Alt History Posters #2: Tangier (plus giveaway!)

Giveaway Time! Tweet @hodderscape with your favourite #Fakefilms for a chance to win 1 of just 4 exclusive Tangier posters! (note the competition is open to UK addresses only).

One of my favourite moments in A Man Lies Dreaming comes when Wolf runs into an old friend – the notorious Nazi film maker and actress Leni Riefenstahl.

Riefenstahl (1902-2003),began her film career as an actress, starring in some 7 early films before turning to directing with The Blue Light in 1932. Around this time she met Adolf Hitler, and became his intimate confidant. She was the Nazis’ most spectacular propagandist, creating such infamous films as The Triumph of the Will (1935) and Olympia (1938). She was detained after the war but never convicted of a crime, and died at the ripe old age of 101. Susan Sontag wrote her famous essay, Fascinating Fascism, about Riefenstahl. In her obituary, the Independent called her “famous for being the woman you love to hate.”

In A Man Lies Dreaming, Leni ends up in Hollywood – where she’s cast opposite a little known actor, Humphrey Bogart, in a film set in Morocco, where refugees from Communist Germany find temporary shelter, and a disillusioned bar owner plays complex chess problems against himself – until an old flame walks through the door.

From early on I knew I wanted to not just write the gag (the film is in fact a sequel to The Great Gatsby), but to see it, and this was the original collaboration I worked on with Sarah (the second one was the Re-Elect Mosley poster). There is always something so fascinating about #fakefilms, a perennial what if? question.

To create the poster, we used as our base one of the original release posters. There are several, so we ended up going with the one that features Ingrid Bergman’s face, and a smaller scene set in Rick’s bar. We replaced Bergman with Riefenstahl as a first step. At this point it became clear we were engaging in some imaginary casting, too. It was obvious Paul Henried (Victor) had to go, and it seemed only natural to me to replace him with – who else – Boris Karloff.

But next to go on the poster was the Soviet red star – further indicating the historical diversion point – then the casting. Hattie McDaniel replaces Doolie Wilson (Sam) – she was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar, for 1939’s Gone with the Wind. Finally, Burgess Meredith and Ronald Reagan replace Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.

For the visual scene (Rick’s bar in the original) we ended up using the image of Soviet troops, marching. We also added the tagline “Everybody Comes to Gatsby’s” (Casablanca itself was based on the unproduced stage play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s).

The result was this:

Tangier poster

Though we weren’t able to reprint the poster in the finished book, Hodder have very kindly printed 4 copies for our exclusive giveaway!

As above, tweet @hodderscape with your favourite #Fakefilms for a chance to win a copy!

The Guardian review A Man Lies Dreaming

Amazing review in the Guardian for A Man Lies Dreaming, beginning:

A Holocaust novel like no other, Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming comes crashing through the door of literature like Sam Spade with a .38 in his hand. This is a shocking book as well as a rather brilliant one, and it treats the topic of genocide with a kind of energetic unseriousness.

And concluding with:

A Man Lies Dreaming is a twisted masterpiece.

I couldn’t ask for more!

A Man Named Wolf

While writing A Man Lies Dreaming I’ve been thinking sort of visually about it – which might come from my work with weird graphic projects and comics in recent years (stuff like the as-yet-unpublished It’s Hard to be a Filipino in HebrewGoing to the Moon and the forthcoming Adler mini-series from Titan).

One of the things I wanted for AMLD were some posters from the alternate-history version of the story. One of them is Re-Elect Mosley. The other I hope to post soon (and we’ll have some physical copies too to giveaway!). Both were done by Sarah Anne Langdon.

The second thing I wanted to do was have a comic tie-in to the novel. I hoped to work with artist Neil Struthers, who I collaborated with on a weird little 32pp graphic novella called Adolf Hitler’s “I Dream of Ants!”, serialised in Murky Depths magazine and collected into one volume in 2012.

Adolf Hitler's "I Dream of Ants!"

After finishing the book, I ended up writing an original 11pp comic script, called “Postcards”, for that purpose. It looked a bit like this:

PAGE 9 / PANEL 2: A young girl – GELI RAUBAL, Hitler’s niece, 17 – alone in a bedroom. On the wall a Nazi flag, on the dresser by the bed a framed picture of Hitler (with ‘stache) and Geli with arms around each other, smiling. The second drawer is open. Geli’s hand is coming back from the drawer with a gun – a Smith & Wesson .22.

Neil, however, had to withdraw from the project, and so I was left resigned to not having anything done, until…

Until it occurred to me, very cheekily, that some of the art in I Dream of Ants fitted my purposes very well. Alongside the ants and the madcap 1950s pulp sci fi tropes there was a strain of Hitler Noir running through the comic. It’s why I wanted to work with Neil on the project to begin with. And so, having failed to talk myself out of it, I got in touch with Terry Martin (who published the original Ants) and he sent me the clean files (that is, without the lettering).

And what I did then was, I literally opened them up in Photoshop and started to crop individual frames. Like this:

brush teeth

And like this and like this:

Aha car ring

And then I started putting them into sequences, and writing a script (which is based on the first chapter of the novel), so what I got eventually was something like this:

A Man Named Wolf - Page 1

And I wrote a script that looks something like this:

Page 2

Panel 1:

Woman: You are Herr Wolf, the detective?

Wolf: Depends who’s asking.

Woman: My name is Isabella Rubinstein.

Caption: She had the face of an intelligent Jewess.

And I sent everything to Terry Martin, and he made it look something like this:

A Man Named Wolf - Page 2

And then I talked to my publishers at Hodder and they did a PDF you can download, and also they made these:

A Man Lies Dreaming

And so now there’s a limited number of print copies alongside the digital copy, and Hodder currently have a giveaway on Twitter. And I have some too!


And that’s how that happened!

Which is a very unusual and rather strange way of making a comic but, hey, I enjoyed it. My grateful thanks to Neil Struthers and Terry Martin for allowing me to use and remix the material, and doing all the hard work so I didn’t have to – and to the brilliant Fleur at Hodder who worked behind the scenes to make this ridiculous idea a reality.

You can read the comics online right here.

Alt. History Posters #1: Oswald Mosley

Oswald Mosley (1896-1980) was the leader of the British Union of Fascists. In our reality he was mostly ineffectual, and spent the majority of the Second World War incarcerated in Holloway Prison.

In A Man Lies Dreaming Mosley’s BUF has gained power and he is running for Prime Minister in 1939. Set in the lead up to the elections, I wanted to go for a suitably chilling election poster for Mosley, but everything we came up with just looked… too real. Eventually my agent made the (in hindsight, obvious) suggestion for the caption… which makes the whole thing suddenly that much more chilling.

This is one of two pieces done as concept art for A Man Lies Dreaming by Sarah Anne Langdon.

Mosley Poster

On the corner with Dean Street I saw a group of blackshirts standing together in a dark mob, eyeing the passers-by with sullen hostility. On a wall I saw a placard for Mosley’s election campaign. Oswald’s handsome British face stared out at me with its dapper moustache and ironic smile. I saluted him, crisply. Then I went into the Hofgarten.