For a writer, history is a playground, with one of the most popular topics being World War II. A lot of stories have focused on the atrocities that Hitler and the Nazis committed. Being original in an oversaturated market is tough, but Anthony Del Col and Geoff Moore were able to accomplish that with Son Of Hitler. The graphic novel contains a variety of twists and turns that shape the outcome of World War II.
Being a fan of the story, I wanted to get Geoff’s thoughts on the writing process behind Son Of Hitler. In this informative interview, Geoff goes into detail about the kind of research that was involved and the importance of collaborating with such a big project.
Thanks for agreeing to the interview Geoff. You and Anthony have created something spectacular with Son Of Hitler. Where did the inspiration for the story come from initially?
A good friend of mine from university and I were sitting around talking after work one day. This would have probably been about 6 years ago. We were talking about the children of dictators, Stalin’s son was the start of the conversation. Which if you haven’t heard is a tragic story in and of itself. From there we went where every conspiracy theory conversation ends up, Hitler.
And that night we conceived of the entire story, front back and how it would happen, how he would get recruited and brought into it. We’ve kept almost nothing from that night but the premise but that was where the idea originally formed.
Given the amount of stories that have have already been told about Hitler and Nazi Germany, did you feel any pressure about trying to create something original?
Not sure I can swear, but so much fucking pressure. I’ve always been a consumer of WWII media from being a kid and reading and watching movies on the war to growing up and playing games and continuing to study it, I felt terrified we would just be some rehash of another version of what’s already been said. I knew the premise was a different starting point but something that Anthony and Jeff really helped with was constantly challenging the tropes I had put forward and really pushing some alternative ways of doing all this.
In the end I think we got something with enough of a delta from most other pieces that it stands on its own. But that is a spectre that haunts anyone in the historical fiction space, especially around this era.
What kind of research was carried out when planning the locations that are used in Son Of Hitler?
So much, originally we were sticking REALLY firmly to real locations Hitler was in and events that happened which we could get him to be a part of. Events like the massacre of Oradour-Sur-Glane, Hitler in the wolf’s lair on the eastern front, Romel going home to give his wife a new pair of Parisian shoes for her Birthday on June 4th. That last one I still wish we had worked in.
But in the end we decided to stretch some creative license as the timelines and direction of travel were problematic to the story. Given that it’s historical fiction I felt we were still staying within the lane but recognized that for some historical fiction purists (is that a thing) this wouldn’t really land perfectly.
As co-writer what kind of responsibilities did you have when it came to constructing the comic?
We ended up breaking up the book so that I wrote much of the first half and Anthony the second. First Anthony and I got on several calls with Jeff McComsey to talk story beats and timelines, these calls were long and tough but really hammered out a lot of the wrinkles in the original premise and got us to a good place, also really taught me the value of bringing in the whole team to help.
Jeff added countless value through this point. Then we would write chapter drafts and send them back and forth, then page drafts, than dialogue. It became a naturally collaborative process by the end but I can say there was a clear skill difference between Anthony and I in terms of how to go about executing it.
I was fortunate for his years of experience, sense of story and quality bar of good. Much of the events after he leaves with Cora were rewritten about seven times as Anthony always had an issue.
I was frustrated by it but knew he was right. I would say the most important thing in being a collaborator in creative work is know that the other person is only being critical or pushing on something for the sake of the product, and if you feel otherwise you need to immediately confront it or it’s going to spiral into a dark place.
I enjoyed how complex Cora was as a character. Were you inspired by any real life spy figures when it came to creating her?
No real spies, at least not that I know of. She is more based on the women in my life. My mother and grandmothers,who all lived the fantastic lives of challenging norms and breaking boundaries.
I really just wrote what I thought a person in her situation would do. I’m glad it came across as strong, as writing a female character was the biggest challenge of the book for me personally and my biggest fear of where it would fall apart.
French food like macaroons and madeleines are recurring themes throughout the story. Was there a thematic choice for including them and did the food have any personal meaning to you?
I enjoy my french treats, probably my second favourite french thing beyond french steak. Also, my mom and cousin make really good madeleines so I am sure there is some sort of subconscious connection there but at the start we needed a profession and we felt baker was on the surface non-violent and offered interesting storytelling opportunities.
The violence within Son Of Hitler reflects the brutality of World War II. How do you feel violence can enhance a story?
The violence was really important to me, not just for the war but for it to be clear this wasn’t some sort of dog whistle to the alt right and Nazis. I wanted there to be no question of where we stood morally on the idea of horrible people who do horrible things. With regards to how violence enhances a story I think it can add a lot and really fit.
To stay in the historical fiction world and talk about great violence, Inglorious Bastards uses violence to not only build characters but also tension in the story overall, the violence increases throughout the movie to a climactic mass murder/burning that feels like a triumph for the heroes of the story and ends with the intimate and messy carving of a swastika on a Nazi officer’s forhead. Which isn’t as dramatic but more impactful than the climax.
I think of violence in cases like that story as an almost visual soundtrack, it’s images which play on your emotions to move you through the story.
What’s your opinion on the independent comic industry as do you think it’s become easier for indie creators to get their work seen by a wider audience?
I don’t know if I have enough exposure to that side of the industry to speak to it. I was very fortunate to collaborate with Anthony earlier in my career on some non-comic work that I had this inside track. I will say as a consumer it’s slightly more easy to access independent work through the likes of Kickstarter and other fundraising sites, however I’ve been burned on it enough I’m pretty gun shy to back comics on those sites.
Do you have any favourite comics that have informed your journey as a writer?
It’s a trope answer but Understanding Comics by Scott Mccloud, I read it when I was in my early 20s and in reality barely understood it. I thought I did like most 20-year-olds but frankly it wasn’t until about 2 years ago when I reread it before I got to see him give a talk that I began to grasp the concepts in it. And it still influences and changes how I think not just about comics but visual communication in any form.
Are there any other indie comics that you’d recommend reading?
I don’t know what constitutes indie comic anymore. As I wasn’t sure how to answer this and after googling apparently Saga is an indie comic. Which seems odd as I can’t go to any comic shop that doesn’t have it. I’ll just give a list of old and new off the top of my head in no particular order. Saga, March (incredible important right now), Hark A Vagrant, Y The Last Man, East of West, Sheriff of Babylon, The Wicked and the Divine, Fables, Bitch Planet, Blankets (I dare you not to cry), Sex Criminals. I also hear those Kill Shakespeare, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, FUBAR, Z-MEN and Mother Russia. Sorry Anthony, I can’t plug your run on Luke Cage here cause you know….you sold out.
What kind of advice would you offer to anyone who wants to write their own comic?
Write. Make work. No idea who said it first but, people help people helping themselves. And if you have the capacity to do all of comics yourself, then just do it and you are good. If you don’t just start doing it and you will be a lot more likely to find like minded people. Ideas are great but work is what matters.