In the 1960′s, Marvel Comics was a very literate company. Reading Stan Lee’s dialog and plots one would think that he had been up all night reading Shakespeare and Edith Hamilton’s analysis of mythology. Looking for interesting characters to adapt into superheroes, Stan struck upon Norse mythology and the Mighty Thor. The character fit perfectly and the myths were fun for Stan and Jack to adapt into the modern comic book format. While Thor in classical mythology is more of a brawler who is hardly the brightest bulb in the house, the Marvel Comics version was angst-ridden and contemplative, a character trait that many Marvel heroes share.
Introduced in the pages of the Mighty Thor way back in 1965, Hercules turned a few heads as he offered up a rollicking alternative to the brooding Thor. An immortal with near countless years of experience in combat, there are few who can best or even challenge Hercules in hand-to-hand battle. After defeating a de-powered Thor and humbling the Thunder God, Herc went on to become a member of the Avengers for a time, sometimes serving alongside Goldilocks. One can even say that Herc’s fight with Thor was more of a bonding ritual than an act of aggression. To back-up this theory, he even challenged Captain America after being inducted into the Avengers!
Exiled to Earth by his father, Hercules embraced the superhero lifestyle and even led the short-lived west coast super group called Champions with Black Widow, Angel, Iceman and Ghost Rider. While the character languished for decades, he has since become very popular. Choosing Captain America’s side in the Civil War, Hercules struck the finishing blow that destroyed the clone Thor constructed by Tony Stark, Reed Richards and Hank Pym. During World War Hulk, Herc sided with the Hulk, feeling that the green Goliath’s grievances were just. In the aftermath of the war, he teamed up with another follower of the Hulk, the 7th smartest mind on the planet, the teenager Amadeus Cho, to strike back against S.H.I.E.L.D.
More recently, Hercules has teamed up with the Mighty Avengers team led by Hank Pym (now calling himself the Wasp in homage to his departed wife) to deal with the Chaos Cascade, bringing Amadeus Cho with him.
Part of the character’s resurgence in popularity is largely due to his usurping the Incredible Hulk title for himself under the pen of Greg Pak. The change startled many, but not half as much as how well-written the series was. Part of the success of the new series is the inclusion of the rebelios Amadeus Cho, a brilliant character invented by Pak as part of the Amazing Fantasy series that introduced new characters in much the same way that Spider-Man debuted. Another major pull for readers is the folding of mythology into the main story from month to month. Not only is this deeply entertaining but it also evokes a time when Marvel was a much more literate House of Ideas.
Once a poor-man’s Thor, Hercules is now a very popular and successful superhero in the Marvel Universe. In the month’s to come, it looks like he will again tangle with the mighty Thor… but judging from the image below not in the way that any could anticipate.
Incredible Hercules Vol.0: World War Hulk
Incredible Hercules Vol. 1: Against The World
Incredible Hercules Vol. 2: Secret Invasion
Incredible Hercules Vol.3: Love And War