In Review: Octobriana – The Underground History

Octobriana: The Underground History - Cover

By John A. Short
Publisher: Kult Creations
Format: 120 pages long. A signed, numbered, limited edition of 300. Colour/Black & white
Price: £9.99 UK

The Book:  This lavishly illustrated book features the full story behind cult, underground, communist superheroine – Octobriana. Revealing the full story behind the 1971 book Octobriana and the Russian Underground that introduced her to the world, this new book offers a detailed examination of all her comic and drama appearances since – from Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright through the David Bowie and Billy Idol connections and her 2003 live action movie to the present day. Also including a new full colour comic strip featuring Octobriana’s full origin story written by John A. Short and illustrated by Gabby Noble. Also, brand new and exclusive Octobriana illustrations by Neil Edwards (Doctor Who: Four Doctors), Hunt Emerson (Calculus Cat), Vincent Danks (Harker) and Lew Stringer (Brickman). A wrapped in a new cover by artist Simon Breeze.

Warning: Octobriana is an underground comix character and as such this book is not for the easily offended.

Octobriana and the Russian Underground

The Review: The more obscure the band in certain areas of music the cooler they are. The underground, crazy named and most importantly obscure horror movies are also considered cool. Right?  So, a character called Octobriana that is out of copyright, and has appeared intermittently over the last five decades in comics and movies. has got to be worth a look.

“She is the Russian Devil-Woman. The free thinking Communist Hero with a red star tattooed on her forehead. Not copyrighted to any individual and free for anyone to use.”

To say that this character has a shady background is an understatement and the writer of Octobriana: The Underground History, John A. Short, has put together a interestingly compiled case for both the defence and the prosecution.  He has also drafted in some great creators to add strips, illustrations and pin-ups to the project.

 

Octobriana: Mtsyry Promo 2
This book is rich in the history of comics writer Sadecky, the artists he allegedly stole from and the history and detailed use of the character since.

Octobriana herself is a mono browed, violent, anarchic, sexually charged character. Stories seemingly go off in crazy angles and twists. My personal favourite anecdote in the book tells how Octobriana is captured by Nazis in World War II (did I mention there is a lot of time travelling)  and defeats them by using the grenades she had smuggled into the base in her — well, for younger readers of downthetubes, we’ll gloss over that one. Older readers can buy the book and find out.

Octobriana has been used in comics many times. I think my exposure to her came through the Bryan Talbot mini series The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, and she even appears in the Big Finish audio adventures release from 2005 that stars (pre Doctor Who) David Tennant. Talbot had a handle on this aggressive and sexually predatory character, although using her minimally she is straightforward and teeth grittingly violent at the drop of a hat.

Octobriana: Terror Promo Copy

She has been used and featured by writers and artists across the comics industry. Trina Robbins wrote about her in Womanthology:Heroic in 2011 and  the currently red-hot writer Steve Orlando used her in the mini series Octobriana: Samizdat in 2010. The character Mother Russia in Kick Ass 2 (the movie and the comics mini series) seems to have a little of the sexually muscled Octobriana in her appearance… possibly.

Octobriana: Wonder Machine

This book not only features the history of the character, art from all areas of her use but also a new comic story from Short with art by Gabrielle Noble. This is a story that features sex, violence, body morphing, killer robots, superhumans and Kim Jong Un’s weiner! A darkly humorous underground styled romp, this only goes to further impress the style and use of Octobriana over the years.

For lovers of comics history and the crazy world of the 1960s and 1970s this is well worth a few quid (it’s actually only £9.99 for 120 pages) and a good few hours of your time.

• You can grab a copy from Kult Creations, a Bournemouth based small press publisher at www.kultcreations.blogspot.com

Read my interview with John A. Short about the project here

Many thanks for reading.

Antony Esmond

Antony Esmond

Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer - his hips don't lie.

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