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Hercules! IN SPACE!!!

24 Aug

Good day one and all!
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Great to see you all back here again, today we’re again taking a break from the more… esoteric and out there comics and treading more familiar ground. Oh wait… not exactly, I mean it is, he’s Marvel comics mainstay character from the Avengers, hero story and all that but… ah well, you’ll just have to see for yourself folks and I can’t help myself – must bring you something to jog the imagination a little more then usual, variety is the spice after all is it not?
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For your pleasure we bring to you today the first mini-series that Marvel EVER put out. Ever. And mini’s are now an industry standard. Couple that with this being the first book by its writer/artist and starring a then second-string character, well it makes it all the more impressive! Those of you that are fans of Marvel comics, especially in recent years, you will have read or heard of books like “Incredible Herc”, “Chaos War” and others where Hercules, the lion of Olympus, stood tall and proud and delivered spectacular action and great wit and laughs. Truly in the last few years the character has seen a revival and become so much more interesting then the one-track-minded, brutish, drunken horn-dog that he was for so long – today he’s a funny, charsimatic and surprisingly intelligent one-track-minded, brutish, drunken horn-dog. Under the guiding hand of Greg Pak – a man who is without a doubt one of the best writers in past years for me with the way he revamped the Hulk franchise with stuff like Planet Hulk and all the other great titles and stories he’s been writing – Herc and his parnter, child genius Amadeus Cho were a force to be reckoned with and the Marvel U would not be the same today in my view without their adventures!

But on to the main matter at hand!

Our topic for today is a limited series from the ancient era of 1982. Some of you may in your old addled memories recall that age, when comics were a different realm altogether.
In this midst of all the super-heroing and adventures however came an adventure unlike most any other with a story and style that brought me immense pleasure reading:
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Written and drawn by Bob Layton (Iron Man: Armour Wars) with the legendary Jim Shooter as editor-in-chief riding shotgun through this mad romp we find this space-faring godly saga that was so popular it spawned a 2nd limited series two years later, a graphic novel 4 years after that and even in fact a 4th just last year that wrapped up this alternate possible future romp for our hero.
But I’m meandering again. To the comic!
We find at the start of our tale mighty Hercules returning to fabled Olympus for some fun, fights, games and a good time – all of which he is famously known for partaking heartily of – only to find it not quite as exciting as he remembered and before long he is drawing some godly anger for his playful shennigans.
Next thing you know Herc is banished from not only Olympus, but from Earth itself until he finds some humility and a little more sense.Talk about tough parenting…
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Granted thats not all that surprising considering what we know of the character – and I have to admit its certain similarities between the character of Herc, the playful sense of humour in the overall story and the very creatively put together string of adventures that this mini shares with Pak’s later style/take on the character that made it so easy for me to just dive into it all. They are similar enough, yet both unique in their own ways which makes it so easy to read both and not be bothered about whether it is the same continuity or not. Who cares right?
Anyway, so we follow Herc as he rides a chariot through the cosmos – yes a chariot, with horses that eat, well, people… sort of…
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In any case, he picks up a Rigellian recorder robot (long-time marvel fans will be familiar with these) on the way after meeting with some brainy aliens who would like it to travel with our hero and record his adventures and all that jazz. This of course suits the lion of Olympus just fine.
Before you know it, both are rocketing around the space-ways. Fights ensue, as do romantic interludes (oh yeah!) and of course daring heroics and even a space-race – chariot vs. space-ship, who do you think wins? Read to find out ‘cos I sure ain’t telling! 

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To quote Layton himself from Wizard #199:
I wanted to do a coming-of-age story, and the idea of doing it with a 5,000-year-old Greek demigod tickled my funny bone. Herc had always been portrayed by Stan Lee as a conceited, arrogant but likable prick so … it was time for Herc to grow up a bit and develop a degree of self-awareness. I’ve always had a soft spot for forgotten secondary characters and additionally, I had always wanted to try my hand at comedy writing, and Herc was the perfect foil for my brand of humor.”


Facing all kinds of foes and making friends as well along his travels, Hercules grows as a character nicely over the course of the story. And no he isn’t perfect and returning to reclaim his rights at the end or some such cliché, this is just the beginning of more adventures – and just because it bears being mentioned: at one point we even get to see HERCULES VS. GALACTUS!
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That a fight that intrigues you? Well I hope you take the time out to read this because be you casual, regular or even fanatical/obsessive as a comic reader and so long as you don’t have too fastidious a genre choice, this is the perfect kind of barely-heroic adventure story for everyone. Witty, violent, foolish and wise all in good measure, this really made me stop and find the follow-ups and wish Layton had done more as a comic writer!
Cheers till next week all!