Marvel Comics, Ka-Zar the Savage #9-12 (1981-1982)


“In 1982, Marvel Comics incorporated Dante Alighieri into their superhero universe in Ka-Zar the Savage Issues #9-12. Apparently, Dante based the Inferno on a pre-historic, Atlantean amusement park, one where cultists killed Beatrice in order to summon inter-dimensional demons. Dante managed to defeat the cultists with his prayers, but they return to power seven centuries later to attempt to summon their demon-lords again. That leaves it up to Ka-zar the Savage to climb down an animatronic Hell to finish what Dante started.”  –Paul Jenizm

(Contributed by Paul Jenizm)

Jo Walton’s new novel, Lent (2019) is “Dante’s Groundhog Day”

“I love Hugo and Nebula-Award winner Jo Walton’s science fiction and fantasy novels (previously) and that’s why it was such a treat to inaugurate my new gig as an LA Times book reviewer with a review of her latest novel, Lent, a fictionalized retelling of the live of Savonarola, who reformed the Florentine church in the 1490s, opposing a corrupt Pope, who martyred him (except in Walton’s book, and unbeknownst to Savonarola himself, Savonarola is a demon who is sent back to Hell when he is martyred, then returned to 1492 Florence to start over again).

“The story is motivated by a mystical shift in Savonarola’s destiny that allows him to remember, from one incarnation to the next, who he truly is. He lives many different versions of his life, seeking a way to harrow Hell, restore grace, redeem himself and save Florence.

“The Groundhog Day-meets-Dante premise is incredibly weird and incredibly satisfying, a bizarrely effective way of making the characters come to life as we see how they would have reacted to the same circumstance with slight variations, building up a series of incredibly detailed and nuanced portraits. And because this is a Walton novel, there are no easy answers, and ambiguity rules overall — and because Walton has become so close with the Renaissance scholar and science fiction novelist (and librettist, singer, and all-round genius) Ada Palmer, her Renaissance Florence has the ring of the true metal, incredibly well-drawn in ever way.” […]    –Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, May 16, 2019

Jayson Greene, Once More We Saw Stars (2019)

Once-More-We-Saw-Stars-2019Once More We Saw Stars (Knopf, 2019) is a memoir by Jayson Greene, about the tragic loss of his 2-year-old daughter Greta and his path through grief to healing.

A review in the Washington Post notes, “The book’s title, from Dante’s Inferno, tips us off that Greta’s bereft parents will, in the poet’s words, ‘get back up to the shining world.’ But Once More We Saw Stars, an outgrowth of a journal Greene began shortly after the accident, is a chronological account, which means there’s unthinkable pain before the arduous ‘path toward healing.’

“Like Virgil, Greene makes for a good guide on this journey to hell and back. He’s a Brooklyn-based journalist and editor who met his wife, Stacy, a cellist by training, at the classical-music nonprofit where they both worked. After Greta’s birth, Stacy switched tracks to become a lactation consultant and nutritionist. Their story is not just of loss, but of their remarkable love, which helps them through this tragedy.” [. . .] — Review by Heller McAlpin in the Washington Post (May 8, 2019)

The 9 Circles of Nursing School Hell

“Nursing school can be.. well, hell.  Senior year is particularly horrific.  From applying for jobs, to completing your last clinicals, to finals week, to scheduling NCLEX prep, applying for your ATT, creating your resume and cover letters, preparing for interviews, scheduling and preparing for the NCLEX, sitting for boards, and actually graduating.. it can be it’s own special form of hell.  Nine circles to be exact.

“You ever read Dante’s Inferno in high school?  . . . well, here is our version of Dante’s Inferno . . . nursing school style.” [. . .]    –Kati Kleber, NRSNG, 2016.

Read Kleber’s list of nursing school hell here on NRSNG.

The Nine Circles of Menswear Hell

“Sup, you fuckin’ mortals? When life finally logs you out due to inactivity, you’ll either be whisked away to #Menswear Heaven on the smelted down, crepe sole wings of angels or flung headlong through the infernal keyhole to #Menswear Hell. #Menswear Hell abides by it’s own rules: no gods, no masters. The #menswear legacy you left behind on earf determines what special punishment you’re subjected to for all of time. Doesn’t that sound like the brie’s cheese? If you haven’t yet read Dante’s Inferno—as I’m sure all you Kindle-having pariahs have meant to—spoilers abound.” [. . .]     –Rick Morrison, Complex, January 16, 2014.

Read Morrison’s full list of the circles of Menswear Hell here.

The Nine Circles of a Frequent Traveler’s Hell

“As St Francis and Kurt Vonnegut reminded us, we must accept the things that we cannot change, change the things we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

“When things are ‘off’ from my regular routine, I get a bit anxious. I’d like to say I get cranky as well, but my form of cranky usually involves me harrumphing into a ball and blasting my Spotify playlists while devouring a new book on Kindle.

“That’s my particular manifestation of ‘wisdom to know the difference between the two,’ because books are good and public meltdowns are not.

“We’re all in this travel situation together, for whatever amount of time is left to unfold. How we treat each other and apply our wisdom to know the difference between controllable and uncontrollable change is what makes traveling with others a delight and also a burden.

“As I spent my thousandth train ride on the Amtrak Acela from Boston to New York City this past week with a seat back in my lap, I considered the various predicaments that traveling with other humans can create.

“Which, of course, brought me to Dante’s Inferno, and the nine circles of hell that a person can be sent to for their various sins in the living world.

“Obviously, your previous slights and misjudgments do not necessarily earn you the circle of traveling hell you may find yourself in. But if you travel frequently enough, you will at some point accidentally find yourself in each one.” [. . .]    –Elisa Doucette, Forbes, October 12, 2015.

Read Doucette’s full list of traveler’s hell here.

Dante’s Inferno Science

“How can a knowledge of physics, earth science and astronomy enrich a reader’s understanding and experience of this classic work of Western Literature? How can reading classic Western Literature enrich a student’s understanding and experience of science? In this lesson I aim to bring science to the reader of poetry – and poetry to the student of science…  Dante travels through the centre of the Earth in the Inferno, and comments on the resulting change in the direction of gravity in Canto XXXIV (lines 76–120).” […]  —KaiserScience

Contributed by Madisen Pool (University of Kansas, 2019)

Charles Patterson, In Dante’s Footsteps: My Journey to Hell

“This modern divine comedy, based on the original Divine Comedy that Dante wrote 700 years ago, tells the story of Tom Reed and how his early interest in Dante inspired him to make his own viaggio (journey) to the Underworld.

“After describing Tom’s church upbringing and his joining, then leaving the church, the story continues in the Underworld (a.k.a. Hell) with a cast of characters Dante never could have imagined: Tanya, the CEO; Umberto, the Guest Master; Rachel, a young Dante scholar from Berkeley; visitors from China, India, Kenya, and Germany; and famous people in history woken up from the Big Nap for a ‘Great Minds and Personalities’ conference attended by such greats as Socrates, Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Einstein, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Groucho Marx. Tom also visits his father who’s in a ‘Purgatory precinct’ and talks to Hashem, his ‘wife’ Naomi, and somebody called Satan who wears a cowboy hat and walks with a swagger.

“The climax of Tom’s viaggio is his visit to the Crusaders who used to be in charge because he wants to include them in the book he plans to write that could make him the next Dante. However, because the Crusaders disapprove of his being a ‘defrocked priest,’ when he arrives, they withdraw their invitation and put him on trial.” — Charles Patterson, Press Release

W.H. Auden, “Memorial for the City”

Excerpt from Part II of W.H. Auden‘s “Memorial for the City“:

“The deserts were dangerous, the waters rough, their clothes
Absurd but, changing their Beatrices often,
Sleeping little, they pushed, raised the flag of the Word
Upon lawless spots denied or forgotten
By the fear or the pride of the Glittering City;
Guided by hated parental shades,
They invaded and harrowed the hell of her natural self.”

Auden’s poetry is replete with Dante references. See also “In Memory of Sigmund Freud” and, most famously, “New Year Letter,” discussed here and here. Auden’s collected works can be read in the edition by Edward Mendelson.

Contributed by Quinn Cashion (University of Kansas 2019)

“Lines of Fire: Dante’s Vision of Hell still has an Afterlife”

“The world has a handful of supreme poets. Homer, Shakespeare and Goethe are up there. I’m sure you have your own suggestions. All of these writers – even Homer, with his Trojan war epic The Iliad – can be made contemporary to us, made to approximate our world-view. Yet the greatest and most universal poet of all is the least ‘modern’ and at times the most obscure. He is Dante Alighieri.

“The world-view Dante unfolds in mesmerizing images in the three books of his Divine Comedy – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise – is truly medieval. No wonder: he lived most of his life in the 13th century before completing his masterpiece in the early 14th. But it is the relentless Gothic-style Christianity of Dante’s vision that makes it so unnerving: the profound sense of sin behind his biting portraits of the damned in Hell, and the equally absolute faith in a machine-accurate divine justice the poet finally glimpses in Paradise. The Divine Comedy is a dogmatic, cruel work that haunts the imagination like no other. Paradoxically, no ‘modern’ poet has been so frequently illustrated by modern artists; only Byron excites comparable interest. [. . .]

“My own first experience of Dante was a translation of just one part of the Inferno by Seamus Heaney. Ugolino is in Heaney’s collection Field Work, which is a moving response to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Dante’s tale of Ugolino, who was cruelly treated and took bitter revenge in eternity, fits into the landscape of reprisal Heaney depicts. In other words, one reason for Dante’s enduring power is that we have not really left the middle ages. Vendetta still rules. Entire foreign policies, not to mention civil wars and terror campaigns, are based on ideas of revenge and polarities of good and evil just as primitive as anything in Dante.

“Another reason the great Italian challenges us is that he proposes a morally absolute vision of life that cuts through modern relativism like a knight’s broadsword. So the world is ambiguous and our own actions impossible to morally judge? Dante menaces us with the alternative possibility that every act is scrutinized, that every moment of our lives is weighed in the balance.” [. . .]    –Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, May 5, 2011.