Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chutz-POW!: The Comic Book – Fritz Ottenheimer

It was a bright, sunny yet freezing cold early March morning when I met with Fritz Ottenheimer, the subject of the final story in the Chutz-POW! collection. Fritz and his wife Goldie welcomed me into their home and were very gracious. Fritz is a small man, in his late 80s. He reminded me of my father, at least in terms of general build. He was more than willing to talk about his experiences in Germany and in World War II. Here's the first page of his story, with art by Christopher Moeller.

Fritz was very humble about his contributions and accomplishments, giving most of the credit for being Upstanders to his parents who helped smuggle many people across the German border into Switzerland when he was a boy. His family immigrated to America in 1939 while he was still a teenager. In 1945 he returned to Germany as a member of the U.S. Army to fight against his homeland.

My impression of Fritz is that he is a brilliant and well-read man who has spent much of his life trying to understand the Holocaust and the larger questions about life and humanity that it raises. He spoke with insight, compassion, and dignity about every topic that came up. He wrote a marvelous book about his experiences called Escape andReturn: Memories of Nazi Germany that goes into far more detail than we were able to cover in the hour I spent with him.

I've known the artist, Chris Moeller, for probably twenty years or more. He is an illustrator, comics creator, and one of the more gifted painters I've been privileged to know. I knew Chris was at the tail end of major and very personal graphic novel project so I didn't really think he would be available. To my delight, he said yes. Chris's art stayed very true to my original script. There were places where I told him very openly that while I knew what words needed to be on the page I didn't know what would be the best images to accompany them. In those cases he had carte blanche to do whatever he thought worked best. I wasn't disappointed. His storytelling instincts are golden.

Chris's work includes JLA: A League of One and JLA: Cold Steel. He was the cover artist for the Vertigo Comics series Lucifer and Batman: Shadow of the Bat. He has provided illustrations for Marvel, IDW, FASA, Topps, West End Games, Wizards of the Coast, Blizzard Entertinment, WizKids and White Wolf Games. He created a pair of creator-owned graphic novels called Iron Empires: Faith Conquers and Iron Empires: Sheva's War, currently available from Dark Horse Comics. He recently self-published the thrid book in this series, Void, through an amazingly successful Kickstarter.


Fritz Ottenheimer was enthusiastic about the whole Chutz-POW! project, understanding the message we are trying to share. It was Fritz who provided the quote, without any prompting from me, that is on the back cover of the book. I think this sums up the goal of this comic and the educational legacy we hope it leaves, better than anything I could have written.

When you're acting as a superman, you're teaching your children to be supermen.”

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