cover image Queen of the Ring: Wrestling Drawings by Jaime Hernandez 1980–2020

Queen of the Ring: Wrestling Drawings by Jaime Hernandez 1980–2020

Jaime Hernandez. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-68396-445-2

Hernandez (the Love and Rockets series) shows off his trademark crisp draftsmanship and genius for character drawing in this art book devoted entirely to portraits of women wrestlers, in action and pin-ups. A perfectionist, Hernandez copies characters, poses, and fights over and over, often developing sketches into mock magazine covers with headlines like “THE LADY DESTROYER INVADES THE EAST” and “WAR OF THE WILDCATS!” Solidly built women with names like the Ferocious Panther Girl and “Golden Girl” Betty Rey face off in the squared circle, costumed in the classic mid-century wrestling gear of unitards, boots, championship belts, and big hair. Each “has to have a backstory, or it’s no fun,” as Hernandez explains his worldbuilding in the accompanying text, taken from a 2020 interview. Women’s wrestling has fascinated Hernandez since childhood; the earliest sketches date from his teens. It’s a rare opportunity to see a master cartoonist’s work evolve over the decades, as the carefully shaded photo-realism of his juvenilia develops into strong, simple silhouettes and clear anatomy, all inked in Hernandez’s famously smooth linework. This hyper-focused volume is designed for dedicated Jaime fans (and/or vintage pro wrestling geeks), but really any art comics follower would enjoy a round in this ring. (Aug.)