Friday, August 31, 2018

The Prince Of Power!

Hercules, the Prince of Power arrived at Marvel with some but not all that much fanfare. He debuted in the pages of Journey Into Mystery Annual #1, set up as counterpart to the established Thor. Since Marvel had already developed the Norse mythology it must have seemed beyond natural to do likewise for the Greco-Roman myths. And so we got Hercules, a handsome lunkhead who is all too willing to fight. Whereas Thor was a serious man who took on heavy responsibilities, despite the sometimes disdain of his father Odin, Hercules never seemed to fall into that trap. He wanted to enjoy his life and fill it with damsels, drink and when possible physical combat. He went on to become a near co-star with Thor in early issues of the run but after the story has run its course, Marvel still wanted to develop him and after a quick bout with the Hulk, he (like everyone eventually) joined the Mighty Avengers. 

Image result for Hercules thor jack kirby

Herc was a member about the time I first encountered the Avengers and the Marvel magic, so I've always cottoned to him and the look he had at the time established by Don Heck and clearly inspired by the movie idol Steve Reeves. (My first Avengers was the battle between Herc and Namor and which I own a prized original page.) Hercules was an Avenger for a relatively short time but event drew him away and after that he was a bit lost. He turned up in a solo story sandwiched between to Ka-Zar reprints which was resolved in an issue Sub-Mariner after which he truly disappeared for quite some time, turning up in the Avengers again, just in time for the celebration of the hundredth issue. Hercules as it turns out, was the centerpiece of the story. He went on to co-star with Thor some more and later had some very significant runs in the Avengers and on his own, but these earliest adventures will always be my favorites. 

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

An Irregular Joe!

Joe Hercules hit the stands in the first issue of Hit Comics. He took over the cover slot for many issues beginning with the tenth.

As rendered by Lou Fine, he looked positively kinetic as he busted up cars, bears and bad guys. He was drawn inside the comic mostly by Reed Crandall, so Hercules at Quality had the top talent the company had to offer.

What he didn't have was an origin aside from just being born a right-thinking American male. A mid-western farm boy who fights for right with powers greater than regular men, the source of his powers is never explained -- the Golden Age of comics was resplendent in its simplicity.

Read his debut adventure here.

Here are the Hercules covers from his run in Hit.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Hercules Unbound!

I loved "Conway's Corner". According to what I've read, Gerry Conway was miffed when he was passed over for the top editor slot at Marvel when Roy Thomas stepped down. So he headed off to the "Distinguished Competition" where he was given darn near carte blanche to create comics he wanted. Some really great stuff came out of Conway's Corner as his little sub-brand was dubbed. New characters like Steel, Kobra and Firestorm, new teams like Secret Society of Super-Villains and Freedom Fighters, and revivals of Blackhawks and Justice Society of America. One project was Hercules Unbound which took the legendary Greco-Roman demi-god and plunked him down in the middle of the "Great Disaster". The Great Disaster was the apocalypse in which the in earlier days John Broome's and Murphy Anderson's Atomic Knights had dwelt and in which Kamandi was set (sort of). It's a brilliant stroke to use a fantasy hero like Hercules, but genius to place him into a sci-fi setting. Add the amazing art of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and the lush ink finishes of legendary Wally Wood and it's a comic book for the ages. Later when Conway left, the book was handed over to other writers like David Michelinie and Cary Bates, but the core of it was developed by up and coming artist Walt Simonson. The talent on this one was simply amazing.

Here are the covers.

The series has never been collected on its own but was part of a massive Showcase Presents volume which also had the Atomic Knights and other tales reputedly set in the same world.

We need these stories available in color, but I'll take what I can get.

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