Or maybe not.
But should be.
So a manga adaptation of Hitler’s book MEIN KAMPF sold 45,000 copies in its first week of publication in Japan, which has freaked out a lot of people, especially those in Germany and the rights holders of the original book. It amuses me that this book’s Japanese sales alone are much higher than those of the average Marvel, DC or Vertigo comic.
When I saw some of the art pages, I laughed my fucking head off.
Manga Hilter! So emo when he was young! And even when emo, his eyes were evil!
For those of you who never read MEIN KAMPF but are curious, it’s really a book-length adolescent “We wuz robbed! It’s not fair! I hates U-all” rant that blamed everything on the Jews. I remember a particular bit where Hitler writes about throwing himself into his bed and burying his face in his pillow to smother her burning, rage-filled head. The only real revelation in the book is that Hitler was really Kevin the Teenager and never outgrew that.
The manga’s publisher, East Press, defended the manga by saying it’s a character study of a notorious historical figure that deserves examination, which is true. What’s notable is that the book sold higher numbers than the publisher’s adaptations of Marx’ DAS KAPITAL and Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE. You could write this off as intense curiosity, but then Japan has had a deep and worrying obsession with militarism and imperialism all the way down to its pop culture. The Japanese government still won’t apologise for its part in World War II or the Nanking Massacre after all, and tends to claim that WWII was something that they just accidentally wandered into, yet somehow the Americans decided, twice, to nuke them for it. This is a country that made a bestselling Playstation game called MOE MOE NIJI TAISEN featuring teenage girls in sexy, low-cut Nazi uniforms fit for the beach. Yes, only Japan would recognise the winning combination of fresh-faced teenage girls and sexy fascism. Make of all this what you will.
The bigger picture here isn’t just Japan. Hitler is all over the place this year. From right-wing nutters comparing President Obama to Hitler to celebrities comparing people to Hitler (to the point where Deadline Hollywood’s Nikki Finke has been prompted to wonder WTF? At least when you compare someone to Goebbels, you’re making a point about insidious propaganda), you can bet kids in schools are doing it. The MEIN KAMPF manga is only the latest manifestation. It’s like Hitler has become a conceptual airborne disease that the CDC has no way of stopping. He’s become cultural fodder. Or Mulch. Or fertilizer. Of the worst sort.
Even Tarantino mythologised him further in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS by giving him a totally fictional, fiery Gotterdammerrüng rather than the grubby, lonely, unglamourous suicide deep in a bunker that occurred in real life.
Hitler, Hitler, everywhere! It’s raining Hitlers! Thanks to people who are just making a joke, obsessed people, and stupid people who can’t think of any other comparison, it’s practically becoming All Hitler! All the time! Any day now, I expect some new pop band to call themselves Hitler and the Nazis.
Yeah, yeah, he was a bad guy blah blah blah, but I much prefer reducing him through ridicule rather than awe. I never related to all the reaction to Hitler as a monster. Human monsters do not work in a vacuum, they only have power when people give them that power. That’s an abject lesson in duplicity and complicity for everyone who isn’t the monster in question. Hitler never actually killed anyone in WWII by his own hand. He just headed a regime that did. I mean, come on, this guy had a silly moustache and only one testicle! People can react in horror to the mention of Hitler all they want, but underneath it all, he was utterly absurd.
Hitler and Nazis has become the default bad guy figures for the creatively lazy. They’re indisputably evil, so it’s okay to want to kill them, even the “good” ones who just happen to be on the wrong side. Every other Garth Ennis comic has them as villains these days, except in his case, I don’t think it’s laziness but a genuine fetish. The problem with their overuse is that they lose all meaning beyond being cartoon bogeymen. Indiana Jones’ refrain, “Nazis. I hate those guys” is about as deep it gets for most people.
The British seem to have the right idea when they use Hitler. Comedian Richard Herring recently sported a Hitler moustache as an absurdist joke and was mocked mercilessly by Charlie Brooker on YOU HAVE BEEN WATCHING. Zombie Cow’s video game TIME GENTLEMEN, PLEASE! Featuring a level where the heroes had to deal with Hitler, his army of Nazi dinosaurs, and his bowel movements. They at least know that Hitler has become kitsch. Even as far back as 1942, Ernst Lubitsch’s brilliant Resistance comedy TO BE OR NOT TO BE took the piss out of the Nazis not just for being genocidal warmongers, but also for being louche. And you can’t get more kitsch than the BBC French Resistance sitcom ‘ALLO, ‘ALLO, which Tarantino’s BASTERDS seems to be a partial remake of, only Tarantino thinks he’s being earnest. For me, mockery, ridicule and snark is a better path of attack than earnest chest-thumping.
Some days I’m of the opinion that people who are brainless enough to compare anyone they don’t like to Hitler are irredeemable idiots who should not be allowed to breed. See? Now I’m getting all Eugenics-like. I guess there’s a little Hitler lurking in all of us after all.
To sign off, here’s a drawing of Chibli Hitler. Kawai!
Special thanks (or should it be blame?) to Steven Grant for egging me on.
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© Adi Tantimedh