Anatomy of a Pinup: Octobriana 1976


As a cartoonist with regular weekly deadlines and commitments to other projects, taking time to draw just for myself is something I struggle with the most. What’s helped me in this regard, though, is the realization that art done for “fun” also provides an opportunity to experiment and exercise muscles not flexed with your usual projects. I wrote earlier about a pinup of the classic arcade game Joust I recently did for an art auction to benefit a game bar; in that case, it was a good excuse to try a new brush pen not in my usual toolbelt. In another pinup, I traded my usual politicians for quirky Big Two characters of different body types—like Plastic Man, Howard the Duck, and Groot—to experiment with more classic comic subjects and anatomy. This week, I set some time aside to pay tribute to Jim Rugg’s new Adhouse comic MTSYRY: Octobriana 1976.


Probably best known for his comic Street Angel, Rugg’s a creator who tends to experiment with new styles and reading experiences. As evidenced by his Cartoonist Kayfabe videos and podcast with Ed Piskor, he’s also a fan of the industry and well-versed in the ups and downs of its historical trends. With MTSYRY, Jim explores the public domain Communist grindhouse superheroine Octobriana, and experiments with a “blacklight” format that requires a striking DayGlo color palette. A change of pace from his skateboarding teen girl of Street Angel, and a huge deviation from my usual editorial cartoons and cartoony spacemen—not something I’m likely to have much reason to dabble in with my usual projects, and hence a prime excuse to dabble with a pinup illustration.



While trading my usual Trump caricatures and donkeys arguing with elephants for a scantily-clad superheroine with an impossible hourglass figure was a fun exercise, the real experiment for me came with playing with that funky color scheme. Mimicking the color choices of Rugg’s Octobriana was a learning experience, with a fair bit of trial-and-error along the way. It also resulted in a standout deviation from the norm on my Instagram wall, where I received several comments of appreciation, including from both Adhouse and Rugg himself. Given I view these illustrations “done for fun” as opportunities for self-promotion in addition to personal development, I also shared the image with the Cartoonist Kayfabe Facebook group, where it received an even bigger positive response from Rugg’s fans.


In short, make time to try new styles and formats first-hand. Use these experiments and exercises to grow as an artist and increase your reach (even if it’s also to pay tribute to an artist or colleague whose work you admire). 

What opportunities do you create to experiment and develop new skills? Share your thoughts in the ShoutFyre forum!

Steve Stegelin

Editor, Artist, Letterer, Colorist Steve is the long-running cartoonist at the Charleston, SC alt-weekly Charleston City Paper, where he skewers politicians and criminals (and criminal politicians) alike with editorial cartoons and police blotter illustrations every issue. Steve was best known his indie comic book (and subsequent webcomic)  BOONDOGGLE