Nirvana Sued For Use of “Upper Hell” Map

“Move over smiley face. Welcome to the Seventh Circle of Hell.

“Nineties grunge-rock band Nirvana, already embroiled in a long-running legal battle against fashion company Marc Jacobs over its ‘happy face’ t-shirt designs, now finds itself on the less happy end of a new copyright infringement lawsuit worthy of Dante’s trip through the underworld.

“The complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles [in April 2021], claims that Nirvana infringed an illustration first published in a 1949 English language translation of Dante’s Inferno. The drawing depicts Dante’s circles of Upper Hell and, like Nirvana’s smiley face logo, has been featured on the band’s merchandise for decades. [. . .]”   –Aaron Moss, “Foreign Works, US Rights: The 7th Circle of Copyright Hell?” on Copyright Lately (April 30, 2021)

The disputed image was featured on the B-side of Nirvana’s debut album Bleach (Sub Pop Records, 1989).

Contributed by Jared Brust (Florida State University ’21)

“Dante’s Inferno” in Shadowrun

“The club is styled after the allegory of the nine circles of hell as described in the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, having nine dance floors with each floor going further down with each corresponding circle of hell. They also have a digital host with which offline members and online members can react with the aid of AR. The club’s digital menu is for simsense users and deliberately designed as a scroll, and the digital lounge is designed to simulate the feeling of live flames.”    —Shadowrun Wiki, February 2, 2015

Learn more about the Shadowrun series, first launched in 1989, here.

The Sandman and Dante’s Inferno

“The angelic appearance of Lucifer in Sandman #4 (April 1989), entitled ‘A Hope in Hell,’ features the Wood of Suicides from Dante’s Inferno (Canto XIII), the great expanse of which provokes comment from the titular character as he seemingly accidentally breaks a branch and allows the suicides, imprisoned in the form of barren trees, to speak. Despite this, the issue and The Sandman in general have more to do with previous DC comics than with Dante. Indeed, the issue features Etrigan, a colorful rhyming demon created by Jack Kirby for the inventively titled comic The Demon. At the issue’s conclusion, Lucifer swears Dream’s destruction, a move by writer Neil Gaiman to establish plot threads for subsequent issues.

[. . .]

Perhaps the inconsistency of Gaiman’s three versions of Lucifer should not surprise us. After all, Satan has always been a particularly malleable figure, changing even in his religious depictions over time. Huge gulfs exists between the serpent of Genesis, the prosecuting angel in Job, the Bible’s brief and vague references to a fallen angel, and the vaguely Manichean personification of evil in the New Testament, who were not even intended to be the same characters and were only united by exegetic interpretation. Equally, Dante’s bloated, immobile Satan is a world away from Milton’s deft, self-damned, self-hated rhetorical master.

In other words, Gaiman’s three Lucifers may not be consistent, but then, Lucifer never was.”    –Julian Darius, Sequart Organization, May 20, 2002

Nine Circles of Hell (1989 Cambodian film)

nine-circles-of-hell-1989-film“The Czech-Cambodian Devět kruhů pekla (Nine Circles of Hell) is a poignant love story set amidst the hell of the Pol Pot regime. As the Khmer Rouge carves a path of death throughout the land, a Czech doctor Milan Knazko falls in love with a Cambodian woman Oum Savanny. Their relationship, though sorely strained by the war’s horrors, produces a child. The doctor is separated from his family once Pol Pot assumes control. Devět kruhů pekla was financed in part by the Ministry of Culture of the Kampuchean People’s Republic.” — Synopsis from film-enstreaming.com

The film was screen at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.

Peter Greenaway & Tom Phillips, “A TV Dante” (1989)

peter-greenaway-tom-phillips-a-tv-dante-1989“Based on Dante Alighieri’s poem, The Inferno, Peter Greenaway’s A TV Dante is a daring, unique, and genuinely brilliant work of art.
“Rather than dispensing with the actual text of The Inferno and depicting the actions its central characters, Dante (Bob Peck) and Virgil (John Gielgud), are described as performing, Greenaway instead provides the viewer with a recitation by his actors of an English translation of the first eight cantos of the poem.
Even the visual elements that accompany their words do not portray the characters’ activities. Instead, the director unfolds to the viewer a variety of evocative images, including visions of hell, the faces of his protagonists speaking their lines, superimposed designs, intertitles, and inset screens. The last of these are often windows which each contain the head of some academic or critic who is thus able to make comments on particular aspects of Dante’s poem, his religion, or the world in which he lived. With his presentation of this complex universe of elegant words and gorgeous but horrific images, the director has fashioned a potent masterpiece that is not only remarkably beautiful but also profoundly disturbing.”    —Movierapture