Comics
Published July 5, 2022

Get to Know Zeus and the Gods of Olympus

Who are the characters behind this major Marvel pantheon? Grab their comic history in full!

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Since the earliest days of the Marvel Universe, Thor and the Asgardians have been the most well-known gods on the Earth, thanks in large part to the Odinson’s personal heroics and his long association with the Avengers. But there are many pantheons of gods within the Marvel Universe, and the Olympians actually predate the Asgardians! Marvel’s Zeus made his debut in VENUS (1948) #5, and he has since gone on to play a large role as both an ally to heroes, and occasional adversary to both Thor and Hercules.

To bring you up to speed on Zeus and the Olympians, take a look back at several of their key moments in the Marvel Universe. Many of these stories are also on Marvel Unlimited, if you want to take a truly deep dive into the Gods of Olympus!

Zeus and the Dark Olympians.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2020) #1

MYTHOLOGY 101

The first thing you need to know is that the basic history of the Olympians lines up with everything you learned about Greek mythology. Zeus and his siblings, Hades, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, and Demeter, were all children of the Titan, Cronus. Despite Cronus’ attempt to dodge a prophecy about being overthrown by his children, Zeus ensured that it came to pass and he led the Olympian pantheon for eons. Zeus also had multiple children who became a part of the pantheon, including Hercules and Ares, both of whom would join the Avengers in the modern era.

The gods assemble for a party.
AVENGERS NO ROAD HOME (2019) #1

“MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE”

Thanks to an unexpected trip through time in THOR ANNUAL (1966) #8, the Odinson and his adoptive brother, Loki, found themselves transported back to the Trojan War. Although initially bereft of his memories, Thor sided with the Trojans in their battle against the Greek armies. In response, Zeus himself confronted Thor and they engaged in an epic battle for the ages before reaching an understanding. Meanwhile, Loki contributed his own bit of chaos to the war by aiding the Greeks in the creation of the infamous Trojan Horse.

A battle for the ages in THOR ANNUAL (1966) #8.
THOR ANNUAL (1966) #8

MAKING PEACE BETWEEN THE GODS

From the perspective of modern readers, Zeus made his Marvel return in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY ANNUAL (1965) #1 when he personally intervened in the conflict between his son, Hercules, and Thor, son of Odin. Rather than let them continue to fight, Zeus used his lightning bolt to separate them and ordered them both to reach out to the other in the spirit of friendship between the gods.

Years later, in THOR ANNUAL (1966) #5, it was revealed that Zeus and Odin had struck a similar pact between Olympus and Asgard long ago. Their respective pantheons pledged to be allies, rather than rivals, when it came to threats that menaced the Earth or each other.

An ancient peace attempts to be brokered in THOR ANNUAL (1966) #5.
THOR ANNUAL (1966) #5

MORTAL HEROES

Zeus and the Olympians have had several encounters with the Avengers, usually as allies of Earth’s mightiest heroes. In AVENGERS (1963) #49-50, the team was able to prevent Zeus and the Olympians from being overthrown from their kingdom. In issue #100, the Avengers were once again dispatched to save Zeus and his fellow gods. Despite this, Zeus has also been the Avengers' enemy. When Hercules was gravely injured by the Masters of Evil during the “Under Siege” storyline, Zeus mistakenly believed the Avengers were responsible. In AVENGERS (1963) #281-285, Zeus condemned the active members of the team to the underworld as punishment for their imagined crimes. He also came very close to killing them before a restored Hercules managed to calm his father and make him see the truth.

Zeus vows to punish the Avengers in AVENGERS (1963) #281.
AVENGERS (1963) #281

FATHERS AND SONS

While Zeus and his son Hercules have had a complicated relationship, it pales to the one that Zeus had with one of his other sons: Ares. In ARES (2006) #1-5, the God of War attempted to move beyond his nature and he had a mortal son named Alexander. Unfortunately, the evil god Amatsu-Mikaboshi saw the potential to turn Alexander into the new God of War as part of his campaign against the Olympians. In issue #5, Zeus was mortally wounded by Amatsu-Mikaboshi while Ares was forced to fight Alexander to the death. But with his dying breath, Zeus was able to break Amatsu-Mikaboshi’s hold over Alexander, allowing his son and grandson to triumph.

Zeus saves his son and grandson.
ARES (2006) #5

KID ZEUS

After another cycle of death and rebirth, INCREDIBLE HERCULES (2008) #130-131 introduced us to a new incarnation of the Olympians’ leader: Kid Zeus. In the underworld, Pluto had placed Zeus in a mock trial as a way to steal his crown and powers. But Zeus willingly accepted water from the River Lethe, which wiped his memory away and transformed him into an adolescent. For a time. Kid Zeus was even the sidekick of his son, Hercules, until his apparent death in INCREDIBLE HERCULES #141. Regardless, Hercules’ triumph in the CHAOS WAR allowed Zeus to once again be reborn at the height of his powers.

Zeus placed on trial in INCREDIBLE HERCULES (2008) #130.
INCREDIBLE HERCULES (2008) #130

MIDLIFE CRISIS

Once Zeus was restored to his full powers and proper age, he apparently grew bored as the leader of Olympus. As revealed in HERC (2010) #6.1, Zeus traveled to South Korea and assumed the identity of Storm, a young man who embraced the celebrity culture of the country. As far as we know, Ororo Munroe of the X-Men has yet to discover that Zeus stole her codename. But Zeus apparently didn’t have much use for the identity once his fellow gods approached him.

Zeus in disguise as "Storm."
HERC (2010) #6.1

DEATH OF THE OLYMPIANS

The Olympians as we knew them were irrevocably destroyed in AVENGERS NO ROAD HOME (2019) #1-2. During antiquity, Zeus had imprisoned the night goddess, Nyx, for eternity...or so he thought. When Nyx escaped, she wasted no time and attacked the Olympians. She slew every god in Olympus, including Zeus himself, while on her quest to restore her full power.

But as before, the gods of Olympus found death to be only a temporary state. Zeus and the others were reborn in terrifying new forms in AVENGERS NO ROAD HOME #10.

The rise of the Dark Olympians.
AVENGERS NO ROAD HOME (2019) #10

THE DARK OLYMPIANS

It’s been suggested that the Dark Olympians that followed were actually the true form of Zeus and his pantheon. Regardless of whether that is true, the Dark Olympians terrorized the universe in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2020) #1-2, which forced a makeshift team of Guardians to come together to stop their rampage. Star-Lord was able to stop the Dark Olympians temporarily, apparently at the cost of his own life. But Star-Lord and the Dark Olympians eventually escaped from exile before he and the Guardians defeated them in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2020) #12.

The return of the pantheon in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2020) #12.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2020) #12

For now, the dark incarnations of Zeus and his fellow gods have been banished from this reality. But it would be foolish to assume that they are gone forever. The only real question is what form will the Olympians take when they inevitably return?

 

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