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In 1934, Art Young, the preeminent American political cartoonist in the first half of the twentieth century, wrote and drew his satirical interpretation of Gustave Doré’s version of Dante’s Inferno and created one of the most searing — and hilarious — indictments of capitalism ever published.
Capitalist oligarchs and their minions have been condemned to Hell, but because they are capitalists, after all, and are used to getting their way, they effectively lead a hostile takeover, throw out Satan, and turn the Inferno into the last bastion of the free market. Everything in the new Hell is privatized and operated by a corporate monopoly — maximizing profits and misery. The fire department won’t put out your burning home unless you pay for the water first. Parks charge admission and cool breezes cost a dollar. Hell has become the perfect capitalist paradise.
Not only is Art Young’s Inferno one of the most coruscating political commentaries ever set to paper, but it’s also an exquisite work of art. Since Fantagraphics is the world’s preeminent publisher of cartoon art, this reprint is no mere facsimile edition. Instead, each page of Young’s art has been scanned from the original art and is reproduced here in full color, seen for the first time as it was on Art Young’s drawing board, his brush strokes clearly visible.
Inferno also includes a new introduction by Steven Heller, a foreword by editor Glenn Bray, and the original 1934 essays by Young himself and his “friend, admirer, and attorney” Charles Recht.