The previous entry is now updated with purty art and extra musings, but that post is so yesterday, my friends. Today, "Grant Morrison and the Order of the Peyote" Week concludes as I take a look at one of his greatest obscure works. It's the best thing he's written that you may not have even heard of. (Archive a-go-go.)
195. The New Adventures of Hitler
Now here's a wacky little tale. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Steve Yeowell, it first appeared in Cut, a Scottish magazine, in 1989. It sparked a big controversy in the area, with editors quitting over the furor and the Sun picking up on the story. Morrison was decried as a Nazi by some audiences. Still, it blew over, at least until it was reprinted a year later in Crisis, a mature readers spin-off of 2000 A.D. and the whole thing started over again. It's never been reprinted since, which is a damn shame. The story's fantastic.
The premise is thus: Adolf Hitler is living with his half-brother Alois and his family in Liverpool in 1912. This part of the story is based upon actual claims by Alois' wife Bridget. Morrison takes the setting and runs with it, portraying the young Adolf as completely insane. As Hitler is narrating, the surreal elements constantly invade the plot. Hitler is stalked by a trolleybus, he's unable to sleep because Morrissey and John Lennon are living in his closet, and he hallucinates a meeting with John Bull, the spirit of Great Britain. Oh, and he's searching for the Holy Grail. And he's got the shits.
One part raucous comedy and another part dark psychological profile, the comic is a really engaging look at a man off his rocker, whom the reader happens to know will one day be the most evil person to ever live. Hitler's mood swings take him from a frustrated artist who is annoyed by his family to a man who dreams of being dictator of Europe and who has a deep-seated hatred of England. The reader sort of understands where Adolf's coming from but never really sympathizes with him, mostly because the guy is far too out of his gourd. Morrison deftly maneuvers through Hitler's character arc without coming off looking like either a Nazi sympathizer or a boring lecturer. This isn't propaganda; it's a story about a really troubled man who happens to blurt out statements veering from the hilarious ("Alois has hairy ears. I covet them") to the horrifying ("I am a man of vision, Alois! And let me tell you how to seize a country!"). The other Hitlers come off as hapless and well-meaning; Bridget kindly puts up with Adolf's antics, and his half-bro Alois, obsessed with the safety razor industry, well-meaning but put off occasionally.
Steve Yeowell provides the art, and really sells the mood. Having collaborated with Morrison prior to this on Zoids and Zenith, he'd go on to draw Sebastian O, Skrull Kill Krew, and some of the Invisibles with our man Grant later. He draws the bizarre and surreal with aplomb, playing ghostly trolleys and bulldogs with diarrhea absolutely straight, even though they're absolutely crazy. I'd say it's some of his strongest artwork ever. The colorist for the Crisis reprint, Nick Abadzis, utilizes some neat pattern-work, either in the background or perhaps overlaid over the entire panel, to accentuate Adolf's madness. Great work.
A running theme in Grant Morrison's work is the power of the idea. In the New Adventures of Hitler, the same theme reappears, but it shows how dangerous these ideas can be. Hitler may be a silly, pathetic wimp, but his terrible ideas consume him and drive him over the edge. He'd become an awful, horrible dictator in the end, having found his holy grail in a bowl of feces. Both funny and scary, this comic has a lot going for it.
I never thought there'd be such a thing as a fun comic about Adolf Hitler, but thanks to Grant Morrison, there is. Is there anything the God of All Comics can't do? Haha.
Because of its lack of reprints, the New Adventures of Hitler has become incredibly rare and obscure. However, it's come to my attention that one could, quite possibly, find it online. You didn't hear this from me, but it just might happen to be found in two parts, here and here. Good luck.
Well, that's the end of "Morrisonian Institute of 5-D Squids" Week. For those of you who were expecting maybe Animal Man, Doom Patrol, JLA, or Zenith, or maybe something else, even, I'm sorry. Still, plenty of days left in the year. Might have to do Mozzfest Part Deux.
See you tomorrow.