Books ó The Comics Go To Hell
The Comics Go To Hell

By Amy Diaz

As funny as Hell ...And the devil is a damn good dresser

The Comics Go To Hell: A Visual History of the Devil in Comics, by Fredrik Stromberg, Fantagraphics Books, 2005, 320 pages.

The Devil is the best character.

Heís evil, he has powers, heís usually funny and heís often nattily dressed.

The Devil is generally the best thing about any movie he is in and the more interesting parts of the Bible, especially from a rhetorical standpoint, usually involve some Devil-heavy dialog. No surprise, then, that the Devil should be such a force of entertainment in the realm of comic books as well.

In The Comics Go To Hell, we get a survey of various forms in which the Devil has appeared in comics over the years. With a few exceptions, the Devil Fredrik Stromberg examines is the literal Devil, the ruler of Hell and the most violent opponent of God. This means that Devil imagery in comics (there is always a bad guy nearly, but not quite, equal to the good guy in the classic superhero series) is not the focus. The actual Devil is.

Stromberg cheats a bit by digging into Christian and foreign comics ó there is, of course, plenty of Devil and devil symbolism in American comics. And by expanding his reach so much, Stromberg gives something of a short shrift to the many Devils, Lucifers and Satans he encounters. But he does a good job of entertainingly explaining how the demons and devils that served as the ultimate punishers of a variety of cultures were absorbed into the mythology of the Christian Devil. There is a good chance, after all, that as described in the Bible, Satan (who in Stombergís view is likely a whole separate guy from the Garden of Eden Devil) is best viewed as Godís debate partner, his sparring buddy. The comics examine how this and other views of the Devil (often as the guy who merely hands humanity a rope it uses to hang itself) lend themselves nicely to storytelling, particularly the storytelling that works so well in comics where good and evil can play themselves out on fantastic landscapes of the artistís design.

In other words, the Devil shall likely continue to enjoy a long career.

- Amy Diaz

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH