Herc takes on fellow-Olympian Ares. Artist: Sam Glanzman.


Medium: Myth
Originating: Around the Mediterranean
First Appeared: Antiquity
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The Marvel Comics version of Hercules, fully superheroized, had been running for a couple of years, and DC's version was still a few years in the future, while Disney's version wasn't yet even a gleam in the animators' eyes, when Charlton Comics chimed in with its own version of the popular public-domain hero. Charlton's Hercules #1 was dated October, 1967. It was written by Joe Gill, the company standby who'd done a wide variety of heroes, ranging from Vengeance Squad to Black Fury, for them; and drawn …

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… by Sam Glanzman, whose less variegated but nonetheless diverse credits included Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle for Dell Comics, and an autobiographical work, U.S.S. Stevens, episodes of which have been published by both DC and Marvel.

Of all uses of the Hercules character in mainstream cartoons — including the above, plus a 1960s animated TV show, a couple of superheroes in the back pages of '40s comic books, a 1990s tie-in with Xena (television's live-action warrior princess) and more, this is the only one that made even an attempt to remain true to the Hercules legends as recounted by their authentic chronicler, Bullfinch. Even so, it committed the common solecism of using the Roman form of Herc's name rather than the Greek Heracles, while other characters had their Greek names.

The story began with the death of Herc's mother, the mortal woman Alcmene, and his appeal to his father, Zeus, who assigned the famous 12 labors he'd have to perform before claiming his rightful place with the other Olympians. Performing his 12 labors formed the main storyline of the comic. While doing them, he faced the sometimes deadly opposition of Zeus's wife, Hera, who hated him as a living reminder of Zeus having strayed from marital fidelity in the past.

Starting in the second issue, Gill was replaced by Denny O'Neil (Air Wave, The Question).

The series outlasted the labors, but not by much, ending with #13 (December, 1969). It was done in standard comic book format, but the 8th issue (December, 1968) was also reformatted as a black and white magazine the same size and shape as Mad. Also, #s 11 and 12 were reprinted by Charlton's "Modern Comics" imprint in 1977 and '78. In 1980-81, the first nine issues were reprinted under the title Charlton Classics.

Charlton shut its doors in the 1980s, and its properties were sold at auction. The bulk of them, including this series, were acquired by the same entrepreneur who acquired most of the old ACG properties. In the late 1990s and early 21st century, a few issues have been reprinted under the imprint "A-Plus Comics". The world doesn't seem greatly interested in this off-brand version of a public-domain character.


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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Charlton