...w-wow. Issue #3 completely blindsided me with its complication of the existing storyline by tying it down to an existing timeline and more or less ruining the elegant and poignant opening of the first issue. I freaked a bit, sure, but I've been freaking a lot lately, haven't I?
When Godzilla died so did I. He's all I have, and without him I'm nothing. Back in '98 I was just a dumb kid. I didn't understand the concept of corporations or greed or evil. If I sound naive even for an 10 year old it's because I was. All I knew was that being generous and nice to people made me feel good and helped them too, and none of the things that mattered to me - friends, Godzilla, any other assorted dumb crap I like - never came out of my pocket. Bigotry was only a fairy tale I heard about in history class. I thought television shows and movies made for kids were made because the artists behind them wanted to entertain kids. I didn't know what sex was and no one discriminated against me because I liked playing cops and robbers maybe a bit too much. I may have still believed in Santa Claws. I didn't care about how I looked, and I didn't know being "trans" was a thing.
Ignorance made me blissful, but eventually I grew up and came to understand that, yes, Godzilla is a commercially licensed intellectual property. He is a brand name, a product, a shill. Tomoyuki Tanaka never wanted to change the world, he just wanted some spare change, and that's the way it has always been, and it took me 10 years to understand this. I still believe what I felt was real and that anything can have a meaning outside its objective purpose even if that may seem silly or childish to other people, but I was a child. I didn't know a movie could hurt me so much, and I didn't know it wasn't supposed to.
I'm sure it's my fault somehow. Shizue Horie managed to move on, and why shouldn't she? She has a daughter now, and there are more important things for her to worry about. I wanted kids. I wanted to be a mom really bad. In the past six years this became somewhat of an issue for me as the crushing weight of my depression, anxiety, and overwhelming sense that nothing will ever change (which is a fact, not a feeling) impressed onto me the reality that I never would be. Recently I've come to accept that it's just not going to happen and that's that.
2014 wasn't 1998 and it's over now. There's no point in me clawing desperately at my own mortality anymore. I never lived for myself, and all of... this... I thought, perhaps vainly, that maybe I could do something. Maybe I could write the next Bibliotheca and try and preserve some of the most important myth cycle mankind has ever created. I owed it to him, I thought, even if no one cared now the future might. I still kind of held out hope that despite his consumption by those in obsessive pursuit of indirect means of possession that he might still outlive me. Canto III of this series has 7 views. So no, there's no hope.
I've been unable to actually kill myself because I'm weak and pathetic. It doesn't work like in the movies or Maddox articles, it's complicated and takes time and effort and a hell of a lot of strength. Being suicidal doesn't mean you suddenly develop an iron-clad tolerance to pain, it means you don't want to be here anymore. You can't think about "well maybe I'll miss hot dogs" because you won't think, so there's no point. I don't have a gun and I'll never own one, so everything else requires planning and legwork, in my case literally, whereby you have to set up an elaborate scenario. I can't do that when I'm completely shitfaced, which I nearly always am because I'm an alcoholic. And when I get close, I just black out. This has happened numerous times already.
The concepts of dying, the afterlife, and particularly Hell have fascinated me for a long time, ever since my uncle Danny died. I could describe it as a morbid fascination as it has been with me since before the first time Hollywood killed Godzilla, and contemplating it scared the shit out of me. I was never into horror or slasher movies or creepy stuff as a kid but the idea that after death you would go to this horrifying place forever was just... something about it attracted me in the worst way. I guess technically I'm a bit of a masochist but nothing I've ever done in a scene has ever come anywhere close to that. But then again souls in Hell always heal, so the torture there doesn't come with all the headaches playing in real life does. Is that why I like Hell so much? Is it because I've been obsessed with bondage since I can remember? Is it just an extension of my playful nature and huge imagination? Or have I just always been morbid and psychologically at serious risk for suicidal thoughts? Why was I SO into the idea of Hell as a child even as I eschewed all other forms of horror?
I have clear memories of staring at some of my biological father's psychedelic album covers from the late 60's/early 70's and imagining that space as a real, physical place with fucked up rules fatal to human beings. One of the first PC games I ever played was HELL: A Cyberpunk Adventure. I was disappointed because I was way too young to figure out what the fuck I was supposed to be doing and never got to actually see Hell. When I read stuff that fits into the "Hell Narrative" genre - being any narrative NDE or otherwise that tells the personal experience of a single or small group of souls entering Hell in the first person - then as now, it's striking and comes off as a good idea for a scene. I guess I only like being scared of certain things. Of course I'd rather have oblivion than to have to keep living, but if it had to be something, why not drop me off in a lake of ice where I'll be bound and tortured forever? Seems appropriate.
When I finally sat down to read the Divine Comedy I was pleasantly surprised. Since being in high school I've found that people give undue reverence to things strictly because of their age, and works of literature that become masterpieces or the like are often too far removed from their time or too simplistic in their understanding of the world or of human nature. Often the only point something from 300 years ago can make is "love is hard" or "war is hard" or "people doing ordinary things is extraordinarily boring." To Kill A Mockingbird's entire thesis was "racism is bad, m'kay?" I prefer to judge things based on their intrinsic qualities rather than their superficial ones, but that's why I'll never make a good high school English teacher.
Dante's comedy reads like medieval science fiction. Although his world is informed primarily by religion he seems to be an intelligent person and insists that there is a natural reason and order and consistency to the way things work. What Dante, the pilgrim, discovers on his epic journey horrifies him because he learns that even with an omnipotent deity behind the wheel, this is emphatically not the case. The reason Paradise is such a failure is because, ultimately as a christian, Dante has to submit to his god and he can't very well admit that god is a cruel, inequitable monstrosity who is every terrible dom you've ever met times a million. So he cops out after everything that happened in the first two cantiches by simply having a giant space eagle of his own design tell his character "don't question god, he totally knows what he's doing so don't worry about it."
Mentally, I've spent a lot of time in Hell. I've spent a lot of my life thinking about it, imagining myself there, imagining others there, imagining how it would work if it were real, etc. Metaphorically, I've spent a lot of time in Hell. I believe I've covered that here and in my deathiversary logs. When Godzilla died, following him to Hell seemed like the natural thing to do, but ironically the way to do it wasn't to die, it was to stay here. Stay here and wait to see a handful of extremely talented, living people create something the world has been waiting for since the late 70's. And you know how I get about late 70's Godzilla.
I'm trying to save myself, really I am. It isn't working, of course, but I've put in more effort than I ever have before. I've got a job now, a shitty one that doesn't pay me enough for both food AND pills, and I'm trying to get proper insurance even though my identity is apparently not real. Every day is a struggle to even get out of bed, I have several meltdowns throughout the week, almost nightly, and attempting to drive home without crashing on purpose isn't getting any easier. But I'm trying, at least I'm trying.
But all of that? All of this? Everything that's happened? It was worth it. It was worth it for this. And yes, I understand now that this isn't classic literature and never will be, and that it's simply a product, a commercial brochure for a profit-driven company concerned only with breaking even that uses Godzilla, the brand, as a license to help them do just that. I know this comic isn't about me, and it's not really about the Godzilla I thought I knew, and I know no one who worked on this series did anything more than push a product. I know this now.
But Godzilla in Hell means a lot to me, and it was worth it all just to get here. So let's go ahead and talk about the comic itself now.
First thing's first: I made a mistake.
Last time I assumed the events took place in the 7th bolgia, because King Ghidorah was there, and that's it. They didn't give me anything to go with and I assumed we'd see no more of the 8th circle so it really didn't matter. Oh how wrong I was. So now which bolgias Godzilla visits in which or is actually kind of really important. Besides all the emotions, this issue is extremely mythologically and geographically challenging.
We don't know what happened between #2 and #4, but it seems like there's a chunk we're missing. How did Godzilla get from the 5th circle to the 8th circle that fast? In canto II of this series I suggested that Godzilla being able to visit the three circles of that issue is due to him crashing straight through the funnel of the Inferno and into the Abyss, the chaotic realm where the foundations of Hell were actually laid. But he left Hell's backstage by crashing through the wall where a frozen section of Styx slowly thawed out and trickled into the torrent it is in the funnel. It's not really a big deal that a frozen tributary can exist side by side a river of lava, I mean that's the sort of thing you'd expect to find in the Abyss. But because we know that ice is the frozen hatred of Styx... why the hell is Styx frozen?
In the Inferno, especially Dante's original, you really only get the one cold Hell, and that's the frozen lake of tears, Cocytus. It's a pretty powerful image and one that Godzilla in Hell has called on a full three times now as Godzilla returns to the ice in this issue. How is this happening? Without retreading my spiel about this from earlier any more than I already have, here's the gist: the infernal rivers flow downhill into Cocytus at the very bottom. Because they never intersect until then, the courses they take must involve a lot of time spent underground. But in Dante we never see the end of the cataract of blood, we see the waterfall at the end of the 7th circle and of course Cocytus, but the location where all the rivers first mix together is the 8th circle... I mean, right?
After the 5th circle we don't know where Styx goes, it seems to teleport magically in order to feed into the lake. I don't buy it. I mentioned my theory in the same article that because we don't see the lake of fire in Dante that all other authorities seem to insist is there, that there is a subterranean river of fire that flows into the burning tombs, the reverse baptismal fonts, and may even be the reason Phlegethon is boiling. I call it Pyriphlegethon because it better matches the river of Virgil. So just as we saw in issue #2 there must logically be a whole underground section of the 8th circle we're not seeing where all of the rivers mix together (remember it isn't the cataract of lamentation, the waterfall is still just Phlegethon) and form the icy ocean that leaks out into the 9th circle.
This, the Cocytus Reservoir, is instrumental to making sense of the paths the infernal rivers take. I imagine it works something like this: the waterfall spills into a moat of non-boiling blood, which then drains underground. Just like Virgil said, Acheron flows into Styx, only this happens underground somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd circle. This is the frozen Styx where Anguirus ended up. This trickles out from the 4th into the 5th and then, in Dis, is pumped underground. underneath the 8th circle it empties into an immense ocean, frozen of course, where blood rains down from above, drawing all three together, finally, into Cocytus, which is visible below on the 9th circle. This is not only the explanation for the 9 to 7 jump we see this issue, but the 5 to 8 jump we see between #2 and #4. Charybdis sucked Godzilla down to the reservoir, where he emerged into the 8th circle perhaps in the 5th bolgia (read on). By skipping Acheron as a river, Hell is really adamant about making sure he sees a lot of its wonderful river system.
So when Godzilla tears down the wall (of living flesh, don't ruin this for me) he travels into this area. Godzilla is not underground when this happens so if he's going into the reservoir from the surface then he must be at the end of the Malebolge. The wall separating the 9th and 10th bolgia is the last one, and in the bolgia Godzilla was in he got his head chopped off just like Bertrand de Born, who carried it around like a lantern as punishment for the schism he (might have?) caused. In the 9th bolgia, everybody gets cut up like in a Gamera movie as a metaphor for the division they caused in life. I'm not really sure how that is supposed to apply to Godzilla, King Ghidorah, or Destroyah, but the geography works. On the other side of the wall (of living flesh) we'd expect to see a bunch of diseased people followed by a lot of nothing, but instead Godzilla gets swallowed up in a white mist.
It's hard to tell, sometimes, which direction Godzilla is heading in, and how long it's taking. I've talked about both of these things before but it is important here. Rather than going downhill and back into the 9th circle proper to see if Space Godzilla has healed yet and to take on Lucifer personally, instead he thaws out as he approaches Phlegethon.
We, the audience, know that this is dumb and shouldn't be happening, but Godzilla does not. Godzilla has never read Dante, and he has no idea what to expect, where everything is, where he's going, or even really what the hell is going on. He must, by now, understand that the rules are different here and he can no longer die, but he may not even know he's dead, frankly. It would be extremely easy to get turned around in, say, a complete white out.
Making Godzilla walk in a circle can be seen as an ironic punishment of Hell, sure, because he spends a lot of his career doing just that. "Godzilla vs. Mothra... again" is a thing that exists, in fact it exists many times over. He's only 61 and he's retold a number of stories over and over again so many times that even to me it can feel tired and overdone. I can't make myself get excited about yet another comic where it's a sequel to Kingdom of Monsters and the largest linchpin of the plot is "Godzilla fights some other monsters." No. You're not using Godzilla correctly. Sure, it's a great spectacle, but at a certain point I can just see this exact thing over and over for free on deviantart. And of course we have another problem: he skipped the 7th circle, which is unacceptable. So yeah, this is not a coincidence, Godzilla has to repeat some of the circles again.
The 7th circle IS Hell. When you think of Hell, you think of rivers of boiling blood, fire raining from the sky, trees made out of dead souls, the christian god torturing suicides, homosexuals, and non-christians, surrounded by a much smaller portion where the actual horrible tyrants responsible for killing a lot of people soak. This is where it all is, this has the most dynamic imagery and is the most pointed and typical of Hell. Without the 7th circle, Hell would just be a bunch of horny people being blown into a some boulders. If this isn't your favroite circle, then your opinion is wrong.
It's only for one page but oh my god is it glorious. Worth the wait, absolutely, and not metaphoric re-interpretations either, this is the real deal: waterfalls of steaming blood feeding into a forest of grey, gnarled, thorny, dead trees. Beautiful. This is exactly what I was waiting for. It's perfect. All of my commentary here is just praise, it's overwhelmingly incredible.
Cataract of Blood
It's strange that Godzilla spends so little time here in the 7th circle. Or does he? Maybe the comic isn't showing us something. But on Earth Godzilla's biggest sin is unquestionably violence, yet as he waltzes under a boiling waterfall and thaws out, no centaurs seem to bother him, and he just walks straight to the cataract. In fact the bridge we see but be a part of the troph I mentioned earlier, at the bottom of the cataract. Between the bolgias are long bridges connecting the walls, but other than Geryon there's not much of a way to get down there. Geryon couldn't carry Godzilla but he didn't need them, since he had (probably) King Ghidorah. Okay, so maybe there's a bridge between the cataract of blood and the 1st bolgia, bridging the moat of blood I hypothesized. But if it was at the top surely someone would see it, right?
As often happens in this series, Godzilla falls, and he doesn't fall into the 1st bolgia, but far further down. So it appears as though the bridge is on the top and most people just missed it. Hmm. Either way, Godzilla lands in a place that doesn't seem to resemble any known bolgia, at least not in form, but we will know it by its function.
8th CIRCLE (Again)
If you're reading this, I'm assuming you've read the comic. This is important because we need to cover something here that won't come into play until the next... um... circle. Yeah, it's a formatting problem, I write by geography but the thing is the reason why which bolgia Godzilla landed in doesn't become important until he's already at the... hmm... next circle. Not too big of a deal, though, since we'll have plenty to talk about once we get *ahem* there.
It's the 7th. Godzilla passes through a city of giant spires, riddled with holes bored (or chewed?) into the rock. When I guess that Godzilla initially emerged at the 5th bolgia it was for two reasons. First off, we never see him tear down anymore walls, which you would think if he had such a hard time with that wall of living flesh (LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU) this would probably be worth mentioning. Since he's already going in circles, it's easy to imagine he's seen all this before. Hell, who says this is the first time he's even done this? Godzilla could have weeks, months, or years walking in this same circle over and over. Generally he seems mostly irritated with what's going on. Like he's seen it a thousand times before. He may have.
But failing a thousand we know for sure he's been through this circle at least once before, so it's reasonable to assume we're not seeing him tear down walls because he's already done that. There is one panel where he seems to be surprised by the demons he meets down here, but... he doesn't really react to them the whole issue except for this one panel. Is it an artifact of the angle? Maybe but I'd like to assume Wachter does what he does deliberately. We know that the 5th bolgia is crawling with malebranche, so perhaps he landed there originally and saw demons that were similar to the ones that are swarming him now, but not identical. Maybe that's what's happening. Either way Godzilla seems positively bored with the Malebolge, so he's probably seen much more of it than the comics showed us.
If Godzilla was expecting malebranche, though, these demons are a little different. These are the serpents or dragons from the 7th bolgia. They perform a special function.
The 7th bolgia is revealed over cantos XXIV-XXV. In the first we're merely greeted by a carpet of writhing serpents, basilisks, and dragons, and it's only in the next canto that the true horror sets in. The reptilian monsters attacking the souls here aren't just for show, there's a suitably ironic punishment going on here just as anywhere else. When the creatures bite one of the souls, they take on the form of them while the soul itself is transformed into a serpent. The 2007 animated version of the Birk/Sanders adaptation implied this section was more for identity thieves but they actually properly belong in the 10th circle as falsifiers. In Dante's time identity theft wasn't really a... well, thing, and he wasn't really thinking of an abstraction anyhow. The point is clear, you steal from others, Hell steals from you, and not the legal identity of paperwork and cards, but your core physical being. Dante sees a lot of fucked up shit in Hell but the language describing his horror and the slow build up to this revelation makes this out to be one of the most horrible fates from his viewpoints.
The exact details of how this process works have been complicated and altered over time with the multiple iterations and sequels. Sometimes a snake can bite a dude, turn into a different dude, and a dude that's a snake can bite them and turn back into themselves. I mean sometimes. There's a general sense of chaos and frustration in the pocket and the situation is complicated as the sheer numbers game means you're almost never going to end up biting one of the actual, original serpents. In this way Hell forces thieves to steal from other souls, perpetuating their guilt in a kind of fucked up involuntary Purgatory.
So let's talk for a minute about the transformative nature of the soul. A lot of Hell's punishments down past the wall of Dis (Nether Hell) involve body horror (soul horror?) and extreme augmentation that goes far beyond the mere physical harm of Lesser Hell. One constant about the afterworlds in this scheme is that you heal, always, unlike some of the more grim versions of slain warriors in Virgil, so how is this sort of stuff even possible? How does Ian Curtis turn into a tree and never recover? Or the "demon cars?" The serpents? The diseases in the 10th bolgia? etc. We talked before about what Dante says is the physical make-up of a soul, which is to say it doesn't really have one. The soul itself is a sheer energy body, a force of will, and what we see as the ghost is an imprint of the air around it. So a ghost wandering around on Earth would be wispy and light and nigh-invisible, while a soul in Hell would be a dark, heavy thing composed of misery and pain. The environment and the "rules" dictate what's possible because the individual lacks substance enough to change their own situation.
But more than that, the overarching plot of Niven and Pournelle's sequel Escape from Hell has our hero Allen Carpenter setting out to justify Hell by proving that anyone could leave if they really wanted to. This means that the conditions inflicted on souls in the body horror circles is reversible just like anything else, and they WILL heal, provided you can fix the condition in the first place. Like highlanders in Heroes, you technically can kill them and keep them dead... up until you remove whatever's obstructing their spine. So even in an eternity nothing is really eternal, and anyone can become anything based on the whims of their environment and their own free will, provided they can find the means. There are rules in place, certainly, but they are not absolute, and determination can get you pretty far if you're willing to get through Hell to... get through... Hell. Hmm. Sounded better in my head.
So this is how Godzilla wins, by turning the rules of Hell against themselves and using a loophole to defeat his seemingly indefatigable opponent.
I will never finish this article. After what Lilith did to me I can barely function. I can't do this anymore. I'm posting what I have and that will have to be good enough.
I'm glad I got to see Godzilla in Hell through to the end, but I'm done here. Good bye.