ComicBuzz Chats With Joanne Starer

We are delighted to be joined by Writer Joanne Starer. Her graphic novel, Total Suplex of the Heart, is released today by Humanoids


Hi Joanne, it’s so wonderful to have you here with us.

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m Joanne! I write comics like Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville (for DC), Sirens of the City (for Boom!) and The Gimmick (for AHOY). Once upon a time, I worked in pro-wrestling. Should I do this like a dating profile? I enjoy travel, action comedies, and videos of cats eating corn on the cob.


Can you tell us about the origins of Total Suplex of the Heart?

Well, way back in 2002, I started a women’s wrestling company, and prior to that, I was a valet (like a manager…kind of like Miss Elizabeth) on the independent wrestling circuit. So you could say that’s really the origin—my time in the business. I was young, and it was weird and wild. And then I left wrestling and spent many many years processing everything that happened. Eventually I became a comic book writer, and it all came pouring out in this format.


How would you describe Total Suplex of the Heart?

Total Suplex of the Heart is a coming-of-age story about a young girl who gets involved in the pro-wrestling business. She has to confront challenges like eating disorders and toxic relationships to figure out who she is and what she wants.


What can you tell us about Georgie?

Georgie, our main character, was a nerdy kid, maybe a kid who wasn’t terribly cute. Her mom wasn’t exactly supportive or there for her. So as Georgie gets a little older and grows into her body and men start paying attention, she thinks all her problems are solved. But the reality is, they’re just beginning. And that’s really what the book is about. She has to find herself and her own power.


How did Ornella Greco join the team?

Our incredible artist Ornella was found by our equally incredible editor Rob Levin (who acquired the book before Jake Thomas took over). We looked at dozens of artists. Literally, it was a months-long search. For a minute, I thought the book wasn’t going to happen. We had to find someone who could commit to a project of this length, who could do both action and really subtle emotional acting, and who fit the artistic aesthetic that a company like Humanoids is known for. When Ornella’s samples came in, we all knew she was the one.


What has it been like working with Ornella, Nathan and Humanoids?

This project has honestly been a seamless experience. Ornella is heaven-sent. She just KNEW what I wanted. She read the script, she didn’t ask questions, she didn’t need notes. She just read my mind and put it on the page. And then Nathan came in and gave us the perfect clean letters to finish off the project.


How long have you been working on Total Suplex of the Heart?

It really started in 2018 when my friend Katie West asked me to write an essay for her newsletter. It was the first time I publicly spoke about my experience with my women’s wrestling company and the trauma around it. Then I turned that into a short comic with Ellen Lindner for the anthology World War 3 Illustrated. People kept telling me I should turn it into a full-length GN, so I pitched it to Humanoids in 2020. I guess it’s been a while!


How did Humanoids get involved with Total Suplex of the Heart?

I brought it to them. I knew they were expanding into the US market, and I had spoken with editor Fabrice Sapolsky when he was working there, so I knew a bit about their line and their goals. I really appreciated that they did human stories…relatable stories. Obviously this isn’t a book about people with powers, so I had to find a publisher that would even look at it. By the time this book was ready, Fabrice had left, but Rob Levin really championed the book.


Has it been a challenge to write Total Suplex of the Heart?

It was, honestly. I thought it would be easy, because so much of it was my life. I thought, “Oh, I don’t have to sit here and come up with a plot and characters and a whole world. I know this story.” But trying to figure out how to condense your life into 150 pages is obviously a challenge. But the most difficult thing is figuring out how much to tell, how to handle the things that are really painful, how to talk about other people that were in your life. You never want to hurt anyone, but you also want to tell your own truth.


How much of your own real-life experiences are seen in the pages of Total Suplex of the Heart?

I’d say it’s 80% real. There are characters that are based on real people but they weren’t exactly at this place in my life or didn’t play these parts at this time. Or maybe I smushed multiple people into one character for the sake of storytelling. There are changes that had to be made at certain points to make a clear, cohesive story. And the end is different from what actually happened to me, which I address in the book. But it’s very much my story.


Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?

Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville (from DC Comics, art by Natacha Bustos) is coming out in trade paperback on August 6, and the collected Sirens of the City (from Boom! Studios, art by Khary Randolph) is in stores now!

We would like to say thank you to Joanne for chatting with us. We would like to wish the whole team of Total Suplex of the Heart the best of luck with the release.

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