'American Carnage': Vertigo Comic Is a White Supremacist 'Game of Thrones'
Bryan Edward Hill draws on a deeply personal story about race in America in his new Vertigo series.
A new series from DC’s reinvigorated Vertigo is turning the world of America’s white nationalists into a Game of Thrones-esque battle for supremacy. But unlike George R.R. Martin’s sword and sorcery allegory for contemporary politics, which has the annoyingly Neutral Good Jon Snow trying to unite Westeros, American Carnage is sending a biracial saboteur to strike from within.
On November 21, a day before Americans give thanks, DC and Vertigo released the first issue of American Carnage, a new original comic book series from Detective Comics writer Bryan Edward Hill with illustrations by Leandro Fernandez, Dean White, Pat Brosseau, and Ben Oliver on cover duty.
Profoundly influenced by Hill’s personal life as a black kid growing up “between different worlds,” American Carnage is a Shakespearean Point Break that infiltrates America’s monarchs of #MAGA conservatism.
“We pride ourselves in America on not being a monarchy, but that’s not true,” Hill tells Inverse. “Wealth does create royalty in America, and rich people in America have different rules.”
"I joke this is white supremacist ‘Game of Thrones,’ because it’s really about power and ambition. — Bryan Edward Hill
American Carnage is the story of Richard Wright, a light-skinned, half-black ex-FBI agent tasked with cozying up to the Morgan family, a mega-rich celebrity conservative dynasty, to find evidence that the Morgans killed another federal agent.
Several story threads play out over the course of the series. Aside from Richard’s mission to obtain evidence, there are power struggles among the “kingdoms” of white supremacy.
“I joke this is white supremacist Game of Thrones, because it’s really about power and ambition” Hill says. “One of the things I discovered in my personal research with white supremacists was, there is no unity of thought. There are people who want to mainstream, there are good old boys, neo-Nazi skins, Aryan Brotherhood criminals. These kingdoms don’t get along.”
And then there’s Winn Morgan, the Morgan family patriarch who sits on the “Iron Throne” of Hill’s Caucasian Westeros. Hill says Winn Morgan will spend much of American Carnage trying to unify America’s radical white-wing, but Hill insists the Morgans aren’t just another family of Trumps.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t find Trump interesting enough to put in a book,” he says. “Characters have to be dynamic and have dimension. They can’t just be loud. Volume isn’t enough for me to put them in a book. I didn’t want this stereotypical cartoon of a racial supremacist.”
"I’ll be honest, I don’t find Trump interesting enough to put in a book. — Bryan Edward Hill
Rather than just simply turning the Trumps into comic book villains, Hill envisions the Morgans as a pastiche of personalities based on people he knew growing up in St. Louis and public figures ranging from George Wallace to Steve Bannon.
“I look at it as Shakespearean,” he says. “Winn represents the nobleman usurper to the political order. And he is raising his daughter, Jennifer, to be queen, but we’re not certain if she’s worse than her father.”
American Carnage is many things, but Hill is quick to argue it isn’t purely political.
“If it was a political work I think it would have to support a singular political thesis,” (which it doesn’t). “It would have to be a treatise of a political point of view, and I don’t believe it is.”
Ultimately, American Carnage is a crime story, set in the backdrop of America’s surging white racial extremism.
“It is about identity, power, manipulation. It’s about how people can be lead down the path of their darkest impulses. It’s about the ethics and roots and causes and motivations for hatred and how we can overcome hatred both righteous and wicked.”
But American Carnage is personal. Growing up, Hill lived between two worlds: By day, he was a “scholarship kid” going to “fancy pants” preparatory schools. By night and at home, Hill lived a working-class life and tried not to give his black family the impression he was better than them.
Zig-zagging between worlds compelled a young Hill to experiment with all of the “polemics”; he briefly flirted with right-wing ideology and black militancy, neither of which Hill found fitting.
“I came to realize I had to stop looking for people I could turn to for justification,” he says, “I had to give myself permission to be who I was.”
To a young boy growing up, a lack of identity is one of the most difficult ways to discover oneself.
“It makes understanding who you are difficult,” he says. “When you have Led Zeppelin days and Run-DMC nights, you’re trying to figure out exactly where you are. When you change who you are to make people comfortable, you end up never truly landing on yourself. It took me a long time to discover who I was.”
He did learn one valuable lesson though, one that his American Carnage protagonist can relate to. “What I learned was to be a chameleon.”
American Carnage #1 hits store shelves on November 21.
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