For all its grotesque, over-the-topness, Mastermen is still fundamentally a comic that pulls its punches.

That seems an odd thing to say about a comic that starts with Hitler on the toilet, and becomes arguably more tasteless from there on, but it’s the truth.

Yes, it has a Nazi Superman, and one might hope that this would be an opportunity to engage with the fascist iconography of superheroes, but… well, it turns out he’s one of the good Nazis. The holocaust happened when he was away for a few years, and the world he’s ruling is a utopia for those who are left, and he does feel ever so ever so guilty about all the genocide and destruction (so much so that he helps bring about the destruction of an entire city and its inhabitants, killing millions more to assuage his guilt about the death of millions).

No, no, no, no, no.

The “good Nazi” is one of the most pernicious myths there are. “Good” and “Nazi” are, quite simply, antonyms. Either you believe in the superiority of white heterosexual able-bodied people, and that all others should be killed, and that order should be imposed by a strong man forcing the weak to conform to him, or you’re a good person. Not both. Never, ever, ever, both. This is not something that should be a controversial position. Seventy years and six days after that utter shit Hitler finally killed the one deserving victim of his evil, this should be a statement that needs no repetition, but apparently it does.

Not that there’s nothing good about this comic. In fact, if one takes out that glaring, horrific, misstep and looks at the rest of the comic, there’s a lot to be said for it. Superhitler surviving the genocide of the people of Metropolis, unable to get rid of his guilt because unable to die, is a potent image, as is Uncle Sam’s Freedom Fighters being made up of the dispossessed humble masses who the Nazis intended to eradicate (do we have the first ever Jehovah’s Witness superheroes in this story?)

And the parallels with Operation Paperclip — Doctor Sivana, apparently an ex-Nazi but actually working for the multiversal Sivana conspiracy that plans to take over everything, bringing the technology the Freedom Fighters need — work very well. One of the big national myths in the US is about how American know-how and technical wizardry won the Cold War and made America the greatest superpower in the world, when America’s growth was mostly because nowhere else had any factories that hadn’t been bombed to bits, and the know-how and technical wizardry was mostly from Nazis like Wernher von Braun (who we see early on in this story, as one of the scientists experimenting on the young Supernazibaby). Having that acknowledged — and having it be the fatal flaw in the Freedom Fighters’ plans, the one that causes them to create immense destruction — can only be a good thing.

But still, I can’t get past that central character. The Good Nazi. The Nazi who said sorry.

This iteration of Superman seems most closely to parallel Albert Speer, Hitler’s closest friend for much of the Nazi period, a war criminal who was convicted at Nuremberg, but the only one of the Nazis at Nuremberg to express guilt over what happened. But Speer, like Overman, managed to claim to conveniently not know about any of the really bad stuff until after it had happened. Yes, he’d been responsible for armaments production for the most evil regime ever to exist, and yes he’d used slave labour to do it, but he’d been led astray by a bad crowd and didn’t know anything about any of those death camps, honest guv — so even while he pled guilty, he was only sentenced to twenty years while his immediate junior was sentenced to death.

When Speer got out of prison, he built a whole career on being the “good Nazi”, the one who’d said sorry. He wrote bestselling books, talking in great detail about how he should never have listened to that Hitler, and how even though he hadn’t known anything about any of the bad stuff, he was still very sorry for it.

Except, of course, as Gitta Sereny showed, Speer knew everything. He may not even have admitted it to himself, in his later years, but he was at the crucial meetings. He knew the crucial details. He saved his own neck by claiming simultaneously to repent and to be innocent of the worst crimes, but he was as guilty as anyone.

The Good Nazi myth is one that gets propagated time and again, and its presence in this comic is like the contaminating meme that is spreading through the multiverse in the series as a whole. To claim that it’s possible to be a good, decent, noble person and still to follow Nazi ideology is, however unintentionally, to go some way towards legitimising that ideology.

[Over a ten-day period I will be posting my long piece on Multiversity. Those who want it in one piece can buy the whole thing as an epub from Smashwords right now for $1, on Kindle (US) and (UK), and my Patreons get it for free.]

4 Responses to “Multiversity: Splendour Falls”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    But shit, Ford and IBM got off scot-free.
    The way to pull a Mister Miracle for nazi accusations was to be an American multinational.

  2. tam Says:

    Or a rocket scientist!

  3. Zakaria Says:

    So either be IBM or help build an ICBM?

  4. David Golding Says:

    Kind of like the ‘good Englishman’. Please.

Leave a Reply