Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
Marvel announced this week that as part of its “All New, All Different,” post-Secret Wars lineup, a new Hercules series will debut from writer Dan Abnett and artist Luke Ross. That’s awesome for many reasons, not the least of which is because Ross will set the tone, for sure, as his art has a clean, classic style that wouldn’t be out of place on a major title, as evidenced by his work on Captain America.
However, there’s a rhythm to his storytelling that goes beyond just choreographing big fight scenes and powerful figures. He can do everything form subtle humor to weightier emotional beats that tell me, even from the initial design work, that this title is going to be a different kind of Herc than we’ve seen before. Gone is the little Grecian wrap around the waist as Ross has updated the demigod.
However, that cocky smile remains.
Mythology is the intellectual gateway that’s gotten many readers interested in becoming a writer or artist. But few are as passionate about the subject as George O’Connor, creator of Olympians, the 12-book series from First Second recounting the Greek myths. This month, he releases one of the volumes he’s clearly looked forward to since first embarking on the project: Ares: Bringer of War.
Ahead of the book’s release, O’Connor spoke with ROBOT 6 on what appeals to him about mythology and these characters in particular, and the challenges of adaptation. He also recounts how became friends with Age of Bronze creator Eric Shanower not through their shared fondness for classical mythology, but rather a mutual appreciation of Oz.
Developer Glu Mobile has debuted Hercules: The Official Game, a tie-in to the upcoming MGM adaptation of the Radical Publishing series Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore and Admira Wijaya.
Available now on for tablets and smartphones on App Store and Google Play, the free-to-play hack-and-slash game allows users to become the Greek hero Hercules as he fights his way through ancient battles, undertakes the Twelve Labors, spites the goddess Hera and seeks redemption.
Some people compare superheroes to mythical gods because of their supernatural powers (and for their all-too-human squabbles), and Marvel has made a mint on translating a Norse deity into a superhero with Thor. But beyond the borders of Asgard is a cornucopia of gods and demigods in the Marvel pantheon just waiting to be reawakened and put back into the fight. And I’m not talking about Marvel movies (although that’d be nice, too!). I’m talking about Marvel Comics’ staff bringing these heroes (and villains) of lore back into the mix.
Let me say that again (in case any cover blurb people are listening): The new five-issue miniseries event, Chaos War, by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, is the finest example of what the “Heroic Age” means to the Marvel Universe and modern comics. If you had ever wondered what that blue banner on your books was talking about or what they meant by “Heroic Age,” then do yourself a favor and go read Chaos War #1.
Within this incredibly crafted over-sized issue, you not only see the triumphant return of a classic ’70s Marvel hero, but there is a Call to Action because the Universe As We Know It is threatened by divine figures, the ultimate authority figure. All the finest heroes are gathered like the best Whitman’s Sampler, along with a key element to make your tale astonishing: the common man. Along with all these heroes and powerful forces is a young man with nothing stronger than the power of his own brain. One who gave up divinity to be who he is and stand next to the impossible.
Pak and Van Lente have worked very hard to get us to this point. They took a title from one of Marvel’s less-touted events (World War Hulk was awesome, it’s just not as relevant as say Civil War or even Secret Invasion, but this is a topic for another time) and fought back story to provide an entertaining read issue after issue. From where they started, Hercules and Amadeus Cho have done something phenomenal to comics: they have grown as characters. Between Incredible Hercules #113 and Chaos War #1, you can actually plot the character arcs that have not only made them better heroes, but better people as well. Their adventures have been told in short and snappy plot arcs, they have weathered through Big Events like Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, they have read up and incorporated older canon (like the Olympus Group and the Pantheon) and even more recent events (the Oeming Ares miniseries) and incorporated both into their own stories like the finest herbs and spices. Incredible Hercules has gone above and beyond the call of duty to present we comic fans the finest in fun storytelling and legendary adventure.
So why does the best book to honor the Heroic Age not even get a banner? Why does the Thunderbolts have it? We’re not even supposed to know about the Secret Avengers and they got a Heroic Age banner! What gives?
(WARNING: maybe spoilers for Chaos War #1? I mean, everyone knows that there’s a war, and it’s against Chaos and our heroes are going to go and fight it, so … it’s a toss up. Go get yourself a copy of the book if you’re not sure. In fact, get two. Just in case.)
Marvel’s next cosmic event will kick off in October with Chaos War, a five-issue miniseries featuring an all-new God Squad led by the newly returned Hercules.
Announced this afternoon by Blair Butler on G4TV’s “Fresh Ink,” Chaos War comes from the former Incredible Hercules team of Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente and Khoi Pham.
The miniseries centers on an attack on Earth by the Chaos King, who has amassed an army of alien slave gods. The only force that can stop him is an unlikely team of Marvel gods and cosmic entities: Thor, Galactus, Sersi, Silver Surfer, Venus … and, of course, Hercules. As if the re-formed God Squad weren’t enough to do the job, Butler said the Hulk assembles “the surviving members of his family” to face the Chaos King’s forces.
Watch video of the segment after the break or at the Attack of the Show! website.
In 2004 I was fortunate enough to interview Colleen Coover–during her Small Favors days/on the eve of the creation of her and husband Paul Tobin’s all-ages Banana Sunday. I enjoyed her art then, but never hoped for how effectively Marvel would tap her fantastic style for many of its books and characters. Much to my delight, it seems like Coover’s reputation and fanbase is growing larger every day. Last week saw the release of Girl Comics No. 2, which featured a two-page opening piece by Coover as well as a Shamrock eight-page adventure drawn by her (and written by Kathryn Immonen). We briefly discussed it, as well as her other current Marvel work (such as the Hercules back-up tale in Thor and the Warriors Four) for this brief email interview. I look forward to down the road when Coover flexes her “writer muscles” (as she calls them).
Tim O’Shea: Marvel’s keeping you busy at present. How did the Hercules the Olympian Babysitter story land on your table?
Colleen Coover: The book’s editor Jordan White asked me to come up with a Power Pack backup story for a four-issue mini series. I was flipping through Bullfinch’s Mythology one evening, and I came up with the Hercules story when I woke up the next morning. At the time I didn’t know that the Alex Zalben’s main story was a team-up with Thor, titled Thor & The Warriors Four, so it was a happy coincidence that I used one of Marvel’s other mythological characters!
It turns out that Marvel’s dearly departed Hercules may have even more in common with the mythological figure on which he’s based than we previously thought.
The boisterous demigod-turned-superhero, who made his formal Marvel Universe debut in 1965, seemingly died in February’s Incredible Hercules #141 during the finale of “Assault on New Olympus.” All that’s left for his friends and colleagues to do is mourn — and share stories about the fallen Prince of Power.
And, boy, do they ever share. In Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1, out this week, Namora encourages those women who had been intimate with the bed-hopping Lion of Olympus to relate their memories. (Alfyse, queen of the dark elves of Svartalfheim, apparently works blue, if you’ll forgive the pun.)
The surprise occurs when Snowbird eyes the crowd suspiciously and says, “Now come. I know there are others in the crowd who should join us … don’t be shy” — causing an antsy Northstar to reply, “Is that the time? Gotta go!” before, well, going (at super-speed, naturally). You know, Northstar, the highest-profile gay character in the Marvel Universe.
The exchange is brief, casual and played for laughs, but it’s obvious what writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente are asserting — that the Marvel Hercules, like the Greek Herakles, was fond of women and young men. In case it’s somehow not obvious, Van Lente spells it out this morning on Twitter: “Clearly, Hercules and Northstar had a ‘team-up’.”
That presumably places Jean-Paul Beaubier on a long, long list of Hercules’ male conquests from classical mythology that includes such figures as Abderus, Elacatas, Iolaos and Iphitus.
Just don’t tell Kyle.