Marvel's Hercules might be viewed as more of a lug than his fellow god Thor, but a new series is out to change that.
Dan Abnett and Luke Ross are launching a new Hercules ongoing series in November, with Abnett looking to reframe the Greek mythological icon as the "world's first superhero." Announced by Marvel via an interview with CBR, Hercules looks to rehabilitate the sometimes humorous hero by strengthening his mythological quests as part of core Marvel continuity.
"I immediately went away and thought about Hercules the mythological character and immediately realized that his legend goes back to a time before he was even called Hercules. It's an incredibly ancient myth that probably even predates written language that's appeared in many cultures," said Abnett. "Heracles is his most famous incarnation, but he's kind of this archetype and I was suddenly struck with this idea that it's almost like he's the first superhero. He's an extraordinary hero who's enormously capable, beloved by the gods, and will do anything to protect and look after you if he's on your side. He's also capable though of enormous foolishness, violent rage, and terrible decision making."
Abnett admits that while the Marvel version of Hercules has a "slightly buffoonish quality," his Marvel adventures account for very small portion of his career as an adventure and a hero. And this series looks to have the beared Greek god attempt to get his groove back.
"If you think of a great athlete or sportsman, they have periods in their life where they're at the top of their game. They're beloved and very, very successful. Then for whatever reason, be it injury or they take some time off, they have a sort of lax period where they're not at fighting form and they enjoy the luxuries of life that their success has bread for them," Abnett explained. "Then after while they go, 'It's very nice being a rich person with my own helicopter, but I want to get back into the game because I love it so much and I've sort of lost my edge a little.'"
Just as the mythological Labors of Hercules were the Greek hero trying to get back on track, the new Hercules is the hero getting "back in shape and [getting] his career back together. In doing so I hope he's showing that not only is he the world's first superhero, but he's this extraordinary capable warrior and hunter."
For that, Hercules will learn of "tremors" coming from the the desctuction of "the last sort of vestiges of a mythological age that the modern world has almost obliterated to an extent."
"[Hercules is] sensitive to that and has become the go to guy for those slightly sort of off beat things," said the writer. "For instance Tony Stark might go, 'Wow! Centaurs. I don't know what to do about those?' Whereas Hercules would go, "I know all about those." So he has an area of expertise that fills a really interesting niche in the same way that if it was magic you would go to Doctor Strange or if it's technology Tony Stark is your man. So it's almost like an area of expertise that Hercules has decided to remind the world he know all about."
Abnett same he came upon Hercules originally for his Secret Wars series Korvac Saga after his original choice, Thor, was denied by Marvel.
"I wanted a big powerhouse demigod character. He wasn't in the original "Korvac Saga," but it made great sense to make him one of the key figures here," Abnett explained. "When I was writing the series I wasn't underwriting Hercules, but I was thinking of him as the classic Hercules; the slightly outrageous sandal costume, the beard, the hearty embracing of life and the slightly buffoonish quality. I then thought, "Gosh! I've sort of got a blind spot about Hercules!" He's an accepted and essential part of the Marvel Universe, but always has sort of slightly qualified adventures."
Abnett went on to pitch a Hercules series to Marvel editor Katie Kubert, who encouraged him to develop the concept further, leading to this new ongoing series.
"I want to keep the book very accessible and I want to make it very immediate. So the first few issues are going to appear to be done in one stories. He'll deal with one or multiple problems in an issue and there's a sense of closure, but there is the inevitable meta story," the writer explained. "So his supporting cast's story rolls through those and we gradually get the impression that these apparently disconnected elements are going to be more connected. They are not necessarily all part of the same thing, but they are symptoms of the same problem. And yes, at least some of his major opponents are going to be new characters that are almost filling the vacuum left by the diminishing mythological presence of the world. That's going to be a fun thing to do."