Legendary reporter Edward R Murrow said, "Berlin was a thing of orchestrated Hell - a terrible symphony of light and flames," after he witnessed firsthand an allied bombing run on the city in 1943. This April, Chuck Dixon and Sergio Cariello give us a glimpse of that hellish city at the end of World War II, in their new mini-series "Iron Ghost". CBR News spoke with Dixon via e-mail about "Iron Ghost"
The mini-series takes place in Berlin 1945 and two police detectives find themselves pursuing a vigilante killer known as The Iron Ghost. "The Iron Ghost is stalking and killing members of the Nazi elite as well as common SS soldiers as the bombs rain down on Berlin," Dixon explained. "With each murder he leaves a one-word note accusing his victim of a crime: murder, rape, theft. He uses guns, flamethrowers, explosives or his bare hands if he has to. There's no evident connection between each victim but the picture comes together in hints and clues. Also, it's very clear from the beginning that the Iron Ghost is one of the cast of characters presented in the book. A broadcaster, an industrialist, a war hero and others."
Inspectors Tannhauser and Volz are assigned to capture the Ghost. "Tannhauser is an old cop who is investigating what he sees as a series of pattern crimes; murders of high ranking Nazi and SS members," continued Dixon. "He's not sympathetic to the Nazis and his motives and alliances are not clear at first. Volz is his young deputy inspector; a guy who has escaped military duty because of medical reasons."
As if solving a high profile murder case isn't difficult enough, Tannhauser and Volz must hunt the killer in the war-ravaged city of Berlin. "It's January 1945. It's a few months after the Allies really stepped up the bombing campaign. The irony of the book is that it's a murder investigation in a city filled with the dead. How and why bother when there are so many dead and any clues are obscured by daily bombing? But the Gestapo has its own reason for pressuring the police to find the killer."
"Iron Ghost" is a dark tinged story mixing elements of a crime tale with the horrors of war. "It's kind of nightmare noir," Dixon explained. "There's a heavy sense of doom and retribution here. If you haven't read about the fall of Berlin then you can't imagine the horror of it. Endless bombing. Fires. Starvation. And the barbaric Russian Army getting a few miles closer each day. The book is not a laugh riot."
Dixon has been developing the idea for "Iron Ghost" for years. "A pulp era masked vigilante ala the Shadow who's operating in Nazi Germany. I've also had this sick fascination with the Fall of Berlin and decided to set the story in that period," said Dixon. "The Nazis really called down the whole Wagner Gotterdammerung thing onto themselves and it's a terrific, apocalyptic setting for the story."
Dixon had a number of influences and inspirations on "Iron Ghost," including The Shadow and "Fatherland," a 1995 novel by Robert Harris which took place in an alternate world where the Nazis had won WWII and followed the investigation of a Berlin police detective into the death of a high ranking Nazi official. "I'm fans of both," admitted Dixon. "Also an author named Sven Hassel who wrote extensively on the German side of WWII. Real blood and guts stuff. He's more popular in the UK and in Europe than he ever was here. And another obscure author named Marc Behm. He wrote a book called 'Queen of the Night' about a woman who becomes embroiled with the Nazis at the height of their power. It was a tremendous portrayal of someone seduced by power and hatred until their humanity scorched away."
Sergio Cariello, Dixon's old collaborator on comics like "Batman/Wildcat," which Dixon co-wrote with Beau Smith, was responsible for getting "Iron Ghost" set up at ATP. "CrossGen was taking on water and the lifeboats were being lowered and those of us who were left were looking for work," Dixon said. "Sergio Cariello was doing some stuff for ATP and said they were good guys. He asked if I'd be interested in writing something for them. I proposed 'Iron Ghost,' as a creator owned project with scripts by me and art by Sergio and covers and design work by Flint Henry. Stephan at ATP went for it and has been extraordinarily supportive from the start."
"Iron Ghost" is a six issue mini-series that is a complete stand-alone story but Dixon might revisit the characters from the book some day. "I can see a follow-up or two," said Dixon. "A prequel would be fun as well. His 'origin'."
"Iron Ghost" is nightmarish tale of crime and war, but its also a somewhat cathartic story of a man extracting righteous vengeance on an army of evil men. "It's got a hero who's looking for revenge in the middle of the Third Reich. That means Nazi rats die by the truckload. That's entertainment."