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Comic Book / Heck

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A graphic novel by Zander Cannon, first published in serialized form in the digital comic book Double Barrel in 2012 and released in print in 2013 by Top Shelf Productions. Hector "Heck" Hammarskjold, former high school football star, returns home for his father's funeral, planning to finally discard the last of the old man's crap. And then he discovers a portal to Hell in the house's basement...

Five years later, Heck has established himself as an "inheritance consultant": for a small fee and a contract signed in blood, he'll travel into Hell, find a recently-deceased person, and tell or ask them anything you want. When his old high school flame comes in to give a letter to her late husband, Heck takes on the job-but there's more to the story than there first appears...

This comic provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Hinted at with Elliot. Heck also hated his dad, although it's unclear whether the old man was actually abusive or just neglectful.
  • Adventurer Outfit: Heck's standard outfit includes a lot of leather and khaki, and is a clear throwback to the pulp adventurers.
  • And I Must Scream: It follows Dante's ''Inferno'' to a T, so all those punishments appear here too: the Wood of the Suicides, the sorcerers with their heads turned backwards, the traitors frozen in ice...
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Satan remains in charge, Amy gets away with all the money, and Heck is none the wiser.
  • Bandage Mummy: Heck's sidekick Elliot, who suffered some... unspecified injuries on a previous trip. He is literally covered in bandages, speaks slowly and haltingly, has sharp, pointy teeth, and is a good two feet shorter than he used to be. It's sort of Played for Laughs, sort of not.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Amy is the seemingly kind-hearted old high-school flame who paid Heck to deliver a letter to her husband in Hell. Her husband, as it turns out, had been sent to the lowest circle of Hell for embezzling money from his company. When Heck reads him the letter, we learn that Amy was behind the embezzling scam, and only sent the letter to her husband in order to find out where the money was hidden, not caring about her husband's eternal torment.
  • Buddy Picture: A very weird, dark, and twisted one, but that's the basic structure: Heck and Elliot have an adventure into Hell.
  • A Chat with Satan: Not much of a spoiler to say that Heck's journey into the depths of Hell ends with a talk with the big guy himself.
  • Children Are Innocent: An interesting example that plays with actual Catholic doctrine. According to Dante, the unbaptized children stay in Limbo with the virtuous pagans. However, a document written by Pope John Paul II and published in 2007 declared that, essentially, unbaptized infants are not prevented from entering Heaven. So on this trip, Heck happens to arrive at the exact moment that a contingent of angels arrive to take all the babies to Heaven.
  • Circles of Hell: The book follows Dante's map of Hell exactly: nine circles divided by sins, with Satan at the very bottom.
  • Cruel Mercy: At the very end of the book, Heck has saved Elliot from Satan himself, but is grievously wounded and ready to die. Satan, however, picks up Heck and tells him the most hurtful thing he can: the truth. Even after Heck abandoned his only friend, Elliot still forgave him. This breaks Heck's spirit utterly ... and then Satan returns him to Earth, unharmed. After all, he'll see Heck again-eventually.
  • Devil, but No God: Since the book is based heavily on The Divine Comedy, then logically God must exist, but nobody ever mentions Him. A few angels show up-both regular ones and fallen.
  • Driven to Suicide: Literally. Heck meets Colin, one of the guys in the car with Greg when it crashed, in the wood of the suicides. Colin was the driver.
  • The Ferryman: Both Charon and Phlegyas make appearances (and vaguely oracular pronouncements).
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: The setting of 90% of the book.
  • Forgiveness: A major betrayal in the book is forgiven, surprisingly. Elliot, who was seemingly abandoned by Heck at the very bottom of Hell, tells Satan that he forgives Heck. But Heck finds new resolve, returns and rescues Elliot, only to be beaten within an inch of his life and ready to die. Satan decides to spare Heck, but before returning him to Earth, tells Heck that Elliot forgave him. And that moment, more than any other, is what breaks Heck.
  • Glory Days: When Heck first returns home, everyone remembers him as the famous high school quarterback. He's not happy about it.
    Heck: I'm not that guy any more. And I'm not exactly thrilled that I'm not a star any more, and that I'll never be as interesting or exciting or happy as I was in high school. So stop reminding me of old days and better times.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: While Amy gets away scot-free with the money, her sins leave Hector with a very good idea of which circle of Hell she'll end up in.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Apparently, every time Heck leaves Hell, most of his memories of the journey are erased. Which means he doesn't remember just how terrifying and disturbing it is-until the next time he goes there...
  • Place Beyond Time:
    • As Heck says, "Everything down there is always happening." He and Elliot don't need to eat while they're down there, and time will pass differently from the mortal world. In fact, they seem to return to Earth at the moment just before they left.
    • This also makes for an interesting method of communication with the mortal world: using a magic talisman, Heck can talk to Amy, but she will only hear him when she's committing the sin of the circle he's in, regardless of when she committed it. For example, while in the Uncommitted (those who did not choose between good or evil), Heck speaks to Amy. In the present, Amy finds a diary she kept in high school; in a section where she's having trouble making a major decision, her writing takes a sudden odd turn as she "hears" what Heck is saying.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Punny Name: Hector "Heck" Hammarskjold goes to Hell.
  • Red Right Hand: Amy's eyes are like that of a snake, particularly when she's angry.
  • Satan: You don't set a book in Hell without having the big guy show up at some point.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: How Hell is organized, as per Dante. Moreover, Heck's magic talisman allows him to communicate with Amy, but she will only hear him when she is committing the sin of the circle he is presently in.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Turns out Amy was the one who had the idea for stealing all the money from her husband's company.
  • To Hell and Back: The plot of the book, and Heck's day job. He'll travel into Hell, find anyone you want, and return with information or answers. He's done it so many times it's routine by now. Well, it's routine as far as he remembers.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Heck ends up meeting his father in Hell. It's not a happy reunion, but they come to an understanding, at least.
  • Wham Line: Written, not spoken:
    Amy: Where is that dropbox, you son of a bitch?