Octobriana first came to light in 1971, when she stepped out from behind the Iron Curtain as the subject of a book by Petr Sadecky. The author claimed that Octobriana was the first free-thinking Communist superhero, created by an anti-establishment, covert organisation. It's an origin story worthy of any crimefighter, yet you'd be forgiven if you hadn't heard of this Russian ‘devil-woman’.
Writer John A. Short seeks to remedy this and, with publishers Kult Creations, has released Octobriana – The Underground History. Short starts with the controversy behind Sadecky’s original book, then continues to chart Octobriana’s appearances through the decades; not just in comic books from around the world but in films, audio dramas and even as a tattoo on a rock star’s arm. As a public domain property she's had many incarnations, from Amazon-style warrior to exotic dancer, and Short takes us through all of them without being judgemental or overbearing in his opinions.
It's an intriguing read, and Short’s passion for his subject is infectious; his writing style that of a conversation rather than a factual textbook. He's clearly enjoyed working on this book, something which comes across not only in his text but in the comic strip at the end. It's an amusing and irreverent romp – certainly not for the easily offended – that captures the essence of the character that Short has spent the previous seventy pages telling us about. The artwork assembled ranges from the sublime to the sketchy, yet all have their place in the history of this character who, once seen, is never forgotten.
The book does, however, have its flaws. Early on, there are some spelling and grammatical errors that stick out like sore thumbs, and the layout on some of the pages appears haphazard at first glance. That said, it does give the book a certain look, making it reminiscent of the underground publications that are its topic and inspiration.
At the time of writing, there isn't a distribution deal for this book, which is a shame as it’s both entertaining and fascinating from start to finish, whether the subject is the character herself or the real people involved in her creation. Signed and numbered limited editions suggest an initially small release, which may see Short’s Underground History destined to become a cult classic in its own right, appreciated later rather than sooner.
OCTOBRIANA: THE UNDERGROUND HISTORY / AUTHOR: JOHN A. SHORT / PUBLISHER: KULT CREATIONS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW