(Courtesy of Image Comics)
Available in stores now, Villain Media has an exclusive interview with writer Anthony Del Col, who discusses his thought-provoking spy thriller, Son of Hitler (Image Comics). Check out how this never-before-told tale of Adolf Hitler’s secret child examines what was the true key to ending World War II.
In 1944 Occupied France, a rogue British agent reveals to a young baker’s assistant the true identity of his father, thus recruiting him for a dangerous mission that will end the greatest threat of World War II. Out of respect to the innocent and the dead all the names in this story have been changed…
With Son of Hitler out in stores, Anthony Del Col and I talk about how the inspiration behind the graphic novel came about, the mesmerizing artwork from Jeff McComsey, and the book’s message that readers will come away with.
Villain Media: What I found interesting about Son of Hitler is how the story uses elements of alternative historical fiction. What were your influences to the narrative?
Anthony Del Col: Our first influence was the great Tarantino movie, Inglourious Basterds. We wanted to tell a fun, over-the-top World War II tale with lots of Nazi hunting and killing. And these elements are there, but as we dove deeper into the story, we realized it was also becoming a great spy caper, with secret agents planting moles and manipulating people to get what they need. Artist Jeff McComsey is a HUGE fan of John LeCarre books; so it came quite naturally for us.
VM: Tell me about Pierre, who I felt was a tragic figure. Like many, he has issues with his father and on a deeper level, he’s an orphan who wants to know the truth. And yet, he can never trust the person giving him information.
ADC: Pierre Moreau—the titular character—is a very intriguing character; someone driven and smart, but also one who will get in his own way. When we first meet him, he seems so nice and proper—but we quickly realize he has anger management problems. And we have an extended flashback sequence that shows he’s been like this quite a bit. My co-creator, Geoff Moore, always likes to compare him to a grenade, who could be set off at any moment.
Since he’s Hitler’s biological son, I wanted to play with his father’s failed attempts at being a painter. So Pierre is able to find peace in baking treats and things like madeleines. But when he’s taken away from this environment, and cast on a mission to find his father, he goes back to these dark impulses of his.
VM: My favorite character in Son of Hitler is agent Cora Brown. I could never tell if she was manipulating Pierre or if she was indeed faithful to her mission. Tell me about writing Cora, who’s really a femme fatale in a spy thriller.
ADC: I’m so glad you like her! She was a blast to write, and is perhaps the character I’ve enjoyed writing the most. Cora’s biggest trait is that she’s driven. She’s obsessed with finding and killing Hitler, and has been involved in many attempts to get at him over the years. We don’t really dive into this in the book, but at that time, it wasn’t easy for a female spy handler—there were so few of them. She’s had to try twice as hard as any of her compatriots to get where she is. And she’s not going to go anywhere until she succeeds.
And yes, she manipulates people to get what she wants. This includes her boss, her mentor, and even Pierre when necessary. It may have worked in the past, but this is a mission unlike any she’s ever been on.
VM: Tell me about artist Jeff McComsey, who illustrated different time periods and several locations.
ADC: I’ve been wanting to work with Jeff for years now, so when co-creator Geoff Moore and I devised this story, I knew he would be the perfect collaborator. Jeff is not only a great artist and a really nice guy, but he’s also a talented storyteller. So we involved him in all the key story brainstorming sessions ,and he was able to bring a LOT of great ideas that made their ways into the script.
One of the cool things he did was to have each time period in the book be colored in its own unique way. There’s a very cold, cool blue theme for the Occupied France scenes, a sepia-esque tone for flashbacks, and then when the story goes into a completely different direction, in the third act, an alarming reddish tone. All of this makes it feel like it’s a comic from a different era, exactly as we wanted.
VM: Tell me about the differences between writing an original graphic novel like Son of Hitler and writing a serialized comic like Kill Shakespeare.
ADC: Son of Hitler was originally pitched as an ongoing series of issues—a total of eight—but it was the idea of Image Comics’ Eric Stephenson to release it as a graphic novel. With a title like Son of Hitler, there’s always the fear that we would be glorifying Hitler or Nazis. We don’t. Not at all. But if you don’t know that at the beginning, people could be afraid of it. So by releasing the entire story at once we can assure anyone’s fears—this is a straight-forward Nazi hunting tale.
VM: With the 45th President pushing hard against the press, tearing children from their parents, and the ongoing protests against fascism in the States, is it a challenge to put together Son of Hitler especially during a tough political climate?
ADC: I think the current political environment makes it even MORE important to tell stories like Son of Hitler. Our original concept was that the story would end in the bunker – we would find out how Adolf Hitler was actually killed. But when I watched footage from events like the Charlottesville riots last year, I came up with a new ending, one that explores that even when someone like Hitler is dead, some of his ideas can continue on. It’s perhaps the scariest part of humanity today and MUST be explored in stories.
VM: Tell me about how this project changed you as a storyteller.
ADC: Every new project I have makes me stronger as a storyteller; so this book is another one making me a better writer. But in terms of specifics, as you said above, I normally write serializing stories. Writing Son of Hitler forced me to get away from that “cliffhanger every 20 pages,” and instead put together a story that is building up consistent momentum through its 184 pages.
VM: What are you working on now?
ADC: I’m not allowed to make an official announcement yet, but I’m writing my first project with Marvel. It’s been a blast—they have great editors there and I found a unique superhero story to explore.
Last year my first audio drama, Unheard: The Story of Anna Winslow was released by Audible and hit #1 for its first three weeks. I absolutely loved the experience and writing in the medium of podcasts and am about to start writing another two series this summer, one for release—ideally—late this year!
Son of Hitler is out in stores now.
[Writer’s Note: Interview edited for clarity. Links highlighted in bold.]