A discussion on horrors new and old, real and imagined.
Son of Hitler is a World War II spy story in which a British spy does everything in her power to kill Adolf Hitler. It may sound familiar, but the story keeps readers guessing. Oh, and it’s based on an odd myth. AiPT! spoke with writer Anthony Del Col and artist Jeff McComsey about their action packed book.
AiPT!: How would you describe Son of Hitler?
ADC: The greatest graphic novel of all-time?
In all seriousness, Son of Hitler is a spy thriller in which a female British spy handler, during the darkest days of World War II, discovers the ultimate rumor: that when stationed in France during the First World War Adolf Hitler fathered a child. Obsessed with killing Hitler she tracks down that son and recruits him to undertake a mission to meet and kill his biological father.
It has elements of classic Le Carre spy stuff but is also had shades of Inglourious Basterds, The Man in the High Castle and Zero Dark Thirty.
AiPT!: There are many fictional stories about World War II but yours is unique. Where did you first get the idea for Son of Hitler and how much did it change as you were writing it?
ADC: Our collaborator Geoff Moore told me the legend Hitler may have had a child at one point and that he had played around with the idea of creating a story around it. My mind immediately started racing and I had all sorts of questions: What would that child be like? Would he or she have similarities to the father? And what if they were responsible for actually killing Hitler?
The story did change quite a bit based on some recent world events. But even more importantly, our original intent was to focus almost solely on Pierre, Hitler’s illegitimate son. He’s a baker’s apprentice in Occupied France with anger management problems and no knowledge of who his father actually is. But as we dove into the story – and created a whole new ending – we slowly discovered that the story would be a two-hander – it would not only focus on Pierre but also his handler, Cora Brown, a British SOE agent who recruits Pierre for the mission. They become friends and, though not always on the same page, bring out the best – and worst – in each other.
AiPT!: How did the two of you get together for this series?
ADC: We had a mutual friend, Lyz “Lyzard” Reblin, a comics reviewer for Aintitcool.com. She had been a fan of our works (Jeff’s FUBAR series, my Kill Shakespeare series) and I was exchanging emails with her and she recommended Jeff’s work. I immediately saw his talent and knew I wanted to work with him one day.
AiPT!: The art is distinctive, with the palettes chosen being the most eye-catching part. How did you decide on these?
JM: A lot of different factors contribute. Time of year for instance in the “blue” chapters is very cold versus later in the story we deal with summer and shift to a warmer color scheme. We also went with an off-white stock for the paper of the book, and I really think it helps set off the color choices.
AiPT!: Black magic, yetis, Hitler in South America. There is no shortage of Nazi urban legends. What is your favorite?
JM: I like The South American one. We know so many escaped Nazis relocated there.
ADC: I think these sorts of legends are what makes Nazis such interesting villains in storytelling, even to this day. (Especially these days). They came into existence so quickly and did so many horrible things – and the idea that some of the worst things weren’t even discovered is so appealing to storytellers. As for my favorite – we were actually able to weave a couple of them into this story. I can’t really point them out for fear of spoiling some of our tale.
AiPT!: Son of Hitler is set during World War II but there are allusions to our current world. Was it always planned to be topical?
ADC: The original story was going to end in the bunker. It’s never been proven what exactly happened there and this would be a possible version of events.
But last year, while I was scripting the book, a number of things happened in the world around us: the Charlottesville riots, the rise of nationalism, etc. And these events inspired a new ending to our story – a new third act – taking the story beyond the bunker and into a completely new direction. I think it’s what makes this story relevant to today’s world.
AiPT!: Pierre is a complex character. You can’t help but pity him but at the same time you want to yell at him for some of the things he does. Who were your influences when you created him? What about when you drew him?
ADC: For the last few years I’ve been quite interested in the question of nature vs. nurture. How much are we like our parents? And this is the extreme example: if your father is the worst man of the last 100+ years, what traits – if any – do you take on? So the biggest influence for the Pierre character is Hitler himself. So we honed in on two aspects – Pierre’s anger (and violent tendencies) and his ability to find peace (through baking). I read quite a bit about Hitler and his drive to become an artist in his earlier years and wanted to find parallels in Pierre’s story.
AiPT!: Son of Hitler has a cinematic look and feel to it and Hollywood loves spy thrillers and World War II movies. Have there been talks to adapt it to film or TV?
ADC: As happens in many stories we needed to throw out some plotlines and characters to bring our story to its current length. For instance, there was a really fascinating Nazi character – one of my favorite characters I’ve ever conceived – that we eliminated because he was taking us away from our core story. But if Son of Hitler were to be adapted for television we could bring some of these stories into play, so it’s definitely something we’re interested in pursuing.
AiPT!: Who influenced your art style?
JM: I’m a little all over the place on influences. Certainly those EC/Warren war book stalwarts like John Severin, Wally Wood, Alex Toth. I know for this project and its approach I looked at a lot of illustration work. N.C. Wyeth, Saul Tepper amongst other illustrators of the era.
AiPT!: Along with urban legends, there’s lots of alternate World War II fiction. Which is your favorite?
JM: Inglourious Basterds is a favorite of mine.
ADC: Three titles specifically: Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (the book and the Amazon series, which adds some interesting elements), Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, and finally, the Indiana Jones stories. Though people don’t think of this last one as alternative fiction, I think it explores some of the Nazis obsession with the supernatural (and bring Hitler into the third story!).
AiPT!: What future projects do you have coming up?
JM: I’ll be writing and illustrating a biography of Smedley Butler for Dead Reckoning Press.
ADC: I can’t officially announce it yet but I have an upcoming series with Marvel Comics in which I get to write for one of my favorite characters and explore a major medical condition happening in today’s world while doing so. And last year my audio drama series Unheard: The Story of Anna Winslow (Audible) hit #1 so I’m about to begin work on two new productions. Audio dramas/fictional podcasts are an emerging storytelling medium (yet old at the same time – radio plays have been around for almost 100 years) and I’m excited to be part of something growing so quickly with so much potential.
On top of that, I’m working on some concepts that I think will appeal to Jeff as I’d love to work with him on something else. He was a dream collaborator.