Khoroshij Polkovnik

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an early illustration of Khoroshij Polkovnik

The Good Colonel is a fictional Russian character that has appeared in various since the late 1930s. When the Fatherland needs help, mild-mannered accounting officer Belyj ducks out and change into, Khoroshij Polkovnik [the Good Colonel], Defender of the Russian Empire! Armed only with his wits and the magical ring of Ivan the Terrible, he battle those who wishes to harm the empire on the homefront and abroad.

Contents

Story

Origin

The son of a Russian nobleman and high ranking officer in the Tsarist army, Belyj was to face many tragedies in his youth. Both his parents were killed when he was twelve by Communist revolutionaries in an explosion that also left him a cripple. He was sent to an exclusive school where he proved to be a brilliant, if somewhat aloof student.

Thanks to his father's prestige, he was offered a place in the Empire's armed forces, although due to his bad leg, only as an officer in the administrative branch. His high intelligence allowed him to quickly climb the ladders until he became a Colonel.

Now nearing thirty and with few friends, he was known as a dependable but perpetually sad figure. His secretary (who was secretly in love with him) convinced him to take some vacations and try to face some of his childhood traumas. He thus went back to his family's estate for the first time since the explosion.

Going through his father's study (which had not been touched since the fateful day), he found a hidden iron box which had been set free by the bomb. Inside was a yellowing letter written in his father's handwriting. It was dated just a few days before the explosion and was addressed to him. It began with the fateful word "in the event of my death...." and went on to describe how proud he was of his son and how he wished to pass on to him one of his most precious possessions: the ancestral family ring which was reputed to have originally belonged to Tsar Ivan the Terrible. Inside the box, he also found the ring.

No sooner had he taken it in his hand that a bright light appeared in front of him and from it emerged a ghostly figure. "Kneel before your liege for I am Ivan, known as The Terrible. This ring contains the power to defeat the enemies of Mother Russia. But beware, only one who is pure of heart may wear it". With this, the apparition vanished.

Trembling at what he had just witnessed, he looked at the ring and with a small amount of apprehension, he put it on.

He suddenly felt his limbs grow strong once more and a new energy filled him. "I am whole once more" he said. And on that fateful day, he took an oath: "With this gift, I shall avenge my father and protect the weak against all those who wish to harm the Empire. This, I swear!".

From then on, whenever danger was afoot, Colonel Belyj would find a secluded place and saying "Spirits of Russia, come to my aid" put on his ring to become Khoroshij Polkovnik. And when the crisis was over, he would say "Russia has been served" and change back into his old self.

The Second Great War

After a few solo adventures on the homefront, The Good Colonel (or rather his secret identity) was sent to serve near the frontline. After saving his life during an ambush, he also gained a sidekick in the person of Kadet Rubinsky.

His main foe at the time was the evil European warlord General Malice. Their paths crossed many times and although he appeared to die on more then one occasion, he always returned with a new scheme to destroy his foe and rule the world.

The Post-War era

With the War over, The Good Colonel bid farewell to Cadet Rubinsky and Colonel Belyj went into semi-retirement. He would still come out to fight Communist saboteurs and other internal enemies of the Empire.

The Sixties saw Belyj take over the command of a military academy, one of whose instructors was the now grown up Captain Rubinsky. It is also around this time that Belyj came to realise that although he was aging, his counterpart always stayed the same age as when he first wore the Ring of Ivan the Terrible.

After an encounter with General Malice`s "de-aging ray" in which he seemed to be immune to the weapon`s effect, he discovered that it was his secret identity that was affected and for some unknown reason, both his identities became fused.

Unable to hide his secret anymore, he revealed it to the government who helped him out by giving him a new identity and a place as an agent within the Special Operative Ministry. Under the guidance of his chief, General Oryol, he operated as a secret agent in enemy territory.

Turn of the Century

In the late 70s and throughout the 80s the Good Colonel went back to his martial roots and became the leader of a group known as "The Good Colonel and the Supreme Soldiers". Its membership represented the cream of the crop of the Russian Armed Forces.

The Supreme Soldiers (partial list)

  • Opreshniki Yuri: A member of the secret service. Known for his smile and love of puppy dogs.
  • Chaplain Slova: Confidant and mentor to the other members.
  • Captain Zheleznyj: The tank driver.

to be continued

Publishing History

The begining

Timely Books, the company responsible for the creation of the Good Colonel, was originaly a publisher of children picture books. It briefly tried to branch into novels but the high level of illiteracy at the time prevented much response. It was then that one of the young illustrators came up with the idea of publishing "Graphic Novels", series of small illustrations that would tell a story with a minimum of text. The response was favorable both from its teenage target audience and from young adults.

Most of the graphic novels were originally simplified version of legends, plays and famous historical events. A group of writer however decided to invent something different, a "hero of old for the modern time". After a few different concept were pitched, they came up with one character which became the hero known as The Good Colonel.

Many influence have been cited over the years as inspiration for the character. One source which has gained some credence is the pre-Christian mythology of Nasesk-Vesemir. While some have disputed it, it should be remembered that the first writer and the first illustrator of the books (who were also the one who first proposed it) were indeed from that part of the Empire.

The Second Great War

The arrival of Kadet Rubinsky is seen by fans with mixed reaction. The character was added at the request of the Army's Propaganda Ministry who felt that a young soldier fighting side-by-side with the Colonel might boost morale among the young recruits. While it resulted in a more approachable character (due to his interaction with his protegé), some have seen these stories has more juvenile.

General Malice (who would returned many time over the years) had an interesting piece of trivia attached to him. When he first appeared, he was clearly presented as belonging to the CSDS. During the course of the Second Great War (and especially after the end of the Germano-Russian Treaty) he suddenly, and without explanation, became a German general. In the following years he changed ethnicity a few more time when the enemy of Russia shifted. Although later stories tried to explain this apparent discrepancy as the General being a mercenary who would serve any nation, fans of the books sometime talk about the character in term of "General Malice, where will he come from next?".

Post war era

Due to the expansion of Snorist ideology into several new territories, notably Romania and Central Asia, several new semi-regular guest characters were created, representing the new Snorist states. In all cases, the Good Colonel was clearly portrayed as more powerful and more morally certain - superior to the foreign characters. The new characters were irregular visitors to the pages of Khoroshij Polkovnik and added an interesting new dimension to the comics - an ethnic diversity previously unseen that nevertheless allowed the SNOR regime to maintain a picture of comfortable Russian superiority. One of the most successful of these new heroes was the Turkestani superhero Zolotoj Chjelovek, about whom even an animated TV series was created.

Turn of the Century

Sales began to dip in the mid 1970s and the editors sought ways to rejuvenate the franchise. One idea was to introduce more recurring characters so as to attract a more varied fan base. It was felt that these should not be simply sidekicks but characters that would be more or less the Colonel's equal. To this end, a new storyline was begun in which the Colonel became leader of an elite fighting unit. It was even decided that a few of the characters would not be ethnic Russians, a first in Russian publishing history. Many of the semi-regular guest characters from other Snorist states predated the Supreme Soldiers by a considerable margin, but this was the first time that a non-Russian had been allowed to be shown as a regular star character.

Pairing the Colonel with other soldiers prove an astute business decision as not only did it boost sales (and spawned a cartoon and line of toy soldiers) but for the first time since the Second Great War, it manage to gain the official endorsement of the SNORist apparatus.

Although the government accolade created greater exposure, it also meant interference in the creative process. The editors were forced on some occasions to kill certain storylines, and the non-Russians were phased out. After the investiture of Supreme Leader Spiridov, pressure were put on the writer to show the Christian side of the character more often and to introduce a positive priestly role model (which they did in the person of Chaplain Slova).

The line kept going strong nonetheless until the early 90s and the fall of Snorism. With ultranationalism on the way out, the franchise lost its attractiveness, first in the foreign market and then within Russia itself. As sales came closer to falling below the profitability range, the series was put on hiatus while the staff tried to reinvent the Colonel once more.

After a few months, the character was brought back with some drastic changes. The Good Colonel was now an freelance adventurer, and villains became more generic (simple criminals instead of ideological terrorists). Even his costume had been changed to reflect the colours of the new Russian flag. Sales proved to be quite low and the book was stopped again after less then a year.

A New Beginning

In 2003, the rights to the character were bought by a publishing company that until then had specialised in conservative literature. They released a series of reprints of older adventures with new cover artwork as well as a few memorabilia based around the classic design of The Good Colonel.

In 2005, the company began publishing original adventures which retained most of the continuity but completely ignored the 90s revival. The books proved successful with a certain segment of the population and although the writer have stopped short of open attack on the current government, many elements have been perceived as critical of it. One such element is the claim made by the author about the (clearly reactionary) character representing "the true spirit of the Russian people".

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