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Release Date
April 13, 2021
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"Championess" is inspired by the life of Elizabeth Wilkinson, a female bare-knuckle boxer in 18th century London. Elizabeth and her sister Tess struggle to make ends meet and cover Tess’s debts. While Elizabeth works odd jobs at the local newspaper, the only way she knows how to make enough money to help them survive is her true passion, bareknuckle boxing. With Tess’s support, Elizabeth trains at the boxing facility of one of the most famous retired boxers and the only real fight promoter of any notoriety, James Figg. As Elizabeth trains with Figg and James Stokes, she confronts her personal demons of what destroyed her family and comes to terms with being the first half-Indian female boxer in a white male world.

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2 reviews
A memorable graphic novel for history and sports fans
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Sisters Elizabeth and Tess are forced to live in a neighborhood where debt collectors can’t take you to jail because of Tess’s debt. Elizabeth works odd jobs to help put food on their table, but she knows that the real, life-changing money is in bare-knuckle boxing. However, 18th century London isn’t the most welcoming space for a female boxer, and Elizabeth has to fight (literally and metaphorically) every step of the way to get a trainer, get matches, and just maybe, get them enough money to be safe.

CHAMPIONESS is a fantastic story based on the real life Elizabeth Wilkinson. While the authors have changed several aspects of her life, this is a great way to gain an introduction to a lesser known area of history and sports. In addition to the story, the art is stunning. It features sharp lines with excellent use of shading and strong facial expressions.

The relationships, both between Elizabeth and the people around her and between Elizabeth and herself, are well done. Elizabeth and Tess are close and love each other very much, but they aren’t without conflict by any stretch. The story uses a smooth transition in the timeline for brief flashbacks to Elizabeth’s childhood and how she and Tess arrived at their current path, especially after Elizabeth is directly confronted by her past while she’s in the ring. I’m not usually interested in fighting or battle scenes in general, but CHAMPIONESS expertly combines the physical conflicts with the emotional, so you really feel the impact of the punches. This is a powerful examination of how trauma lives in the body.

With emotional fighting scenes, sharp artwork, and just the right dash of romance, CHAMPIONESS is a memorable graphic novel for history and sports fans.
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