Fighting Her Way to the Top. Liz Wilkinson, Championess

17 Apr

Home | Legendary Comics YABy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Legendary Comics
Available to order on Amazon USA
Spoiler Alert

Going beyond the Women’s suffrage movement, Elizabeth Wilkinson dared to defy gender roles by being one of the world’s first lady boxers in 18th Century London. This lass couldn’t make enough shilling to support herself and Tess, her sister, in a world was primarily run by men. These chauvinists believed their place was at the home and were “servants.” Liz disliked her place in society and had no trouble butting heads in her attempt to become recognized as a fighting champion. 

I can’t help but be reminded of Chick Fight, which stars Malin Akerman, Bella Thorne and Dulcé Sloan in a different type of story. Writer/director Paul Leyden may well have been influenced by this historical figure. The ideas are the same–we have a heroine who must prove her worth not only to herself but also amongst her peers, fellow fighters who are male and female. When Wilkinson formally issued a challenge to Hannah Hyfield, a foe she’s not ready to face (much like in the movie with Akerman’s character to Thorne) she needs a seasoned pro to teach her the finer points of gladiatorial combat.

The graphic novel by Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker, and illustrated by Amanda Perez, adds a hint of the Rocky movies which I enjoyed. The subtle use of colour gives this work a simple nuance to illustrate the period and the bloody nose the British Empire would later receive–like losing during the American War of Independence, having problems with trade in the Indian subcontinent, and dealing with other global conflicts which aren’t important to this narrative. Concerning India and that Liz is part native–a departure from the historical figure–the grander thematic exposition concerning race is implied. Her father was considered “not English enough” and was sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit despite ratting out the real conspirators; a very young Lizzie witnessed his death.

Dealing with James Figg, The Father of Boxing, isn’t a bed of roses either. He’s tough on this wannabe much like how Jack Murphy was to Anna Wyncomb in Chick Fight in order to strengthen her character. If readers thought she was tough at the start, her gift of trash talk is the highlight. There’s no need to watch those WWE Diva matches when you have the grandmother to the style right here!

This tale is not a true biography, since Lizzie didn’t publish a memoir. Some flavour in what society was like in London is toyed with, but ultimately these details take a back seat. This book’s shifting emphasis from youth (told in flashback) to adult is a great way to flesh out what may have been Wilkinson’s life. To progress up to how she dealt certain demons of the past a permanent ‘death’ blow is simply perfect.

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