?Death. We all get there at some point, except Dick Clark, and when we do, none of us have any idea of what’s waiting for us. It’s a question that has obsessed humanity since the very beginning, because dying generally sucks. Heck, sometimes life isn’t that great either, so it’d be nice to know there’s something cool waiting for us after we kick it.
But all we can do is make guesses, and thus countless movies, comics, books and more have tried to envision what waits for us in the great beyond.
Sometimes it’s a vivid depiction of hell, sometimes it’s a glorious version of heaven, but they’re all generally pretty interesting, and that’s the point. And yes, there are about 3,000 different afterlives in nerddom and your favorite one is probably left off the list. You’ll deal. Bring on the dead folks!
10) You Know They Got A Hell of a Band
In 1992 Stephen King got to include all of his favorite dead rock stars in one afterlife/zombie fantasy short story. In the story, a couple gets lost in the woods and stumbles onto a town populated by dead musicians like Janis Joplin (with a mouth full of maggots) and Otis Redding (the sheriff of the town). Every night these moldy oldies gather for a marathon rock concert for the trapped non-musicians than can sometimes last for years. Kind of hell, kind of heaven if you’re into month-long Keith Moon drum solos, but totally awesome.
?Phil Hester’s Golly! is the best series you’re not reading. In it, a carnie is chosen by angels to fight the supernatural with his oddball gang of friends. In issue #5, Golly (the carnie) is taken up to heaven to talk with the angel (a giant glowing pyramid) and gets clued in on what heaven’s like. Jimi Hendrix discovered his true talent of pitching knuckle balls and Sylvia Plath is the only one who can hit against him. Moussolini runs a kickass Tex-Mex restaurant. Emeril Lagasse hosts a poetry slam (time has no meaning in heaven). All is forgiven in heaven, even if you feel the need to apologize for a few decades, like Stalin.
?Death means a lot in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. It can mean vampirism, reincarnation, or zombieism, but for most of us, it means a near endless, lonely expanse of black sand. Eventually you get somewhere vague, but it’s black sand for the duration. But the best part? You get to meet a hooded Death…or his assistant, Mort. Mort would be pretty cool to hang out with.
For some, the concept of an afterlife means nothing more than endless waiting. Beetlejuice showed the afterlife as a multicolored office where spirits take a number and sit, sit, sit. But you meet interesting people and can pop out and visit Earth as a ghost sometimes. BUT WATCH OUT FOR SANDWORMS!
6) Defending Your Life
Who didn’t watch Albert Brooks’s Defending Your Life and wish they were enjoying apartment living and eating non-fattening Chinese food? You get to watch all the good parts and bad parts of your life over again and meet interesting people like sober Rip Torn and Academy Award-winner Meryl Streep. Afterlife is like hanging out at a spa, where every meal is at a restaurant and you dress in a robe. AWESOME.
5) Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
Far from bogus. Hell is perverse insanity punctuated by all your awful fears realized, like kissing Grandma or visiting the Easter Bunny. The devil’s there and his voice is that of Megatron (Frank Welker). Heaven’s much nicer, and brighter, with all the good people from all over the universe. Like Station, the weird dwarf aliens who somehow know how to play rock music.
In the 1999 film Purgatory, the afterlife is a wild west town where everyone’s living on edge. See, if you do something bad, you’re sucked down to hell. But if you stay good for ten years, the stagecoach picks you up and you’re off to heaven. For Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, and Doc Holliday, the ten years are almost up until evil Eric Roberts shows up. Before he does, everyone gets along, there’s no crime, no shootouts, and no drunkenness in the streets. All you have to do is play ball and you’re going home.
3) Robot Hell
Futurama has a bunch of future religions like Oprahism and Robot Judaism, but Robotology has the wicked afterlife. Robot Hell is in New Jersey (of course) and overseen by Dan Castellanetta’s Robot Devil. All your ironic robot tortures are there. Smoking? You’re turned into a cigar. Bootlegging music? The Beastie Boys scratch your hard drive. FOR ALL ROBOT ETERNITY!!!
2) Proposition Player
?Vertigo Comics published a Bill Willingham miniseries in 1999 that proposed the greatest afterlife scenario, possibly ever. Joey Martin is a card player who, as a joke, buys people’s souls in exchange for cash and drinks. What he doesn’t realize is that by doing that he sets himself up as a god, and then needs to develop an entirely theology for his converts–which includes an afterlife. His version? A never-ending casino. It’s so popular that all the other gods start sending him their overflow!
1) Dante’s Divine Comedy
Can’t go wrong with an old standard. Poet Dante obviously had some issues with the world that surrounded him, when he cast all the assholes as tortured characters in the Inferno. Purgatory and Paradise are rather dull (Paradise is a preachy rundown of saints no one cares about anymore), but the Inferno is so good it’s been made into a video game where the author kills undead babies. To read the book, however, you need some annotations to figure out who’s buried in excrement and who’s being chewed apart by harpies.