Comics Newsletter

Reading The Amazing, Bizarre MICKEY’S INFERNO

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Zachary Littrell

Staff Writer

Zach comes from Maryland, greets people with "Howdy!," and is happy to talk with anybody about books and mathematics. And as someone who keeps a hammock in his living room, he’s an expert at hearing people say, “Oh cool, is that a hammock in your living room?” Twitter: @AnAnteaterMaybe

Are you trying to find the perfect Christmas gift for a friend who is:

  • Interested in Dante’s Inferno, the 14th century epic poem about Hell
  • A big Disney and Mickey Mouse fan?

    Are YOU that friend? That’s gotta be a difficult person to shop for, right?

    Actually, I have just the thing! In 1949–1950, Disney writer Guido Martina and illustrator Angelo Bioletto wrote about Mickey and Goofy exploring Dante’s Hell in L’inferno di Topolino. Or, as it’s known in English, Mickey’s Inferno.

    Book cover of Mickey's Inferno

    Ha ha! Oh boy!

    Yes, you read that right. Disney really has a comic book about Mickey Mouse and Goofy going to Hell.

    It’s a bizarre, Funny, dark, and mildly Disneyfied Inferno

    Sure, there’s some Disneyfication of Hell going on (like removing some of the sex, gore, and the biting 14th century political commentary). But the scenes still contain cartoonish violence like Goofy being cooked alive, fire raining from the sky, demons chasing after Mickey, and other images evoking Gustave Doré’s famous dark illustrations.

    The River Styx in Mickey's Inferno

    Gawrsh! Ah-hyuck.

    In other words, this is probably a treat for a slightly older Disney reader.

    Other classic Disney characters join the fun, too

    It’d be silly if just Mickey and Goofy got to delve into the Inferno! Dante’s original was filled with legendary Greek and Roman figures, and recognizable names from his own time. In Mickey’s Inferno, Mickey and Goofy bump into familiar faces from the huge Disney family.

    Sure, this family reunion is not under the best of circumstances, but whatever.

    The Reluctant Dragon in Mickey's Inferno

    The Reluctant Dragon plays the role of Geryon

    Dumbo in Mickey's Inferno

    Dumbo, what the heck are you doing here, buddy?!

    Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Bear in Mickey's Inferno

    Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear take a much-needed break from Splash Mountain

    Donald Duck in Mickey's Inferno

    Like Donald would ever let Mickey and Goofy get this whole adventure to themselves.

    It’s pretty darn faithful to the literary source

    OK, a lot of people will pick this up just to see how bonkers the author was willing to go. (Answer? Fairly bonkers.) But Martina also did a really good job parodying Dante’s allegorical masterpiece, both in structure and in substance.  

    • Each section is divided by “Cantos,” which mostly line up with the original poem. So you can have fun cross-referencing the two texts and see why on earth is Donald Duck all of the sudden a two-headed flame monster thing.
    • Both the Italian and English translation mimic Dante’s terza rima scheme. Sure, sometimes the English translation is a little tortured trying to make the rhymes work…but, hey, anyone who rhymes “Economics” with “catatonic” is a-okay in my book.
    • Dante wrote his political enemies directly into the circles of the Inferno (because why not?).

      So, tongue-in-cheek, Martina transformed two members of the editorial staff into furies.
      Furies from Mickey's Inferno

    This is Just one of MANY Great parodies

    Book cover of Paperino Don ChisciotteMaybe the Inferno isn’t your style. Or maybe you’re craving more Disney graphic novels with a literary bent? Maybe you just need more Donald Duck in your life! Well, you’re in luck! Because Mickey’s Inferno is part of a series of “Great Parodies,” affectionate spoofs on the classics from Disney’s Italian writers.

    For example, instead of Mickey Mouse playing Dante, follow Donald Duck playing the lovably daft Don Quixote in Paperino Don Chisciotte. And yes, of course Goofy is Sancho Panza.

    Now, a lot of the Great Parodies are tricky (if not impossible) to find in English…but what’s a better excuse to learn Italian than by reading about Mickey and the gang’s adventures in Hell and beyond!