his face. But he’s smart enough to know that he needs to lay low in Canada long enough for the heat to die down, so he grabs as much cash from his manager’s safe as he can fit into a sack, pounds the face of his last opponent into a pulp, and escapes into the night. Even after nearly twenty years in hiding, he never thought his past would catch up with him. And yet.

The back of this one-shot asks if wrestling noir is a genre or not. While many of the out-of-ring controversies, rumors, and scandals could fit into that category, Hell is a Squared Circle is one of the first comics that captures that same mood as noir. Mood is dominant throughout the story. Even with this larger format—the comic is in that larger prestige format many of DC’s Black Label books also use—it still feels like the panels are closing in more and more as the story goes on. After long enough running through the independent wrestling circuits in Canada, he thinks he’s in the clear. But a PI appears one day before a match. The panels squeeze in on Walsh until his opponent takes off their mask to reveal the past he’d been running from for so long.

Condon, Biagini, Englert, and Sharpe have crafted a wrestling story that feels fresh yet familiar. From all of the rumors we’ve heard about the business over the years, Hell is a Squared Circle doesn’t feel like the most far-fetched tale to rise up from the depths of the territories era, but it’s the kind of exaggeration that fits right into heightened drama of a noir. And in the ring, that kind of drama absolutely thrives. 

Get excited. Get over.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

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