Pat Oliphant by Pat Oliphant

Pat Oliphant

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  1. Godfreydaniel

    Godfreydaniel said, over 4 years ago

    I wonder if Assad and Putin will be sent to the same circle of the Inferno…….

  2. emptc12

    emptc12 said, over 4 years ago


    Thinking obliquely as usual, I wonder if anyone with such power fears punishment in the afterlife. I would certainly guess not.

    Dante’s conception might have frightened people of his time, maybe because it so dared to describe historical figures and their punishments. Historical and biblical figures were very much alive in the popular imagination at that time. Did Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot or other famous slaughterers think of themselves as hell-bound? Do we think of them in Hell, after the relatively short time since they reigned? Their bad examples surely haven’t stopped the floods of blood. Oh, well, just another vicious mass-murderer.

    By now, the conception of Inferno is a medieval literary curiosity with its dated accompanying illustrations. We know the Earth is definitely not hollow, that geology and physics would not support such a structure. Even the later Dore illustrations are now more funky than frightening.I’ve often thought that a big-budget anime should be done of the Inferno. A freebie to any prospective film-maker: at the Vestibule, a deafening cacophony of instruments in synthesizer-sampled groans and screams should be heard, each separate sound falling away as one approaches Satan at the center, there an eerie silence in which can be heard his bloody munching of Brutus, Judas, and Cassius. Would someone doing that have the courage to show modern political figures in the place of those old traitors?

    Larry Niven wrote two books with a modern conception of Hell. They’re a curious conglomerate of ancient and modern thinking, entertaining but not frightening – a kind of Infernoland theme park. Hell should be terrifying, enough so that it puts off people from sinning, or at least gives them great satisfaction for their sustained effort to be good in their certainty of the sure and proper punishment of those who were bad. It had been church and secular rulers’ instrument to retain power, but that is surely falling away quickly if not completely gone. I’m afraid that most people think today that Hell is a place where their enemies will dwell, never their families or friends.

    Even the fact that I’m discussing this so urbanely while people are being massacred is sad. Is there a sin that relates to that casual detachment? But … but … it happens every few years – hundreds of millions in the last century. Maybe if we smelled the stench of it all or saw the mountains of bones it would seem real. If every gory murder that entertains us on the movie screen involved an actual splashing of blood and viscera on the audience, if random people had their bones broken…

    Well, anyway — Have a nice day.

  3. Godfreydaniel

    Godfreydaniel said, over 4 years ago

    I’ve read the Inferno maybe 15 times in my life (whereas the Purgatorio and Paradiso only twice each, which may say something about me……) And Larry Niven’s and Jerry Pournelle’s two Inferno books are favorites of mine. I should point out that there’s a great line in the first book, one of the damned sinners referring to God: “We’re in the hands of ultimate power and ultimate sadism.” And I wrote a parody of a hard-boiled detective taking the Inferno tour (which I really need to revise someday and see if I can get the damn thing maybe published………)

  4. emptc12

    emptc12 said, over 4 years ago


    I read Inferno many times, Purgatorio several, Paradisio only once. Inferno is the most entertaining, I think most people would agree. What that means, I don’t know. Yeah I do – Paradisio is boring.

    I’m curious what translations you read. I read the Dorothy L. Sayers / Barbara Reynolds and also John Ciardi versions. Or did you read them in the original? If so, my hat is off to you.

    I also started a parody of these, in which OSHA got wind of unsafe conditions down there in Hell and started demanding all kinds of environmental and work changes. Satan was not amused.

    I recently read in Angelus Silesius, THE DEVIL IS GOOD:

    “In essence, the Devil is as good as you: what is it that he lacks?
    Peace and extinguished will.”

  5. emptc12

    emptc12 said, over 4 years ago

    I clipped a “Mr. Boffo” cartoon years ago and put it in my copy of THE DIVINE COMEDY:

    The scene is in Hell. As Satan and a demonic minion look on, two brutish-looking men have popped into existence before them. The men are grinning, and one exclaims to the other, “We made it!”

    The caption to the cartoon is “Management Material.”

  6. Spamgaard

    Spamgaard said, over 4 years ago

    Remember, history (or fable) is written by the winners. The only documentary “evidence” of Satan’s evil-doing is in a book dedicated to the pagan war-god Yahweh, and that thing is a slaughterfest of murdering men, women, children, razing villages, slavery, incest, you name it… all motivated by Yahweh. Heck, he killed a bunch of slaves, livestock and children of his greatest worshiper (Job) just to prove to Satan that Job was a stand-up guy and would still worship him. And this Satan guy is evil?

  7. dtroutma

    dtroutma GoComics PRO Member said, over 4 years ago

    ’toon: odd how much marketing of used Russian weapons, like “Hinds”, is through Israeli Defense Industries.

  8. HectorGonzalez

    HectorGonzalez said, over 4 years ago

    Love the Divine Comedy discussions. My favorite line from Niven & P’s ‘Inferno’ is something to the effect that
    “Hell is God’s last attempt to get your attention.”

  9. HectorGonzalez

    HectorGonzalez said, over 4 years ago


    I’d read that book.

  10. emptc12

    emptc12 said, over 4 years ago

    A premise of the Niven/ Pournelle books is that each damned soul has the opportunity to leave Hell: No more “damned for all eternity,” Free Will still operates. When did such metaphysical flexibility begin to come about? Will Hell eventually be empty? Can even Satan be re-habilitated?

    When George Burns and Morgan Freeman portray God as kinder, gentler, ironically humorous, and even sarcastic, you must figure blasphemy is passé. God is the rich bachelor uncle rather than Lord of Creation.

    How has Satan gradually become less the implacable Adversary, more a Syndicate bully? It’s said that Milton’s Satan is the most interesting character in PARADISE LOST, even sympathetic. Mephistopheles in the various Faust works can be tricked. And here we are today with the Hell-Raiser movies, and Hell Boy, the cute little cartoon character Hot Stuff, and a Satan worshipper running for congress.

    The modern Universe is so big that nothing we can conceive of could possibly have dominion over it all? So even the concepts of a regional franchise God and Devil are discarded?

    So what is Evil, what is Good? In this age, is Evil the deprivation of human rights and life up to the ultimate, mass murder? Is Good happiness in comfortable possession of material goods and interesting hobbies? Do we so depend on human laws to combat evil and apportion punishment; so that if the person isn’t caught and punished, that’s the end? It seems that so many political and business types operate as if they don’t fear the afterlife, that’s for sure

    I always thought Evil, once you started to side with it, was the ultimate Unfairness in the afterlife, with no reprieve; while Good in the afterlife was painfully achieved but the ultimate Gratitude and Satisfaction. Now, everything stops with personal death. What is after death, nothing (at most, “violet light and a hum”)? Or reincarnation? Or, most terribly, continued exploitation (conf. Joe Haldeman and Harlan Ellison stories).

    Hey, Inquisitor, just tossing philosophical Frisbees in the playground of my mind (conf. Niven). Don’t shoot them for skeet.

  11. Godfreydaniel

    Godfreydaniel said, over 4 years ago

    Considering that Benito Mussolini DOES escape from Hell in the Niven/Pournelle version, it’s hard to think of who might not be able to. (Dante put Brutus and Cassius with Judas right between Lucifer’s fangs as the three worst sinners of all, but c’mon, Julius Caesar slaughtered tons of Gauls when they weren’t looking, and it wasn’t exactly in self-defense…….) It’s very hard to escape from Hell, of course, but most sinners don’t even try, accepting their fate because deep down they think they deserve it. In my parody I put in a lot of modern people, from the obvious like Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, to Nixon and Ferdinand Marcos. Also people like Ken DeLay of Enron infamy, and more than one televangelist. (And Dr. Seuss’s first wife in the Wood of the Suicides, primarily for the shock value…………) I could actually accept a “regional” God (and Heaven and Hell) to some extent. (Let’s say each galaxy gets its own?) But then there’s that pesky multi-verse to consider………..

  12. emptc12

    emptc12 said, over 4 years ago


    One last comment.

    Regarding the so-called multi-verse, one of Niven’s early stories about this concept is “All the Myriad Ways.”

    Gregory Benford’s TIMESCAPE also uses the concept. This is a beautiful, deep (if sometimes uneven) book about parallel universes and paradoxes. I re-read it every few years and see something new each time. The recent discovery of phytoprotoplankton under the Arctic Ice caused me to go through it again.

  13. emptc12

    emptc12 said, over 4 years ago

    Have you read “Three Versions of Judas,” by Jorge Luis Borges?

  14. fritzoid

    fritzoid GoComics PRO Member said, over 4 years ago

    “Without Judas, there would have been no crucifixion and no salvation.”

    That does not necessarily follow; if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus, perhaps someone else would have. If you’re “Jerusalem’s Most Wanted,” it’s not unlikely that you’ll be caught, particularly if you are making no real effort to conceal yourself (and in fact INTEND to be caught).

    “Why would Judas be in Hell when he was doing God’s will?”

    It may be a variation on the “Scourge of God” thesis, where God makes use of the unrighteous to apply a little “tough love” to His children (Attila was “allowed” to ravage Christendom in order to purge (and thereby strengthen) a culture that had become decadent and complacent, but that didn’t make Attila any less of a monster, or mean that he would have found favor with God upon his own death). Besides, in most traditions Judas betrayed Jesus of his own free will, although Jesus (being omniscient) knew of it, predicted it, even relied upon it. That in no way makes the betrayal any less of a sin. And we already have the precedent of Adam and Eve (and all humanity) being cast down for the sin of eating forbidden fruit that God knew full well they were going to eat (and which sin they committed before they had any knowledge of Good and Evil). There is also the precedent of God “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” when Moses demanded that the Irealites be released from bondage. Pharaoh presumably would have freed the Jews a plague or two earlier, but then Jahweh wouldn’t have gotten to show off His miracles. So who’s to say God plays fair?

    But no more of that (at least from me). Isn’t anyone going to acknowledge just how beautiful Pat’s artwork is on this one?

  15. Godfreydaniel

    Godfreydaniel said, over 4 years ago

    I suppose I must bear the blame for using my free will to start this entire “Inferno” discussion, but to tell the truth, I didn’t think the comic itself was all that impressive. I had the feeling that Oliphant had to rush it out under deadline pressure (even great writers and artists are sometimes forced to rush things out under the dreaded deadline pressure, arbitrary as most deadlines in history are, were, and will be.) That said, I’ve enjoyed all of this discussion a great deal! So maybe I can get just a tad bit of credit besides bearing the blame? I will say one thing more. In the classic Britcom “Bless Me, Father”, the wise (yet crusty, natch) old Irish priest says something like the following: “Who in their right mind would deny the existence of Hell? And who, understanding anything about the Lord, would be fool enough to think there would be anybody there?” (I’m only paraphrasing here, yet it’s always been something I definitely agree with.) Anybody who can find the actual exact phrasing, I’d be much obliged.

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