Saturday, 4 August 2012

To And From Hell

Morpheus, the title character of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, condemns his former lover Nada to Hell because that is the sort of thing that mythological beings do. This Morpheus is a modern myth whose story incorporates all other myths. For example, Cain still dwells in the Land of Nod, Morpheus' realm, the Dreaming. Gods begin in Dream's realm and end in Death's. There is a Hell in the DC Vertigo universe because:

it is already part of the story;
millions have imagined it before us and have even believed it;
it expresses guilt and fear and synthesises experience with imagination. (1)

Hell's creator lets souls go there because they believe that it is appropriate. Some demons are former angels who fell with Lucifer. Others came from elsewhere. Yes, Judaism and Christianity adopted other ancient Middle Eastern demonologies.

The creator is infinite and eternal but only within his own story. Stories differ and change. That one story has more than one version we already know from Genesis, Kings, the Gospels, Greek mythology and the difference between the book and the film. We all know that Venus sprang from the sea foam but Homer, the most authoritative Greek poet, did not. From Venus' two origin stories, Plato deduced that there is a heavenly love and an Earthly love, an appropriate philosophical conclusion.

When, in Mike Carey's Lucifer, a sequel to Gaiman's Sandman, God's granddaughter, the former English schoolgirl, Elaine Belloc, is able to write a new story/create a new universe, she rightly leaves out Hell but it remains a necessary part of the parallel narrative, Hellblazer, which must now be set in a divergent universe. We don't have to like the idea of Hell but it is part of our collective consciousness. The guy who signed his letter "From Hell" was right. He wrote from the worst part of the human mind.

(1) Sandman, Lucifer and Hellblazer are or were monthly comic books published by DC Comics and collected as graphic novels. 

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