A Pantheon of Superheroes

I’m not the first person to draw parallels between superheroes and the gods of classical myth. It’s a subject that’s been written about endlessly! But as happens when I try to educate myself, I want to apply what I’ve learned. Or at least talk about it.

For the past few weeks I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on Classical Mythology. I’ve always been interested in Greek myths. They’re an integral part of our culture; they’re the stories nearly everyone knows. Having finished this series of lectures, however, I have gained a sense of just how deep the appreciation and appropriation of classical mythology runs. While these myths didn’t necessarily invent the art of storytelling, the people who wrote them down, or paid homage to them when penning their own epics, used the ideas conveyed by these myths to shape the art of storytelling forever. That might have been to do with the fact once these myths were written down, the act of writing became an act of storytelling, and it had to make sense. Or it could simply be that these tales speak to a need in all of us to make sense of, well, everything.

Our stories of superheroes continue this tradition even if in a more fanciful sense.

On the weekend I watched Justice League: War. I got sucked in by the snarky banter between Batman and Green Lantern. They traded insults throughout the entire movie. It was awesome. I also really liked the interpretation of Batman in this instance. He’s my favourite superhero, so I’m always a little sensitive when it comes to how he is portrayed.

Anyway, at the end of the movie, Wonder Woman makes a comment along the lines how much she enjoyed being a part of the pantheon once again. Superman, the lovably clueless lug, says something like “Huh?” Diana then nods to the heroes lined up beside her, giving each one a Greek name.

This got me thinking.

(here we go…)

Here are her match-ups:

WonderWoman_Diana

Wonder Woman, Alex Ross. Diana the Huntress, Giampietrino.

First of all, for Diana to assume she was part of the pantheon means she must be one of these gods (or goddesses). Given her name is Diana the most obvious choice for her is Artemis, goddess of the hunt. I think it’s a good fit. Artemis (and her Roman counterpart, Diana) is the protector of young women and animals and mistress of the wilderness. This works well with Diana being a warrior princess of the fabled Amazons, which places her in the same category of myth! I could dig deeper, but then this post would get long and boring.

Batman_Hades

Batman, Jim Lee. Hades, Wrath of the Titans

Batman is Hades (according to Diana). I really like this comparison and not because Batman is dressed in black and Hades is overlord or the underworld. Let’s start with Batman’s superhero name. It’s a nod to the fear he has overcome. Hades name ends up becoming synonymous with the realm he rules over. I think there is a parallel there. Moving on, Hades is not an evil guy. He’s actually portrayed as quite altruistic and with a reasonable temperament. He is a god of balance and change. He’s also the keeper of human souls, from the moment they are born until they enter his realm. Batman’s search for balance, or the meaning of his existence, is a key component of his character. He’s also the most human of the superheroes—because he is human, unalterably, using only technology (and oodles of cash) to defeat his enemies.

GreenLantern_Apollo

Green Lantern, Ethan Van Sciver. Apollo, ArcosArt.

Diana called Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) Apollo. I don’t know much about Hal as a Green Lantern, so I had to do a little research for this one (woot)! Apollo is a really complex god who had a finger in a lot of pies. He’s depicted as a patron, leader, defender and oracle. Hal’s a cop and a superhero and, well, a lot of everything. As Parallax he’s one of the most powerful beings in the DC pantheon. Apollo is also extraordinarily powerful. I think the simplest parallel is in the way a Green Lantern uses his powers. He can shape them into anything, and his imagination is fueled by his willpower. This fits with Apollo’s ‘jack of all trades’ godding. (That’s a word. Really. Okay, maybe not.)

Flash_Hermes

Flash, CWTV. Hermes, Unknown.

The Flash is Hermes. This is an easy parallel as both of these guys have winged feet. They’re fast. They’re both supposedly cunning and witty, which Flash, Barry Allen, is in Justice League: War. The Barry Allen of the current TV series is charmingly naïve, but still makes a fair comparison with his other skills—being able to move between worlds and seeing himself as a protector.

Cyborg_Hephaestus

Cyborg, Lee Bermejo. Hephaestus, Riordan Wikia

Cyborg is Hephaestus. Before Googling Hephaestus, I assumed he’d be the burly sort—seeing as Cyborg is big. Hephaestus is the god of blacksmiths, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes, among other things. Greek gods rocked at multitasking. So the similarities are obvious. Blacksmith doesn’t necessarily mean weapon smith, but they are handy with tools. Cyborg pretty much is a tool. He thinks and it is. Also, he’s rather fond of blasting fire at things.

Shazam_Zeus

Shazam, DC Comics. Zeus, Injustice: Gods Among Us

Zeus as Shazam (Captain Marvel). Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? They both wield lightning. This connection can be explored on a much deeper level, however. As portrayed in Justice League: War, Shazam is a geeky kid in his human form and a terrifically built dude in his superhero form. Zeus is, at the same time, both the youngest and oldest son of Cronus and Rhea. According to myth, fearing one of his children would grow up to kill him, Cronus swallowed each one as they were born. Rhea substituted a stone for the last, Zeus, and sent her son away to be raised elsewhere. As an adult, Zeus freed his siblings from Cronus (in some stories, they were disgorged, in others they were rescued from his slit belly) and they were ‘born’ again in reverse order, making Zeus the first born and therefore the oldest. I kinda like how this parallels with Shazam being a young kid, and then an adult superhero.

Diana doesn’t match Superman to a Greek god. She instead tells him he’s something else entirely. Which is interesting! In other match-ups, he’s inevitably paired with Zeus. I really like the above comparison, though. So who exactly is Superman? I guess that’s for you to decide. 🙂

(Featured image is from Justice League: War, DC Comics)

2 thoughts on “A Pantheon of Superheroes

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