She could be described as a mix of Wonder Woman, Mata Hari, “Killing Eve’s” Villanelle and Foxy Brown. This “Devil-Woman” might have a little Viking in there as well.
With “outlaw superhero” Octobriana, much is uncertain. But know this: She’s been popular for decades. Billy Idol wears a tattoo of her on his arm. It’s been reported that David Bowie hoped to make a film about her once.
This summer, the radiation-charged hero is getting a new, literally brilliant story, and a lot of people are excited.
Glenshaw, Pa.’s Jim Rugg, an Eisner Award-winning artist whose works include writing and drawing titles such as “Street Angel,” “Afrodisiac” and “Plain Janes,” has completed what he believes to be the world’s first fluorescent blacklight comic book, “Mtsyry: Octobriana 1976.”
A Kickstarter campaign running through June 18 set out to raise $5,000. As of this week, it was over the $68,203 mark.
“I’m surprised, a little bit, because I have no experience with Kickstarter and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Rugg. “But I’m pretty proud of this concept and I think it’s an easy thing for people to wrap their heads around.
“Even if you’re not particularly interested in comic books, you might be interested from an art point of view. So I believed it had legs.”
Rugg worked with Chris Pitzer, who founded independent publisher Adhouse Books. They were at a comics festival in France last year when the question was raised on a panel: Why hadn’t anyone written a blacklight comic?
Rugg chose to feature Octobriana for several reasons. She was out in the public domain following a somewhat complicated history. As the story goes, she began appearing in 1960s nonfiction as a figure of the Progressive Political Pornography party, a group of dissident Russian artists led by a Czech named Petr Sadecky.
Except, she wasn’t real. Sadecky’s 1971 “documentation” — a book titled “Octobriana and the Russian Underground” — was later debunked as a hoax. Sadecky appears to have stolen the artwork from other artists. The hero’s history was itself a myth.
This left artists such as Rugg free to create their own stories for her because she is in the public domain.
“Mtsyry: Octobriana 1976” is high-concept. The story goes something like this: American underground cartoonists, in solidarity with their Russian comrades, create their own Octobriana comic book.
One of the characters is “Robot Stalin.” He’s got a doomsday bomb. Octobriana must come to the rescue.
Rugg, whose work includes other strong women characters, said he appreciates pop culture’s more recent embrace of Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, even Buffy Summers.
“Now comics have really grown, where we have all kinds of creators … all kinds of readers beyond what had been the generation of just 35-year-old men.”
Octobriana brings something different to the drafting table. She’s not for kids: The woman is scantily clad and there is violence and an R-rated level of sexual content.
But she stands for revolution in the mid-1970s, an age when Mother Russia and her people were rife with conflict.
Rugg said that there’s much to be applied to present-day America.
“I like the concept that revolution can be ‘do something about what you’re unhappy about.’ It does not mean (violent) revolution, necessarily, but ‘go volunteer at a food bank’ or ‘create awareness in this thing that you’re interested in.’”
Octobriana, he added, “is this larger-than-life character but she’s also reflective of people who are unhappy with the status quo.”
Of course, some might say it is “just” a comic book. But subversion finds many forms. Growing up in Connellsville, Rugg said, he sketched his own comics and was drawn to the dark works by Jack Kirby (Marvel), Frank Miller (“Batman: Year One,” “Sin City”) and the collection of artists working on Image Comics.
In plotting his mind-boggling, underground fluorescent comic, it made sense to tell a story set in the 1970s, when Cold War Russia was a big theme and rock posters were groovy with blinding colors.
“Part of the reason I am making one is because I can’t understand why someone else has not,” Rugg said. He said he was inspired by the underground comics found in head shops, printed by the cartoonists themselves.
“Many of them made these cool rock posters where you’d see the blacklight process.”
Rugg’s background is in design and print production. His work on screen prints laid the groundwork for blacklight posters, where the color separations are a tricky process.
“Most comics, if they’re printed in color, are cyan, yellow, magenta and black,” he said. “What I have done is replaced the cyan, magenta and yellow with fluorescent blue, pink and (fluorescent) yellow.”
In a world without red, what color is blood? It could be hot pink, or maybe even black, depending on the palette, he said.
Like many art forms in a digital age, the process has evolved.
“It really gives the cartoonist a lot of power. It would have been harder to make this a couple of decades ago because now one person can make the whole project and deliver it to the printer.”
“Mtsyry: Octobriana 1976” goes cover-to-cover, a 26-page story. For those not involved in the Kickstarter, the book will be available through Rugg’s web site, AdHouse Books and eventually through direct market comics distributors.
Some people climb mountains because they’re there. In Rugg’s case, he wanted to read something that wasn’t.
“I love to do a lot of weird stuff, and it always stems from something I’m looking for, but can’t find.
“So I try to make it myself.”
— Maria Sciullo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette