Now that social activism is on the rise, a feminist comic is here to satisfy our desire for a strong female lead. Dre Torres and Alex Valdes created Popova World, a spectacular, dark and unnerving addition to the vast universe of comic books.

 

The rise of a new role model? 

Two creatives, Dre Torres and Alex Valdes have come together to work on the Popova World project. As writers and film makers, they first started it as a screenplay. A screenplay that turned into a comic book 5 years down the line.

Both of them never perceived women as weak or inferior to men. Each had strong women to look up to in their lives, and so supporting feminism is a cause they feel strongly about. As Torres pointed out: “I grew up in a house with three generations of women. The people I looked up to my whole life were all women, so it’s hard for me to think of a world ruled just by men. My mom was an independent business owner. I don’t see women as weak.”

If there ever was a perfect moment to publish an aggressive feminist comic book, it has come now. Torres and Valdes dared to grasp this opportunity. Badass female leads have been stealing the show for a while now. Kill Bill, for one, presents us with quite an array of dazzling and dangerous women. Then there is an unforgettable performance of Julia Roberts in an Oscar-winning Erin Brockovich. The list goes on, and Popova is sure to continue this tradition of portraying women as strong and assertive protagonists. But this time it takes it to the extreme, which is exactly what Torres and Valdes aimed for: “The comic speaks to women who are fed up”, says Torres.

The war against men

The story is set in New York City, “in a time when bigotry is celebrated and misogyny has become legitimized”. There, Irma Rozanov runs a charity for women’s rights. The charity, however, is just a cover for what is really going on: “a violent war against male oppressors.” In this war, women act as unforgiving assassins. These women are led by Irma, who is known as the Madame.

As suggested by the Miami New Time, the real-life inspiration behind the comic book Popova is a Russian Madame Alexe Popova. She was accused of killing as much as 300 men in the 19-th century. This was done in the name of freeing women from their violent husbands. Madame Popova is also believed to never have killed a single woman. Such principle goes in line with the comic book’s “strict ideological code that forbids female assassins from killing women or being romantically involved with men” This is where the comic gets tricky. This is where the readers are lured into the story. Scarlet Rose, one of the main characters of Popova World, goes missing. Her absence doesn’t go unnoticed and so, her protégé, Sadie Mars sets out to “uncover the truth behind her mentor’s betrayal.”

 

 

The book with pictures 

Coming up with a compelling story-line, however, is only half the job. The amazing black-and-white illustrations of Popova World are a work of the Hong-Kong based Yasmin Liang, who is also the artist behind the Star Track comic book. She was hired after a few other illustrators tried their luck with Popova, but failed. They couldn’t help but over-sexualize the female characters and this wasn’t what Torres and Valdes were going for. The infamous ‘male gaze’ has no place in a feminist comic book

The first issue of Popova has already been released with a second one to come out soon. Aside from the printed comic books, there is also a website that aired in time for the International Women’s Day. It offers free gifts to the subscribers as well as sells posters, vinyl stickers and the comic book itself, with its’ cover autographed by the founders of the project.

Now, It is no secret that feminism is often perceived to be unnecessary and even degrading. Women not scared of voicing their opinions on the matter are labelled ‘feminazi’. This is why Torres and Valdes may be taking a dangerous path with their revenge-fantasy comic. It has the potential to provoke a wave of antifeminist criticism. Will Popova touch the hearts of the oppressed or be heavily criticized by the media? Will the Madame and her assassins win the war? Let’s read and see.

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