When writer Steve Orlando contacted Robot 6 about his 88-page graphic novel, Octobriana: Samizdat Edition (Poseur Ink), I was intrigued for a number for a reasons. First off, Orlando tapped artist Chaz Truog (Grant Morrison’s collaborator on his definitive Animal Man run) for the project. Also, of interest to me, was the Russian history aspect; SAMIZDAT, the underground Soviet movement for spreading censored art and literature and best of all, a character born partially from a pop culture hoax. Once interested, of course, I arranged an email interview and we discussed all of these topics and more.
Tim O’Shea: At the outset, for uninformed readers like myself, can you discuss SAMIZDAT- the underground Soviet movement for spreading censored art and literature?
Steve Orlando: Samizdat (which means “self-making” or “self-made” in Russian) was an underground publishing movement during the harshest times of Soviet repression. It’s best summed up by Vladimir Bukovsky, a doctor and writer that exposed psychological torture against Soviet prisoners- “(…) I myself create it, edit it, censor it, publish it, distribute it, and …get imprisoned for it. (…)” With Samizdat, banned documents were printed in secret and passed hand to hand between readers, under the radar. Because the documents were censored by the government, Samizdat was a dangerous movement, its printers were social and political zealots. But it was also extremely important- works such as Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” were among the circulated texts…making the movement responsible for the continued growth and expression of Russian literature. These were dedicated people- sometimes even recreating the texts word for word by hand or by typewriter.