Martina Markota: To Hell and Back
After three and a half years of lawsuits, slander and restarts, Lady Alchemy: Mutus Liber is finally seeing print.
Anyone who's been so much as skimming ComicsGate news in recent years has likely heard about the trials of Martina Markota. The former burlesque dancer was a fixture in the New York City theatre scene, a performance artist who brought her stage persona Lady Alchemy to life with shows featuring an alluring combination of sensuality and esotericism.
After it came to light that she voted for Trump, Markota found herself ostracized from the arts scene. The downtime gave her a chance to work on bringing a backburner project of hers to life; turning Lady Alchemy into a comic book superheroine. She hired artist friends to start the project, but a falling out turned into an ugly legal battle that found her embroiled in a copyright lawsuit that was eventually dismissed. Needless to say, her open conservatism has gotten her dragged in coverage by the pervasively progressive nerd culture media. While the project would breeze through funding on IndieGoGo, she wound up having to find an entirely new team and essentially start from scratch. After three and a half years, Lady Alchemy: Mutus Liber is at last in its final edits. She took some time to talk about it with us.
Congratulations on finishing the comic! After everything you’ve been through since this project launched in November of 2018, it must be a relief to see it going through its final edits. How are you feeling right about now? Obviously you’re never doing this again, right?
Thank you so much, it really means a lot that people can understand all that I have gone through with this project. This project is more than just a “dream” or “passion” come true, it is a triumph against an abuser who wanted to try their best to get you to fail and to destroy this project. Going through a lawsuit publicly, where all your haters cheer on your abuser is humiliating. It was especially painful to have a lawsuit over your own name and image. It is emotionally abusive to have someone try to get you to stop using your own name and image. And then the legal costs. It was a huge emotional and financial toll that is hard to fully understand. So thank you and those that supported me when I was down and helped me fight for this. It was a fight for my identity, not just a comic book.
The comic scene isn’t where a lot of people might expect to find someone who once ran in the circles you did. What made you pick this medium?
Well I had wanted to do a Lady Alchemy comic book since around 2013. When I was performing in NYC, I ran into a guy named Graig Weich from Beyond Comics Inc. He has turned model Adrian Curry and Coco, Ice T’s wife into real life comic book characters. I had spoken to him about my interest in turning Lady Alchemy into a comic book because I always felt that NYC is very Gotham City, I am a performer/dancer which is very athletic, conducive to action fighting, and I wear costumes, running around at night. I also have this unique story-line about Angelic bloodlines and conspiracies that were my inspiration for my performances that I felt were great concepts for a comic book. Mix all of this with my love of 90s comic book babes when I was a teenager like Witchblade, Gen13, Darkchylde. The timing happened to work out around 2018 when i wasn't performing live anymore and my way of keeping Lady Alchemy alive was through a comic book and I found a group online that heavily supported this idea and helped me fund it.
The first issue’s story centers primarily on the titular heroine going through a sort of loss of innocence; a starry-eyed performance artist in the big city experiencing the scene’s seedy and demonic underbelly — culminating in her discovering her identity as Lady Alchemy. One of the most significant details is the inclusion of the Mutus Liber, a real Hermetic text that plays a major role in her origin story. What was it about that particular work that made you use it as a story device?
Yes! That is exactly it! A loss of innocence, starry-eyed performer, seedy underbelly and discovery of becoming Lady Alchemy. The Mutus Liber came into play because books, especially ancient texts are integral in the study of Alchemy. It was a very natural connection. I had originally wanted to showcase the introduction to some ancient texts by Lady Alchemy going to the New York Public Library because it is one of my favorite locations in the city, filled with beautiful architecture and symbolism. The writer and I came to an agreement about having it be a bookstore, because you will see exactly why in the book. It lends itself better to the story in the long run
But since ancient alchemical texts are really a standard in researching alchemy, I knew that there had to be SOME text to be featured in the book. I found the Mutus Liber a perfect book because it means “The Silent Book”, which is . . . a picture book. I thought that it was really poignant considering this is a comic book, a focus on illustrations.
Alchemical elements play heavily in your photography and performance art as well. What got you interested in it?
Oh wow . . . this has become a hard question to answer the older I get. The start of my interest became more and more blurry, as it was so long ago. I feel like I was 15 or something when I started getting interested in it, that was about 20 years ago. I feel like the concept of the elixir of life, the fountain of youth, was fascinating to me. These magickal concepts, the philosopher’s stone. The fact that both Isaac Newton and Leonardo DaVinci were both dedicated to the study, whom were not stupid individuals, convicved me that there has to be something to it. I was always into art, but I also studied Mathematics and went to NYU to study math. Leonardo Davinci was not only an artist, but he is an inventor, scientist, and brilliant mind far beyond his time. Isaac Newton is one of the discoverers of Calculus, which I am a fan of. These two basically influenced me to look further. As you study and study and study, as you end up not concerning yourself with the philosopher’s stone or elixir of life any longer. The study alone leads you to a better understanding of the world we live in and how to perfect your soul.
You’ve described yourself on social media as “culturally Catholic”, owing in part to your Croatian heritage. The book is steeped in Catholic mysticism and imagery, but also obviously features our heroine practicing alchemy; what would you say to people who might see this as an occult element and be put off?
Yeah, this is something I dealt with when I first started studying. My mother was very disturbed by my studies in alchemy, but eventually I think she kind of ‘gets it’. The truth is, studying alchemy has brought me CLOSER to Catholicism. It helped me appreciate the religion I was raised in because it led me to the topics of Jesus, the holy spirit, and religious concepts but from a different path or angle.
When I study alchemy, I have personally never read anything that involves getting into anything demonic, satanic, or evil. The only things I have read in all these ancient texts involve “the light”, Jesus, the creation of life through the spark of God. It all comes from the one true source, God. None of these concepts lead to me seeing anything that opposes the concept of Catholicism.
Alchemy is not a religion, it is a philosophy, a science and an art. It is really a precursor to modern science, there would be no natural sciences or CHEMistry without alCHEMy. (alchemy comes from the land of Kem, the black fertile earth in Egypt). The difference between modern science and alchemy is that modern science rejects the notion of Aether, the spiritual energy/life force that takes up the space between all atoms. They have separated themselves from the “inner work” of alchemy, but I think one day, they will reunite with the concept of the spiritual work, working hand in hand with the physical world (the outer work).
That being said, there are far more similarities with hermeticism and Catholicism. Catholic mass is known as “ritual mass”. Mass is a literal ritual, with robes, incense, spells and all! The three Magis that brought gifts at Jesus’ birth were magicians. That’s what Magi means. They were Zoroastrian priests. King Solomon used spirits to help build the temple. The most basic rituals in alchemy like the LBR literally have you call upon God and the Archangels to protect you. Archangels are very Christian things. None of these things are demonic. And I include all of these things in the comic book as well. Real spells, real archangels, even real demons and lore to fight.
Speaking of demons, some of the antagonists are quite interesting. The cold and beautiful Vinea, her right-hand man Hans, the raven-winged dog demon Naberius; how did you come up with these villains?
Vinea is really an amalgamation of all the feminine energies that were working against me when I was a performer getting cancelled. Sometimes when you watch a movie that is based on real events they do something like this. They take many different real life people and combine them and the qualities of them into one person. It makes for a more cohesive story that way. It is also fun to play with.
Vinea (or Vine) is named after a christian demon who also has similar attributes. Vine is a demon listed in demonological grimoires such as the Lesser Key of Solomon. These texts rank Vine as both a king and an earl, describing him as a lion riding a black horse and carrying a viper. They ascribe to him the power to build towers, destroy walls, disturb seas, and furthermore answer questions on secrets, witches, and events past, present, and future.
I had turned this demon into a feminine in my book. She is a powerful beautiful woman who has the ability to make lady alchemy a star, she holds the power to Lady Alchemy’s future. This correlates with being king and earl. She is also portrayed as serpentine, as she is carrying a viper. In alchemy, the serpent isn't actually a bad thing. But it DOES represent knowledge and change. These are both aspects about Vinea that have made an effect on Lady Alchemy. A lion, which is a loose correlation to Hans, the strong protector of Vinea, her right hand man. Vinea is also able to sniff out Lady Alchemy’s powers very early on.
These characters are actually far more complex than first read in the book. I could go on about Vinea and all that she represents but there would not be enough time, haha.
The demon Nebarius, is the demon that makes people cunning in all the arts and is depicted as a three headed dog with raven talons. There is an energy of black associated with him. One thing in particular worth mentioning about Naberius is how his energy resonates with inspiration. This makes him a favorite amongst artists looking to evoke the creativity and enthusiasm needed to carry out successful art projects. This is why Vinea tries to use this demon to lure Lady Alchemy into her demonic world. Demons can be seductive, addictive, luring you with qualities you desire on earth.
What role do the archangels play?
The Archangels are depicted as true to tradition as possible. They are also used in traditional esoteric rituals such as the LBR (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram). In this ritual, you call upon them at all four corners (North, South, East, West) to protect you. Each one of them has different attributes such as fighting, healing, and whatnot. All of their attributes are as true to esoteric teachings. The more you look into it, the more you will see how accurate they are depicted and used. They basically help Lady Alchemy when summoned. They do their best given their powers.
I’d heard you mention on live streams that you’re at work on the story for the second issue. Can you tease a bit of it for us?
Well, it will continue where book one left off, but this time no origin story. We go right in with Lady Alchemy fully realized. Since these series will be loosely based on my real life, it was only natural to continue the story. Book one was the ordeal I faced back when I was a full time performer getting cancelled. After that, I became fully immersed in the internet. And there are many angels and demons to deal with in the weird world of the internet. And in alchemical fashion, technology is just like magick. It is an energy force which appears to be working in mysterious ways. Plus, your identity there becomes a sort of talismanic entity that can influence people for the good or bad in real life.
If you could have Lady Alchemy do a dream crossover with any other comic character, who would you pick?
Anyone with a Magic/esoteric vibe like Scarlet Witch who is also eastern european which i find interesting! Also anyone with a stage presence like Zatanna. That would be interesting if we were booked on a gig together or something haha! What I find interesting is that I am also now incorporating magic into my Lady Alchemy routines on stage as to blur the lines between stage illusion and real magic as an alchemist. So it would be really cool for Lady Alchemy and Zatanna to be booked on the same show and get into some esoteric things together.
Want to know more about Martina, Lady Alchemy or where you can support the project? Check out these links:
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