by Glenn Matchett
I’m a big fan of pro wrestling. Since January of 1999 I have been following pro wrestling and I have seen a lot of ups and downs in terms of the quality of the product of those 14 years. One constant in all that time is the continued passion of the wrestlers themselves. Most look down on pro wrestling because it is preordained or ‘fake’ but given some of the stuff I’ve seen and some of the stories told by pro wrestlers it is in fact one of the most physically dangerous sports out there.
Given some of the similarities between the two it’s little surprise that many comic fans are fans of pro wrestling and a lot of pro wrestlers are fans of comics themselves. There are larger than life characters, it usually always boils down to good vs. evil and some of the storytelling format can often be similar. But there aren’t that many comics about wrestling. There are a few that are officially licensing but they often fall into the category of being dust gatherers for comic shop bargain bins. It’s strange too because those that have watched wrestlers tell stories of their careers know there are a lot of stories to tell. Turns out there has been a 250 part web comic running for years that will soon become an ongoing comic series called ‘Squared Circle’ by writer Ben Rosenthal and artist Mike Perry.
Beginning at a comedic web comic the tale evolved to a point where the characters introduced in the long running web comic are faced with a post apocalyptic world where they must band together to save the day. It may sound a bit out there but fans of wrestling, fun comics and comedic strips like Penny Arcade or Lil-Formers I think will find something entertaining for them to enjoy. Comedy is always hard but it seems that both Ben and Mike have found a great formula to entertain their audience with.
Those interested in catching up with Squared Circle before hitting the print can read the initial 250 strips for FREE starting here: (Sqaured-Circle-Wrestling.com) http://squared-circle-comics.com/?p=6. The strip ran from January 2012 until September 2014 where the series went on hiatus so that Ben and Mike could persue other projects. Now it’s back in comic form and you can read more about that, the creators and their other projects here: http://mrbenrosenthal.tumblr.com/SCW. (benjum.com) and (ManInSuitComics.com)
Doing a comic about wrestling seems to be able to differentiate themselves from everyone out there at the moment but Ben and Mike have done something difficult on top of that. They’ve taken a very silly concept and made it work, besides that they’ve also made it funny and any writer will tell you that comedy can be hard.
I caught up with Ben to talk about himself, SQUARED CIRCLE and other matters!
GHC: Tell us more about yourself. How did you get into comics in general?
BEN: I started reading comics from a very young age. My favourite colour was green and there just happened to be a villain called The Green Goblin (I believe it was Harry Osborn at the time). I had a few issues of Spidey, but then forgot about comics and moved on to Transformers, Voltron and Dino Riders (remember that show? You should!) Then the 90’s X-Men animated series came out. My two best friends at the time were into comics, so I jumped on in – right in time for Onslaught. And I loved it (don’t judge me).
From then I was introduced to Preacher by Ennis and Dillon, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Quantum and various other ‘indie’ comics. These two stories showed me that comics were not just about super heroes – that one could tell some amazing stories without capes.
I was then introduced to the two series which encouraged me to become a writer – Joe Kelly’s Deadpool run and the initial Quantum and Woody series by Christopher Priest and Mark Bright. These two comics were legitimately funny AND full of character and story. In fact, I have never seen Deadpool written as well as when Joe Kelly was at the reigns.
It wasn’t until I was asked by my good friend Ryan Lindsay to join his new site Thought Balloons (thought-balloons.com) that I decided to take writing comics seriously. Up until then I had written for radio and tv, but writing for comics seemed like a foolish dream. The premise of Thought Balloons was (and still is to this day) each week a tenured writer would choose a character from the world of comics, and we would write a single page starring that character. It taught me so much about crafting a script – and the feedback I received from my fellow tenured writers shaped and improved my scrawling.
Oh, and twitter is one of THE reasons I am doing what I am doing. Through that social platform I have not only met so many cool comic people, but learned to hone my writing to say only the most important things – says the guy who just wrote half a page.
GHC: SQUARED CIRCLE would indicate you’re also a wrestling fan, if so how did you get into that?
BEN: Yeah, I’m a fan. Started watching when I was young (during the original Degeneration-X run) and continued through to just recently.
I’m also a manager/announcer for a wrestling federation in Australia (Wrestle Rampage, formally NWA Australia and Zero1 Australia) where I use to also write the storylines (and still contribute to this day).
GHC: In my article I say that wrestling fans and comic fans seem to mix and that a lot of wrestlers are comic fans themselves. Why do you think there isn’t more product to appeal to both markets when there are so many real stories to be told?
BEN: Mike and I originally thought this as well. The hits we received during Squared Circle’s run as a webcomic suggests otherwise, haha.
I think it is because wrestling is filled with the crazy and far-out storylines that only wrestling can get away with. Wrestling is all about good vs evil – about characters and gimmicks and entertainment. In my mind that is exactly the same as comics.
GHC: How did you come to work with Mike?
BEN: We were introduced through Ryan Lindsay (gee, I owe that guy a lot). I had a graphic novel I was writing, and Mike dug the script. From there we wrote a short story for the Beginnings Anthology based on an old radio serial I wrote and produced back in my radio days (along with friend Phil Wilson). From there we wrote the Squared Circle webcomic as both of us are wrestling fans. Then we slowly extended the line of comics we produced to the point where we came up with our own ‘universe’ – Man In Suit Comics (ManInSuitComics.com). We now have a rotating set of comics that come out every one to two months.
GHC: How did the idea of SCW, the web series come around?
BEN: The premise behind Squared Circle was that it would be a wrestling based webcomic without any wrestling (just like the modern day WWE – burrrrrn). It was our excuse to poke fun at the cartoonish world of wrestling and the sometimes obscure storylines.
GLENN: What have you guys been up to while the books been on hiatus?
BEN: We have been focusing on our other Man In Suit Comics (MISC) titles. DARE! chronicles the adventures of a James Bond type spy – except that he is an idiot. Vanessa Sloane: Monster Hunter is our love song to Buffy, and follows the adventures of a 20 something woman as she protects the world from bumps in the night. Nightcock comes from the pages of the Squared Circle webcomic and is my excuse to write innuendo and puns (it’s important I get them out of my system). All are available for FREE over at ManInSuitComics.com.
I also work with other artists on other projects. I have a slew of shorts and comics coming out in the next half of this year – you can get the scoop over at benjum.com (and read some of them there as well!)
GHC: You’ve gone in a very interesting direction for the SQUARED CIRCLE’s return, what brought that about?
BEN: I made a jibe before about a small amount of people reading Squared Circle. Mike and I came to the realisation that people don’t want a wrestling based webcomic, but we loved the characters. So we developed the ’10 Years Later’ storyline, where former golden boy Jack Heart captures all the SCW championship titles. They merge (literally) and transform Jack into the King of the Mountain, who then promptly takes over the world.
The idea was to generate more interest in the comic while being able to still drop wrestling related gags throughout.
GHC: How can people go about picked up a copy of the first and future issues?
BEN: Head on over to ManInSuitComics.com and download it for FREE. Mike and I offer all our comics for free on the site. It’s a way to get our work out there and get feedback so that we can become better.
Also, we have a patreon page (Patreon.com/ManInSuitComics.com) where subscribers get the comics early, get a load of behind the scenes art and features and have access to other random things (scripts, process, ramblings, etc).
GHC: What else do you have in the works we can look forward to?
BEN: I have some shorts out in various anthologies coming out later in the year. A short story in an ebook which is on the verge of release. A 40 page Killeroo story should hopefully be out by the end of this year, with amazing art by Manny Heranez.
However, what I feel is a great example of my writing levelling up is a series coming out later this year (I hope) written by me and three other writers. We all contribute to the overall plot and have issues that each of us write. I can’t say much else, but I have just seen the inks to the first issue I wrote and am blown away by it. Really looking forward to seeing this series launch.
Benjum.com has (and ramblings) on all my upcoming writings.
GHC: What indie book should we all be reading?
BEN: So many, but these –
HEADSPACE by RyanK. Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki (Monkeybrain) https://www.comixology.com/Headspace/comics-series/16599
D4VE – by Ryan Ferrier and Valetin Ramon (Monkeybrain) https://www.comixology.com/D4VE/comics-series/12653
Itty Bitty Bunnies by Dean Rankine (Action Lab) https://www.comixology.com/Itty-Bitty-Bunnies-in-Rainbow-Pixie-Candy-Land/comics-series/12414
The Deep by Tom Taylor and James Brouwer (Gestalt)