The Road To Hell
The What To Where?
As best I can remember, The Road To Hell started as a proposed screenplay collaboration between myself and Matt Wayne. Around the same time, Marvel/Epic comic book editor Margaret Clark started a new position with upstart UK Publisher APOCALYPSE. She asked if we had anything she could serialize in her new magazine TOXIC. Since they were paying easily three times as much as either of us were making in those days and since the deal also let us retain the rights to the property, we said, "Hell, yeah." TOXIC ran 32 issues before biting the big one, our story began running in issue # 31. I'm not saying the two incidents were related, but
A couple years later, I adapted our first five comic book scripts into screenplay form and promptly forgot all about it. In 1998, Matt and I dug out the notes and rewrote the thing top to bottom. That screenplay was later optioned by Barry Levine of Takoma Productions (producers of the proposed DAMAGE CONTROL movie), who all things considered, didn't seem to like it very much. We've got it back, now. Below is the pitch document and some paintings from the artist of the comic book serial, Colin McNeil.
The Road To Hell
A Romantic Comedy About An Infernal Triangle
By Dwayne McDuffie & Matt S. Wayne
What happens if the girl of your dreams is a research scientist hell-bent on going to Hell?
If you're Michael Billington, you go with her. And watch her fall in love with Satan. Typical, huh? Well, Michael's not giving her up without a fight. He's mad at Hell, and he's not going to take it anymore. But how long can a mere mortal hope to defy the Prince of Darkness? In THE ROAD TO HELL, the answer is "about an hour and a half." So what we're talking about here is a relatively original property created by Dwayne McDuffie and Matt S. Wayne, the team that brought you &emdash; well nothing yet, but let's try to keep an open mind.
Persephone Yaboz is an ostracized theoretical physicist working on a mysterious and heretical project. She lives and works with her father, a crotchety old immigrant plumber. They are pestered by an IRS auditor, who claims they can't list almost 700,000 dollars under "miscellaneous business expenses." Persephone can't be bothered by details, though. She wants to go to Hell. On purpose.
Doctor Yaboz has discovered a "dimensional interface" at the center of the Earth. Believing the interface to be the doorway to Hell, she spends her entire family fortune on the fantastic, earth-burrowing "Mole Machine" that she designs and builds with her father's help: the Handbasket, a brass, drill-nosed monstrosity powered by a strange, crystalline commode called the Hyperbowl.
Mechanical Engineer Michael Billington has been in unrequited love with Doctor Yaboz since he became her assistant. One day he shows up in priest's collar, announcing that he's going off to become a Jesuit. If he can't have the Doctor, he'll settle for the next best thing. When our IRS man, Dexter Rogers, comes to serve papers, Persephone and her crew climb into the Handbasket and attempt to escape. The IRS man isn't easily deterred, though. After a chase that wrecks half of the town, the machine burrows down to the center of the Earth, leaving a smooth tunnel. Dexter follows them down in his car. As they reach the point of hellish interface (PHI) the Hyperbowl is flushed rapidly. A flash of brilliant light envelops both the Handbasket and the car following it and they all emerge in Hell.
Hell is a disappointment. It's not eternal torment, but eternal inconvenience. It isn't even that hot, only about 95 degrees, and the air conditioning doesn't work. On the other hand, it's a dry heat. The cable doesn't work, and there's nothing on, anyway. You have to pay for it, though, or they'll turn it off. Hideous creatures roam the streets performing random tortures, but their hearts aren't in it. Clearly, Hell has been coasting on its reputation for quite a while. So has Satan.
Satan is basically just a career bureaucrat who, courtesy of the Peter Principle, has reached his level of incompetence. God knows he tries, but he's not management material. This all changes when he meets Doctor Persephone Yaboz. The two fall instantly and passionately in love. Satan is inspired and in his attempt to impress his new love, quickly restores Hell to its former glory. He works off his little devil's potbelly, stokes up the furnaces, and doubles the capacity of the torture chambers by introducing self-service lanes. He's in love, and everything's wrong with the world.
Persephone's lovesick assistant, Michael, agrees. He's mad at Hell, and he's not going to take it anymore. He decides to battle Satan for Persephone's hand. But before he can confront Satan, he has to deal with Dexter the IRS agent, who has finally caught up with the Handbasket. But when Dexter hears Michael's story, he sympathizes with him. Dexter, too was recently dumped for another man. "Women always go for that type," he commiserates. As the sole representative of the United States government in the area, it's up to him to help Michael win Persephone. Dexter asks to see the books. The evidence is clear; nobody in Hell has ever paid a penny in taxes. Michael and Dexter choose their battlefield; Tax court. This wont be easy, though. The Defense has access to every lawyer who ever lived. And frankly, doesnt even need them; Satan is the prince of lawyers. Still Satans second chair is Richard Nixon (who leads Satans team in prayer, "Get down on your knees!"), and his witness list includes Cain, Hitler, John Wayne and a surprise witness Who is also the Supreme Being (God brings along a film strip machine and projects visual aids to his testimony, which include the origin of Satan and Hell).
In a legal battle almost as funny as anything youd find in John Grisham, the love triangle between Satan, Persephone and Michael finally resolves itself. Meanwhile Chuckles, who has somehow installed himself as the Judge, intends to betray Satan and install himself as ruler of Hell. And God, as always, has His own plan.The die is cast; les jeux sont faits. With auditors, lawyers from Hell and lovers flying left and right, can the tender blossom of true love survive?
Not a chance in Hell.
Before its all over; Chuckles scheme is foiled and he is cast down even further; Hells tax problems are solved by agreeing to open a theme park (proceeds to go to the tax bill); and the city of Detroit undergoes a tourist-driven renaissance as the "Gateway To Hell." A dejected Michael returns to Earth, with Dexter and Pops but without the love of his life.
Satan gets the girl.
His kind always does.
THE ROAD TO HELL is © Copyright 1990-2002 by Dwayne McDuffie & Matt S. Wayne. All Rights Reserved.