Sami’s (End Of) Summer Reading Challenge 2k16

My present relationship with reading is complicated. Ever since I moved to San Diego four years ago, I’ve been slacking on reading for fun. I blame school and my own lack of motivation on the reading-for-fun front. This makes me feel bad because I’ve accumulated so many unread books over the past few years…yikes. I used to read a lot. Like, a lot. So much that I would be told to stop and do something else. I hold my phone/use my phone as much as I should be holding a book nowadays, and recently, I’ve come to realize that I can’t live like that anymore.

Now that I have a lot more time on my hands (thank you, post-grad job hunting life), what better way to put moments of boredom to good use than to read a damn book or two?

Here’s my personal challenge: for the next five weeks, I’m planning on pairing a graphic novel with a book. Here are my new reads for the next five weeks, with summaries from their respective publishers:

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WEEK ONE:

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn | “Pitched as “The Devil Wears Prada with superheroes,” the first book chronicles the adventures of Evie Tanaka, a put-upon personal assistant who is forced to pose as her diva superhero boss and must embrace her own hidden talents in order to protect our world from a demonic invasion.” (from Sarah Kuhn’s website)

*Monstress by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda | “Steampunk meets Kaiju in this original fantasy epic for mature readers, as young Maika risks everything to control her psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, placing her in the center of a devastating war between human and otherworldly forces.” (Image Comics)

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WEEK TWO:

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami | “A college student, identified only as “K,” falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments — until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman.” (from the back cover of Sputnik Sweetheart)

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, art by Sonny Liew | “[The Shadow Hero is] the story of Hank Chu, a mild-mannered Chinese American teenager growing up in a fictional 1930’s Chinatown.  Hank wants nothing more than to work in his family’s grocery store, but his mother has more ambitious plans.  She wants him to embody the excitement of their new country.” (from Gene Yang’s website)

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WEEK THREE:

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley | “The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.” (Amazon)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Robert Hack | “On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda.” (from Archie Comics)

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WEEK FOUR:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell | “Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.” (from Rainbow Rowell’s website)

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan | “In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time.” (Image Comics)

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WEEK FIVE:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn | “On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary … Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?” (from Gillian Flynn’s website)

DC Comics: Bombshells by Marguerite Bennett, art by Marguerite Sauvage | “Learn the story behind this alternate reality where the Second World War is fought by superpowered women on the front lines and behind the scenes! It all begins with the stories of Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl.” (DC Comics)


Annnnnnd, that’s my list. Let’s see how this works out – I’m planning on continuing this challenge even when I am done! I am open to any and all recommendations – especially works by Asian/Asian-American writers and artists! If anyone would like to keep up with me and this challenge, follow me on other social media:

Twitter: @whaleesi
Instagram: @sambajuice

I’ll be using the hashtag #SamsSummerReading2k16. Or something. I’ll change it up.


*Monstress was highly recommended by my friend Ian. I purchased my copy at SDCC this year and got it signed by Liu and Takeda.

**Now that I think about it, a lot of the pairings I made were based on each book’s cover aesthetic.

BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two (SPOILERS)

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Based on an original story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Written by Jack Thorne

THE GIST: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Jack Thorne’s look at the Wizarding World 19 years after the events of J.K. Rowling’s Deathly Hallows, is essentially Harry Potter fan fiction. However, that doesn’t take away from how fun it is for the most part.

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

WARNING: VERY SPOILER-Y


If you told me several years ago that there would be an eighth Harry Potter book, I’d laugh in your face (and cry). However, here I am in 2016 writing a review for the eighth Harry Potter book while sipping on a kiwi-avocado smoothie in a juice shop by my house.

(God, sorry, that last bit sounded pretentious.)

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Fandemonium: San Diego Comic-Con 2016 & Lessons Learned (PART I)

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(There are going to be two parts because SO MANY THINGS HAPPENED.)

I had the absolute pleasure of attending Comic-Con for all four days (including Preview Night) this year. I only went on Thursday last year – so I knew going in that this was going to be an even more wild ride. I had to prepare a lot more for this con, so I did a lot of research. Tony B. Kim’s blog, Crazy4ComicCon was extremely helpful. His “10 Weird Things You Need Before Comic-Con” list was hilarious and gave great context to what I needed to expect going into this behemoth of a week.

PRE-CON PREP

Here’s a list of things I ended up bringing with me each day:

  1. A backpack
  2. An umbrella (ESPECIALLY necessary for times where you’re waiting in long lines in the sun)
  3. A foldable chair for hellish lines (there are many)
    *MTV gives tiny chairs out every year in easy-to-carry bags, so definitely head to their booth for this freebie next time!
  4. Bottled water/refillable water bottle (there are water fountains inside)
  5. Chapstick
  6. A ball cap/sun hat (protect your face!!)
  7. Cardigan/sweater for the evening
  8. Two portable phone chargers + cables
  9. Poster tube
  10. List of exclusives I wanted to buy on my phone (SDCC Unofficial Blog has a tab exclusively for…exclusives, lol.)

I looked at the programming schedule and the Toucan Blog (also a fantastic source for tips on how to survive the con) on the Comic-Con International website and used the official Comic-Con app to save information about the panels I wanted to go to! They also provide quick guides for each day at the Convention Center itself so you don’t have to use up your phone battery.

Here’s a breakdown of what happened each day:

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favorite things this week #3 – MUSIC EDITION

Hi there, folks, and welcome to another riveting episode of “My Favorite Things This Week!” I know, it’s been a while, and you probably forgot I started making these silly little lists last year. However, now that I have the time (bless) to enjoy things again, these lists will be coming back in full swing each week. This one is going to be short & sweet.

1. KAYE – “Honey”
I discovered Charlene Kaye’s music back in high school. I was at the peak of my Glee phase, and found her duet with Darren Criss, “Suit & Tie,” while looking for super obscure Darren songs and covers on YouTube. For the longest time, I wanted that song to be the tune I’d dance to on my first date with someone during a picnic under the stars…okay, TMI. Anyway, after that, I was immediately hooked on her music. She sort of took a hiatus from solo projects for a few years when she joined San Fermin as their lead singer, but recently released a brand new single. “Honey” is, to me, truly the song of the summer due to its infectious beats and empowering lyrics. The song has only been out for a few days now, but I’ve definitely blasted it in my car with the windows down multiple times. The queen is back, ladies and gentlemen.

(Other songs to check out: Woman Up (feat. Kalae Nouveau), Animal Love II, her cover of Beyonce’s “Rocket”)

2. Yuna – “I Wanna Go”
Yeah, I know, this song was released a few years ago. (Cue shouts of: “Sam, you’re late!”) Sue me. Why didn’t I discover Yuna’s perfection earlier on? I first heard of her through my friend Lena, who had attended one of her concerts in the Bay Area. Apparently, she had performed a Lemonade mash-up…and y’all know how much I love Queen Beyonce. I have yet to check out Yuna’s actual medley, but my friend’s Instagram post sparked my interest. Thanks, Lena!

3. Chloe x Halle – “Drop”
I’ve got Beyonce to thank for this. Two years ago, she posted a video of two sisters singing an absolutely beautiful cover of “Pretty Hurts” from her self-titled album. Now, Chloe x Halle are signed to her record company, Parkwood Entertainment, and have released their debut EP, Sugar Symphony. The contrast between their voices, and the way they blend so well is everything to me, and I can’t wait to see them continue to slay.

#WhitewashedOUT and the Importance of AAPI Representation

Here’s my first post for The Geeks of Color! So excited to be a contributor for them.

Geeks Of Color


By Sam
@whaleesi

May 5th saw the rise of #WhitewashedOUT, a hashtag campaign started by Margaret Cho, Ellen Oh, and The Nerds of Color. The purpose of the hashtag was, according to TNoC’s blog: “We want Hollywood studios, producers, and casting directors to stop casting white people in Asian roles – or any roles that should be filled by people of color.” This campaign rose on the heels of several casting announcements and trailer releases during April and the beginning of May (which is Asian-American & Pacific Islander [AAPI] Heritage Month).

On April 12th, the trailer for Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange was released, and waves of criticism arose over the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, who in the comics is traditionally a Tibetan man. According to the filmmakers, they scrubbed the characters’ Tibetan origins in fear of offending the Chinese government and losing their Chinese market

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Rejection is Okay: College Edition

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On a high school trip. Senior year.

In high school, I was constantly told by my peers, parents, and teachers that college was the “big leagues” – that huge leap towards #adulthood. Needless to say, application season was terrible – mostly because I attended a high school abroad with a staff that wasn’t too familiar with the mechanics of applying to schools in the United States. I applied for schools in California (several UCs, and private schools in L.A. and San Diego), and one in Michigan (UMich, to be exact. Yay, Wolverines! Darren Criss’ alma mater! No, really, he was part of the reason why I applied there, besides its fantastic English program. Damn it, 17 year-old Sami). College applications were expensive, tedious, and overall, just a major pain in the ass.

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In Defense of Rey: Star Wars’ New Heroine

WARNING: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens below. Proceed with caution.

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Greetings and salutations, fine readers! It has definitely been a while since my last post. I sort of blame school and my writer’s block – but I’m back! I hope your holidays were fun and full of adventure.

The last time I posted here was when The Force Awakens trailer was shown during Monday Night Football all those months ago. The film was finally released almost two weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to watch it on opening night (unfortunately not at 7PM because those tickets sold out like wildfire at my local theatres – but I did manage to see it at 9PM with one of my best friends)! The feeling of watching a Star Wars film with an incredibly enthusiastic bunch of people is exhilarating. Everyone cheered, clapped, and gasped at the same moments – from the Lucasfilm logo to the “Long time ago…” card all the way to the end credits. The world didn’t seem as big as usual for those two hours. The film was magical.

I ended up watching it three times* in theaters.

(More on that later.)

In the week and a half following the release of the film, many pieces picking the film apart have been published by various outlets and blogs. Many of them have provided great theories and character analyses. I’ve decided to jump into the fray and write my own piece about one of my favorite characters from the new trilogy: Rey.

(Here is where the spoilers start. Read at your own risk if you haven’t seen The Force Awakens!)

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New Year, New Changes

I made this post almost two years ago. I’m kind of feeling emotional right now, because I’m a senior(!!) now and before, I would have never spoken up in class/said my opinions out loud, but now it’s gotten to the point where that I’m the annoying kid who always sits in the front and blabs the answer. This is from my old blog (which I maintained before Sami Says).

EMPTY LITTLE SPACES

First of all, hello again, Empty Little Spaces! It’s been quite a while since my last post. I sort of slacked off during Winter Break and spent quite a bit of time with my good ol’ pal, Netflix, and my good friends up in Arendelle, Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Sven, and Kristoff…

(Yeah, I saw Frozen twice during the break. Call me obsessed. I’ll probably be making dumb little Frozen puns in the next few posts.)

Anyway, it’s a new year, and a new quarter at UCSD, and for the first time in forever (I PROMISE THAT WASN’T A FROZEN REFERENCE. This was unintentional, I swear), I feel like I’m going to enjoy all four of the classes I’m taking. Heck, I’ve had good schedules in the past, but this time, I truly feel like I’m going to really get into these courses! I’m taking How to Read a Film (for…

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Little Miss Star Wars

“SAM, STOP TALKING ABOUT STAR WARS!” Here’s why I like it so much.


I grew up on Star Wars. I was introduced to the saga in the fifth grade, a few months before Revenge of the Sith was due to be released in theaters. Needless to say, I was hooked. I collected newspaper clippings – most notably the front cover of The Stars & Stripes Pacific (I lived on a military base in Japan at the time), which featured Darth Vader’s face and the words “The End of a Trilogy”, or something like that.

When my dad bought the original trilogy on DVD, I held onto that gold little box like it was my life; this was something that was a part of me now. I watched the films over and over again and I always marveled at and admired the scene in A New Hope where Luke stares out at the twin suns of Tatooine, longing for adventure. Not long after I watched the saga, I roamed the hallways of my elementary school, breathing into my hand as if I were the notorious, black armored Sith Lord, spouting out phrases such as the iconic “Luke, I am your father…” and “…search your feelings, you know it to be true.” The films made me feel like I was on my own adventures; made me feel like I could shape my own life – which I eventually learned was a real life thing, the ability to choose your destiny. The films definitely sparked the imagination of this wide-eyed and idealistic 10 year-old.

I wanted a lightsaber so badly. (I never got one.)


I was introduced to the wonderful world of theatre in the fifth grade by my wonderful teacher, Mr. Cal Grossheusch (Mr. G!). I played the lead role, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, in a play he wrote with one of his friends, titled The Case of the Missing Nose (you can tell the entire plot from the title). I loved it; I loved being on stage. (It was at this point in my life that I realized I was also very much a lover of the spotlight, something I eventually grew out of.) Participating in a show for the first time inspired me to want to write my own plays.

Guess what I wanted to write first? A Star Wars play. I collaborated with the boys in my class (and one other girl), and as I was making the cast list, I remember stating that I really, really wanted to play Luke Skywalker. I wanted to fly an X-Wing fighter, wield a majestic lightsaber, and beat the bad guys. Of course, some of the other boys wanted to play Luke Skywalker. I fervently demanded that I play Luke, because little girls should be able to play kickass people.** I think I also wanted to play Leia, too (because she is literally the Queen of Everything). They were twins! However, we did eventually “assign” the role to the only other girl helping plan this out. Though the play was never written (teaching me a very valuable lesson about planning before executing), the idea and inspiration still stuck with me. I guess you can say that Star Wars (and Harry Potter, of course) was one of the reasons why I wanted to get into screenwriting in the first place, to give people the same inspiration I was given back then.


Revenge of the Sith came and went. I remember feeling such a rush watching it. It was the first time any new movie premiered on the Naval Base I lived on the same day it was released in the United States. The film was a big deal on base; all the showings were sold out, but my parents managed to get tickets for an afternoon showing. I cried when I watched Obi-Wan and Anakin fight. I felt chills when Darth Vader broke out of the binds on his gurney, mourning the loss of Padme (who deserved so much more – but that is for another post, another time).

The void after the film was released was so real. I immersed myself in the extended universe after that, occasionally reading articles on Wookiepedia to get up to speed on what Disney would eventually consider non-canonical.


Tonight, I watched the trailer for Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I felt oddly nervous and excited at the same time; for the past few months I’ve been going crazy, looking for news and new footage to fawn about to tide myself over before the film is released this December. When the first trailer premiered during the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim this year, I was beside myself in the Student Union, flailing and flapping my arms everywhere, attempting to suppress my excitement in public. Tonight was no different; I rushed home as soon as I heard the trailer was released and watched it on the projector my apartment-mate rented from the university library.

I won’t say too much about the trailer itself – it’s something you have to experience, especially if you are a die-hard Star Wars fan (well you probably watched it about 50,000,000 times by the time you’ve stumbled upon this article if you are a die-hard fan). It is definitely an awakening, no, a re-awakening, a herald for fans to fly back to that galaxy far, far, away. Everything looks so real, and it truly does feel like the Star Wars universe, lightyears better than what Lucas tried to provide with the prequels.

I felt like I was that ten year old who wanted a lightsaber and to be Luke Skywalker again; the ten year-old who held the original trilogy box set in my hands for the first time. With my heart racing, hands flailing, chills running down my spine, endorphins filling up every fiber of my being; I can safely say that “Chewie, we’re home.”

(However, the question still stands: where is Luke Skywalker?)

TL;DR: I really love Star Wars. I am a big nerd. Please watch Daisy Ridley (who is playing Rey in TFA) crying over the trailer on the Facebook. Then you will see how I feel. I still need a lightsaber.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released on December 18th, 2015, and December 17th in select cinemas.

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FOOTNOTES:
** – This was probably the birth of Feminist!Sami. You can also say it was when I wanted to be Ash Ketchum when my friends and I pretended we were in the Pokemon world when I was in kindergarten/the first grade.

***ALSO, I’M SORRY BUT I’M CRYING OVER THIS I LOVE HAN AND LEIA SO MUCH.

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Deconstructing “The Force Awakens” Poster & More

Earlier today, the Star Wars gods decided to grace us with a new gift: the latest Force Awakens poster. And, of course, with a new poster comes many, many questions. Created by the universe’s longtime artist, Drew Struzan, the poster features an array of characters, new and old. Check it out below:

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*sings the beginning of “Circle of Life” and raises poster up to the sky*

Now that you’ve gotten a better look at it, let’s deconstruct this thing.

1. Rey and Kylo Ren

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bro please

It makes me incredibly happy to see Rey (Daisy Ridley) right in the middle – seeing another woman lead the saga alongside Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa sends a really powerful message: women have always kicked ass in the galaxy far, far away. One thing that is super interesting about the positioning of Rey’s staff is that it directly aligns with Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) lightsaber. In the past few months, there have been many fan theories floating around concerning the possibility of Kylo and Rey being siblings (with Han and Leia being their ~separated~ parents [please, no, no, no, I would rather fall into the Sarlacc Pit than to see them split up]). I, for one, am totally on board with this, and the fact that Rey and Kylo Ren are facing the same exact way, weapons all lined up speaks volumes. Or, it just makes really good, symmetric art.

2. #FindLukeSkywalker2k15
Okay, where the heck is Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)? His character’s role in Episode VII has been a mystery for a long time – we only get a voiceover from Hamill himself (ha, ha, Twitter pun intended) in the film’s teaser trailers, but we’ve never gotten a proper glimpse of him…well, unless this IS him, robot hand and all (I’m pretty sure this is him).

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It is pretty jarring to not see Luke on a Star Wars poster, especially on a film where he is featured. He wasn’t even on the last poster that was released – that one heavily featured my main man, Han Solo. Weird, huh? After talking with my good friend Hannah (who is also blogging about this crazy poster), we came up with our own theory that Luke may be on some “damn fool idealistic crusade” (to quote Obi-Wan in A New Hope) to restart and reform the Jedi Order, and that Finn may be a part of that.  And on that note, let’s talk about Finn and his lightsaber!

3. Finn’s Lightsaber
I am a fervent believer of the fact that Finn’s (John Boyega) lightsaber might be the one that Luke dropped while fighting Vader on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. It definitely has the same make (from what we can see of the hilt…in some angles), and obviously, the same color. But the question is: where did he get it from?

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How on earth did young Finn come across this lightsaber? When we first see him, he wakes up in the middle of Jakku in a First Order Stormtrooper uniform. I am trying to connect the dots here: in the second teaser trailer, Leia is given a lightsaber. Is it the one that Luke lost? Or is Luke lost himself? Was this lightsaber given to Finn by Leia after Luke supposedly goes missing? So many questions, and so many names! In the screenshot above, he is also fighting Kylo Ren. Did he have some form of training before this…from Luke? Will Luke be his Obi-Wan (but not die please)? We’ll see when the film is released in December!

NOTE: *We also know that Leia is Force-sensitive from Empire and ROTJ, so the lightsaber given to her might be hers. (Please, I need some extended universe stuff, PLEASE.)

4. That’s No Moon…

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THAT’S NO MOOOOOOOOON.

That’s (probably) some sort of space station! The giant sphere thing hovering behind Rey and Finn looks strangely like another Death Star. While I love the little nostalgic bits we’ve been given so far, I’m kind of not on board with having another Death Star-like object. However, while scrolling through Twitter during the madness, I saw someone suggest that as the poster is essentially split into the Dark Side/Light Side, as the Death Star Thing is on Rey and Finn’s side, it might be a…good thing? Then again, you can note that Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) is dead center on the poster, supposedly on the “light” side under where Rey and Kylo Ren’s weapons line up. It would be an interesting twist to see it on the Resistance’s side…but also a weird question of morality. If it is a planet-destroying object and is on the “Light” side, is it good? Oooh.

5. That One Character Next to R2 and C3PO

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At first, I thought: DOBBY? IS THAT YOU? No, it definitely isn’t Dobby. Come on, Sam, this is the Star Wars world. Some say that this little character might be female pirate, Maz Kanata, who will be played by the beautiful and extremely talented Lupita Nyong’o. Kanata looks very mini but mighty. I mean, she owns her own palace.

6. “I love you.” “I know…maybe.” 

Finally, a picture of the galaxy’s favorite couple, Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher). I love Han and Leia a lot.

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For some reason, both of them look like they are from two different worlds, despite getting together at the end of Return of the Jedi. Of course, this can be attributed to the fact that Han likes his comfortable clothes and would definitely hate being in some sort of fancy getup. Leia looks very regal and wonderful (THAT HAIR, THOUGH). I’m sort of scared that something definitely happened between ROTJ and The Force Awakens, causing the two to drift apart. Some are saying that Kylo Ren and Rey could be their kids as Rey looks awfully like she could be the granddaughter of Padme Amidala. Maybe something happened that forced them all to split up? Is that why this film brings them back together? When Leia is seen in the SD Comic-Con behind the scenes video, she is wearing stuff one would wear on a mission, kind of close to what Han would wear. I’m assuming they team up and find the Millennium Falcon and are “home” again. (Maybe they find the Falcon at Maz Kanata’s place?)


Those are definitely my biggest questions and theories. I think the poster looks fantastic, despite its little flaw: where in the Galaxy is Luke Skywalker? There are a few things that should be questioned and noted as well, aside from the main stuff above:

  • What exactly will Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) role be?
  • Where is Domnhall Gleeson’s General Hux?
  • Where is Luke Skywalker?
  • Did Kylo Ren make that lightsaber itself? It doesn’t have the proper, fluid energy flow that Finn’s obviously has. It looks like a makeshift one. Could he be some sort of Jedi/Sith fanatic?
  • WHERE IS LUKE SKYWALKER?
  • Also, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma: yes.
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pew pew pew

So much is going on in one poster. I guess we’ll get the answers to these questions and more when the film is released in December. If you have any fun theories, sound them off in the comments below! Now, I have to go do homework and laundry. May the Force Be With You!