came across the odd story of octobriana, a comic book heroine best described as a sort of gun-toting socialist wonder woman from behind the iron curtain, her name referring to the october revolution, who was let loose on the western world in the early 70’s. the character herself is no great shakes (violence and tits, vengeance with a gun and a grimace, nothing we haven’t seen a million times before) but the origin of the character is pretty fascinating in that it centers on a whacky underground soviet resistance movement which itself has since been widely regarded as a literary hoax.
the story is thought to be the concoction of a czech émigré by the name of petr sadecky, who in 1971 approached the British publisher Tom Stacey Ltd with materials for a book he titled: octobriana and the russian underground. the book’s origin story no doubt added a subtext and weight to the otherwise run-of-the-mill comic. it goes essentially as follows:
in the late 1950’s, an underground dissident group calling themselves the PP, for Progressive Politics, forms behind the iron curtain. kruschev’s notion of de-stalinization was a guiding principle, for though they held the ideals of the revolution close to their hearts, they despised the oppression and totalitarianism of the Stalin years. They attended Komsomol meetings (the Communist Youth League), and publishing anti-Stalinist leaflets and manifestos.
by 1960 the PP became disillusioned, realizing they could never change the status quo, they decided to withdraw into isolation. After a period of dabbling with philosophies of passive resistance like Buddhism the PP began to investigate free love. soon after they morphed into the PPP, the progressive political pornography group. In an era when the representation of sex was taboo the PPP devoted itself to utilizing ‘obscenity’ as a means to voice their growing discontent with the Communist system.
this new group were organized into cells across the ussr and kept in touch by a secret samizdat publication called mtsyry. evidently their main activities included getting drunk, speaking out against the Soviet authorities, having orgies (sometimes they watched girls perform striptease acts in front of a portrait of Lenin, to the strains of The Internationale), and most importantly creating comics strips about their symbolic heroine octobriana.
quote: Octobriana is presented as a wild, savage warrior woman. Long blonde hair, tied-back in a high pony-tail by a leopard’s tail. Her large breasts barely hidden by a skimpy silk-scarf with tight snake-skin slacks and cowboy boots. She has, what appears to be, a live snake around her wrist. Her facial features suggest that she maybe of Mongolian or Chinese in origin. Her eyebrows meet in the middle and above them she wears a large red star on her forehead. Fighting with a Smith-Wesson revolver and a wavy, kriss dagger. Her name was said to mean The Spirit Of The October Revolution!
they did so under the the collective pen-name of ‘Roy Pavel Drakov’ as they would have been “packed off to forced labour camps in Siberia” were they caught. under such threat and pressure the popularization of octobriana, in the east let alone the west, would seem unlikely. which brings us back to petr sadecky. evidently when he escaped to the West he manage to smuggled out some copies of the Octobriana strips.
efforts to authenticate Sadecky’s claims were supposedly made but it’s tough to confirm the existence of a secret underground organization back there behind the iron curtain! so in the end, having to take sadecky at his word, or more likely not giving a crap / recognizing some good p.r. when they see it, the strips, along with their fantastic stories of origin were published in britain, the united states, and west germany.
almost immediately after publication another version of octobrina’s origin came to light.
quote: A conflicting version put about by Reima Mäkinen of Finland, still included Sadecky, but in a quite different light. Reima claimed Sadecky asked the Czechoslovakian artists (Bohumil Konecny, Sdneck Burian and Milos Novak) to create an adventure strip for him, called Amazona. As soon as they had done so, it is alleged, Sadecky scarpered to England with their work, where he copied their work and sold it as Octobriana.
ouch. so, far from being a member of some dissident underground group, resisting stalinism and embracing sex under threat of imprisonment, sadecky was actually an all too average shyster who stole the whole thing from his comrades and repackaged it? no! how very un-idealistic!
the story in some ways ends there because rather than defending himself history notes that shortly after octobriana and the russian underground was published, sadecky vanished without a trace.
in fact octobriana’s story does not end there at all because an integral part of sadecky’s origin tale dealt with the “true communist” ideals of the ppp. he’d explained that the ppp did not believe in the private ownership of ideas and thus octobriana was meant to be part of the public domain.
so essentially even though his claims on the whole were never corroborated, and were actually challenged directly by other possible creators, the character of octobriana has never the less remained in the public domain just as he’d suggested. strips featuring the character (as well as a film) have continued to crop up to this day.
in a way the character of octobriana might literally be thought of as the very first creative commie.
lastly, for those of you thinking, “pointless post! i’ve never heard of her. why indulge such silly and oblique arcana?!” i offer this weighty evidence of octobriana’s true permanence!
anyhow, all info for this post was taken from the following sources:
the few viawable pages at octobriana.org.
this page titled icon or myth.
and john a. short’s essay the origin of octobriana.
for further reading check out the 3 part Octobriana a ruský underground which covers far more ground than my little snippet here.