Interview: Jim Rugg On The Making And Process Of OCTOBRIANA 1976

Jim Rugg is a man of many hats in the comics/cartoon community. He’s been a teacher, designer and illustrator. He is the co-creator, with Brian Maruca, of Afrodisiac and Street Angel, He also illustrated the young adult series the PLAIN Janes, written by Cecil Castellucci. And of course, he is one-half of Cartoonist Kayfabe.

Jim recently embarked on a new comics project, Octobriana 1976, that he launched through Kickstarter. He was cool enough to take some time and talk to us here at Monkeys Fighting Robots all about it.

Octobriana 1976

Monkeys Fighting Robots: So let’s jump right into your project, Octobriana 1976. Tell our readers a bit about the project.
Jim Rugg: Octobriana 1976 is the world’s 1st blacklight comic book. It’s printed with fluorescent ink and will look like no other comic ever! Super bright colors. Octobriana is an outlaw Russian underground superhero from the 1960s. She was created to fight Soviet oppression and is the spirit of the October Revolution. Sort of. Actually, she comes from a book called Octobriana and the Russian Underground (1971) – but it turned out that her story was a hoax! In any event, she was a public domain superhero and a few cartoonists started using her in their comics – notably Bryan Talbot in The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. In my book, she and the PPP (Progressive Political Pornography group) have to stop Robot Stalin from using his new Doomsday Device. It’s an action comedy in the vein of Mike Mignola’s Amazing Screw-On Head, but with some weird psychedelic, 1970s style. 

MFR: Octobriana is almost a sort of mythical, modern character. Where did you first hear about her and what made you want to make the comic?
Rugg: I first read about her in a book about weird comics by Paul Gravett. I LOVE weird comics and it caught my eye so I tracked down the book, Octobriana and the Russian Underground (1971), and fell in love with it and the character. She definitely has a mythical, modern quality and that’s special. Few characters achieve such stature and because she’s public domain, cartoonists can use her as this big, iconic superwoman! I wanted to use her almost immediately. The public domain characteristic is interesting and her appearance is very striking graphically. 

MFR: Any particular comics, artists or stories that inspired your approach to Octobriana?
Rugg: There’s a bunch of badass, sexy comics characters like Pravda by Guy Peallart, Barbarella, Phoebe Zeitgeist, and then there are a number of visuals that inspired what I’ve done like Charles Burns’ Black Hole. That whole book looks like a blacklight poster! The comics of Richard Corben are also very psychedelic and left an impression on me. Ben Marra is another cartoonist who influenced me on this book. I actually made a video where I show off a few books and artists that directly influenced Octobriana 1976:

MFR: So with the black light coloring. How early on in the process did you know this would be a factor?
Rugg:  knew it from the beginning. I had plans to make a blacklight comic book for over a year. I spent a lot of time writing stories or writing parts of stories to try to find a story that I felt fit the blacklight visual style. As I was writing Octobriana 1976, I was thinking about how it would look as a blacklight comic book. People who follow my work know that I bounce around stylistically. I try to make adjustments to my style to get the best out of the story. Octobriana 1976

MFR: How did coloring for black lights change your approach to creating the page? Did it change the way you look at color use? Were there special paints/markers that made it different physically?
Rugg: I built a palette at the very beginning because I knew the inks I wanted to use in the printing process. I describe it almost like the 8 pack of crayons we had as little kids – but an LSD neon version! So the palette was unique compared to other projects I’ve done. The other art choice is to use a lot of black ink. When I did Street Angel: Deadliest Girl Alive (Image, 2019), the book is very bright and colorful without too much black. For a blacklight poster or comic, black is almost like the most dominant color on the page. That creates a very different look. Definitely it changed my approach to the page and drawing style and tools. 

MFR: You have been extremely successful with the Kickstarter for this project. What exactly led you to take this route for publishing? And has it changed on how you will approach publishing, in general, going forward?
Rugg: I’ve been interested in Kickstarter for a while. Like experimenting with style, I’m also interested in experimenting with publishing, distribution, and connecting my comics to readers. For this project, I planned on publishing it and taking it to comic conventions. I had a lot of conventions planned for this year because I had 2 big graphic novels come out in late 2019 and early 2020 – Street Angel: Deadliest Girl Alive and The PLAIN Janes. I thought I’d make Octobriana 1976 and surprise everyone at these shows with a new, wild-looking comic book! When Covid-19 shut down the conventions and comic book stores, I pivoted to Kickstarter. It seemed like a perfect fit for a crowdfunder. Going forward, I will definitely consider Kickstarter in my future plans. We plan to sell Octobriana 1976 to the Direct Market too. So there’s a long sales cycle ahead of us and I’m curious to see how Kickstarter impacts that. I think it’s been a great way to promote the book in addition to selling copies. And I think there are people who buy things on Kickstarter that don’t have a local comic shop and I think there are comic shop patrons that don’t back Kickstarters. So I view it as another option and method of connecting my comics to readers. I hope it will ultimately help me and comic shops sell more books as a result of raising awareness of the book. 

MFR: So give us some details on the Kickstarter campaign. What are the goodies we are gonna get, I am a backer so I want to know personally haha.
Rugg: There are a few that I’m really proud of!

  1. Octobriana 1976 blacklight comic book! This is the big one. Printed with fluorescent ink, this comic book should look incredible! 
  2. Blacklight screen print posters. These planted the idea in my brain. I love screen prints and posters so grab one or ten of these! They will look so cool on your wall!!!
  3. Digital (PDF) and limited edition comics. I created 3 different versions of PDFs of the comic – NEON, RETRO, and BLACK+WHITE. This is the base REWARD so $5 gets you all 3 versions! I’m also doing limited print editions of the RETRO and BLACK+WHITE comic books for those who love print (like me!). 
  4. Digital (PDF) PROCESS ZINE. It’s 180 pages!!! Notes, script, sketches, original art scans (like an Artist Edition) – if you love process and director commentary and want to see how I made Octobriana 1976 – you’re gonna love this thing! It’s a MONSTER of a zine and comes with every pledge of $10 or more. Octobriana 1976

MFR: Do you think you’ll do more Octobriana stories?
Rugg: Maybe. I have another one I’d like to do…but we’ll see. I am booked pretty solidly into 2021 and by then, I’ll be someone else.

MFR: The Kickstarter ends soon right? Any idea when you will have the book out in the wild?
Rugg: I hope to have copies in July and start fulfillment in early August. 

MFR: Will it be available outside of those who backed in on Kickstarter?
Rugg: Yes. It will go through Diamond to Comic Shops. And eventually, it will be available online from me, from AdHouse Books, and probably from comic booksellers. 

MFR: Well thanks again, Jim! I look forward to getting Octobriana 1976!
Rugg: Thanks, Manny!Octobriana 1976

You can back Octobriana 1976 here! And make sure to follow Jim on Instagram and Twitter. 

Manuel Gomez
Manuel Gomez
Assistant Comic Book Editor. Manny has been obsessed with comics since childhood. He reads some kind of comic every single day. He especially loves self-published books and dollar bin finds. 'Nuff said!