Heroineburgh is a live-action video series and comic book series based in a fantastic version of Pittsburgh PA where beautiful and powerful women have become superheroines and super-villainesses. The production team behind the concept has released 21 full-length downloadable, live-action episodes, six fan-written mini-sodes, and two comic books that are available in nearly 200 stores around the country, and from the project’s website.
Heroineburgh began in 2016 and is set in a fantastic version of Pittsburgh PA. The cast includes thirty actresses (and a handful of male actors), a full complement of social media, with Youtube channel that features short outtakes, episode trailers, character intros, and a series spotlighting Pittsburgh comics creators and shops in what they’ve dubbed “Comicsburgh”. The series uses the description: “action, adventure, drama, comedy, and romance in the finest spandex and capes!”
The entire idea was conceived by a guy named “Shevek” who is both the director of the video episodes and the writer of the comic books. He also handles location scouting, costume design, publicity and social media, prop master, choreographer, and pretty much anything else the production needs to make their spandex-and-capes action happen as smoothly as possible.
” The idea started when I was volunteering at a legendary non-profit organization called Pittsburgh Filmmakers,” Shevek says “which sadly went defunct recently after a run of 40 years, closing its film school and its two theaters. In 2016, I spent a summer in their equipment room lending cameras and other things out to their members.”
He parlayed the access to this equipment into his recent renewed interest in comic books.
“I was getting heavily back into the comic book scene that I had originally enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s,” Shevek added. “I also discovered many Youtube channels covering comics and superhero movies, and I had been following some independent superhero video productions such as Sisterhood of Superheroines (George Perez), Nightveil Media (Bill Black of FemForce) and Youtube series such as SuperFemmes and Super Knocked Up.”
It was by watching their productions, along with many of the early CW Arrowverse episodes, that led him to want to create his own live action superhero show. Once he rediscovered older programs like Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Mighty Isis, Adam West’s Batman, Wonder Woman, and Black Scorpion, the concept was fully conceived.
The story of Heroineburgh begins after several dozen women acquire incredible powers from a dark-energy meteor explosion that alters the physiology of their XX chromosomes through a phenomenon known as “epigenetics”. Upon discovering their powers, the ladies must decide for themselves whether to use their newfound abilities for good or nefarious purposes, with a few of the women changing their minds.
Influences for the series stem primarily from the Bronze Age of 1970s/1980s comics and the classic superheroine TV shows from that era, as well as later TV shows which were produced in a similar spirit. Shevek also was inspired by the great comic book artist George Pérez, who also produced a low-budget superheroine video series Sisterhood of Superheroines, as well as Bill Black’s Nightveil Media productions. Heroineburgh follows in a long line of more recent, campy superheroine shows like The Super Femmes and Super Knocked Up, and some modern comics which retain the escapism of days gone by, such as Empowered and Invincible.
The project has grown to include an ongoing comic strip in a local Pittsburgh newspaper since July, and the producers have just released their 21st video episode.
“I came up with the concept of an original all-superheroine universe based in Pittsburgh,” Shevek says “where the characters are both beautiful and powerful, and where there’s a good balance of action and campiness, as well as power and peril – basically, the kind of show which would have been made in the late 70s or early 80s. Back then, as a kid, I was reading New Teen Titans, Spider-Woman and Spider-Man, X-Men and other books, and I came up with a bunch of superheroines which I submitted to Dial H for Hero (alas, none got published). So I started with the name of one of those heroines (Savanna) and created a naming convention where all the characters had names ending in “a” (to signify the feminine aspect, as in Latin and various Indo-European languages), and re-introducing the use of “heroine” and “villainess” as gender-specific terms.”
When asked how he developed the concept, Shevek explained his inspired approach.
“I created a roster of different characters using true “diversity” as it would have existed in the 80s: each comes from a different Pittsburgh neighborhood; each has a different profession; each has a different ethnicity (sometimes drawing on cultural aspects or goddess pantheons); and then fleshing out an entire backstory and origin for all the characters in Season One, with the common thread being that they all derived their powers from a dark-energy meteor explosion above the city which altered their genes on the XX chromosome (the process is called “epigenetics”, or Lamarckian evolution). Thus, everything in the Heroineburgh is science-based.”
From that point, he began to develop the entire universe of Heroineburgh.
“After completing the first season of 13 episodes, I began working with Benjamin Zeus Barnett (Detective Mark Drake in the series) to produce and distribute comic books to complement the videos.”
The due has released two issues of Heroineburgh Comics so far, which they’ve spread throughout North America to over 190 stores. They bypassed Diamond Comic Distributors and personally contacted all the comic shops themselves, much like the creators of the black-and-white comics explosion did in the 80s. Shevek also shared that they sell the comic books at about a dozen Comicons every year, and also make the comics available for order on their website.
Besides the large cast, Shevek also works with a homegrown, dedicated, native crew who just love to have fun playing within the Heroineburgh universe, and who hope to continue having fun with it as long as possible. And now Shevek is offering fans a chance to contribute as well:
Shevek explains that “any fan who is familiar with the characters can collaborate with us on a script, and then produce the scenario. These customs don’t have to share exact “continuity” with the mainstream Heroineburgh universe (although there are certain rules for the customers to follow), so it’s our version of an ongoing “What If” series. After the custom is delivered to the fan, then we make it available to the public as well.”
The next project in the queue is issue #3 of Heroineburgh Comics for late spring, just in time for the next Comicon season. In addition to Barnett, Wayne Brown and Jason Wright, and will again handle the art chores.