Monday, May 3, 2010

Octobriana: From Russia, With Love

In 1971, Petr Sadecky published the book Octobriana and the Russian Underground. The book claimed to detail the actions of a group of dissident artists called Progressive Political Pornography operating in the Soviet Union. According to Sadecky, the PPP created a series of comics featuring the heroic Octobriana, a sort of Russian Barbarella, who would fight for the Russian people (and "true communist values") against an oppressive Stalinist government. She oozed Western sexuality with her Brigitte Bardot figure and her mane of blond hair, apparently in direct conflict to Soviet sexual mores. And she rocked the world's tiniest bandeau as she battled such foes as the giant radioactive walrus.

It's a cool story. Unfortunately, it's probably a load of horse hooey. Signs point toward Sadecky as the true creator of Octobriana. He allegedly contracted a pair of Czech artists to create comics around a character named "Amazonia," then absconded to the UK with their artwork. He added a red star to Amazonia's forehead, rewrote the text, and thus Octobriana was born.

But as a character, Octobriana proved more powerful than Sadecky's hoax. Sadecky claimed that the PPP created Octobriana to be a character who belonged to no one, and therefore to everyone, and she turned out to be just that. She was never copyrighted, and a host of other artists have used her both in comics and in film as a savage socialist superheroine.

Now Poseur Ink is putting out a fresh Octobriana story, this one with a more mystical spin. Writer Steve Orlando has created a new back story for the Russian beauty. In this version, Octobriana is a newborn goddess of passion, cursed by her first lover to walk the mortal world until she earns her godhood through seven labors. Each labor must prove that she understands humanity. She still has her trademark blond hair, her voluptuous figure, and that leopard's tail tied in her hair, but this Octobriana's very being is in direct opposition to the version of Russia where she finds herself. Where the regime desires sex for procreation, she encourages the passion of lovers. Where the regime is atheistic, she is divine. Where the regime seeks scientific weapons, she counters with mysticism. All this comes into play when Liuba -- a captive telepath based on a supposed "real life" Soviet telepath -- unleashes a powerful plague on Russia, one that causes the orgasmic to try and kill their lovers.

Poseur Ink was kind enough to give me a peak at the first issue of Octobriana: The Case of the Contagious Brain, and I'll admit that I'm intrigued. Government-held superbeings and secret sex parties are a nice way to start off a story, and the interior cover, showing Octobriana's friend and lover Misha gripping the legs of a battle-ready Octobriana, suggests an inversion of certain pulp tropes. And it will interesting to see how Octobriana, who by her nature has an immense capacity for love, goes about kicking butt. Orlando also claims that we'll see some lesser-known aspects of Soviet life throughout the book.

Plus, there's lots of sexy art from Chaz Truog (of Grant Morrison's Animal Man run). Oh, and this is a strictly NSFW book.

If you'd like to help Octobriana get off the ground and into print, Poseur Ink has set up a Kickstarter page to raise funds for the trade paperback. In the meantime, check out The Webcomic Beacon's podcast interview with Orlando and the Octobriana site for a preview of the first issue.

Octobriana [Poseur Ink]


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