Championess


By Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas, Amanda Perez Puentes, & various (Legendary Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-68116-076-4 (TPB)

Legendary Comics (a print adjunct of Legendary Pictures – responsible for the Batman/Dark Knight movies as well as The Hangover, Man of Steel and 300) specialises in graphic narratives tailored for big screen film franchises, and this latest trade paperback may be a sleeper hit and potential contemporary blockbuster…

Women’s boxing is a rapidly growing sport and Britain is apparently a global leader. You might be surprised to know that – apart from an aberration of those deeply disturbed, morally hypocritical, history-rewriting Victorians – ‘twas ever so…

Championess is a hugely enjoyable melodramatic romp based on Georgian Elizabeth Wilkinson (nee Stokes) of Clerkenwell: a woman bareknuckle prize-fighter active between 1722-1728, and acclaimed star of a sport deliberately excised from history by those aforementioned, socially-censorious commentators and scribes.

Here, thanks to writers Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas – who have themselves taken a few literary liberties to deliver a knockout blow for racial diversity and female empowerment – Wilkinson is resurrected as a shunned but determined young woman of mixed race (British and Lascar/Indian) who wants to be a champion pugilist at a time when women fighters are commonplace, but considered simply as clowns and novelties.

Elizabeth fights for money to save her poor but saintly sister – who can “pass” for English – from debtors’ prison; she does it for revenge on an old friend who betrayed her; she does it to prove men don’t run the world; she eventually does it for and beside a man she

learns to trust and love, but mostly Elizabeth fights because she wants to and she’s really good at it. All she has to do is prove it to the scurrilous, bout-fixing fight arranger who runs the game in London, the public and in the end, herself…

Illustrated in monochrome grey washes by Amanda Perez Puentes, this is a bright, breezy, modernistic costume drama that would win plenty of notice on big and small screens. There’s not much in the way of narrative nuance or novelty, but it enthusiastically follows the arc of all good sports comics like Roy of the Rovers or the Tough of the Track, and Sport’s all about the action and the moment, right?

Backed up by sketch and design pages, cover gallery and variants and a feature on the process of script to finished art page, this tale is an unsophisticated but enthralling feelgood tale which I can certainly see fulfilling Legendary Comics’ remit and being adapted – assuming I and others can stifle that old-world, chauvinistic response to seeing women (or anybody, in fact) hitting each other for money and other peoples’ gratification…
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