Comicbook: The Incredible Hercules

Hercules (by Marvel Comics) is a comic book character who first appeared in "Journey into Mystery Annual" #1 (1965), created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. At first Hercules was mainly used as a rival to The Mighty Thor, but he quickly became another well-established superhero. He has served at times as a member of The Avengers, the Champions, The Defenders, and the Heroes for Hire. He has also received various mini-series: "Hercules:Prince of Power" vol. 1 (1982), "Hercules:Prince of Power" vol. 2 (1984), "Hercules:Heart of Chaos" (1997), and "Hercules" (2005). But he was never one of the most prominent characters of Marvel.

In the wake of the Cross Over World War Hulk, Marvel Comics decided to relaunch the title character of The Incredible Hulk in a newer series by Jeph Loeb, leaving them with some space to fill with the original series. After initial plans for a team book were made, the proposed lineup was pared down to just two of its original four members: Hercules and the boy genius Amadeus Cho, seventh smartest man in the world. Thus, The Incredible Hercules was born, written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente. The series was renamed to "Incredible Hercules" with issue #113 (February, 2008).

Now on the run from the forces of the law, the titular Greek god is forced to mentor the incredibly smart but inexperienced Cho (with coyote pup Kerberos, or Kirbynote  for short, in tow), who starts out looking to bring down The Man over the murder of his family. Eventually they meet up with Herc's half-sister Athena, goddess of wisdom, and proceed to have wacky adventures spanning the globe and the cosmos.

The self-titled series wrapped up with #141 (April, 2010), the end of "Assault on New Olympus," but the saga continued in a series of miniseries, culminating in "Chaos War."

Herc, a new ongoing from Pak and Van Lente, kicked off in April 2011, following Hercules' adventures after the Incredible Hercules saga.

This series contains examples of:

  • Accidental Marriage: Hercules, while disguised as Thor, accidentally becomes consort to Alflyse, the queen of the Dark Elves. Note that Herc is already married.
  • Accidental Pornomancer: As Arachne proves in Herc #8, even when Herc isn't trying, he can't help but get laid.
  • Act Of True Love: Hephaestus captures Herc and Amadeus and puts them each in a cell with a button. If one pushes his button, he will die but the other will go free. If neither of them push the button, they both die. What happens? They both attempt Heroic Sacrifice: they push their buttons immediately at the same time. They both go free.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: While not aliens and also not likely to steal cable (they can certainly afford it), it's strongly suggested that the various Greek gods got up to speed on modern culture by watching movies and television. The Prince Of Power miniseries suggests that the Norse gods (or Thor at least, who admits to watching videos on YouTube) did this as well.
    Amadeus: Where did you even see that?
    Hercules: Netflix!
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Princess Artume is totally not Wonder Woman.
  • Always Someone Better: Thor is this for Hercules in a lot of ways; Herc himself is this for Ares.
    • Hercules is this to Thor in terms of unarmed combat. In a battle without Mjolnir, Thor himself admitted Hercules is slightly better at it while nearly passing out.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Herc pretty much outright flirts with the male gods during Sacred Invasion, as well as making some suggestive remarks about former companions from myth, how fetching they were and such. In Fall of an Avenger, the mini dedicated to his funeral, several of the women in his life step up and admit that they had sex with him, and encourage others to step up. Cue Northstar — the first gay character at Marvel out of the closet — activating his super-speed and saying, "Is that the time? Gotta go!"
    • The alternate universe X-Treme X-Men reveals that Herc in that universe is in a relationship with Wolverine, there called James Howlett, making things considerably less ambiguous.
  • Ancient Grome: Hercules is known by his Roman name rather than his Greek name Heracles while most of the other Greek gods go by their Greek names (except Pluto.) In the case of Hercules, it's justified because he wishes to distance himself from Zeus' wife Hera, who was his enemy in the original Greek myths and isn't particularly fond of him in Marvel either.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Every night terror that ever lurked the darkness" includes, amongst its numerous Eldritch Abominations, an IRS agent, chocolate, and a Rubik's cube.
  • Assimilation Plot: The Skrull gods' justification for their universal holy war.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Athena's ascension to Skyfather status is signalled by Zeus' thunderbolt descending to her, freeing her from her stone imprisonment, upon which she proclaims herself "Athena Panhellenios".
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Amadeus.
  • Axe Crazy: Ares.
  • Badass Bookworm: Again, Amadeus.
  • Bash Brothers: Although they spend a lot of time beating on each other, Thor and Hercules do love each other like brothers, and the two of them fighting alongside each other is this in spades. It's implied that one of the reasons they fight so often is that with each other, they don't have to hold back.
  • Bat Family Crossover: Chaos War, which spawned a few tie-ins that confirmed Hercules' status as one who connects the Gamma side (Incredible Hulks), the mythological side (Chaos War: Thor mini-series, Chaos War: Ares one-shot) and the typical superhero side (Chaos War: Dead Avengers and Chaos War: X-Men mini-series, Chaos War: Alpha Flight one-shot) of the Marvel Universe.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Athena's plan for getting Hercules and Cho to meet consisted of sending Herc back to Earth and waiting, under the assumption that as the champions of two different eras, they would eventually run across each other.
  • Big Bad: Hera Typhon. Amatsu-Mikaboshi takes Hera's place after Assault on New Olympus.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Greek gods are an archetypal example.
  • Blah Blah Blah: Amadeus, in Hercules' Imagine Spot.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: HERCULES!
  • Brains and Brawn: The main duo. Though Hercules, with his long life and great experience, often has to be the Wisdom to Cho's Intelligence.
  • Broken Aesop: At the end of Chaos War, Hercules says that truly benevolent heroes show the way that gods should be, as they recurrently sacrifice everything to protect, help, and heal others; whereupon he expends his full power to restore all the people that Mikaboshi murdered. That's probably a message that we can all get behind. However, for some reason he also restores all the destroyed demons, afterlives of eternal torture and damnation, and EldritchAbominations in the universe...enforcing the type of setting that basically fits his definition of the way a deity shouldn't be. Status Quo Is God, yes (even literally in this case), but seriously, there is no reason offered whatsoever as to why he would restore that kind of Crap Sack World system other than to Hand Wave it as Omniscient Morality License.
    • Right after the event, Bruce Banner, thinking that Herc still retained his godlike power, asked him to fix/repair himself and his family from the most crippling damage, mental or physical that they had sustained, as he was mentally strained nearly beyond his limit to handle, and would likely keep trying over and over until his mind was gone otherwise. Herc replied that he expended all of his power in restoring the universe, and stated he was "guided by wisdom beyond our ken", hand waving outright in this regard, but felt genuinely bad for the Hulks, implying that he may himself be not completely okay with this.
      • Herc suggests that he might have made this up and didn't really know what he was doing aside from generally "fixing what Mikaboshi destroyed", considering he accidentally resurrected Ares's son, Kyknos.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: It's Greek myth; most relevant to the main character, Hercules' wife is his half-sister Hebe. Other gods tend to bring up this tendency of the Greek pantheon whenever they get too snippy.
  • Brought Down to Normal / Back from the Dead: Hercules sacrifices his All-Father powers to restore the Earth and he's basically mortal again, but when's that ever stopped him? Also Alpha Flight get a new lease on life.
  • Cain and Abel: Hercules and Ares.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Cho has little choice but to embark on a life of adventure when villains murder his family.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Amadeus is incredibly smart, but he is technically a normal human being. All of his power results from being able to do precise calculations very quickly.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The series makes great use of the principle, which becomes very apparent when reading the trades. Every myth flashback has one of these.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Athena.
    • The villain Malekith the Accursed tries to be one of these, but it goes badly.
    • Pythagoras Dupree is one of these, but it still ends up going badly.
  • Classical Mythology: mostly of the Ancient Grome variety.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Lampshaded and invoked on several times that Hercules loves to fight dirty.
  • Companion Cube: Delphyne has a Death Scrunchie for her snakes.
  • Continuity Porn: As per Greg Pak's style, the story makes numerous Call Backs to prior stories.
  • Costume Copycat: Herc temporarily dresses up like Thor to fool some Asgardian villains; Thor returns the favour.
  • Crisis Crossover: Subverted. Chaos War is a large, multiversal-threat event and Hercules gathers all of Earth's heroes to fight Chaos King, but at the end of the first issue almost all of them are moved out of the equation by being comatose, leaving only a small number of gods and dead superheroes to fight him.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Every pantheon under the sun.
  • Cute Monster Girl / Gorgeous Gorgon: Delphyne.
  • Death Is Cheap: Lampshaded in Hercules's visit to the underworld. Since Pluto is too busy trying to take over the criminal "underworld" of Earth, the superheroes in Hades gamble for the right to come back from the dead.
  • Determinator: Subverted in Chaos War. Hercules, the patron god of the Attack! Attack! Attack! strategy, gets told flat out by Amadeus and every other surviving ally that attacking the Chaos King is pointless. Hercules refuses to listen or to give up, no matter what... but he eventually comes to realize that everyone else is right.
  • Divine Date: Hey, a god's gotta do something on a Saturday night!
  • The Dog Is an Alien: We find out that Kirby, the coyote pup that Amadeus Cho had adopted, had been long-replaced by a Skrull imposter. While the real coyote was safe and unharmed, the Skrull!coyote had accompanied Cho for the better part of a year before The Reveal.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Hercules, unwittingly. Turns out Herc has made many good investments (among which was purchasing stock in a just starting out company called Stark Enterprises) which resulted in him being filthy stinking rich and owning a lot of property but never realized this himself as he never bothered to keep tabs on them.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Chaos King, who is the void that existed before the birth of the Universe.
  • Enemy Civil War: Hera vs. Norman Osborn.
  • Erastes Eromenos: Most of the Greek gods assume Hercules and Amadeus have this relationship, even referring to the latter as Herc's eromenos. Amadeus always angrily corrects them.
    Amadeus: I am not his eromenos!
  • Face-Heel Turn: Athena.
  • Flashback: The series loves these; most issues have a flashback to Herc's mythic exploits.
  • Fountain of Youth: Zeus gets turned into a kid, and has his memories stripped from him, by drinking from the River Lethe.
  • Gambit Roulette: Athena's vague master plan will likely be this.
  • Genius Sweet Tooth: Amadeus needs sugar to have his brain run at full capacity.
  • Genre Savvy: Hercules.
  • Girl of the Week: Or arc; among them, Black Widow, Snowbird, Namora...
  • God Was My Copilot: Athena takes two different guises to influence Cho's life at various points; she did so more extensively in the life of Pythagoras Dupree, to less positive results.
  • Going Commando: It's frequently suggested that Hercules doesn't wear anything under that skirt.
  • Good with Numbers/Hyper Awareness: How Cho's super-intelligence manifests.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Delphyne. Every other Gorgon shown as well.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Mikaboshi speaks purely in haiku. He doesn't seem to have any particular reason for doing so, as he's fully capable of speaking normally.
  • Groin Attack: Hercules is a big fan of this move. He used it against the Sentry, and on seeing Namora's use of it against Atlas he was moved to propose marriage; Thor gives Hercules a particularly painful one as well.
  • Heel Face Door Slam: Zeus actually manages to get Hera to back down after giving her a Kirk Summation. However, Typhon takes control of Continuum and kills both of them to try and make The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Delphyne; though she goes back to being a heel, albeit reluctantly due to The Chains of Commanding.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Herc and Cho. Fall of an Avenger solidified it.
  • Hilarity Ensues: Whenever Herc does something, really.
  • Idiot Hero: The popular image of Hercules is played with here; Herc's not a genius, but he can be very eloquent.
  • Is That What They're Calling It Now?: Herc uses this line when Namora puts him in an "Atlantean crab hold" during a sparring match. Namora shoots back an Ironic Echo later, when Hercules suggests using an Olympian eagle strike in combat.
  • Jerkass Gods: Zeus justifies his legendary dickishness by claiming that he's there so that people will have someone to blame when something goes wrong, because without him they have no one to blame but themselves.
  • Joker Jury: Zeus is put on trial by Pluto with a jury of dead supervillains, including the Armless Tiger Man.
  • Jury of the Damned: See Joker Jury above.
  • Kill All Humans: Hera wanted to do this, saving only her followers.
  • Lady Land: Artume retroactively turns the planet into one of these for an issue.
  • Lady of War: Athena.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Death Is Cheap is mocked repeatedly when Herc and Amadeus go into Hades to rescue Zeus.
  • Large Ham: Herc and Ares.
  • Lovable Rogue: Herc could be seen as this, as he's basically the anti-Thor. Where Thor is generally noble and well mannered, Hercules is much less refined, to put it nicely.
  • Man in a Kilt: To quote Hercules himself, "Real men wear skirts!"
  • Meaningful Name: Kerberos is a triple-header. He's named after both the authentication protocol and the mythical guard dog of Hades, and he's called Kirby for short.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: According to Athena, Hercules was to be a victim of this; ultimately, she was the one who ended up doing it.
  • Mini Dress Of Power: Hercules' usual outfit.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Internet rumors suggest that Amadeus is Hercules' Eromenos, which Amadeus repeatedly denies when he's kidnapped by Amazons.
    "I am not his eromenos!"
  • The Mole: In the Secret Invasion crossover, Kirby is actually a Skrull.
  • Mood Whiplash: For the first several arcs of the series, Herc's womanizing ways are a comic highlight; then all of a sudden we're confronted with his distraught wife Hebe, who has been told the failure of their marriage is her fault and can't understand what she did wrong.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Hercules, obviously.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: Chaos King; according to Cho's calculations, his rampage at the end of Chaos War annihilated 90% of The Multiverse.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Amadeus and his sister, Maddy (Madame Curie Cho).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the Chaos War event, Hercules manages to lead the Chaos King right to the council of gods.
  • The Obi-Wan: Herc(in a rare main character example) was this for Amadeus. His conventional wisdom and kindness transforms Amadeus from arrogant Marty Stu who is willing to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. for the hell of it to a true hero who gladly carries on Herc's legacy after he seemingly dies.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Hercules on the surface is a shallow, brawling Boisterous Bruiser. Underneath that, though, he's insightful, experienced, wise, and surprisingly skilled; he's had two thousand years to grow up. How much of the former is fake and how much is real depends on your interpretation.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Chaos King who existed as the primordial darkness and chaos before the universe began wishes to return it to that state.
  • Only Sane Woman: Athena certainly feels like she is.
  • Physical God: Most of the main characters.
  • Previously On: Incredible Hercules' recap pages are, quite frankly, hilarious.
    • And actually included in the trade paperbacks, which is a rarity.
  • Public Domain Character: The various Greek gods.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Delphyne is just doing her job (plus she's not a fan of Athena).
  • Rated M for Manly: Hercules, naturally.
  • Really Gets Around: Hercules.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Herc has gotten a number of these; in the case of one given by Ares, Herc interestingly admits that most of what Ares says is true, but that he's still better than Ares anyway.
  • Refusal of the Call: Pythagoras Dupree not only refused the call, he went out of his way to kill anyone else who might possibly answer it.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Plenty, but perhaps most prominently, and recurrently, during the "Chaos War".
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Despite taking a lot from the original myths and adapting some of them many things have been changed:
    • Hercules being called Hercules instead of Herakles is actually explained as him taking the name to distance himself from both Hera herself, and more importantly his mistakes.
    • Pluto has gone from a neutral god ruling the underworld to actively trying to overthrow Zeus and conquer Earth.
    • In myth, Hercules and Hera made peace upon his ascension to godhood. Here she hates him more than ever despite Zeus' attempts to broker peace.
    • In myth, Zeus's thunderbolts are spear-like weapons forged by the Cyclopes. In Marvel, it is a power source that dwells within him.
    • In myth, Zeus is a much more controversial figure thanks to contrasting versions of stories, different translations, and values can easily come across as an evil serial rapist who demands mortals worship him, and unleashed the horrors of Pandora's Box upon the World for extremely petty reasons. In Marvel, while still a prideful, jerk some of his more questionable actions have either not been mentioned, dismissed as mistakes in the myth and Zeus's overall character more toward the benevolent side with allowing his worship to die out and keeping the evils of the more malevolent Olympians such as Hera, Pluto and Ares in check.
    • In-universe example: Some of the labors Hercules was attributed with were actually done by a similar immortal, super-strong hero: Gilgamesh aka The Forgotten One of the Eternals. Also a meta-example, as Gilgamesh is wholly unconnected to Greek mythology.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Hercules finds it hilarious that Thor has been exiled from Asgard for killing his grandfather, and cheerfully Lampshades how often similar killings have happened in his family.
  • Series Continuity Error: After Herc and Amadeus go their seperate ways after their trip to the underworld, Amadeus reads a book about the Hero's Journey and thinks about how it applies to his life. When the book describes how a great enemy he may have encountered will often be a villainous shapeshifter, he incorrectly identifies Kly'bn, the god of the Skrulls, in this role while conveniently forgetting that Kly'bn was not a shapeshifter. Point of fact, it was explicitly his schtick as a god. Since the Skrulls are a shapeshifting race, he represents "The you that will always be you."
  • Shoot the Dog: Athena sacrifices Hercules in the series' final issue essentially Because Destiny Says So.
  • Shout-Out: To Casablanca, during Dark Reign. And Men In Black during the same.
    • Hercules's response to being challenged to three-storied elvish chess? "Live long and prosper."
    • His idea of stopping a bunch of trolls? Have Zeus part the clouds and shine the sun on them. When this does nothing, Zeus asks him where he got the idea he claims it's from The Hobbit, which he believes is some sort of documentary.
  • Shown Their Work: Particularly as regards classical mythology and Marvel continuity. While Hades being kinda evil isn't part of the original myths, it is how he's portrayed in the Marvel universe.
  • Single-Power Superheroes: Pretty much the one reason why he almost always falls behind Thor, he can't even fly.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Amadeus and Delphyne; after she tells him that she fatally poisoned Herc (true, as far as she knew), he angrily lunges at her, but then they start making out.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: the recaps.
    But whilst Hercules endeavors to convince Cho to let his ire go, let us not forget that Ares, brother of Hercules and GOD OF #%*&IN' WAR waits to strike...
  • Spin-Off: Dark Avengers: Ares was supposed to be one for Dark Avengers, but featuring Herc's flagship enemy and referencing several plot points from Incredible Hercules including bringing back a villain introduced in one of the series' flashbacks makes it more a spin-off to this.
  • Stalker Shrine: Hebe has one of Herc.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Hephaestus.
    • A mild subversion with Hebe, who is a stalker and madly in love with Herc, but also his legitimate wife.
  • Super-Deformed: Herc, Cho and Delphyne appear as cute chibi versions of themselves in Cho's fantasy world.
  • Super Strength: How strong is Herc? Seriously strong.
    • Herc is one of the strongest characters in the Marvel Universe... on the level of the likes of Thor and the Hulk.
  • Super Weight: Normally somewhere between 4 and 5, as he has Super Strength on par with Thor, but lacks his extended powerset. During Chaos War he became a High-Level 6, after first becoming a *Super-God* who defeated the entire roster of Skyfather's and later gaining enough power from Gaea to stalemate the reality-devouring Chaos King and afterwards recreate 98% of the multiverse. After this incident burned out his power, he is now somewhere between 1 and 2, because he is still a master fighter and retains his magical arsenal of weapons.
  • Take a Third Option: Invoked by Amadeus in his final confrontation with Pythagoras Dupree; Dupree doesn't take it well. Lampshaded by Thor in Fall of an Avenger:
    Thor: What would Hercules do? When confronted with a task beyond the ken of mortals or gods, change the rules of the game.
    • Spoofed when Hercules is challenged to three-storied chess by the Dark Elves, with another lampshade hanging and a Shout-Out to Star Trek.
    Thorcules: The only way to win an unwinnable scenario is to change the rules of the game!
    Alflyse: Brilliant!
    Elf advisor: But ... that wasn't unwinnable. All you have to do is move the rook —
  • Take That:
    • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. Most Marvel gods talk this way, but Hercules (and the Greek pantheon) switched to modern English round about Civil War. When Herc meets his mortal part, who still talks like that, Herc points out that they're 1) from Greece and 2) were born over 2000 years before Shakespeare (or English for that matter).
  • Team Dad: Athena, rare female example.
  • Teen Genius: Amadeus.
  • Theme Naming: Athena uses two aliases in the series: Miranda Minerva, where the theme is obvious, and the surname Sexton, which is more obscure.
  • There Can Be Only One: Athena is quite certain that the status of Prince of Power works like this.
  • They Fight Crime: He's the Prince of Power! He's the Seventh Smartest Man on the planet! They Fight Crime!
  • Took a Level in Badass: By the Chaos War mini, Herc has gained nigh-infinite power.
    Eternity: Little Hercules. You've grown.
    Hercules: So did my enemies.
    • Hebe is either this or Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass - compare how she is at the beginning of the series (where she's accident-prone and looks like she's afraid of her own shadow) versus Assault On New Olympus or after (being willing to take a point-blank thunderbolt from then-pantheon head Hera and showing nerves of steel from that point onward).
  • Unsound Effect: Incredible Hercules loves this trope; Pak and Van Lente credit World War Hulk editor Nate Cosby for starting this off. Examples include KRAKINAJAA for somebody getting kicked in the jaw, and GODATHUNDAA for Herc hitting Thor with Mjolnir.
  • Visual Pun: Charon's ferry is an actual ferry, more specifically a modern cruiseboat where the souls of the dead hang out. Furthermore, Charon himself is dressed in a modern ferryman's uniform, complete with a coin changer.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Though not driven to distraction by it at all times, Hercules really wishes that Zeus would be more impressed by his accomplishments.
    • Thor, having similiar issues with his own father, recognizes this and actually tells Zeus he should be aware of it while judging Herc's actions.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Amadeus apparently gives up his search for his sister and we never do find out what happened to her.
    • Word of God (ahem) says they weren't able to cover her fate in the main story, but they hope to pick up on it in a forthcoming comic.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Hera, the original wicked stepmother, to Herc and Athena.
  • Will They or Won't They?: It took a lot of time and even more trouble before Amadeus and Delphyne became an actual couple.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Chaos King used one in Chaos War, taking over Zeus' body and attacking Hercules and the God Squad. He either would have killed them or, the one he deployed, used the dying Zeus to convince Hercules to contact the council of gods, leading him to their hideout.
    • Athena's behavior in Chaos War was essentially this. Either Chaos King would destroy the Universe and a new one would be born to take its place, or he would do enough damage before being defeated that the gods would have to rebuild it from scratch.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: At the end of "Sacred Invasion", Athena's plan has the unexpected consequence of putting omnicidal dark god Amatsu-Mikaboshi in command of an army of hundreds of intergalactic slave-gods. This is good news, apparently.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: "Why do you persist in talking in old-timey Shakespeare talk?! We're from Greece! From two thousand years before Shakespeare! IT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE!"
    • It is made even funnier because Hercules is punching the crap out of the guy.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Chaos King to Athena, despite the fact the only thing she did was to remind him that it was her plan that made his assault so successful and that he still needed her. He disagreed and ate her.

Alternative Title(s):

Incredible Hercules