Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Killed Adolf Hitler

I really enjoy time travel stories like The Terminator and Dr. Who, with all their baggage about the ethics of changing the past and possibly damaging the time stream that they bring. This story is ostensibly about that, set in a world where assassins are commonly employed to deal with family troubles, marital strive, or conniving co-workers. One of these assassins is hired to go back in time to kill Adolf Hitler and prevent the horrors of World War II.
The rules are fixed so that there won't be multiple trips back and forth, making for a high stakes trip.
Unfortunately for the protagonist, he does not get things right the first time, and in fact not only muffs the assassination but also allows Hitler to flee to the future, leaving himself trapped in the past. Seeing how he deals with his plight and how all of these actions connect to his relationship with his estranged girlfriend make for some very interesting and all too human character dynamics. The narrative is an unpredictable and subtly complex ride, and it is no surprise to me that this book has been optioned by a British producing company to be made into a movie.
I Killed Adolf Hitler was created by Jason, a Norwegian comics artist whose actual name is John Arne Sæterøy. He has been a prolific author of international renown, publishing many books such as Athos in America, Low Moon, Hey Wait..., and The Left Bank Gang. He has received many accolades, winning an Inkpot Award, multiple Eisner Awards, and a Harvey Award. He speaks about his work and influences in this interview.

As you can see from the excerpts, Jason's style is pretty stylized and spare. Words can be sparse in his panels. The use of anthropomorphic animals adds a creepy vibe to the proceedings; they are deadpan "funny animals" that do not seem funny at all. I think they add a surreal touch to all of his works, and also their expressionless faces and animal identities leave them pretty open to interpretation and expression. I think that they are very sturdy, empty vessels for readers to fill with meaning.

Also, despite the funny animal characters, this is not a book for young children. There is some explicit language as well as bloody violence.

This book won the Eisner Award for best US Edition of International Material, and reviews I have read about it have been very positive. Seth T. Hahne called it "a terse, well-told, and well-managed story that is equal parts humourous, morbid, thoughtful, and touching." Mark Andrew commented that Jason's works, in particular this book, "demonstrate a huge breadth of understanding of the multiple dimensions of the human experience," even if he does draw all that well in his opinion. The reviewer at read/RANT marveled at "the subtle, yet conceptually complex, love story that slowly emerges from the background and transmutes unexpectedly into the main plot."

I Killed Adolf Hitler is published in the US by Fantagraphics, who provide a brief preview and more links here.


  1. Love this book! It was so interesting. I feel like Jason is the Coen Brothers of comics. You should check out my review of Asterios Polyp!

  2. That's a great way of describing Jason, though I see more Wes Anderson in him. Still, great directors!

  3. I can definitely see Wes Anderson in there too! Great post!