Tikhon Zhiznevsky in the movie "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor"

In early April, the premiere of the first Russian film based on comics published by Bubble Comics "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" took place in Russia. At the box office, the picture eventually collected much less than the creators originally expected. However, the American streaming service Netflix soon bought the rights to the film. The film was released on the platform in early July and immediately became the leader of the international rating. tells the story of the creation of the film from the very beginning - from writing comics to full-length, about the Russian fandom of the tape, the reaction of Western audiences, as well as plans for possible sequels.

History of creation

The script for the film "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" is based on a series of comics of the same name by the Russian publishing house Bubble Comics. It was founded back in 2011 by journalist Artem Gabrelyanov, who since childhood was fond of Marvel comics and dreamed of creating his own comic-book empire in Russia.

His influential father Aram Gabrelyanov, the founder of the News Media holding ("Life", websites Life.ru, Super.ru and Marker.ru), helped Artem to implement these plans. At the very start of the project, he allocated about three million dollars to his son, and then repeatedly financially assisted his son at various stages of the development of his comics corporation.

#Artem Gabrelyanov

In 2011, Bubble Comics began publishing the first comic magazines with small articles and comics that referred to real events and people. A year later, Gabrelyanov Jr., together with his team, decided to change the concept. It was then that they came up with several characters - Besoboy, Red Fury, Inoka, including Major Thunder - and they became the new protagonists of the weekly comics. Russian readers liked such an unexpected change in the vector, which immediately affected the circulation of the publishing house.

In 2014-2015, when comics culture flourished in Russia, Bubble Comics continued to refine sketches with already familiar characters and improve storylines, thereby attracting more and more readers.


In 2017, as part of an experiment, Bubble Comics decides to release a short film, the protagonist of which is the character Major Thunder, previously invented by the publisher. The 30-minute tape is based on comics about a Russian superhero, which the publishing house has been releasing over the past years.

Artyom Gabrelyanov initially had thoughts about the consciousness of a full-length film about Major Grom, but he still decided to start with the release of a short film - in order to assess the reaction of the audience. In addition, making a short film was much faster and cheaper than a full-length film. The money for the shooting of the short film was again allocated by his father: according to RBC, it was about an investment of 1 million dollars, while Aram himself assured that he spent “several hundred thousand” on this project in the same currency. To work on the film, a special film division Bubble Studios was created in Bubble - and it was engaged in the production of the first short film about Major Thunder.


From comic to full meter

In 2017, a 30-minute superhero film with elements of a comedy about Police Major from St. Petersburg Igor Grom is released. The main character of the short film, although he does not have any supernatural abilities, however, is fluent in hand-to-hand combat techniques, logical thinking and detective skills. Against the background of the rest, Major Thunder is also distinguished by his irreconcilable attitude towards criminals and stubborn character.

#"Major Thunder" short film poster

The short film told how Major Grom is trying to stop a gang of robbers in masks of hockey players from the popular Soviet cartoon "Puck! Puck!", Who are plotting a bank robbery and taking its employees hostage. By the way, initially the role of Major Grom, who was later played in the full-length film by the star of the TV series "Swamps" Tikhon Zhiznevsky, went to Alexander Gorbatov in the short version of the picture.

In one of the conversations with journalists, Gabrelyanov explained why he decided to start making films based on comics about Major Thunder, and not about other superheroes of Bubble Comics. Artem admitted that this option was trite and simpler to implement, which was important for the team at the start:

#"Major Thunder" short film poster

The international premiere of the short film Major Thunder took place in February 2017 at the Berlin Film Festival. Later, the tape was published on YouTube, where it gained more than 1.7 million views in the first day alone. Critics, like Internet users, generally reacted positively: they noted the excellent visual component, but at the same time criticized the actors for overplaying, and the scriptwriters for being too primitive a plot.


After that, Artem Gabrelyanov, together with the Bubble Comics team, immediately began working on the script for a feature film. First, the director of the short film Vladimir Besedin worked on the script for the film, and in 2019 the producer Mikhail Kitaev, known for his work on the films "Attraction", "Ice" and "T-34", joined the project. According to Gabrelyanov, it was Kitaev who determined the necessary vector for the development of the full-length film; he also proposed Oleg Trofim as the director, with whom he had previously worked together on the film "Ice".

The script is based on all the same comics about Major Thunder, which have been created since 2012. Despite the fact that the character of the hero and the main storylines were fully spelled out in the sketches, the script had to be adapted for the cinema within two years.


In parallel, there was a search for actors for the role of Major Thunder himself and other key characters. Alexander Gorbatov, who played Thunder in the short film, was not interested in the project, so they were looking for a replacement for him within a year. Initially, the creators of the picture discussed the candidacy of Yura Borisov, until they accidentally stumbled upon a photo of Tikhon Zhiznevsky on Instagram and immediately saw their hero in him.

- this is how the scriptwriter and producer of the project Roman Kotkov told about the casting.

#Tikhon Zhiznevsky as Major Grom

Later, Sergey Goroshko (he played the main antagonist - Sergey Razumovsky), Dmitry Chebotarev (Razumovsky's friend - Oleg Volkov), Lyubov Aksenova (journalist Julia Pchelkina) and others joined the project.

The filming took place in St. Petersburg, and about 600 million rubles were spent on the project. About half of the amount was personally allocated by Artyom's father Aram Gabrelyanov, and the rest of the funds were provided by investors - Yandex. Studio and individuals.

#"Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" movie poster

According to the plot of the film, policeman Igor Grom, who is followed by the fame of an incorruptible and fair employee throughout St. Petersburg, pursues the sinister killer of the Plague Doctor, who is hiding under a mask and a cloak. The villain deals with everyone who was once able to escape justice with the help of money and their connections. Major Grom is ready to do anything to stop the bloody massacre in the city.

Failure in the Russian box office and entry into the western market

The creators of the film "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" had high hopes for their project, unique for Russia. Even before the premiere, Artyom Gabrelyanov admitted that they expect to collect about 1.5 billion rubles in the Russian box office in order to recoup the money invested in the tape and invest it in the next film and the development of their cinematic universe. However, in the course of its work, Bubble Comics did not focus exclusively on the Russian audience: their goal was to combine the Hollywood language with domestic cinema with its exclusively Russian features.

Lyubov Aksenova and Tikhon Zhiznevsky in the film "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor"

However, the prediction of the creators of the picture regarding the fees did not come true. Due to the protracted post-production and the coronavirus pandemic, the premiere of the film was postponed several times and eventually took place only on April 1 of this year. During the first weekend, "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" collected only 104.5 million rubles in cinemas, and the final amount of collected money at the box office was 316.4 million.

Tikhon Zhiznevsky as Major Grom

Analyzing the failure of the film at the box office, Aram Gabrelyanov decided that mistakes in advertising and marketing of the project prevented the good collection. The founder of Bubble Comics Artem Gabrelyanov himself found several reasons for this at once.

- Artyom shared his thoughts in an interview with the Russian Forbes.

Aram Gabrelyanov

Opinions about the unsuccessful collection of the first Russian superhero movie were very different, to the point that the tape turned out to be corny bad. This is exactly the opinion shared by the Russian film critic Anton Dolin, who noted that there simply cannot be other versions of the film's failure.

Despite the frank failure of the film in the domestic box office, just a month after the premiere, it became known that the American streaming service Netflix had acquired the rights to show the film "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor". The exact amount of the deal is kept secret, but Artem Gabrelyanov hinted that it was a record for the Russian market (the previous record was set by the Russian TV series Epidemic, which was sold to the streaming platform for $ 1.5 million). Artyom Gabrelyanov's father Aram, in a conversation with Forbes, noted that the amount of their deal was close to two million dollars.

It is also interesting that in Russia Netflix is ​​developing at the expense of the National Media Group, where Aram Gabrelyanov served as CEO from 2011 to 2017. Many decided that due to his old connections, Gabrelyanov Sr. could be involved in the profitable sale of the movie "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" to Netflix. However, Aram himself and his son Artem deny the involvement of NMG in the deal. The Bubble Comics founder generally reacted rather calmly to the sale of his creation to a successful streaming platform:

Tikhon Zhiznevsky as Major Grom

The reaction of foreign viewers and the Russian fandom

After the deal was concluded, Netflix received the rights to show Russian superhero movies for a period of several years (exact dates were not disclosed) around the world. The premiere of the film on the platform took place on the evening of July 7, and in just one day, "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" was able to top the international Netflix rating. In 64 countries of the world, the Bubble Comics tape hit the top 10 films, and in 15 countries it became the absolute leader: among them were Belgium, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Hungary, Czech Republic, Switzerland, as well as a number of countries in Latin America and the Middle East.

After watching the Russian superhero movie, viewers from around the world immediately rushed to Twitter, where they began to express their sincere admiration for the Russian blockbuster. In these comments, foreign Internet users noted the excellent filmmaking, the cast and the idea in general, and also compared the leading actor Tikhon Zhiznevsky with Hollywood star Michael Fassbender.

"Finally watched Major Thunder! A very funny and great film, with good humor and no krinzh, which are usually famous for Marvel films. Decent filmmaking. Watch the picture, if only for the sake of those who worked on it and drew comics."

"Really enjoyed Major Thunder on Netflix. This isn't just another Disney or Marvel superhero movie! It's completely different, more human. It has a bit of Fight Club, V for Vendetta, Bond, and of course Nolan's "Batman" with a Russian accent. And Tikhon Zhiznevsky is somewhat similar to Fassbender. "

"Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor". This is a Russian action game in which you can feel the influence of "Batman", "Sherlock Holmes" and "V for Vendetta". The storytelling is enjoyable, as is the cast. The main character's motives will make you realize that in a similar situation, you will do the same as he did. "

Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor is pretty damn cool. I don't usually watch many Russian films, but I hope to see more Bubble Studios comic adaptations in the future. "

Despite the failure of the film in the Russian box office and the rather ambiguous reviews of domestic critics and viewers, after the premiere of the picture, she also gained a huge number of fans. Enthusiastic Russian viewers have even united into a large fandom. Inside it, they communicate a lot, discuss possible sequels to the film, exchange fanfiction about key characters and make memes. In these conversations, fans of Major Grom pompously declare that with the release of the picture, they finally regained faith in Russian cinema.

Tikhon Zhiznevsky as Major Grom

There were so many fans of the film that in mid-May some of them even got into an unpleasant story. So many fans came to the meeting with the actors of the film, which took place on May 16 at the Central House of Music, that the event had to be terminated ahead of schedule due to violation of sanitary and epidemiological standards. According to one of the producers of the tape, instead of the expected two and a half thousand people, in the end, about five thousand came. After this meeting, the CDM was temporarily sealed, and an administrative case was opened against the organizer (it was Lubyanka-Development JSC) under the article on violation of sanitary standards.

By the way, despite the fact that the main character of the picture is Major Thunder, many fans were imbued with sympathy for his antagonists - Sergei Razumovsky (he was played by Sergei Goroshko) and Oleg Volkov, who was embodied on the screen by Dmitry Chebotarev. Fans immediately began to ship these two characters, affectionately calling them a pair of "graywolves", and develop their love line in their many fanfiction.

Sergei Goroshko and Dmitry Chebotarev in the film "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor"

Recently, these fanfictions, by the way, caused a scandal on the network. This happened after the airing of the next issue of the show "Evening Urgant", the guests of which were the performers of the main roles in the film "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" Tikhon Zhiznevsky, Sergei Goroshko and Dmitry Chebotarev. This program caused outrage among the members of the fandom, after which they even demanded an apology from the host of the show, Ivan Urgant.

The fans had several complaints about Urgant at once. Firstly, it seemed to them tactless and inappropriate Ivan's proposal to the cast actors to read out an excerpt from one of the fanfictions with the participation of key characters. In his story, Sergei Goroshko and Dmitry Chebotarev enjoy a picnic on a hot day, during which one feeds the other a peach. Fans speculated that the show's editors were unlikely to ask the author for permission to use the fanfiction. In addition, it seemed to many that with the help of fanfiction, the editors of the show wanted to play a trick on the fans of the picture and distract the attention of the audience from the picture itself and the leading actors.

The constant hints of Ivan Urgant that the main audience of the film are teenage girls also seemed offensive to fans.

- the fans of the film "Major Thunder: The Plague Doctor" expressed their indignation at what they saw.

By the way, representatives of the fandom from Ivan Urgant never received a public apology. However, they clearly stated their intention to defend their interests to the end and at all costs to defend the work of Bubble Comics, which they liked so much.

Future plans

Even before the Russian premiere of Major Grom: The Plague Doctor, its creators emphasized that they immediately conceived it as the beginning of a large Russian cinema universe. For this purpose, references to other characters in Bubble Comics were left in the film. In addition, the authors have already thought about what the sequels might be.

Even the failure of the tape in the Russian box office did not change anything in the plans of Artyom Gabrelyanov and his team. He still wants to direct a sequel to Major Thunder, but admits that the low fees for the first film will make it much more difficult for him and the team to find investors for the second film.

- Artem Gabrelyanov does not lose optimism.

Artem Gabrelyanov

Comments (1)

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There was no advertising as such in the beginning. It was then that they moved. If my acquaintances hadn’t started to advise me, I would not have found out about this film during the rental. And it's a pity, I liked the last ones more than the Marvelskys. I am very glad that we were still able to promote on netflix. Worthy for this genre came out. Longing for the continuation.

the film is not bad, but the main character is an oak tree, I didn’t like it at all, but I liked the view of St. Petersburg, and I forgot what beautiful city I was born in (funny that I read reviews about the film and many wrote, especially men, here is finally something worthwhile without gaysFeminists, while the main bad guy is clearly gay, and almost all the girls are fans of this film, especially schoolgirls are crazy about a couple of a bad guy and his friend, a bunch of arts, ff, and so on, even my friend has art with them on the screensaver)) and. When I told my colleague about this man, he’s not like that, you don’t have the West, we don’t allow ourselves this type) although the creators of the comics confirmed that there were gays there)

awertudftrkboaa, the creator of this movie is gay, was a scandal a few years ago

Foxi2012, gay is his brother Ashot. Artem on women.

Alesssandra, did you hold the candle? Rzhu)

Alesssandra, clearly, I don't remember the details by name

awertudftrkboaa, I was very upset when I learned a long time ago that Major Grom was played in full meter not by Gorbatov, but by Zhiznevsky. For me, it’s a failure. Tikhon is absolutely not the main character. This is such a mattress druzhban GG type, here in the "Swamps" he is in place. And here - well, I did not pull at all. Sex zero, zero charisma. I tried to abstract myself from this when I watched the movie in the cinema, but damn it, it didn't work out. I was bombarded with indignation that the short film turned out much better)))

Baby Jane, I wonder why Gorbatov refused

The other day on netflix I came across this film, I was pleasantly surprised that it was made in Russia. I liked the main character and the idea in general, although comics and superheroes are not mine. Filmed is also very cool. In the Czech Republic, as it is written in the post, he is in the top.

I was pleasantly surprised, and the picture and all the actors in their places

Not a bad film for the adaptation of comics, I would even read the comics myself, but I have not seen it on sale yet.

I was pleasantly surprised by the film, but there are rumors that some of the moments were cut or redone. I do not know if this is so. But overall pretty good. New faces, interesting plot. I would have watched the sequel.

Frau_Frau, as I understand it in the original there were a lot of references to the bulk and the protests at the swamp, in the film they decided to remove it

We started cheerfully, but the film will be very prolonged, we could safely cut out at least half an hour. I was tired of this story at the end and it didn't matter who wins there (although it is clear who).

I like the comic strip itself for a long time, but the film adaptation is rather weak. the problems of cinema grew up nowhere: mediocre scriptwriters and actors who do not know how to play with a voice.
but compared to everything else that we shoot ...

Urgant has been really turning into some kind of zashkvar lately. With Major Grom, I sat down so solidly in a puddle.
This is not just another "shYdefir" to praise, from which I spit, but an excellent example of its genre, which also became the top in the world ..
The film was really so advertised that the premiere went unnoticed. If it were not for the recommendations of friends, I would not know about him either.
In my opinion, an excellent representative of its genre.

Cool movie. I liked Pts, I expected it to be worse.

The film is very fresh, better than Hollywood comic book films, as it is made for the Russian mentality. Let there be a continuation !!!

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