Marvel Explained: Who is Hercules? No, Not the Disney One, the Other Disney One
Strong, powerful, and foolhardy – just like the Hercules we know and love from Greek mythology. And now Marvel’s Hercules has joined the MCU!
Thor: Love & Thunder brought so many gods into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – gods from all different cultures and parts of the world. Thanks to Russel Crowe’s delightfully cheeky portrayal of Zeus, we’ve got an idea of what Marvel’s pantheon of Greek gods might look like in future productions – but who is Hercules in the Marvel comics? From demigod to Avenger, Hercules has actually been a part of Marvel’s lore since the Silver Age.
First appearance: Young Allies #16 (1945), Journey into Mystery Annual #1 (1965)
Who is Hercules in the Marvel Universe?
Marvel only needed to make a few tweaks to the lore of Hercules to fit him into their universe. Most of the original story’s elements stay the same, but the timeline tends to be of less import. For example, this story begins the way so many beloved Greek myths start – with Zeus being an absolute lecher. He just hopped on down from Olympus and took the shape of Amphetreon, a husband who was away at sea. Naturally, looking like her long-away husband, he was well received by his wife Alcmena. This pissed off Hera, who blamed everyone but her lecher husband. In an attempt to appease her, Alcmena named the baby Heracles after her.
Her feelings did soften toward the baby at one point, however, and she attempted to nurse him with her divine breast milk. But with the godly strength he inherited from his father, Heracles bit down on her breast and the goddess flung him away. Later, she sent two serpents to kill the baby. But the little rugrat was having none of that – and at a year old, Heracles became a better method of pest control than a household cat.
As he grows up, he earns a reputation for being strong, brave, and
a little a lot hotheaded. Still, he’s quite the hero. He becomes one of Jason’s famous Argonauts and won himself a wife by saving a city. The two have some children and live a relatively nice life until he goes to Hades to retrieve the Head of Cerberus. While he was gone, a political opponent presumed Heracles dead and took over. Lycus killed his father-in-law and sentenced Herc’s wife and family to death. When Heracles arrived to save them, he was overcome by anger – he killed not only his enemy but his own wife and children, too.
In the original tragedy by Euripides, Herakles’ blind rage was a plan by Hera to drive him crazy enough to kill his own family. In the comics, Heracles’ good friend Theseus believed that Hera had cursed his friend. The hero was too ashamed to correct this version of the story. He changed his name to Hercules and was tasked with performing the Twelve Labors in order to atone for the deaths of his family. It’s important to note that the twelfth labor was, in fact, to collect the head of Cerberus (which I already mentioned he had done). The weird nonsensical timeline of this myth illustrates the dimensional fluidity of the gods’ legends. It’s comics! Just go with it.
Anyway, Hercules lives the life of a hero, occasionally losing his cool and going berserker on people. After his death, he spent three days in Tartarus before his father took pity on him and let him live on Olympus. Now that his mortal body had died, he was granted use of his full strength.
Hercules vs. Thor
Being immortal, Hercules has had some pretty great adventures throughout time. And many of those early adventures involved battling his fellow god-himbo, Thor. The two characters were evenly matched in strength, skill, and bravado. The competition would grow friendlier after Thor rescues Herc from the Underworld, but the Silver Age loved to see these two boys fight over anything, including Jane Foster.
Even after the two characters became friends, the story found all kinds of ways to pit them against one another. Thor Annual #5 retconned their first meeting, jumping far into the past to post-date the rivalry by several thousand years. At one point, Ares took over Thor’s body to fight Hercules. There was even a “Hercuthor” vs. “Thorcules” moment in 2009.
Hercules the Avenger
Over the years, Herc has been an on-again-off-again inhabitant of Olympus. Of course, the little scamp was often on the outs with his father. Similar to Thor, he takes more than his share of forbidden trips to Earth. At one point, Enchantress was foiled in her attempt to possess Hercules and set him against the Avengers. Zeus exiled his son from Olympus, so Herc was given a home with the Avengers. He often fought alongside them, and he finally joined the team in 1967. With his new team, he helped to save the gods on Mount Olympus. Their victory earned him a place once again among the gods. Then he stays on the team as a reserve member for a while, and he occasionally turns back up on the team over the years, defying the wishes of his father.
Over the years, Hercules has been a member of the Heroes for Hire, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a key player in almost every major Marvel event. He also sided with Captain America during Civil War. Throughout his story, his immortality gets taken away and regiven to him a lot (thanks, Zeus). The character is also canon bisexual. In another fan-favorite Marvel dimension, Hercules and Wolverine are lovers. On 616, they’re just drinking buddies – but Herc does have a thing with Noh-Varr.
There are spoilers for ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ past this point. Got it?
Marvel’s Hercules Joins the MCU
During the mid-credits scene of Thor: Love & Thunder, Zeus is very displeased that his lightning bold was stolen and used without his blessing. To avenge this great insult, he looks to his son, the MCU’s own version of Hercules. And he’s played by none other than Brett Goldstein, the breakout star from Ted Lasso.
In the show, Goldstein plays Roy Kent, the angriest soccer player with the foulest mouth. Why is this so perfect for Hercules as a character? Well, you can’t have Herc without the wild, uncontrollable bouts of rage. And if there’s anything Roy Kent is known for, it’s being angry. Between the pride, anger, and dumb-but-pretty vibes, I can’t to see where Goldstein’s Hercules appears next. Until then, let’s just enjoy all of these perfect Roy Kent moments.