Announced last week, British firm Studio Eight has optioned Norwegian cartoonist Jason’s graphic novella “I Killed Adolf Hitler” for film, with Up Country Productions’ D.C. Walker writing the screenplay. Jason — whose given name is John Arne SÃ¦terÃ¸y — published the Eisner Award-winning “IKAH” in the US through Fantagraphics in 2007; his most recent book, “Athos in America,” was released earlier this month.
“I Killed Adolf Hitler” tells the story of a hitman sent back through time to assassinate the FÃ¼hrer early in his reign, only to see Adolf steal away to the present day, leaving his would-be killer stranded in the past. Like much of Jason’s work, there is infinitely more to the story than even this outlandish plot would suggest, and the book holds all the deadpan humor and moments of sincere tenderness his readers have come to expect.
With “IKAH” now one step closer to a big-screen debut, CBR News spoke with Jason and Walker, the screenwriter, about the project.
Jason noted that, while the book has been optioned, “it’s still a long way to a finished film.” “It seems like a small miracle every time a movie is made and turns out good. A lot of things can go wrong. So we’ll see,” he said. “I hope it will be good. Or really bad. One of those. The disappointment would be if it’s a mediocre film.”
â€¨While some artists pray for a faithful adaptation of their work, Jason said hopes the movie can take on a life of its own. “I hope it will have some style and personality, and not just be a copy of the comic,” Jason said, adding that he’d like to see it shot “in a classic style, and not end up looking like some MTV rock video, which most movies made today look like.”
â€¨When a comic is optioned, some creators are eager to dive in (when allowed) and take an active role in the process, while others are happy to step back and let the studio and filmmakers run with it. Jason told CBR he falls squarely into the latter category.”I’ve already told the story in a comic, so I’m not that interested in retelling it. And the movie should be its own thing. If they send me a ticket to the opening, that’s fine.”
Speaking with Walker, it sounds as though Jason will get his wish for the movie to be a unique entity, separate from the comic while faithful to its spirit. “We’re definitely keeping the deadpan tone, while adding more dialogue and detail to the love story and the other surrounding events,” Walker said. “The greatest challenge the material posed was its brevity, at only 48 pages. I viewed ‘IKAH’ as a jewel like the french short film ‘La Jetee.’ All the key themes were in place, it was just a matter of expanding on them like they did in ’12 Monkeys’ (the film ‘IKAH’ will most resemble). That meant adding more complications, re-dating the travelers’ journeys, and giving the peripheral characters like the scientist, Goebbels and Himmler much more to do. That’s how I pitched it to Jason and his publishers when I first set out to option the novel myself. Luckily, he agreed.”
Walker is clearly a fan of the original material, describing “I Killed Adolf Hitler” as a fresh take on a familiar premise. “Time travel stories are a well-worn genre, but Jason managed to reinvigorate the formula with a pair of brilliant twists,” Walker said. “Those two variations and the poignant ending made this a story I wanted to help tell to as broad an audience as possible.”
“I Killed Adolf Hitler” mixes a science fiction premise with deadpan humor and perhaps the most notorious figure in history. Given this, CBR asked Walker if there were special considerations unique to adapting this particular story to film. “Obviously, one needs to take care when tackling such a sensitive subject. I tried to take it as seriously as possible,” Walker said. “If this were really going to happen, when and how would one carry it out? That led to 1927, when for a variety of reasons the Nazi party was at its weakest. This also meant backdating the story’s start to 1977 in the UK during the birth of punk rock, which should make for a marvelous soundtrack.”
Jason’s graphic novels, including “I Killed Adolf Hitler” and “Athos in America,” are available now from Fantagraphics.