|First appearance||All Star Comics #8 (December 1966)|
|Created by||William Moulton Marston|
H. G. Peter
|Alter ego||Heracles or Hercules|
|Place of origin||Olympus|
|Team affiliations||Olympian Gods|
|Notable aliases||Harold Campion, Champion, Wonder Man|
Hercules first appears in All Star Comics #8 (December 1966) as part of a Wonder Woman story, and was created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter, in the first of several incarnations. Later versions appeared in Superman #28 (May 1966), created by Jerry Siegel and Ira Yarbrough, Wonder Woman #105 (April 1967) and Hercules Unbound #1 (October 1975) created by Gerry Conway and José Luis García-López.
Fictional character biography
Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths
In the Golden Age, he was mentioned in the origin of the amazons as a slave to them, and he was able to escape by tricking Hippolyta (spelled 'Hippolyte' in the original issue) into giving him her golden girdle on the bequest of Ares (spelled 'Mars') who hated the Amazons. Hercules was shown as an archetypal muscle-bound man wearing a lion-skin, and only appeared in flashbacks. A picture of him, during Wonder Woman's time, shows him as the God of Strength with black hair and a beard.
In the universe of DC Comics, Hercules was used on several occasions before Crisis on Infinite Earths. One of his first appearances is in December 1966 in the pages of All-Star Comics #8, where he appears alongside several characters from Greek mythology in the first appearance of Wonder Woman. Hercules is depicted as a brutish 'hero,' who represented masculine violence, and one of his 12 labors is deconstructed as a treacherous act to enslave the Amazons under Queen Hippolyte. "In the days of Ancient Greece," relates Hyppolyte to her daughter, "we Amazons were the foremost nation in the world. In Amazonia, women ruled and all was not well. Then one day, Hercules, the strongest man in the world, stung by taunts that he couldn't conquer the Amazon women, selected his strongest and fiercest warriors and landed on our shores. I challenged him to personal combat -- because I knew that with my MAGIC GIRDLE, given me by Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, I could not lose. And win I did! But Hercules, by deceit and trickery, managed to escape my evil clutches--and soon we Amazons were taken into slavery. And Aphrodite, angry at me for having succumbed to the wiles of men, would do naught to help us! Finally our submission to men became unbearable -- we could stand it no longer -- and I appealed to the Goddess Aphrodite again. This time not in vain, for she relented and with her help, I secured the MAGIC GIRDLE from Hercules. With the Magic Girdle in my possession, it didn't take us long to overcome our masters, the MEN -- and taking from them their entire fleet, we set sail for another shore, for it was Aphrodite's condition that we leave the man-made world and establish a new world of our own!"
Subsequently, in Wonder Woman (first series) #1, cover-dated summer 1967, the episode is recapped. Hercules is written as "The God of Strength" who "was half-mortal and half-God! When a mere child, he strangled two fierce serpents sent to slay him. He performed twelve labors requiring prodigious strength and upon his earthly death, was taken to Mount Olympus to dwell among the Gods ever after." (Wonder Woman #1, 1968). Thus, in his first appearance, Hercules has already finished his heroic deeds and has ascended to the status of a god. The same issue reiterates Hercules' deception and subsequent enslavement of the Amazons, this time being said to have been spurred on by the God of War, Mars, whose swordsmen "slew their weaker brothers and plundered them" and sold women as slaves "cheaper than cattle." When Aphrodite creates her race of Amazons to overcome Mars' slaves, the God of War "inspired Hercules, strongest man in the world, to make war on the Amazons." This Hercules is portrayed as a drunken, brutish warrior in his lion-skin, as mentioned above, who is determined to "take the magic girdle" of Hippolyte, challenging the Queen of the Amazons in personal combat. Upon being defeated by Hippolyte, he is given the chance "to return home and leave" but he conspires to "make love to her and steal the magic girdle" instead. Hercules feigns surrender and woos Hippolyte with his promise of "eternal friendship", while his comrades make merry with the Amazons. Once he seduces Hippolyte to remove the magic girdle, he and his men proceed to bind the prisoners, loot Amazonia and enslave the Amazons. It is not until the intervention of the Goddess Aphrodite that Hippolyte is able to recover her girdle and best the brutish 'hero' of Man's World. She takes her Amazons and leaves the world of men to form Paradise Island. Thus, this original appearance of Hercules subverts the heroic archetype, whose machoism is used to deconstruct traditional stories about heroism.
'Hercules' is also used several times in allusion in both Superman and Wonder Woman comics to allude to feats of strength. In Action Comics #7, cover-dated December 1938, Superman is said to be "A Modern Day Hercules"; while in Sensation Comics #2, cover-dated February 1967) he is mentioned to compare Wonder Woman's strength, along with other gods and goddesses from Greek Mythology: "As lovely as Aphrodite -- as wise as Athena -- with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules, WONDER WOMAN brings to America a new hope and salvation from Old World evils, conquest, and aggression!"
In other comics, Hercules is used as a foil to Superman. In these Silver Age books, Hercules usually appears as a giant, and frequently tests his strength with the Bible character Samson and another giant named Zha-Vam, to whom he granted strength, as well as with Superman. In one story, he is transported to the 20th century by Lex Luthor, and, in the guise of reporter Roger Tate, falls in love with Lois Lane. He gains power from other gods and puts Superman into a 100-year sleep with the pipe of Apollo, saying that he will only revive Superman if Lois marries him. However, Venus realizes what has happened and wakes Superman up. After this, Hercules is tricked into flying back in time with the sandals of Mercury, and loses his memory of the events.
In 1975, DC produced a comic book series titled Hercules Unbound, featuring the adventures of Hercules in a post-apocalyptic future. This Hercules looked different from the other DC interpretations - he had long black hair and no beard. The series lasted 12 issues.
It made use of characters and concepts, such as The Atomic Knights and the intelligent animals from Jack Kirby's Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth series as an attempt to tie in some of the future series. There, we see this version of Hercules chained to a rock outcropping in the Mediterranean. He escapes and learns that in the centuries he had been chained by Ares, humans had not only made great scientific progress but also used that same science to destroy the human world by means of nuclear weapons. He wanders the world making friends along the way and battling monsters, mad gods, and warlords that threatened the remaining humans. It climaxed with him saving Olympus from the gods' evil duplicates and, having been deceived by Zeus, deciding to stay in the human world. It closed with him walking away into the night with his girlfriend Jenny.
It was later hinted that this version of Hercules was actually part of a dream suffered by Gardner Grayle, but was later shown to have existed somewhere in the Multiverse and was eliminated during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. José Luis García-López drew the first six issues and Walt Simonson drew the remainder of the series. Wally Wood inked several issues.
Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths
After the reboot of the DC universe in Crisis, Heracles — the Greek spelling — appeared in the pages of Wonder Woman. George Pérez, putting Greek mythology at the center of Wonder Woman's world, relates the tale of Heracles' and his men's conquest of the Amazons and his rape of Queen Hippolyta, and their revenge upon him.
During Diana's Challenge of the Gods storyline, she discovered that Heracles was transformed into a colossal stone pillar within Doom's Doorway, and was supporting Themyscira's weight for several millennia. In this stone state, he was tormented and scarred by various mythological creatures, feeling the pain inflicted by them but not being able to do anything about it. This was the punishment given to him by his Olympian family for his past transgressions. Gaining his original form back, he begged the Amazons for forgiveness. Though some of the Amazons still harbored hatred for their past rapes and humiliation, most of them were moved by Heracles' newfound humility, and Queen Hippolyta asked her people to search their hearts for the strength to forgive, which they eventually did. Doing so herself, Hippolyta not only forgave Heracles, but shared a brief romance with him before he left the mortal realm to return to his father in Olympus.
Later, John Byrne did an inconclusive storyline in which Heracles appeared in the contemporary world and schemed to take revenge on the Amazons by seducing Wonder Woman. He did this by making an agreement with a mortal Golden Age superhero named Harold Champion. In exchange for his identity, Heracles gave Champion admission into Olympus. Once this was agreed upon, Heracles used the Mirror of Circe to alter his appearance into that of Champion. He proceeded to befriend Wonder Woman as a "new" friend, helping her deal with such problems as a confrontation with a duplicate of the monstrous Doomsday. Heracles' identity was eventually revealed and he resumed his life on Olympus.
War of the Gods
In the Post-Crisis DC Universe, the Roman Gods existed separately from the Greek ones after Darkseid tricked them into splitting up so they could be worshipped by two different cultures at the same time; only after the "War of the Gods" did the two versions merge again. So in effect, both Heracles and Hercules existed, and they merged into one being during John Byrne's run on the comic.
One Year Later
A revamped Hercules reappears during the events of One Year Later. Now shaven and bearing an updated version of the armor worn in the Hercules Unbound series, his place in the Wonder Woman comic has been renewed as a fellow agent of Olympus, who occasionally aids Diana and even replaces her in battle. He is referred to as "Wonder Man" by Cheetah and Nemesis. He temporarily sets up base in the Greek Embassy.
Wonder Woman (vol. 3) #4 reveals that Hercules lied about his reasons for returning to Earth. As one of the inhabitants of Olympus who rejected Athena's decision to remove themselves from the mortal realm, Hercules journeyed to Tartarus in hopes of recruiting Ares to aid him in returning to Earth. Instead, he found Circe who, upon hearing Hercules' story and not wanting to spend eternity in limbo with Athena, decided to partner with Hercules instead. However, this did not last long, as Circe betrayed him. The two part as enemies once Circe magically binds him to a rock.
Some time before the events of Wonder Girl, but after the events of "Who Is Wonder Woman?", Hercules encounters and battles Gog (who is killing gods and those who claim to be gods). After suffering a blast from Gog's staff, Hercules is incapacitated and encounters Superman and his Earth-22 counterpart. He enters into combat with the two of them, but is ultimately defeated. Hercules' physical appearance here is closer to the one seen in "Who Is Wonder Woman?". In addition, he is described as a "god" (and not a demigod, as in Wonder Girl) and wears gold bracelets instead of the gray shackles Zeus will place on him as punishment.
A being claiming to be Hercules' father Zeus eventually frees Hercules from his prison and informs him that he must partner with his half sister Cassie Sandsmark. Together Hercules and Cassie try to discover who is attacking the remaining Olympian gods. Soon into their search they are attacked by the Female Furies. Hercules stops the fight by explaining that he is allied with the Furies in hopes of rescuing the gods, or, failing that, starting a new pantheon with them. The Furies have their own plans, though, and are only using Hercules to get to Cassandra. The Furies soon betray Hercules, with Bloody Mary using her bite to gain power over Hercules, forcing him to do what the Furies want. The Furies then kidnap Cassandra's mother to lure her into a trap. Aided by the Olympian, Cassandra goes into battle, being forced to fight her own brother. The Teen Titans and Wonder Woman herself show up to help out, which evens the odds. After Bloody Mary is murdered by the New God killer, Hercules is freed from her spell and immediately saves his sister from being kidnapped by the fleeing Furies.
After being questioned by Wonder Woman, Hercules tells her he was freed by Zeus and sought his closest relative—Cassandra—for help. He explains that Zeus freed him to help stop "the Great Disaster," which Hercules does not know much about. However, there were two conditions for his release: he must always wear his gauntlets to remind him of his punishment (similar to the punishment that the gods placed on the Amazons) and he must give up his godhood, becoming a demigod again. Rather than being upset, Hercules is happy to be human again and having his mother's blood flowing through his veins. Although Wonder Woman is initially skeptical, Cassandra vouches for Hercules, telling Diana that he has saved her life twice. Hercules is allowed to remain free, to complete his "labors" and make up for the things that he has done.
The series mentions several important facts about Hercules, including his cycle of crime, punishment, and redemption; gods and other beings (Hera and Circe being mentioned by name) using him to commit great evil (such as the death of his family); and his uneasy relationship with the Amazons and Wonder Woman in particular.
The Hercules that empowers the Marvels is apparently different from this Hercules, sharing only his name. He is one of the Lords of Magic and possesses superhuman strength.
In the newest continuity, Hercules is reintroduced in the pages of Aquaman  as a maddened prisoner alongside the monstrous children descended from the Titans called the Giant Born. It was revealed that, thousands of years ago, the son of Zeus sacrificed himself so that Atlan, King of Atlantis of the bygone era, could trap them within a hellish penal dimension opened using the Maelstrom,an extra-dimensional translocation gateway which enabled the Atlanteans of old to traverse the world as well as to other worlds. When accidentally released from their Tartaran prison by a misguided archaeologist, these fiends of old are intercepted by Aquaman and sent in their former jailer; whose mind had been corrupted by their torment and dark magics over the years to do battle with him while they made their escape. After a lengthy battle between him and the Sea King, Hercules was bested when he tried to drown Arthur, who dragged him into the sea, beating him into unconsciousness, before sending him back through the Maelstrom into a maze of the Minotaur-like dimension.
Hercules is later seen living a quiet, peaceful life as a human in the mountains outside Oregon. He is confronted by Darkseid's daughter Grail, who kills him and steals his life force in order to feed it to an adolescent Darkseid.
Powers and abilities
As the son of Zeus and Wonder Woman's half-brother, Hercules is the one who provides Shazam's grand superpower and is therefore, one of DC's most physically powerful characters for having a level of strength equivalent to that of the aforementioned hero (and Shazam was already able to injure Kryptonians without major difficulties). As an Olympian demigod, he has other standard characteristics for all members of the race; superhuman speed, agility, reflexes, senses, endurance, durability, healing factor and immortality. He still has some degree of shape change.
Hercules is also an advanced level martial fighter. Though easily dominated by Hippolyta, the Queen noted and congratulated him on his excellent combat skills (though below the standard Amazon level). He is able to combine his martial techniques and tactics with his incredible strength, revealing himself as a complicated and dangerous opponent to anyone facing him.
- A Golden Age superhero, Joe Hercules, had adventures in Quality Comics's Hit Comics from issue #1 (July 1940) through #21 (April 1942). Joe Hercules was an ordinary man from the "North Woods" imbued with superhuman strength who became a circus strongman and crimefighter, not a god. This character was purchased, along with Quality's other characters, by DC Comics. He makes a cameo appearance in the 1993 Elseworlds miniseries The Golden Age. Joe Hercules is first referred to in a canonical DC Universe story in Starman (vol. 2) #35 (October 1997). He is mentioned in a conversation between Ted Knight (formerly the Golden Age Starman) and Sentinel (Alan Scott, a.k.a. Green Lantern) and is said to be suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
- During the Marvel/DC crossover JLA/Avengers, Wonder Woman believed the Marvel Comics' Hercules to be a villain, assuming that he had raped his dimension's Hippolyta; however, Marvel Comics' Hercules had simply had a consensual relationship with Marvel Comics' Hippolyta. Ironically, the Marvel Universe version of Hercules is a hero, while Hippolyta is a villainess. However, this presents some continuity problems as Diana and her mother had already accepted his forgiveness, and Wonder Woman had not yet reverted to any previous incarnations. It is possible she was using the incident to fuel her rage, but she was still threatening approaching Asgardian gods that she would harm a subdued Hercules at the end of the fight. It may also be possible that Wonder Woman (who, like most of the JLA, did not believe that good was championed sufficiently in the Marvel Universe) was too disgusted at the idea that this Hercules had never been punished for what he did to the Amazons to think straight.
In other media
- Hercules appeared alongside Captain Marvel's friend and ally Isis in the TV series The Freedom Force, which was part of Tarzan and the Super 7. This version of Hercules had earlier appeared in Space Sentinels.
- In 1982, several of the characters from the Warlord series received action figures in a line called "Lost World of the Warlord" from Remco. Despite his not being related to the Warlord series, Hercules (from the Hercules Unbound era) was one of the figures in the line.
- Joaquin Phoenix (credited as Leaf Phoenix) appears on the Superboy television series in the season one episode titled Little Hercules as Billy Hercules. His character is a boy genius that teams with Superboy after an attempt at impressing his crush (by implanting a love poem as a virus within the Navy's missile system) goes awry.
- Showcase Presents: The Great Disaster featuring the Atomic Knights (includes Hercules Unbound #1-12 and DC Comics Presents #57, 576 pages, June 2014, ISBN 978-1401242909)
- Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Korte, Steve; Manning, Matt; Wiacek, Win; Wilson, Sven (2016). The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe. DK Publishing. p. 143. ISBN 978-1-4654-5357-0.
- Wonder Woman #1. 1. DC Comics. 1942.
- All Star Comics #8. 1. DC Comics. 1941.
- Action Comics #7. 1. DC Comics. 1938.
- Sensation Comics #2. 1. DC Comics. 1942.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
Hercules Unbound featured powerful writing from Gerry Conway plus stellar artwork by José Luis García-López.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Hercules Unbound at the Grand Comics Database
- José Luis García-López checklist http://sites.google.com/site/joseluisgarcialopezchecklist/
- Nolen-Weathington, Eric (2005). Modern Masters, Volume 5: José Luis García-López. TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-1893905443.
- Nolen-Weathington, Eric; Ash, Roger (2006). Modern Masters, Volume 8: Walter Simonson. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 978-1893905641.
- Jimenez, Phil; Wells, John (2010). The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia. Del Rey. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0345501073.
- Aquaman (vol. 7)
- Aquaman (vol. 7) #29
- Wonder Woman (vol. 6) #31
- Beatty, Scott (2009). Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide To The Amazon Princess. Dorling Kindersley Publishing. pp. 72–73. ISBN 0-7894-9616-X.