So here and here we looked at artists' representations of the devil, from Power Puff Girls to Hieronymus Bosch. But what about Beelzebub? He's sometimes conflated with Satan and sometimes his own character, and is also known as Lord of the Flies. You might know him from Queen as someone who plans ahead and delegates.
Paradise Lost - John Milton
In Milton's Paradise Lost, Beelzebub is a high-ranking angel and Lucifer's bestie. The whole "war on Heaven" thing comes out of their late-night bitch session about Jesus, and after the Fall, Beelzebub is the de facto second-in-command in Hell. He's the perfect best friend character, too, setting up "but who could possibly be brave enough to venture into Chaos?" situations like a champ.
|Lake of burning sulfur? Nothing these two bros can't handle.|
The Sandman - Neil Gaiman
Poor Beelzebub. While Neil Gaiman goes with a suave Miltonic Lucifer in his Sandman series, he demotes the Lord of the Flies to a sniveling, literal interpretation. Like Hieronymus Bosch's Satan, Gaiman's Beelzebub is stripped of any vestige of allure or dignity, resigned to the sewers of existence.
|He just needs a wig and some speech therapy.|
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
If you went to middle school in the USA, you probably read Lord of the Flies, from which you learned that 1) British schoolboys are creepy as fuck, and 2) the totalitarian governments of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games could have skipped the whole "fight to the death or we'll kill you" thing and just thrown a bunch of kids on a beach with the same result. On this adultless island, humanity either fades away or is enhanced to its purest form, depending on how much of a misanthrope you are. Oh, you got a conch to symbolize order and civilized discourse? We raise you a severed pig head on a stake. Not scary enough? Just wait until you start hallucinating and the Lord of the Flies possesses it and talks to you. Humans: the real rotting monster.
Beelzebub - Ryuhei Tamura
Gonna be honest: I have never read this manga or watched this anime. But when my image searches for Paradise Lost illustrations of this character kept turning up not Dore or Blake artwork but a green-haired, clothes-adverse baby, I had to find out why this was. In this manga-turned-anime, a high school student discovers a baby - Beelzebub IV - who has been sent to Earth from Hell to destroy humanity. But first he has to grow up, and this lucky high school student is the one who gets to raise him! Hijinks ensue.
Engraving from 1678 edition of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress
Illustration by Gustave Dore for Paradise Lost
Sandman panel from Comic Vine
Soul-killing still from Peter Brook's 1963 Lord of the Flies adaptation