Graphic Novelty²


Doctor Who

Doctor Who Edition: The Great Fandom Swap

With Michael of My Comic Relief

Michael from My Comic Relief and I have been good friends for years now, as we both started blogging within a few months of each other and discovered each other’s blogs early on. I even had the pleasure of meeting him during a family vacation, as my family and I arranged to meet up for lunch with him and Kalie, who writes Just Dread-Full. For awhile we have good-naturedly pushed the other to start watching our favorite fandoms- which for Michael is Doctor Who and for me Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation. What is amazing about both our series is that they both began in the 1960s, had a few speedbumps to overcome, but then were re-tooled for the better in recent years. So we both choose eight episodes to best represent our favorite fandom and had the other watch them, after giving each other some introductory comments.

This swap has been months in the making, as I mailed my Star Trek episode guide to him back in July and I slowly started to work my way through the episodes he assigned me. This slow going actually proved to be beneficial to me, as I was able to tie this post into Doctor Who Day aka Tardis Day, and I got to experience the most recent season coming to a close. To read Michael’s thoughts on the Star Trek: TNG episodes I assigned him, click here!

Michael:  Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi show in history so jumping in can be…overwhelming.  I debated choosing one Doctor or giving you a sampling of several Doctors.  Then I decided to chose “thematic” types of episodes Doctor Who regularly uses.  It was HARD not giving you any of Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor and I still don’t know if leaving the Daleks and the Cybermen out was the right move.  But I made my choices so allons-y!

The Woman Who Fell To Earth (S11E1)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: This was Jodie Whittaker’s first appearance as the Doctor as well as Chris Chibnall’s first episode as showrunner. To my mind this regeneration episode explains the process and how all the Doctors are the same yet have their own unique personalities better than any other. Moments before the episode begins, the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) regenerates into the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker). The regeneration energy damages the TARDIS and sends the Doctor plummeting towards Sheffield, England where she will meet her new companions – Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh). As a result, we see the Doctor sort who she is without her TARDIS or her sonic screwdriver as it was in the TARDIS. Oh, when she crashes and pops back up, it isn’t because the Doctor is invulnerable but rather, within the first fifteen hours of a regeneration cycle, there’s enough residual cellular energy to repair damage such as that fall or regrowing a lost limb.

Nancy: I was excited to see this as my first assigned episode since I had already watched it before with my brother-in-law Chris, who is a big Doctor Who fan himself. He and I had watched the previous episode, which was the last for the Twelfth Doctor when my family was visiting for the holidays, and months later watched this introduction to the Thirteenth Doctor. While I have been aware of Doctor Who for decades, and remember watching a few with one of my Grandmas as a child, these modern-era episodes are brand new to me. I had asked Chris a lot of questions at the time, so having this as my first episode was a stroke of luck as I had some prior knowledge built in this time around.

So the thing is when you get a new Doctor, you almost always get new companions. That can be a lot to take in, but the people that the Thirteenth Doctor befriends are an appealing lot. So imagine my dismay, when one of the companions dies in this first episode! Since this was my second watch, I obviously knew Grace would die, but it still stung. I liked Jodie’s take on the Doctor and felt that she was perfect for the role.

The Rings of Akhaten (S7E7)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: This is my favorite “first trip” episode! Here Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) takes her first trip in the TARDIS after meeting the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and agreeing to travel with him. The Doctor does some poking around in Clara’s past because she’s a mystery to him; he encountered a version of her already in the 1800s and in the distant future buuuuut that’s not really important to this story :). Still, it explains why he’s confused by her and probing her past before he takes her on her first trip. Bonus! The young actress who plays Merry Gejelh is Emilia Jones who was just nominated for an Oscar for Coda!

Nancy: While I gave Michael a chronological journey through Star Trek: TNG, he did not do the same for me. He had his sound reasoning for his episode choices, but I admit I had a bit of whiplash as I watched these episodes, as they bounced around and I ended up watching episodes with four different Doctors. This time around, I was introduced to Matt Smith, who I previously watched in The Crown, so to me it seemed as if a young Prince Phillip with bad hair was gallivanting about space. And while Michael mentioned the child actress Emilia Jones later was in Coda, I recognized her from the three-season Locke & Key series I recently wrapped up on Netflix.

This series is not known for its special effects, and they seem to just lean into it, with the many different aliens looking quite cheap. I made a joke to Michael afterward that the show made the aliens from Star Trek: TOS in the 60s look high-tech. I noticed that this second episode also killed off an appealing character- Clara’s mum. But her leaf ended up being the most important leaf in history! When I mentioned this second death to Michael, he then shared that the series showrunners at the time were criticized for pulling their female companions away from their families, but that’s a digression for another time…

The Unicorn and the Wasp (S4E5)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: This episode features the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) as he travels with Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). They are a pretty heavy fan favorite Doctor/companion duo amongst Doctor Who fans. This is a great example of just a “fun” episode – as well as a historical episode – as the Doctor and Donna find themselves in England in 1926…where they work to solve a murder mystery with Agatha Christie! Doctor Who loves dropping famous people in their historical episodes and this is a personal favorite.

Nancy: The phrase I used to describe this episode to Michael was that it was ridiculous fun! I had heard that IRL Agatha Christie disappeared for a time and offered no explanation as to where she had been, so this was as solid an explanation as any. One of the actresses in this episode was Felicity Jones, who I recognized as Jyn Erso from Star Wars: Rogue One. I also know Catherine Tate as a comedian, so sometimes it was disconcerting to see actors and actresses I associate with other roles in these Doctor Who episodes.

The Zygon Invasion Part 1 (S9E7) & Part 2 (S9E8)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: Doctor Who loves two-parters so here’s an example of that as well as a story which shows a companion traveling with two different regenerations of the Doctor (which happens sometimes but not all the time). This episode is set in the present day and it follows the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara as they try to prevent war from breaking out between the human race and the Zygons, a race of alien shapeshifters who have been living as refugees on Earth for a few years. It also features UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), the military group the Doctor worked with steadily in the ‘70s and has popped up semi-regularly ever since. It is their job to investigate the odd and unexplained and protect the Earth from alien threats. You also see Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) who serves as UNIT commander like her father, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), did in the 70s.

Nancy: These were my least favorite of the episodes, mostly because I didn’t connect with the grumpy Twelfth Doctor. And the evil Zygons looked like an octopus and lobster had an ugly love child together. I think the franchise needs to buck up more for the special effects. I also had to text Micahel several times to understand why there were multiple Doctors featured at the beginning of the episode, and why most are numbered but then there is a War Doctor. This can be a hard franchise to get into, as there are a lot of backstories to try to figure out. Luckily, Michael kept the episodes in the modern era, as there are hundreds to choose from since the franchise began in 1963. This two-parter had a good message, but I thought the ending was self-indulgent. It reminded me of Star Trek: Discovery which I feel tries too hard and is too preachy.

Blink (S3E10)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: Always counted among the best episodes of Doctor Who in online polls and fan countdowns and critically acclaimed as one of the show’s best dramatic episodes, it introduces the Weeping Angels – creatures who have become as iconic as the Daleks and Cyberman (dating back to 1963 and ’65 respectively). Creatively, this episode sees the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) trapped in the 1960s while Sally Sparrow (Cary Mulligan (two years before she’d get her Oscar nomination for An Education (yes, pretty much every famous British person has been on this show)) serves as the main protagonist trying to solve the mystery unfolding around her.

Nancy: The Weeping Angels were awesomely creepy! The beginning actually threw me off, as it seemed to be a murder mystery vs a Doctor Who episode, In fact, the Tenth Doctor wasn’t in the episode much at all. I’m glad Micahel included this episode, for I have perceived the entire franchise to be on the campy side, but this was an excellent atmospheric stand-alone episode that introduced new deadly aliens. I’d love to shop at the Sparrow & Nightingale Bookstore!

Can You Hear Me? (S12E7)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: As Kalie put it when she started watching the show, one of the best things about Doctor Who is (as corny as it may sound) it makes you proud to be human. Garnering high critical acclaim and positive fan responses as well for its depiction of mental illness and the importance of mental health care, this is one of those episodes. The Thirteenth Doctor leaves Yaz, Ryan, and Graham in Sheffield in 2020 for some “shore leave” as she travels to Aleppo, Syria in 1380. A mystery stretching from Aleppo to the present will pull them all to a space station orbiting a distant planet in the far future.

Nancy: This episode was meh for me. I expected more because Michael hyped it, but since I was just dipping in and out of the Doctor and companion’s lives, this didn’t resonate for me as it would for long-time fans who are invested in the characters. I thought the mental health angle was solid, and I did appreciate getting to know more about the companions, but the time jumping took me out of the narrative flow.

Vincent and the Doctor (S5E10)

Photo credit- BBC’s Doctor Who

Michael: This episode just makes you feel good. It has everything that makes Doctor Who great – history, space creatures, excitement, humor, and all kinds of heart. It is often held up, critically and by fans, as an example of how compassion-centric a sci-fi show Doctor Who is. So this is our feel-good note to end on. The Eleventh Doctor takes Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) to Auvers-sur-Oise, France, in 1890 to meet Vincent Van Gogh and it’s all so beautiful!

Nancy: Unrealistically, I wanted a happy ending for Van Gogh that included ginger babies with Amy (Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy)! I agree with Michael it was a beautiful episode, but the term I would also use is bittersweet- although they showed Van Gogh that his works would be considered masterpieces in the future, his demons still got the better of him, and he still had the sad ending. On a side note, I saw a very cool Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit in Chicago last year, so this episode was a neat connection for me as I had recently seen much of his work.

Michael:  I had twelve episodes that “almost” made the final cut!  Choosing which I’d assign you was so difficult!  But this was so much fun, too :D.  It was really special to share Doctor Who with you in this way – to give you a little sampling of a show I love so much while you shared a show you love so much with me.  I’m still unsure about leaving the Ninth Doctor off but his thirteen episodes feel like such a connected story to me.  But had I included any of his episodes it (probably) would’ve been either “The End of the World” (S1E2) or “Dalek” (S1E6).  I hope you had fun and enjoyed your time in the TARDIS, Nancy!  For anyone else interested in getting in Doctor Who, you can follow the course Nancy journeyed here or use this piece – “Should I Watch Doctor Who? / How to Begin Watching Doctor Who – I wrote a while back.

Nancy: So will I continue watching Doctor Who? Yes! I have already watched the last episode of Jodie’s Thirteenth Doctor and saw her regenerate into a surprisingly familiar face for the Fourteenth Doctor. The next episodes are a full year away (timed to coincide with the 60-year anniversary!) and I believe will only consist of a few episodes, before yet another regeneration occurs and we finally meet the actor who will be playing the Fifteenth Doctor in 2024. Watching these episodes has led to some nice communication with my quiet brother-in-law, as he texted me after the recent season ended to discuss the reveal. I had also sent him Michael’s list and he suggested a few others for me to watch, so I will try to watch those before I see Chris next. While I don’t see myself being a consistent watcher, I now feel confident in my background knowledge of Doctor Who to check out some future episodes, so this franchise swap experiment has been a success!

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Martha Jones

March is Women’s History Month, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces for the third year with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! During this month, we will have six bloggers sharing who they believe is a fictional woman to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. Today’s post comes from Michael of My Comic Relief, who is a fine connoisseur of comics and lover of the Doctor Who franchise. 

By Michael Miller of My Comic Relief

Happy International Women’s Day!  In celebration of International Women’s Month, I’ve joined with some other bloggers to write pieces spotlighting some of our favorite female characters.  Kathleen, of Graphic Novelty2, kicked off the festivities with her brilliant look at Kara Zor-El/Supergirl and, following me, we’ll have Green Onion, of Green Onion Revival Project; Nancy, of Graphic Novelty2;  Kalie, of Just Dread-full; and Jeff, of The Imperial Talker.  You can find all their posts here but you should check out their super sweet sites, too.  Anyhoo (or AnyWHO, as the case may be (stop…don’t reward that (I’m sorry, I’m so sorry (you deserve better)))), this year when I thought of what “fearless” means, my mind turned to Martha Jones.  Played by Freema Agyeman, she was the companion of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor in Series Three of Doctor Who.  Martha did a great many things while travelling with the Doctor but, in her faith and her willingness to advocate for her own needs, she models the type of courage which could transform all of our lives if we, too, could be so fearless.

Continue reading “Fiction’s Fearless Females: Martha Jones”

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Doctor Who

Today is International Women’s Day, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces for the second year with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of:  Fiction’s Fearless Females! For the next few weeks, we will have six bloggers sharing who they believe is a fictional woman to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. First up is Michael from My Comic Relief– whose blog is must reading for his brilliant views on comics, Star Wars, social justice, and of course Doctor Who! 

By Michael Miller of My Comic Relief

In celebration of International Women’s Day today and Women’s History Month to follow, I’ve teamed up with a group of other bloggers to write a series saluting some of our favorite female characters. Going first was a bit intimidating. Who could I write about? Who has the gravitas worthy of beginning our month-long celebration of these incredible characters? Then it hit me – it’s the Doctor! It seemed so obvious once I thought of her. So, in honor of International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, and to kick-off our month-long series I’m exploring the Doctor, as portrayed by Jodie Whittaker in Series Eleven and Twelve (with more to come!) of Doctor Who. Continue reading “Fiction’s Fearless Females: Doctor Who”

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Amy Pond

In celebration of Women’s History Month, both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! This is the third of our planned eight piece series, and Michael of My Comic Relief brilliantly shows how a companion of Doctor Who becomes as integral to the show as the Doctor himself. 

Guest Blogger: Michael of My Comic Relief

There was an idea. Jeff knows this. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable bloggers to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to celebrate a collection of incredible female characters we never could on our own. This week it’s my turn and I’m shining my spotlight on the incomparable Amy Pond, my all-time favorite companion to ever set foot inside the TARDIS in the world of Doctor Who.

Played by Karen Gillan over three series, Amelia Pond entered the Doctor’s world in “The Eleventh Hour,” the first episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who (as the show is English, I’m using “series” over the more American “season”). She joined the show along with Matt Smith who had taken over from David Tennant, when the Doctor entered his eleventh regeneration. As the Doctor once so beautifully told Amy, “You were the first. The first face this face saw, and you’re seared onto my hearts, Amelia Pond. You always will be.” She’s one of my favorite characters on the show – she’s one of my favorite characters ever – and she’s easily my favorite of all the Doctor’s companions.

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The one and only Amy Pond / Photo Credit –Doctor Who

The relationship the Doctor has with his companions is important. (Note, while the Doctor’s current regeneration is female, as the Doctor was male when Amy travelled with him – and because English awkwardly lacks a universally-accepted gender-neutral third person singular pronoun – I’ll be using masculine pronouns in this piece when referring to the Doctor.) Behind all the adventures, all the smiles, all the exuberant joy in creation, the Doctor is a very lonely character. The modern incarnation of Doctor Who begins after the Great Time War, fought between the Time Lords (the alien race the Doctor belongs to) and the Daleks (his greatest enemy). To end the war and protect all of space and time, the Doctor made the choice to destroy both races. This condemned him to a lifetime as the last of his kind, a particularly lengthy punishment given how Time Lords age. Essentially without any surprises, mistakes, or accidents a Time Lord can live forever. When a Time Lord hits old age or an illness or mortal injury strikes, they will regenerate – a process of rebirth causing complete physical and psychological change. Unless they are killed too quickly/violently to allow for regeneration, killed in the process of regeneration, or willfully decide to not regenerate from a fatal wound, a Time Lord will live forever.

Eternity is a long and lonely road to walk alone, even when you can go anywhere in time and space. To be alone forever breeds an unimaginable darkness and an unbearable pain. As such, it’s the Doctor’s companions who keep him company; keep him grounded; and keep the all-important lights of life, love, and compassion burning within him. Yet they always bring a special sort of sadness too. While the Doctor can live forever, his human companions can’t. In the Doctor’s words, “Some left me. Some got left behind. And some, not many but some, died.” No matter what happens, he will ultimately lose them all.

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Rory and Amy travel with the Doctor to Venice, in 1580. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Over the years (and regenerations) the Doctor has had many great friends and a few important loves travel with him in the TARDIS but there’s only ever been one Amelia Pond – “Oh, that’s a brilliant name! Amelia Pond, it’s like a name in a fairy tale.” She’s always been my favorite of the Doctor’s companions, even though Eleven isn’t my favorite Doctor (if you’re curious, Ten is with Thirteen being a close second (and if Jodie Whittaker’s run continues as brilliantly as it began, she may take the title)). It’s not just the way Amy balances the Doctor nor what she adds to his adventures that makes her so remarkable in my eyes. It’s how Amy Pond – “the mad, impossible Amy Pond” – refuses to accept anything less than the life she wants, no matter how complicated or unattainable it may seem.

Amy Pond 6
Photo Credit – Doctor Who

As we grow up, we tend to accept more and more limitations, things we never would have seen or yielded to in our youth. Our dreams become just that – dreams. In The Alchemist Paulo Coelho, speaking as our hearts, writes, “Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits them…[but] people no longer want to go in search of them…Most people see the world as a threatening place, and because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place…We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts” (131). Not Amy Pond. And what can be more fearless than having the courage to never deny the desires of your heart, no matter how complex or contradictory they may seem?

The Doctor first meets Amelia Pond when she’s only seven-years-old, crashing the TARDIS into her garden after having just regenerated. As she ventures outside alone to see what’s landed in her yard, it’s clear she’s already a bold, curious, inquisitive, and brave young girl. Talking with the Doctor over fish sticks and custard (the only meal to appeal in the moment to his freshly regenerated taste buds) she tells him, “I’m not afraid.” The Doctor replies, “Of course you’re not! You’re not scared of anything! A box falls out of the sky, a man pops out of the box, man eats fish and custard…and look at you. Just sittin’ there.”

Amy Pond 4
Amelia and the Doctor share a snack of fish sticks and custard on the night they first meet. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Needing to quickly run the engines so the damaged TARDIS doesn’t explode, the Doctor leaves Amelia promising to be back in five minutes to take her on a trip and help her deal with the mysterious crack in space and time on her bedroom wall. The Doctor returns, slightly missing the mark…twelve years later. Amy has grown up but, despite more than a decade passing and four therapists who insisted her childhood friend was imaginary, she’s never fully abandoned belief that her “raggedy doctor” is real. Along with her “kind of boyfriend” Rory (Arthur Darvill), Amy helps the Doctor save the Earth from an intergalactic police force bent on planetwide incineration. The Doctor takes his newly restored TARDIS on a quick spin, returning to take Amy on a proper trip…two years later, missing his mark once again. So, fourteen years after first landing in her garden, “the girl who waited” goes in search of adventures through space and time with her “madman in a box.”

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Amy and the Doctor inside the TARDIS. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

As the closing shot of that first episode shows, Amy has run off with the Doctor on the night before her wedding. One of the subplots in those early episodes was whether Amy wanted to be with Rory, the man she was about to marry, or the Doctor, the spaceman who’s captivated her imagination since childhood. In the poignant episode “Amy’s Choice” (S5E7), the mysterious Dream Lord forces Amy to choose between Rory and the Doctor. While she ultimately realizes Rory is the man she loves, she doesn’t chose between Rory and the Doctor. She chooses both. The Doctor is her best friend, Rory her lover and eventually her husband. She never sacrifices one for the other. She manages a life of time travel and planet hopping adventure alongside getting married and living a “normal” life. Rory quickly becomes part of their adventures too! Amy makes her worlds fit together. She wants it all. It’s all the life she’s chosen and because she won’t abandon her heart’s desires, it all fits.

Amy – “Hey, look at this. Got my spaceship. Got my boys. My work here is done.”

Rory – “Uh, we are not her boys.”

The Doctor – “Yeah we are.”

Rory – “Yeah we are.”

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Rory, the Doctor, and Amy deal with a planet-wide invasion of little black boxes…that don’t do anything at all but sit there. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Despite narrative clichés and our cultural default presumption of Twilight-inspired love triangles, women and men can naturally have incredibly strong, life-affirming friendships without ulterior romantic motives. And after the first flush of a crush on her space-faring adventurer fades, that’s exactly what Amy finds with the Doctor. With Rory, we see a strong marriage. With the Doctor, an important friendship. Both those relationships exist harmoniously in her life, each enriching the other. (Bringing Rory into the TARDIS and the Doctor’s adventures is another reason Amy Pond is my favorite companion! I love Rory so much too!) In addition to presenting a healthy depiction of female-and-male friendships, this also opens up more interesting narrative possibilities as well, freeing the stories from the sort of narrative loop that can come with yet another companion pining – unrequited or not – over the Doctor.

Through their adventures, Amy’s wit, compassion, and resolve always impressed me. Her will always felt as strong as the Doctor’s too and she was every bit as courageous as he was. Of all the Doctor’s companions, she’s the only one I always felt could handle everything on her own as capably and competently as the Doctor. From the far-flung past to the distant future to all manner of alien races, worlds, and wars, she shares the Doctor’s life but she refuses to give up a “normal” life either. She and Rory still hold regular jobs on Earth which they go to in between their travels with the Doctor. They have “regular” friends. They have a “normal” routine. Amy even eventually has a child. This, as with everything else in her journey, only serves to expand her world in powerful ways. As the outlaw Dr. Kahler Jex observes in “A Town Called Mercy” (S7E3):

Jex – “You’re a mother, aren’t you?”

Amy – “How did you know?”

Jex – “There’s kindness in your eyes. And sadness. And a ferocity too.”

Kindness. Sadness. Ferocity. Wit. Compassion. Enthusiasm. Trust. Faith. Love, in all its forms. Amy Pond shows us the magic our lives will hold when we have the courage to always follow our hearts and refuse to accept anything less than their greatest desires.

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Amy’s adventures with the Doctor begin, as he returns twelve years after their first meeting. / Photo Credit –Doctor Who

As you may’ve gathered, I’ve joined forces with some other charismatic and exciting bloggers and YouTubers (in Rob’s case, as he’s cool enough to know how to work YouTube) – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little blogging salute to some of our favorite fearless female characters in all of fiction. It’ll be fun and it alliterates! Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward or the next couple months, a different blogger will be featured each week saluting one of their personal favorite female characters. Be sure to follow these amazing blogs (if you don’t already) and be sure to check back each week to soak in all the excitement of the latest installment of this EPIC TEAM-UP.

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