Herc, in a typically mighty pose. Artist: Ed McGuiness.


Original medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1965
Creators: Stan Lee (writer/editor) and Jack Kirby (artist)
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There's a very good reason for Hercules to have been among the first superheroes in animation, turning up as early as 1963, long before Space Ghost, Super President or any of the others. It's the same reason Quality Comics (Plastic Man, The Human Bomb), MLJ Comics (The Shield, Captain Flag) and others had versions of Herc in the back pages of their anthology titles during the early 1940s. Hercules is a "prefabricated" …

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… superhero, able to do super deeds without having to undergo the sometimes-tedious process of becoming capable of them, and has name recognition to boot — plus, there's the added attraction of not requiring royalties.

In the mid-1960s, Marvel Comics was exploiting such a prefabricated superhero, The Mighty Thor, whom they'd brought into the modern world in 1962. But if the gods of Asgard have something resembling reality in the Marvel Universe, can't those of Olympus also be lurking in an out-of-the-way corner of it? Marvel's version of Hercules (no relation) (nor him) (him neither) was introduced in Journey into Mystery Annual #1 (1965).

That was actually an annual for Thor, since the former mystery/fantasy title he starred in hadn't yet been changed to to Thor. Being the first such, it naturally had to feature a special event of one sort or another. So writer Stan Lee (Blonde Phantom, Willie Lumpkin) and artist Jack Kirby (New Gods, Stuntman) contrived to have him accidentally slip through a dimensional portal that put him face-to-face with Herc.

Naturally, instead of responding to the unexpected confrontation as if they were reasonable people, they acted like superheroes and started slugging it out just as if they had a grudge against each other. After they'd filled the required number of pages with that, Zeus stepped in and said enough, already, declared both winners of the fight, sent Thor home, and sealed the portal forever.

Of course, "forever" doesn't last as long in comic books as it does in real life. Herc was back only a few months later, in Journey into Mystery #124 (January, 1966). The requisite fistfight having been accomplished, they were old pals. Herc was a frequent guest star in Thor, starting with his first issue under that title (#126, March, 1966). And what super-strong Marvel guy can resist a try at The Incredible Hulk? Those two met in Tales to Astonish #79 (May, 1966), Before long, he was joining The Avengers. He started there in #38 (March, 1967), and has, like most members, been appearing there sporadically ever since.

In the mid-'70s, he was the handy super-strong guy that was deemed necessary for the start-up team The Champions. This group first got together in The Champions #1 (October, 1975). Others in it were The Black Widow, The Ghost Rider, The Angel and Iceman. But it lasted only a few years.

In the '80s, Herc being immortal and all that, a future version of him was used in a pair of four-issue mini-series by cartoonist Bob Layton (H.A.R.D. Corps, X-O Manowar). This was followed up briefly in the late '80s, when a couple of stories about Hercules in the future appeared in the variety title Marvel Comics Presents, and in a oneshot comic book. But most stories about Herc were set in the here-and-now.

Herc continued to turn up here and there in Marvel comics, either as a guest star or in an occasional mini-series or special, through the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st. Eventually, a latter-day incarnation of The Hulk's title was dropped from the schedule in favor of giving him an ongoing series. The Incredible Hercules has been published monthly since #113 (February, 2008).


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