Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"Mickey's Inferno"

Everything I ever do I do for you, but sometimes, that's not as easy as one might hope. I actually had wanted to write about this story for a long time, but man alive. It's a dense text to get through, and I realize that that's kind of a weird thing to say about a Disney comic, but it's true nonetheless. Still, I finally got through it--for what really must be only the second time--and now...here it is.

This is interesting for many reasons. Published in 1949, it's a very early Italian story--one of the earliest, in fact. There were those Pedrocchi stories, of course, but they were sort of different--they don't feel like they're really part of the same evolutionary path as Italian Disney comics as we know them today. And aside from those...well, the first installment of "Mickey's Inferno" appeared in Topolino 7. Most of the previous issues had been taken up with Western reprints; Guido Martina had written two or three stories prior to this, but I think this might well have been only the fourth or fifth Italian story proper. This means, naturally, that (again, apart from Pedrocchi) it's the earliest Italian story to see print in the US.

It's also the beginning of that fascinating (to me, anyway) form, the Italian Disney story based on a work of literature, and the fact that this started with Dante is highly appropriate: Italians taking a quintessentially American form and making it their own. Well done, fellas.

Nice art from Angelo Bioletto, a newcomer to this blog.

What makes reading this a bit slow going is, naturally, the poetic (well...rhyming) narration. This localization is certainly impressive in that it follows the original's terza rima (sets of three lines with an ABA, BCB, CDC etc rhyme scheme), though it doesn't even make a passing effort to give it any kind of consistent scansion (I've no idea what Martina's script did in this regard) (and honestly, I'm not entirely sure how it worked in Dante himself; all I can say is how it works in this English rendering). This admittedly would've been a hell of a task, but as it stands, I find it amusing in places but more functional than anything else. Nobody would read this for its poetic sublimity.

Obviously, it's pointless to even try to think about, like, the theology of this or anything. You must accept it as it is! Yeah, it's goofy! That's the point! It's an exercise in futility to ponder what underpinnings it may have! But really, what fun is that? Expect to see an awful lot of it as this entry progresses.

I find the preamble a bit dull; things perk up a bit when we get to actual souls being tortured. So! Let's start here! This story, you will see, has a massive hate-on for teachers. For whatever reason. Well, for a fairly obvious reason: because the story's aimed at kids, and kids hate their teachers. Or so Martina perceived. There are several of these "actually, most teachers are great, but..." bits. I don't know if those are Martina originals or if they're just there in translation in order to make the story seem a bit less savage.

Also, I don't care what you say, I feel like eternal damnation is an excessive price to pay for boring some eight-year-olds. We also have that "the tricks they play don't kill me, so who gives two hoots?" which basic sentiment recurs several times throughout, and I just have to say: well...no, it doesn't kill you. Because you're already dead. That's why you're in Hell. Of course it doesn't "kill" you; you just have to suffer it until the Final Judgment. Have you lost track of the concept here?

Then, there are parts of this that are just confusing. Why is Homer here? Undetermined. I suppose Julius Caesar probably would be, but again, there's no in-text justification. And all this stuff about philosophers...it's supposed to be funny, presumably, but it's just...what? Why? Where am I? Who am I?

I merely include this image by way of noting that this can become edifyingly gruesome at times. I suppose everyone already knows that that Gemstone was somehow able to get this into WDC 666? I continue to find that highly awesome, even if that sort of numerology doesn't have anything to do with Dante.

Hey, look who's here. One thing you notice is that this story really does shove everyone who was anyone in 1949 into the story, as well as a few who really weren't, which is a cool thing that I appreciate. Well, everyone except Bucky Bug. I don't think he had much presence in Italy at the time.  OH WELL!

Did I say "appreciate?" Er...well. Look, I know we don't like to think about these things, but can we possibly admit that, regardless of anyone's intention, Eli Squinch has something of the anti-Semitic caricature about him under the best of circumstances, and that having him burning in Hell in a pile of money kind of makes that seem a whole lot more egregious? I'm not saying; I'm just saying. Actually...scratch that. I am saying. Yeesh.

Oh look, another teacher, 'cause FUCK TEACHERS.

See, his students have all grown up and died and likewise gone to Hell where they can torment him eternally, until it turns out he's just a robot. Wait, what?

The Inducks entry claims of this localization that there's "one scene removed." I'd love to know what that refers to; I always speculated that it was here, because it says we skipped a canto, and there's, gawd, Little Hiawatha's father whose name I absolutely refuse to look up for no apparent reason, doing absolutely nothing. It just feels like we missed some context, and you can see why there might have been an interest in snipping out this particular hypothetical segment. Then again, said inducks entry also doesn't list Hiawatha appearing here at all, so you got me.

We see Donald in three or four different contexts here, 'cause two was not enough. That's cool. I'm just posting this 'cause it's kind of creepy and neat.

OH BOY, it's Cousin Bertie! Who could forget this guy? Well, almost everyone, probably. Western's effort to make him a regular character was just bizarrely abortive: two stories in in fall of 1943, and that was it. Their hearts were clearly not in it. One of those stories subsequently appeared in Italy in 1948, explaining his presence here. I'm afraid this did not help to raise his overall profile, however.

My question: are these in fact children who died? This could get awfully macabre if you spent too long thinking about it, as I do. Maybe they were adults who were reduced to childhood for their punishment, but that doesn't seem to be the case, as we'll see. Again, a pretty grim situation. Still, we see that it's not just teachers; there's also payback for those damn students we all hate so much. What?

So this is, like, the Harrowing of Hell, Disney-style? Cool, cool. I'm down with that. But you have to wonder: how is the Blue Fairy's rationale not complete nonsense? What do you mean they "repented?" Sure, they were sad because they were being punished, but I think anyone would "repent" in that sense. And "a truly good deed?" Bah! It's not that I think eternal damnation is a good concept, but the alternative here just seems to be nonsense.

You know, as one of those hated teachers myself, I have to say: I kind of agree with Honest John. Let's be anarchists! We don't need no education; we don't need to thought control! Especially given that the alternative is Jiminy Cricket's nauseating bromides. "The most fun of all," I ASK YOU (or is he suggesting that "the most fun of all" is being able to look down from Heaven and watch the sinners being tortured?  That, I'll admit, would make this significantly more interesting). Well, if he's as worthless a "conscience" here as he was in the movie, these kids are all ultimately going to be eternally damned anyway, so I guess it's okay.

Notice also that, as in the great "Donald Fracas," Martina has given the emphatically mute Gideon dialogue. Well done, Guido!

I mean...this teacher stuff is truly excessive. As I've said, I don't object to this in theory, but I feel as though Martina's hatred of the profession at this point is significantly outdoing that of his probable audience.

So we get the idea that this Inferno isn't permanent; people get out of it after a time. Only, the thing is, as everyone including Martina no doubt knows, there's a whole 'nuther part of the poem devoted to that premise. If you want to write "Mickey's Purgatorio," that's a whole 'nother thing. I actually remember liking the second part more than the first; it was very trippy and less mean-spirited. But your mileage will no doubt vary.

I don't want to spend much time on this Three Little Pigs bit because my feelings re these characters are well-known. I do appreciate the gruesomeness here, however.

I want to show this because it's cool, and also to acknowledge the inevitable "Duck in the Iron Pants" reference, probably more apposite here than it's ever been. Well done, all!

Somewhat bizarrely, this bottom layer of Hell is devoted to people cheating at sports. Is this just an Italian fixation? Whatevz. I'm disappointed and a little surprised that we don't get to see Chernabog from "Night on Bald Mountain;" that would've been appropriate and cool.

Well, anyway, it ends abruptly. I've skipped over a lot because, well, there's a lot here, it gets a bit dull in places, and it's not like this is all part of any kind of intricate overall plot. Still, I'll admit that in rereading it and writing about, I have started to appreciate the story a bit more than I had in the past. And it's nothing if not historically significant.


Okay okay, because I know you demand it, yes, this was republished in the US ten years later with a different translation. So how is it different? Well, I haven't read the whole thing, but I was able to find this promotional giveaway that contains an excerpt floating around the internet. I think that's enough to get a fair idea of what it's about. Let's compare:


As you can see, it has the original three-tier layout, as opposed to the compacted four-tier version. So I kind of like that. It maintains the rhyme scheme, but again, doesn't scan in any way.

I mean, it's not unspeakably bad or anything. It'll do in the absence of any alternative. But it's not, to my mind, particularly good either. So many things to say about this one page:

-Compare: "No lights or reflectors on that thing? That's a ten-dollar fine!" vs "Your bike has a missing reflector! That's against the law, so I'm giving you a ticket! That's ten dollars!" Second one's pretty leaden, isn't it? This script isn't by Erin Brady...but it sure feels like it could be.

-I suppose you may appreciate that Zootopia reference and not find it painfully awkward, but...well, isn't it great how different people have different sensibilities?

-That whole "then we can move if it's true?" bit is just a failed attempt at sounding clever or natural or anything.

-Goofy does not normally style "I" as "ah." This looks to have been written by someone who wasn't familiar with the character's idiolect, at least in English. At least, that's what I want to say. And yet...per inducks, this was "adapted" by Stefan Petrucha, who as far as I know is a native English-speaker and who has written numerous Disney stories himself. So...I'm just going to assume that he was given limited latitude in the adaptation process. Or--to be scrupulously fair--we could suggest that possibly said adaptation wasn't actually applied to this preview, but only the full version; inducks has it wrong. If neither of these are true...I am a little bit confused.

-The less said about Goofy calling the lion "dude" the better.

Okay, just one more little thing:

"OTOH?" Look, I know I've used a few internet acronyms in fan translations I've done; guilty as charged. But there, the acronym was the joke. Here, it appears to just be there to save space. Very unprofessional-looking.

Yeah, so as I say, it's not super-painful or anything, but you'd do a hell (ha ha) of a lot better to just rustle up a copy of WDC 666 if you possibly can.

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Blogger Debbie Anne said...

I actually have both versions. I like the Gemstone scripting a lot better, but the printing size in the Papercutz edition is a lot easier to read. Is this historically significant? Yes. Is it a good story? Probably not. It’s a curiosity at best. Maybe other Disney literature parodies are much better than this one, but it’s hard to not want a copy of the story where Mickey Mouse goes to Hell. I think they did another version of this with Donald as the main character years later, but I can’t say that I have a burning desire to read another Dante adaptation anytime soon. (Ouch. Awful pun.). I think the Inferno would have worked better as a two-reel color Max Fleischer Popeye short, with Bluto as Satan. Yes, it wouldn’t have been very poetic, but it would definitely have been the most surreal and freaky cartoon short ever.

June 25, 2019 at 2:08 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

WOW! Thanks for finaly doing this one :)

I must look for my copy of Mickey Inferno to check out what the removed scene was. So many bizzare stuff it's hard to imagine, which part was "To much" for them...

The "cheating at sports" in place of traitors always strike me as odd. Like THIS is are greatest siners we can think of.

Then agian WHO (at the time let's not forget) would be the perfect Disney version of Judas Iscariot? Oswald the Lucky Rabbit?

Also Eli Squinch is Jewish?!

Alo It's funny - when I see the story for the first time in Italian (a language I didn't speak at the time and not much have change) and look at the story page after page I asumed - knowing the oryginal - that the parts with naughty boys and the blue fairy was in fact ment to be the "Purgatory" part somehow squized in the middle of hell... which of course is not, but even images-wise it has more sence as purgatory then hell... it's somehow get's less dark and more "Every day" looking. In fact I would enjoy to see "Purgatory" and "Paradise" versions of Disney with Minnie as Beatrice. Yes, there isn't much conflict there but there is the purification aspect of the poem even in Disney parody - after so much creepy, brutal and tripy images it would be good to see nothing but pages of easter-like goodnes.

So great job on the review GeoX! Acording to some theologians by doing this You repended and your souls is saved... for now! :) Stelle!

June 25, 2019 at 2:20 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

And yes 100% with Debbie - Dante Inferno in Fleischer style, with Popeye as Dante and perhaps Wimpy as Virgil going to hell to save Olive as Belatrace from Lucifer Bluto would been fun and tripy (and maybe Betty Boop could have cameo since she has a lot of expiriance with hell from her cartoons) During the final part Popeye can smack Lucifer to the icy lake, with a punch so strong he will go all the way down the eath core, all to the other side and up purgatory mouthain and the punch him one more time all the way up to heaven.

"If you challange me like a dope,
leave behind all your hope,
said Popeye the Dante-man! Toot! Too!"

That would be a great cartoon that would only exist in our minds...

But, ok - I'm 99% with Debbie - the reasn why this honestly can't work as a story is that oryginal dosen't realy have that much of a plot/story structure in our sence of reasoing these things. If you want to brake it down it's just a guy walking from point A to point B while he describe what he see and ocasionaly will ask some questions to people he meet... It's beautyfull and poetic, but entire reason we yet to see a "Devian Comedy" as a movie is that it's plotless... Now they could add some dramatic Orpheus style narrative, action sceenes and cast Chris Hemsworth to make everything better by existing, but that would be in the spirit of the oryginal (I once seen an Italian silent black and white version, but agian, it was just shots of Dante walking mixed with poems apearing on the screen)

June 25, 2019 at 2:30 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Also Eli Squinch is Jewish?!

Obviously as subtext only. But these are tropes that are embedded in our culture, and I do think that they emerge here--I'd say, for the record, that this one scene in this story is more uncomfortable than anything that Gottfredson did with the character.

June 25, 2019 at 3:16 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

What's Jewish about Eli Squinch? His highly specific 19th century Cape Cod dialect—since when were stereotypical Jews New Englanders? His big... chin? (If he were a traditional anti-Jewish image, wouldn't his nose be big?) His surprising success with the ladies? Wait, aren't stereotypical Jews nerdy wallflowers (why are you looking at me like that?)...

The only possible case I can see for Squinch being Jewish is if one perceives every crooked miser/landlord/lawyer as an intrinsically Jewish stereotype. (Even Porky Pig's Lawyer Goodwill, who lest we forget planned to transform into a monster and potentially eat our non-kosher hero...)

And I think that's a genuine disservice, at least insofar as it creates a platform for internet trolls to demand that genuinely inoffensive material be banned.

June 25, 2019 at 4:38 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Of course it doesn't "kill" you; you just have to suffer it until the Final Judgment


My understanding of Christian dogma on this point has always been that souls rest until the Final Judgement, and the whole point of said Judgement is that then God will say who goes to Hell and who goes to Heaven. Some fiction does muddle matters because it's more intuitive to think of the dead as instantly going to Heaven or Hell, but in such a scheme, what exactly is the point of the Judgement? People have already been sorted between the gooduns and the badduns.

June 25, 2019 at 5:22 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

You do have to wonder. But hey, I didn't invent the theology; take it up with Dante.

June 25, 2019 at 5:24 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Oh, Homer and other ancient figures are, per Dante, in Hell for the simple reason of not having believed in God, you'll recall.

Within the "schoolboy's point of view" of Mickey's Inferno, I assume it's because Italian kids were sick enough of having to learn about the works of Homer to hate him with a passion. By Martina's reckoning.

June 25, 2019 at 5:24 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

In current Catholic Church at least we are being toth that soul is judge right after death (hence people pray for souls in purgatory for their quicker recovery) so called "particular judgment", while "jugment" during the "judgment day" will be for the people still alive at this point when all "good" souls will go live New Yerusalem, with countles examples in the Bible backing up this version (such as Jesus telling the repented criminal on the cross that "today" he will be in heaven or prays for the souls in old testament)

Of course there are diffrent religious interpretation of these. My friend who is a Jehova witness for example belives that after people die their souls will be in more-or-less a state of hibernation and wont wake up to the day of the final judgement, and us such int hat religion playing to the loved ones isn't a concept as they don't hear them. But in this case there is no going to hell BEFORE the final jugment.

Of course I don't want to start a theological discussion here, but give some examples... the idea of souls being in hell until the finall judgment is new to me, as if that souls would waited up to the judgment and then was sent to heaven... Well, that's the concept of Purgetory more or less but that isn't hell.

BTW - I just like to take this oeprtunity to also mention how great it is to see GeoX back into the game! Yaaaay!

June 25, 2019 at 6:18 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

(Of course I can go into deeper theology that hell isn't ment to place of fire, grimstone and cartoonish deivls and those are only the artistic symbols, while its' not a place as much state of the souls that rejected God and his love and therefor is like "out-side" of God and in constant agony... Which in some respects is much more tereffying conepts... but of course I can only speak for Catholic interrpeation. This propably woudn't make as viusaly interesting poem/Mickey Mouse story with Dante/Mickey simply staring at souls in pain in some un-define space, with no out-side force being responsible)

June 25, 2019 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo writes:

“ -Compare: ‘No lights or reflectors on that thing? That's a ten-dollar fine!’ vs ‘Your bike has a missing reflector! That's against the law, so I'm giving you a ticket! That's ten dollars!’ Second one's pretty leaden, isn't it? This script isn't by Erin Brady...but it sure feels like it could be.”

If I could PIN A MEDAL on you, for that paragraph alone, I would!

Oh, wait…

I have an unused Junior Woodchucks acronym that didn’t make it into one of my translations! It’s not appropriate to this situation, but I’d like to bestow it upon you anyway!

Well done and congratulations to GeoX, our newest S.I.D.E. W.I.N.D.E.R.! *

* Structural Integrity Determiner and Estimator, With Intensive Nit-picking for Damages to Engineering Resplendency.

Yeah, this actually got cut from something I did, but the rank and honor are yours now!

And, in a sense, I suppose we ARE referring to “Structural Integrity”, translation-wise… Aren’t we!

…Go, teachers!

June 25, 2019 at 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The censored scene can be read here:


In my opinion this story is very difficult to translate, and it should be read in its original language to fully appreciate it (of course one should know at least a little Dante's works to get the references to his poems, sometimes quotations of Dante's verses, e.g. "Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare" or "Quivi trovammo Pluto, il gran nemico"). If you translate it literally, you lose the rhymes, if you maintain the rhymes you are forced to translate freely altering at least a little the meaning of the original text. Furthermore, there is also the problem of untranslatable puns or references to Italian popular culture. Furthermore, Guido Martina's wonderful prose can be difficult to translate without losing something in the process.

The U.S. translation (the old one, I haven't read the new one) rewrote completely the final verses of the story (often cited as one of the better parts of the story), perhaps because they are localistic and refer to Italy. The original verses were as follows:

E riferisci che s'io mi fui quello / ch'un dì gridava pieno di amarezza: / "Ahi serva Italia di dolore ostello!" / oggi affido al mio verso la certezza / d'una speranza bella e pura, e canto: / "Oh santa Italia, nido di dolcezza... / Oh patria mia, solleva il capo affranto, / sorridi ancora o bella tra le belle, / o madre delle madri asciuga il pianto! / Il ciel per te s’accenda di fiammelle / splendenti a rischiarar ancor la via, / sì che tu possa riveder le stelle!"

Translation: And report that if I was that one / who one day cried out with bitterness: / "Ouch, servant Italy abode of pain!" / today I entrust to my verse the certainty / of a beautiful and pure hope, and I sing: / "Oh holy Italy, nest of sweetness ... /Oh my homeland, raise your suffering head, / smile again, oh beautiful among the beautiful, / oh mother of mothers, dry off your tears! / The heavens for you be lit by flames / shining again to light the way, / so that you can see the stars again!"

This story was published between 1949 and 1950, some years later the World War II and its devastations. Writing these verses, Guido Martina wanted to wish for the complete recovery of Italy after the devastations of the war. Dante cites Italy because he is italian, not only because this story was made in Italy. These verses are wonderful (they were cited and quoted even by scholars of Dante, even in a German essay) but I can understand that americans and other nations can feel them as unnecessary or localistic.

June 26, 2019 at 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole story can be read here:


The censored pages (they belong to "Canto V") can be read here:



The american translation is quite good, considering the problem of untranslatable puns. It also corrects some errors, such as Dopey speaking and the Blue Fairy mistaken for Snow White. Perhaps the main change is the rewriting of the final verses. Anyway I prefer the italian version.

The problem of this story is that it isn't universal but rather localistic, in the sense that it cointains references to italian popular culture in the 1940s, untranslatable puns, and it even includes two female editors working for "Topolino", Eulalia and Enza, starring as the two Furies. Eulalia and Enza were often mocked by Martina in the columns written by him for "Topolino", and he even included them in "Mickey's Inferno" as "the two furies". When I first read the story, I asked myself why the two Furies were called Eulalia and Enza, and I had to read some articles to find out that they were two editors. I guess that in many translations the name of the two furies was changed or omitted.

Going Off Topic, I found out a short unpolitically correct story by Martina written in (a poor) english and published in 1948 (it's a sort of parody of "I promessi sposi"):


In the same issue it was announced the upcoming publication of "Mickey's Inferno":


June 26, 2019 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Also, I find it extremely weird that you said nothing about the bizarre fourth-wall-breaking of the resolution where the deepest circle of hell is taken up by none other than Angelo Bioletto and Guido Martina, for using a hackneyed plot device to bring Mickey and Goofy to the Underworld. I mean how cool/crazy is that for an ending.

July 1, 2019 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Here you go, by the way.


July 2, 2019 at 7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's already been tangentially touched upon but yeah, the reason you have to realise the focus on teachers and random appearances by Homer and so on is that this is meant to be kind of a revenge for schoolwork story- a revenge for all the ancient literature students had shoved on them in class, often with violence considering the era. It's basically a meaner-spirited version of all the jokes about Caesar and the latin language in Astérix, that are also coming from a place of the authors mocking and taking revenge against what they were forced to learn in school. I imagine an American parallel would be a Californian writing a parody of Steinbeck.

July 4, 2019 at 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>I imagine an American parallel would be a Californian writing a parody of Steinbeck.

While it's British, not American, the clearest parallell would certainly be Blackadder punching Shakespeare.

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December 3, 2019 at 1:59 AM  
Anonymous Stefano said...

Hi, I'm Italian. I've read this story so many times and I'd like to read it again in English to compare the translation.

Could you send me a digital version?


May 13, 2020 at 6:05 AM  
Blogger amanda said...

HI, I'm a high school student currently doing a project analysing different appropriations of Dante's Inferno. Unfortunately, I cannot find any versions of the full text online, would you be willing to send me a digital version or provide any places where I can find it? My email is amanda.qiu2@education.nsw.gov.au

Thank you!

July 18, 2020 at 1:05 AM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Thanks for this! I stumbled across the Papercutz version in Half Price Books. I do a podcast about hell, and was surprised I hadn't heard of this one before. This helped with my own review, http://www.dispatch.ist/blog/mickeys-inferno/
and getting some context on the Great Parodies series.

Re: The final appearance of Dante's teacher in the scene with the flames raining down from the sky, that scene was particularly touching in the original Inferno, as Dante did meet his mentor in hell, not for the sin of "putting off 'till tomorrow" but because that was the hellish penalty for sodomy. Dante is obviously sympathetic to the guy.

Did a little research on this one and it sounds like in 1948-1950 there was some new persecution of gays/lesbians that hadn't been seen in the country in a long time...while the comic didn't out-and-out say it, I think that having that particular character being in hell for the sin of "not being himself" and passing up opportunities is a deft way of incorporating the original.

Thanks for sharing!

February 14, 2021 at 6:27 PM  

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