Octobriana Hammer by John R. Short and Andrew Richmond
Octobriana is a concept that I have been vaguely aware of for a while. A cheesecake she-dragon who is a kind of communist Vampirella. There is an interesting two page history of the character included in the book. She is a samizdat superheroine, supposedly smuggled from underground groups in the former Soviet Union who were presumably parodying Stalinism. But turns out it was something of a fake, there was no underground dissident group, although our heroine was created by a Czech creator – Czechoslovakia being part of the Warsaw Pact of course. The character ended up as open source (long story) and went on to feature in the likes of 2000 A.D and Luthor Arkwright.
This incarnation sees writer John R Short and artist Andrew Richmond try their hand at the character. This time a bit of Hammer horror has been added to the mix. Octobriana and her sidekick American Brave are lured to a strange land. Mystic forces are blocking their return and they set out to find the cause of their peril. They find themselves in a land populated with familiar faces from 70’s movies like Dracula or Frankenstein. Our heroes encounter a variety of two dimensional peasant maids and terrifying monsters. Ultimately battling zombie versions of historical and current Russians including Rasputin, Vladimir Putin and Stalin.
It’s Baba Yaga – Legendary Russian Snake-Witch and Baby Eater! The sow owes me five hundred roubles.
This incarnation of Octobriana is heavy on the horror nostalgia and light on the communist ostalgie. I’d like to think that the decapitation of a zombie Stalin with a sickle is a comment on the atrophying nature of the bureaucracy in a deformed workers state and the need for political revolution to sweep them aside. But it probably isn’t. This is fun, daft stuff. Does it makes sense to reference the Salisbury poisonings when fighting zombie Putin? No idea, and best not to think too hard about it.
The art is black and white throughout, which gives it the feel of an old British reprint of some Hammer or Marvel monsters comics, which I liked. It also lends an underground feel which is in keeping with the tradition of the character.
Octobriana is an interesting character and whilst this outing was a bit light for my tastes, it is fun stuff for the soviet-kitsch hammer horror fan in your life.