Son of the Olympus God-King Zeus and a mortal woman, Hercules is a legendary Greek demigod and a long-time Avenger.
From Mere Mortal to Olympian God
Hercules is the son of Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods, and Alcmena—herself the great-granddaughter of Zeus. Accounts and chronology of Hercules’ adventures often vary, and Hercules’ lengthy existence and frequent battles have been credited for possible discrepancies in his memory. By most accounts, over three thousand years ago, recognizing the need for a powerful son to defend both humanity and the Olympian gods from future dangers, Zeus seduced Alcmena in the guise of her husband, Theban general Amphitryon.
Jealous over this infidelity, Zeus’ wife Hera sought vengeance on the infant son born to Alcmena, originally named Alcaeus. The goddess Athena renamed the boy Heracles, as he had earned Hera’s wrath.
Heracles’ extraordinary strength became apparent at one year old when he strangled two serpents sent by Hera to slay him. As a young adult, Heracles joined Jason and his Argonauts on their quest to find the Golden Fleece of the winged ram Chrysomallos. In 1289 BC, while off the coast of Mysia, the Argonauts sent Heracles and his arms-bearer Hylas, the orphaned prince of the Dryopians, to gather lumber to repair an oar that Heracles had broken. While ashore, Hylas was abducted by water nymphs who were bewitched by his great beauty. Heracles would not stop searching for his missing friend and was eventually left behind by the Argonauts.
Powers of a Demigod
Like most Olympian gods, Hercules is immune to aging and conventional disease. He is virtually tireless, as his body produces no fatigue poisons. Hercules has superhuman strength (Class 100), greater than most other Olympian gods. His superhuman leg strength enables him to perform a standing high jump of at least 100 feet. Hercules is highly durable, resisting most forms of impact, penetration and energy assault. He can survive for brief periods unaided in the vacuum of space. Although he can be wounded in battle, he cannot die by any conventional means and has a rapid healing rate. Only an injury of such magnitude that it would incinerate or disperse a major portion of his bodily molecules could kill Hercules. In some such cases, Zeus or one of the other gods might still be able to resurrect him. Hercules is highly expert in traditional means of hand-to-hand combat, especially in wrestling. He is talented in ancient Greek athletic feats such as the discus and hammer throws.
His romantic skills and penchant for alcohol are somewhat legendary. Hercules’ most oft-used weapon is his Golden Mace. Forged by the god Hephaestus Aetnaeus, AKA Hephaestus, it is composed of the enchanted and virtually indestructible adamantine, for which Dr. Myron MacLain named his artificially created Adamantium. He has also on occasion used the bow and arrow (which he abandoned due to his bitter memories of Nessus and Deianeira), the virtually impenetrable pelt of the Nemean Lion, and large wooden clubs. Hercules has occasionally used Phoebus Apollo, AKA Apollo’s chariot, led by enchanted, carnivorous horses, which can fly through space and into other dimensions.
Pluto, the Greek God of the Underworld, is a thorn in the demigod’s side as is his mother figure, Athena. To battle Pluto, Hercules founds the Champions (of Los Angeles). When the Masters of Evil concocted a deadly plan to ambush the Avengers at their mansion, Hercules resisted alongside his allies and despite his Herculean effort, he ended up in a coma near death.
Hercules resists all sorts of super villainous cadres, including the alien Skrulls and the subversive organization Hydra, and even heroes gone bad. He’s always happy to help battle major threats as long as he can have a good time.
Hercules’ greatest allies are Thor Odinson, AKA Thor, and the Avengers. His friendship with Thor began when Thor saved Hercules from an eternal life of servitude. Still, a friendly rivalry remains between the two, as they argue over which of the pair is the stronger. To Hercules, the answer is clear.
After being seduced and enthralled by Amora, AKA Enchantress, Hercules fought against the Avengers. Though he regained his senses, Hercules still earned the wrath of Zeus for his unexplained journey to Earth and was banished from Olympus. Staying with and eventually joining the Avengers, he assisted them against foes such as the Triumvirate of Terror, Esteban Corazon De Ablo, AKA Diablo, and Dragon Man, Alexei Shostakov, AKA the Red Guardian, and the Super-Adaptoid.
Hercules can easily hold his own in a fight, but he joins several teams to assist the greater good, such as the God Squad, Gods of Olympus, the Avengers, the Renegades, Secret Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., Heroes for Hire, Queen’s Vengeance, “Defenders for a Day,” and the Argonauts.
A History of Herculean Efforts
Beginning in the 1270s BC, Heracles began his celebrated Twelve Labors, performed in part to prove his worthiness for immortality to Zeus. According to some sources, Heracles’ weak cousin King Eurystheus of Tiryns was placed in charge of these labors, and he sent Heracles to slay the likes of the invulnerable Nemean Lion, a spawn of Typhon and Echidna, which Heracles strangled to death, after which he turned its pelt into a tunic; and to capture alive a Cerynein Stag, a deer sacred to Goddess of the Hunt Artemis, hoping he would earn dishonor from the goddess for harming it. Heracles pursued the stag for a year and finally
subdued it in Arcadia when it stopped to drink by the river Ladon by sneaking up and throwing a net over it. Heracles appeased Artemis by laying the blame on Eurystheus, and she permitted him to carry the deer back to Mycenae where he released it unharmed. During his Third Labor, Heracles battled the nine-headed Hydra (another spawn of Typhon and Echidna) of the swamp at Lerna. Driving it out of the swamp with burning arrows, Heracles quickly learned it grew two new heads for each one severed. Aided by his nephew Iolaus, son of Iphicles, Heracles used burning branches to cauterize each head and prevent new heads from forming, and he then coated his arrows in the Hydra’s venom, rendering them that much more potent. Heracles was subsequently sent back to Arcadia to capture alive the Erymanthian Boar ravaging the city of Psopkis near Mount Erymanthus, and he trapped the boar in deep snow on the mountain. Heracles provoked the animosity of his older half-brother Ares in 1271 BC when Eurystheus instructed Heracles to kill the Stymphalian birds that had terrorized the people of Arcadia.
Ares, who had created the man-eating birds to be a perfect expression of his essence, became incensed when Heracles slaughtered his pets. Heracles was later ordered to clean out the thousand-head stables of King Augeas of Elis, one of the wealthiest men in Greece who had once served as an Argonaut alongside Heracles. As Heracles spent hours shoveling the stables, witnesses saw the Eternal Gilgamesh (who they mistook for Heracles) diverting two rivers into the stables to clean them faster. Heracles was also sent to slay the Cretan Bull, which had fathered the Minotaur and was now terrorizing the island; to Thrace to claim the man-eating mares of King Diomedes, gifts from Ares which Hercules tamed by feeding them their master, after which he abandoned them in Mycenae; to steal the golden belt of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons; to obtain the cattle of the monstrous King Geryon of Erytheia (grandson of the Gorgon Medusa), slaying the three-headed ruler as well as his two-headed hound, Orthrus, yet another spawn of Typhon and Echidna; and to retrieve apples from the Garden of the Hesperides, the Garden of Hera, slaying the dragon Ladon and outwitting the Titan Atlas to obtain them.
By some accounts, Eurystheus did not count some of these labors, such as the Hydra because Heracles was assisted by Iolaus, or the Augean stables because Heracles had tried to receive payment for it. For his final labor, Heracles descended to the underworld of Hades to rescue his friend Theseus from Pluto. Upon his return to Thebes, Heracles learned that nearly everyone had believed him to be dead during his time in Hades. Nobleman Lycus of Euboea killed Heracles’ father-in-law King Creon, seized power, and condemned Heracles’ wife Megara and his three sons to death. Enraged at Lycus’ betrayal, Heracles lost control and killed both friends and foes, including his wife and children. Many blamed Hera for instilling a bloodlust within Heracles, and he changed his name to the Romanized “Hercules” to distance himself from Hera (since “Heracles” translated to “the Glory of Hera”).
At some point, Hercules was sold into slavery to Lydian Queen Omphale, who eventually liberated and married him. Later, in 1268 BC, Hercules slew the bloodthirsty Lord Kyknos of Macedonia, the son of Ares and the mortal Pyrene, when Kyknos attempted to add the demigod’s skull to a temple of human bones he was constructing in Ares’ honor.
In 1264 BC, after King Laomedon of Troy enraged the sea god Poseidon and the sun god Apollo by not repaying them for erecting the impenetrable walls around his city, Poseidon had one of his monsters abduct his daughter Hesione. Laomedon then hired Hercules to rescue Hesione in exchange for a herd of his divine horses, which could run on water. Hercules rescued Hesione but Laomedon again failed to uphold his end of the deal, causing an enraged Hercules to single-handedly sack Troy, and then kill Laomedon and all but one of his sons.
In 1260 BC, Hercules defeated the river god Achelous to win Deianeira, princess of Calydon, as his third bride. When the Centaur Nessus tried to abduct Deianeira as she crossed the River Evenos, Hercules shot Nessus with an arrow tipped with Hydra blood. As he died, the vindictive Nessus convinced Deianeira that his blood-soaked shirt (which was also covered in Hydra blood) would act as an aphrodisiac should Hercules ever become unfaithful to her.
Years later, in 1246 BC, Deianeira found that Hercules had been unfaithful, and covered him in Nessus’ shirt as he slept. An agonized Hercules had Iolaus build him a funeral pyre so he could throw himself upon it and burn the poison out of his body. Zeus intervened, consuming the pyre with his thunderbolts and bringing Hercules to Olympus to be made a true immortal. Hercules has told varying accounts of his apotheosis to godhood, though all involve Nessus’ treachery and poisoned blood. Eurystheus subsequently tried to eradicate everything related to Hercules before being slain by Hercules’ son Hyllus, but Hera resurrected Eurystheus.
Although Hercules had a few encounters on Earth throughout the succeeding millennia, it was in the modern era that he befriended Thor Odinson, AKA Thor, and the Avengers, who would become his greatest allies. Having fought with Thor in the past, Hercules unwittingly attacked him after Odin Borson, AKA Odin, had removed half of Thor’s power, achieving an easy victory; however, soon afterwards, Hercules was duped into signing a contract, making him Pluto’s slave. Thor stormed the netherworld and rescued Hercules, beginning their long friendship and friendly rivalry. His unexplained journey to Earth led Zeus to banish Hercules from his homeland, so he joined the Avengers and assisted them in their battles. After saving Olympus from Typhon with the Avengers’ aid, Hercules was allowed to return to his homeland. Hercules next encountered the Avengers while fleeing the Huntsman, who had the power to terrify and destroy the Olympians. Hercules eventually overcame the Huntsman with the aid of Namor the Sub-Mariner, AKA Namor. Later, when Ares and the Enchantress conquered Olympus, they rendered Hercules amnesiac and he ended up working as a circus strongman. Discovered by Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, Hercules joined with the Avengers to defeat Ares and liberate Olympus.
For a time, Hercules worked the college lecture circuit with his unique perspectives on mythology, ancient civilizations, and his own oft embellished adventures. Later, a plot involving Ares, Pluto, and Hippolyta united Hercules with mortal heroes Warren Worthington III, AKA Angel, Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow, Johnny Blaze, AKA Ghost Rider, and Bobby Drake, AKA Iceman, to form the short-lived Champions Super Hero team, based out of Los Angeles. By the time the Champions disbanded, Hercules had grown close to Black Widow, and the two adventured together for a time thereafter, both assisting the Avengers against the cosmic menaces Taneleer Tivan, AKA The Collector and Michael Korvac, AKA Korvac. Hercules also impulsively joined the more informal Defenders Super Hero group, but quit alongside many other new recruits after a single harrowing day as a Defender. He rejoined the active Avengers roster after helping fight the forces of the fire demon Surtur and stayed on with them for a lengthy period; however, this tenure ended with one of Hercules’ greatest defeats. When Baron Helmut Zemo, AKA Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil seized Avengers Mansion and assaulted the team’s butler Jarvis, an impatient and somewhat inebriated Hercules rushed in alone to stop them. Holding his own for a remarkable length of time, Hercules eventually fell before the combined might of Erik Josten, AKA Goliath (later Atlas), Calvin Zabo, AKA Mister Hyde, and the Wrecking Crew, who beat him into a coma.
Zeus directed the Olympians to capture the Avengers, whom he blamed for his son’s injuries. Recovering, Hercules confirmed the Avengers’ innocence and saved them from Zeus’ wrath. Sometime later, Hercules helped the Avengers against the High Evolutionary and his Evolutionary War plot, but was evolved “beyond godhood” in the process and vanished. Later discovered back in his godly form by Thor in the mysterious Black Galaxy, Hercules returned to Earth and stayed with Thor under the alias Harry Cleese; however, the Celestials had been in the process of preparing Hercules to serve in the creation of a new Celestial. As the process was incomplete when Thor rescued him, Hercules lost part of himself. As a result, he froze up in a series of fights and had to be rescued by Thor. When Thor and Hercules returned to the Black Galaxy, the Celestials’ process was completed, and Hercules regained his full vigor.
Rejoining the Avengers, Hercules met and fell in love with the mortal woman Taylor Madison; he was devastated to learn that she was nothing more than an artificial creation of Hera, made to bring pain to the stepson she so despised. After chastising Hera, Zeus encouraged Hercules to return to Olympus, but when Hercules angrily refused, Zeus stripped him of his godhood, leaving him much weaker and certainly no longer immortal. Hercules remained with the Avengers for some time after that, befriending new recruit Deathcry before she left the group, but he began drinking heavily after most of the active Avengers seemingly died in battle with Onslaught. The Avengers disbanded for a time, and Hercules joined the new corporate super-team Heroes for Hire, but he was forced off active duty due to his drinking problem. At one point, Zeus offered to restore his full godly powers, but Hercules declined, preferring to continue his mortal existence to better understand and appreciate life.
After working alongside the Avengers and Thor on several occasions, Hercules foiled a bank robbery attempted by Frank Schlichting, AKA Constrictor, Antonio Rodriquez, AKA Armadillo, and Steve Levins, AKA Jack O’Lantern. The severely injured Constrictor then sued Hercules for damages. Hercules’ lawyer Mallory Book opposed the suit, but her associate She-Hulk, AKA Jennifer Walters, convinced Hercules he was obligated to pay for the damages, being just as liable under the law as Constrictor was. This almost completely depleted Hercules’ personal fortune, forcing him into construction work with Damage Control for a time, though Hercules later won back much of his wealth in a card game with Constrictor. When a crazed, reality-altering Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch, killed several Avengers and caused the team to disband again, Hercules fell into a period of destructive drinking and depression upon learning that his friend Thor and the Asgardians had also met their end at Ragnarök. Planning to strike Hercules at his weakest, Hera recruited Hercules’ ancient enemy, Eurystheus, now a corporate executive, to film a reality television show featuring Hercules completing a new Twelve Labors updated for the modern age.
During the course of these New Labors, Hercules found forgiveness from Megara and defeated Eurystheus and his ally, the river god Achelous. With the Asgardian gods’ recent demise, the Shinto god of evil, Amatsu Mikaboshi, AKA Mikaboshi, attacked the Olympians during their perceived time of weakness. Hercules was recalled to Olympus and finally had his godly powers restored so that he could help defend his people from Mikaboshi’s armies. Although the Olympian gods (aided by their Shinto counterparts) eventually prevailed over Mikaboshi and his minions, Hercules’ father Zeus seemingly perished at Mikaboshi’s hands.
When the United States passed the Superhuman Registration Act (SHRA), Hercules sided with Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, and refused to register, joining the Captain’s outlaw Secret Avengers team. During the final battle of the superhuman civil war that erupted over the SHRA, Hercules personally destroyed the cybernetic Thor clone that Iron Man’s pro-SHRA faction had created, viewing it as an affront to his lost friend. When boy genius Amadeus Cho, AKA Brawn, discovered that his one-time friend Bruce Banner, AKA the Hulk, had been exiled to space, he realized Hulk would return and began seeking allies to help the Hulk find peace. To this end, Cho manipulated Angel and Hercules into thinking elite intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. was trying to kill him as part of some anti-Hulk conspiracy, winning their sympathy and protection. The trio then traveled to Atlantis to recruit Namor, who refused to believe the Hulk was anything but a monster. His cousin Aquaria Nautica Neptunia, AKA Namora, joined instead and, calling themselves the Renegades, the foursome returned to New York, only to discover that the Hulk had returned from space and declared war on Earth. Toward the end of the Hulk’s war, Hercules and the other Renegades battled Dr. Stephen Strange, AKA Doctor Strange’s summoned demon, Zom, during which time Hercules shared a brief romantic interlude with teammate Namora. Once Zom was defeated, the Renegades discovered that the Hulk’s war had ended in defeat, though Hercules congratulated Amadeus Cho for remaining true to his friends regardless.
Angel and Namora were granted amnesty and set free, while Hercules and Cho were arrested for the damage they did battling S.H.I.E.L.D. forces. Trying to spare Amadeus further danger, Hercules agreed to register with the government and face the charges, cooperating with authorities; but as he prepared to do so, he found his estranged half-brother Ares, now a licensed Avenger, threatening to make registered life especially difficult for him. Evading both Ares and S.H.I.E.L.D. forces, Hercules and Cho became fugitives again and sought out Hercules’ half-sister, Athena, who took the duo to the Golden Gate Bridge location of the cosmic Dreaming Celestial. While there, Hercules was attacked by the Eternals Ikaris and Thena, who mistook Hercules for Gilgamesh, the Forgotten One. Once the misunderstanding was resolved, Athena addressed the alien Skrull invasion of Earth and nominated Hercules to lead “the God Squad,” a group of gods from various pantheons chosen to kill the Skrull gods: Kly’bn the Eternal Skrull and Sl’gur’t of the Infinite Names. Hercules accepted the challenge, accompanied by Cho and various godly allies, including the Eternal Ajak, the god-slayer Demogorge, Canadian demigoddess Narya, AKA Snowbird, and even Hercules’ bitter foe Mikaboshi. Hercules shared a romance with Snowbird during their quest.
Following the Skrull invasion, Hercules and Snowbird slayed the leader of the Skrull gods while Mikaboshi defeated Sl’gur’t and took his position leading the Skrull pantheon, which was exactly Athena’s plan all along.