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Time Travelling Nazi Killers from Norway

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Fantagraphics Books is slated to release Norwegian cartoonist Jason’s latest graphic novel, I Killed Adolf Hitler, this August. With this in mind Jason stopped by to give us the inside look.

Broken Frontier: Can you give us a general summary of what to expect from I Killed Adolf Hitler?

Jason: It's about this hired killer who goes back in time to kill Adolf Hitler. At least, that's the opening of the book. It's not really about Hitler, he's only in 10 or 12 panels, rather it's about the relationship between the killer and his ex-girlfriend.

BF: In other interviews you've talked about how Buster Keaton was an influence on some of your previous work such as Tell Me Something. Are there any major influences, film or otherwise, that inspired you while working on I Killed Adolf Hitler?

J: There is not a specific film that was an inspiration, the way The Killing was for the second half of Left Bank Gang. But the films of Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley and especially Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki have been an influence for a long time.

BF: Your style has been described as minimalist by some. Do you think that's a valid claim?

J: I guess. I try to keep the storytelling as simple and clear as possible.

BF: In 2002 you won a Harvey Award for Best New Talent. Can you tell us a little bit about what that experience was like?

J: I wasn't present at the award show, so there's not much I can tell about it. Being nominated for an award is always a pleasant surprise and winning even more so.

BF: One of the most enjoyable aspects about your work is that it has the potential to be interpreted in so many different ways. But as the creator is there a right way you want fans to perceive the events within your body of work?

J: If I have some sort of rule in my cartooning it’s don't tell everything. Leave something for the reader to discover on his own. If ten people read the book and interpret it in ten different ways that's a good thing. That's something I hope for. I don't understand the need some people have of being told everything. What happened to the Russian guy on Sopranos? I'm glad we were never told. We might actually have to use our own imagination.

BF: What's your working relationship with Fantagraphics Books like? Are they involved with the creative process or do they not come in till after the book's finished?

J: They're not involved. I've never done any books directly for them. The black and white books I did for Jippi in Norway, the colourbooks for Carabas in France. Both those publishers have given me complete freedom, there is no editor asking me to change stuff. So any missteps in my books are my fault.

BF: In 1997 you founded comics annual Mjau Mjau. Can you give us a brief rundown of its history and what we can expect from it down the line?

J: I guess Eightball by Daniel Clowes was an inspiration, to do a comic book with different short stories, and to try out different styles of drawing. Number 11 and 12 were the last ones, running the Iron Wagon story. Since then I've published my stories directly as books. If I get an idea for a longer story it's possible I go back to Mjau Mjau and have it serialized over several issues.

BF: What do you think the biggest differences are between Norwegian and American comic book audiences?

J: The biggest difference is reading habits, I guess. The Norwegian comic book audience put on a Viking helmet, sit in a bathtub and eat lutefisk while they read. I'm not sure if the American readers do that.

BF: While working on a new project are you ever conscious of cultural differences or let them impact your work?

J: No, I don't think there are that many cultural differences anymore. Everybody has seen the same films and read the same books and gets the references.

BF: Now that I Killed Adolf Hitler is finished can you tell us what you plan to do next? Any new projects you're thinking of tackling?

J: The next album, The Last Musketeer, is already finished. It will be published in French in August and then hopefully early next year by Fantagraphics. It's a science fiction story, but sort of retro, like the old Flash Gordon black and white films. Then the plan is to publish a collection of older stories, things I did before Hey,Wait...

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