Page 141: The Storm Broke Loose

The lead-up to World War I fascinates me. I've struggled to understand how Europe, at the height of the most stable, peaceful and prosperous period it had known to date, willfully ran itself off a cliff and ushered in a century of mechanized war and mass murder.

So many great films have been made and books written about the war, it's hard to recommend just a few. Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, focusing on the first month of the war, is a classic. Another by Tuchman, The Proud Tower, describes pre-war Europe in 1890-1914 (my grandfather's youth). Her phrase "The Great War of 1914-18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time from ours" resonated throughout the writing and development of my game The Last Express.

The song on this page is "Die Wacht am Rhein," later resurrected as an anthem of Nazi Germany. Similar patriotic anthems were sung in 1914 by crowds across Europe, cheering their loved ones as they marched off to kill and be killed.


Yale University's theme song, "Bright College Years," shares the same melody. Arriving as a freshman in 1981, I was startled to find myself in an auditorium with a thousand other 17- and 18-year-olds, singing the rousing tune that went head to head with La Marseillaise in a memorable scene in the film Casablanca — and which my grandfather had also sung at age 17, with different lyrics.

Page 142: Russian Troops Captured Our City

My grandfather's description of his World War I experience runs over a hundred pages in his original memoir. In Replay, I did my best to compress his narrative and convey its essence. I'll post a link to the full PDF of his chapter at the end of these notes for readers interested in military history.

Page 143: A Peculiar Situation

Sex and Character was the actual book they read together — a philosophical work by Otto Weininger, popular at the time.

Page 144: Franz Schubert Lived Here

In 1915, the boarding-house on Kettenbrückengasse had a small plaque noting its Schubert history. It's now a Schubert museum and Vienna tourist attraction.

Page 147: My First Day as a Soldier

I was terrified to draw this chapter. I know nothing about military life. When I watch a war movie, details like the make and model of guns, tanks, planes, uniforms, go right over my head. I knew that if I tried to fudge those details, readers who are attuned to such things would notice. I felt so inadequate to tackle the job that I skipped ahead to Chapter 6 and drew it first.

I gathered all the World War I references I could find: books, photos, movies, documentary films. Most of the material I found was about French, English, and German soldiers on the Western front. Austro-Hungarian accounts were harder to come by.

Although only half-prepared, at a certain point I dove in anyway and started to draw panels. After a week of Internet image-searching with wishfully specific phrases like "austrian soldiers 1917 dig trench eastern front," I noticed that many of my best hits were coming from the Twitter feed of @pikegrey1418. Thus I met Nicolai Eberholst, a young Danish military historian with special interest in the Austro-Hungarian experience on the Eastern front.

During the three months I spent drawing Chapter 5 (November 2021 to January 2022), Nicolai was my guardian angel. He not only provided me with impossible-to-find photo references and detailed answers to my questions, he generously reviewed and pointed out mistakes in my drawn pages. (He later did the same for my World War II pages in chapters 4 and 6, with special attention to Luftwaffe uniforms.) I'm deeply grateful.

On this panel, I first put the initials "FJI" (for Austrian Emperor Franz Josef) on the field cap cockade. Nicolai pointed out that although my grandfather's 83rd Regiment was based in Vienna, it was technically a Hungarian regiment, therefore the cockade should read "IFJ." This kind of feedback gave me confidence that if a page passed Nicolai's review, it would probably be okay for most readers.

Page 149: Nagykereskény

The Hungarian village my grandfather knew as Nagykereskény is now Krškany in Slovakia; Léva has become Levice.

Page 154: We Continued North

The Ukrainian town of Lviv (now once again a war zone in 2023) was Lemberg in my grandfather's day. In an exception to Austro-Hungarian nomenclature, I used its current name on this map.

Page 155: The Russian Front

These are a few of the many evocative photos Nicolai sent me of life on the front.

Among World War I films, I highly recommend Peter Jackson's 2018 documentary They Shall Not Grow Old. It's remarkable in that it consists only of actual footage (100+ years old, digitally enhanced and colorized, Foley added) and voices of veterans sharing their own memories. No talking heads. The effect is mesmerizing.

Page 159: Brusilov Offensive

One of several annotated maps Papi included in his memoir.

Page 167: You Were Supposed to Stay Behind

After typing this section, my grandfather inserted an additional page (109-A), explaining the decision that had saved his life (and mine).

Page 171: I Was Transferred Again

I've compressed Papi's narrative here, jumping nine months from Vienna straight to the Italian front. In between, he spent three months in officers school; requested and received permission to finish high school in Vienna (which must have been a godsend); was transferred to yet another regiment (the 78th, in Slavonia), where he learned Croatian; and helped train new recruits. During this time, the U.S. entered the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Photos of my grandfather before and after his promotion to ensign in Italy, and his 1917 identity card.

Page 174: A Decisive Assault

After Giovanni Costantini (1872-1947), "Plan of Attack." I replaced the original painting's generals with the Austrian commanders who planned this particular battle. I also removed the scytheman (but kept his shadow on the back wall).

Another chilling World War I painting is "Soldier and Death" by Viennese war painter Hans Larwin (1873-1938).

Page 177: Have a Seat

Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion (1937) is one of my all-time favorite films. I'm not alone; when someone asked Orson Welles which three films he would take to a desert island, he answered: "Grand Illusion and two other films." Since I had no idea what Papi's hospital commander in Pettau looked like, I took the liberty of casting Erich von Stroheim.

Page 178: Better to Live

"E meglio vivere un giorno da leone che cent'anni da pecora" ("Better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep") was a slogan of fascist Italy in the 1930s, but Mussolini didn't invent it. Italian infantrymen wrote it on a wall after the 1918 Battle of the Piave (the one my grandfather missed). The original proverb goes back at least as far as 18th-century India.

Page 180: Doom

Doom co-creator John Romero wrote me one of the first fan letters I ever received, in 1985. (He was 17, and had just played Karateka. I was 20.) We met in person for the first time years later, at a game developers' conference (actually, in an elevator). I took artistic license in this panel and drew John showing off Doom to me in 1993, although it didn't happen quite that way.

Page 182: Day Trip

Pettau and Rohitsch are now Ptuj and Rogaška Slatina in Slovenia.

Page 184: An Inglorious End

This short excerpt from my grandfather's memoir suggests his state of mind at the end of 1918, after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy he'd spent three years fighting for.

Readers interested in military history can download my grandfather's full World War I memoir chapter here. [PDF]

Page 184: Vienna 1920s

In the next eleven chapters of Papi's memoir (age 21 to 40), he moves to Vienna, goes to medical school, meets and marries my grandmother (Hedy, not Mitzi), becomes a doctor and a father, and invents Viperin. As much as I'd have enjoyed drawing those two decades Replay style, the book's rhythm told me it was time for Chapter 6 to pick up my dad's story in 1940, where I'd paused it in Chapter 4.

For readers curious about young Adolf's life between 1918 and 1938, I've posted a few additional photos and excerpts from his memoir below.

They met in a classic setup: Hedy's cousin invited Adolf to a ball at the Sophiensaal, a dance hall in Vienna, knowing she'd be there. He writes:

"There I had an opportunity to take a better look at her, and I fell in love with her. From then on it was only Hedy and no other girl anymore. At night, I was dreaming about her. I felt about her as never before in my life. To me she looked like a madonna, behaved nicely, and had a fine smile. I met also her mother [Regina Ziegler], since she was her chaperone at the ball. She also made a great impression on me, and I loved her also right away.

Hedy had just finished 5 years as a student of the Beamtentoechter Lyceum, and had started as a student of chemistry at the University. I then met Hedy more often. I often picked her up in the afternoon at the chemical institute, and accompanied her home. Soon I was invited to visit her at her home and met her father, Dr. Benjamin Ziegler, her sister Lisa, who was 15 years old and very pretty, and her brother Erich, 10 years old and a lovely boy. They all were very nice to me, and I, in return liked them very much."

He describes his sister Else's more bohemian life during this period:

"At that time, my sister Else was in Vienna and lived in the 8th district on Hamerlingplatz in a studio apartment. I remember that she attended the Kunstgewerbe-Schule, which was on the Ringstrasse, and studied painting under professor Mueller-Hoffmann. I often visited her and was amazed about the paintings which she had produced. I found each and all of them beautiful. She had a wonderful hand and knew how to express herself, and a great sense for beauty. She had a special style, which I never had seen in works of other artists. That was probably the reason why she had often conflicts with her teacher. She told me that he wanted her to paint the way he painted. I not only admired her, but also loved her and she must have felt it.

Once I brought Hedy up to her studio, but Hedy did not seem to like her, did not like the way she lived. She used to get up late in the morning, since she went out every evening to a certain coffeehouse, the Opern Cafe, which was in the Operngasse at the corner of the Karlsplatz, where she met many artists, and probably came home late at night. So, she had to sleep longer in the morning. She knew many of the great artists who came to that coffeehouse. I myself saw once the great composer Franz Lehar in that coffeehouse, but it was in daytime. My mother supported her, since she never could make a living with painting."

Their brother Carl, an operetta tenor, stayed in Czernowitz (Cernauti in Romania, though no one in the family seems to have used the new name).

Papi devotes several chapters to his medical studies and the beginning of his practice:

"Even before my graduation, I started, as a special privilege by professor Schnitzler, to work in the nearby hospital, the Wiedener Krankenhaus, in the department of surgery. He was the brother of the famous playwright Arthur Schnitzler. After my graduation, I started to work in the department of pathology under professor Carl Sternberg, after whom the Sternberg cells in Hodgkins disease are named, and worked there mostly in the afternoon till late in the evening, often till late at night."

(Trivia: Schnitzler wrote the story that filmmaker Stanley Kubrick adapted and updated as Eyes Wide Shut.)

Papi's memoir includes details and anecdotes about his life with Hedy, their extended family and circle of friends in Vienna, and travels in the Austrian countryside.

This photo of a 1927 family gathering in Trnava (then called Tyrnau) vividly evokes the inter-war period for me. I imagine the green Slovakian countryside behind the photographer. My dad's grandfather Dr. Benjamin Ziegler stands fourth from lower left; next to him is his daughter Lisa, age 23 at the time. Sixteen of the people in the photo were murdered between 1938 and 1944.

My great-grandparents Benjamin and Gina Ziegler appear in Chapter 8 of Replay, when my dad reminisces about his childhood in pre-Anschluss Vienna.

This photo shows my dad at age 6 with his mother and sister in the Salzburg region of Zinkenbach, the family's favorite summer vacation spot.

Those twenty years also saw the rise of fascism in Europe through the 1920s and early 30s. Like many people at the time, my grandfather was apprehensive and increasingly worried by the political climate in Austria and Germany. But even in his worst nightmares, he couldn't imagine the direct and devastating impact that a fascist government would have on his family starting in 1938.

An excellent, perceptive book about this period is Robert O. Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism. It's both scholarly and readable. I recommend it to anyone interested in history and in how its lessons might be relevant to our own time.