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)

My Ultimate Crush

I’m over at HQNs SOLD blog today, discussing my ultimate crush. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised by his identity. It’s Batman, of course.

I did consider writing about Captain Jean Luc Picard, but another Harlequin author beat me to that one, and she said all that I might have said. It’s nice to see I’m in such good company over there!

For more of my thoughts on Batman, and the man behind the mask, click through to read my post.

Batman vs. Superman

I love Batman. Late to the fandom, I was converted (co-opted, corrupted) by Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, which inspired me to read Frank Miller’s graphic novel. So, to clarify, I’m a fairly recent, but ardent fan. I have the new trilogy on blu-ray, a shiny new copy of the Frank Miller graphic novel, a handful of other comics, some Lego and a Batman backpack. Yes, I use the backpack in public.

I’m not a walking encyclopedia of Batman knowledge. I’m not the ultimate Batman geek. I simply chose him as my hero based on the movie, The Dark Knight, which will remain one of my all time favourites. The ending is my super hero epiphany. I know enough about enough to comment on the rivalry between Batman and Superman, however. It’s a classic clash, strength versus smarts, and illustrates perfectly why I will always love Batman.

But…

I kinda like Superman now, too. It’s the new movie. Before Man of Steel, Superman was just a dude in blue spandex and a red cape. The alien origin intrigued; I’m interested in anything ‘alien’. But he was too…”super”. The new movie, Man of Steel, humanised Superman for me. He became a person. I enjoyed the interpretation of the lore and the rebuilding of an iconic character. I walked out of the theatre needing another movie, though, the one I’m sure millions of fans asked for: Batman vs. Superman.

I don’t want a rehash of the old story, I want the new Batman squaring off against the new Superman. The confrontation has to fit both the old and new universes, however. And it has to make sense. Yeah, I’m not asking for a lot. But, just imagine it. It would be the ultimate superhero movie. Really.

Yes, I realise we’ve already had The Avengers, and that was cool and all. But this is the other side of the superhero spectrum. These are different men. Arguably, their origins are darker and grittier. A battle between them needn’t be set against an apocalypse. Though, given how much was destroyed in Man of Steel, any new movie under the direction of Zach Snyder will feature a battle of apocalyptic proportions. I’d like to see something smarter. Something worthy of Batman. So, I’ll ask for one last thing. Can Christopher Nolan be involved as well?

Luckily for me, and those millions of other fans, my dream movie will arrive in 2015. Batman vs. Superman has been officially announced. Now we wait to see if all these elements can be brought together well, and if Batman will prevail.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

Reviewing Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns would be akin to reviewing Frank Herbert’s Dune , which is one of my Top Ten Favourite Novels Of All Time and so perfect, in my opinion, a review is unnecessary. A discussion of the plot and literary merit would work, in both cases. Here I’m simply going to talk about Batman and why he is my hero.

The Dark Knight Returns is work of fictional art, a book other comics measure themselves by, and a definitive statement about heroes, crime and culture. Oh, it goes much deeper, but I get lost down those sorts of rabbit holes, so going to keep this simple.

I’ve never been much of a comic book reader. I think with practice, I could accustom my eyes to the jump and weave, but I tend to read rather quickly and I like knowing where the next words are going to be. I’m also somewhat impatient. Waiting a week for the next chapter would be…painful. Likely as not, I’d pick up something else in the meantime and forget to look for issue four. I fare better with collected comics and graphic novels.

I’ve never been much of a superhero fan. I read a lot of science fiction and a good amount of fantasy. I’m not averse to the idea of super beings. Stories about them aren’t really my thing, though. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and some of my favourite novels are about extraordinary beings. What draws me to a character is just that, however. Their ‘character’. Who they are, not what they are. Bruce Wayne is one of those characters.

Continue reading “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns”