I spent the better part of February writing a chapter on Hellraiser for the upcoming book, The Undead and Theology. In it, I argue that the movie and the novella it was based on represent a modernized version of hell and devil mythology, one that is more relevent to contemporary Western life. Everyone knows you cannot write about hell without at least mentioning Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, the Divine Comedy, so I consulted the Toronto Public Library for a copy. I found the standard academic issue translated by Mark Musa, but I was delighted to also find this ruling graphic novel adaptation by Seymour Chwast.
Chwast’s illustrations have Dante in 1950’s film noir garb for whatever reason, wandering through the Inferno with Virgil in a trenchcoat and pipe. Their journey through the depths of hell, purgatory and paradise is also loaded with political commentary with strategically-placed jabs at members of the corrupt Florentine government that exiled him.
The Divine Comedy was relevent to my chapter because the nine circles show an important hierarchy of which sins were more grievous than others at the time. For example, according to Alighieri, living in ignorance of Christ is enough to put you into the first circle of hell for all of eternity. Of hell, people. Not limbo, not the cool purgatory waiting room in Beetlejuice; you go to HELL. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
I especially enjoyed Chwast’s modernized take on the Divine Comedy because I was essentially writing about how Hellraiser was doing the same thing for hell and devil mythos! Definitely worth a check-out at your local library or through Amazon.