Public Domain Super Heroes
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Hercules
Hercules

Real Name

Heracles, Hercules

First Appearance

Ancient Greece

Created by

Greek Folklore

Origin[]

Heracles is the greatest of the Greek heroes and a son of Zeus. In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules. He is probably best known for his rivalry with Hera and the twelve labors which he did in atonement for killing his wife Megara and their children in a fit of madness caused by Hera. He was also a crew member of the Argo and sailed with Jason to get the Golden Fleece as an Argonaut.

His 12 labors included:

  1. Slaying the Nemean Lion
  2. Slaying the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra
  3. Capturing the Ceryneian Hind
  4. Capturing the Erymanthian Boar
  5. Cleaning the Augean stables in a single day
  6. Slaying the Stymphalian birds
  7. Capturing the Cretan Bull
  8. Stealing the Mares of Diomedes
  9. Obtaining the girdle of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons
  10. Obtaining the cattle of the three-bodied giant Geryon
  11. Stealing three of the golden apples of the Hesperides
  12. Capturing and bringing back Cerberus

Eurystheus originally ordered Heracles to perform ten labours. Heracles accomplished these tasks, but Eurystheus refused to recognize two: the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra, as Heracles' nephew and charioteer Iolaus had helped him; and the cleansing of the Augean stables, because Heracles accepted payment for the labour (in other versions it was the Stymphalian Birds that was discounted instead of the Augean stables, for the help of Athena giving Heracles bronze rattles). Eurystheus thus set two more tasks (fetching the golden apples of the Hesperides and capturing Cerberus), which Heracles also performed, bringing the total number of tasks to twelve.

After completing these tasks, Heracles fell in love with Princess Iole of Oechalia. King Eurytus of Oechalia promised his daughter, Iole, to whoever could beat his sons in an archery contest. Heracles won but Eurytus abandoned his promise. Heracles' advances were spurned by the king and his sons, except for one: Iole's brother Iphitus. Heracles killed the king and his sons—excluding Iphitus—and abducted Iole. Iphitus became Heracles' best friend. However, once again, Hera drove Heracles mad and he threw Iphitus over the city wall to his death. Once again, Heracles purified himself through three years of servitude—this time to Queen Omphale of Lydia.

Heracles was to serve as her slave for a year. He was forced to do women's work and to wear women's clothes, while she wore the skin of the Nemean Lion and carried his olive-wood club. After some time, Omphale freed Heracles and married him. Some sources mention a son born to them who is variously named. It was at that time that the cercopes, mischievous wood spirits, stole Heracles' weapons. He punished them by tying them to a stick with their faces pointing downward.

While walking through the wilderness, Heracles was set upon by the Dryopes. In Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica, it is recalled that Heracles had mercilessly slain their king, Theiodamas, over one of the latter's bulls, and made war upon the Dryopes "because they gave no heed to justice in their lives". After the death of their king, the Dryopes gave in and offered him Prince Hylas. He took the youth on as his weapons bearer. Years later, Heracles and Hylas joined the crew of the Argo. As Argonauts, they only participated in part of the journey. In Mysia, Hylas was kidnapped by the nymphs of a local spring. Heracles, searched for a long time but Hylas had fallen in love with the nymphs and never showed up again. In other versions, he simply drowned. Either way, the Argo set sail without them.

Hesiod's Theogony and Aeschylus' Prometheus Unbound both tell that Heracles shot and killed the eagle that tortured Prometheus (which was his punishment by Zeus for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals). Heracles freed the Titan from his chains and his torments. Prometheus then made predictions regarding further deeds of Heracles.

Having wrestled and defeated Achelous, god of the Acheloos river, Heracles takes Deianira as his wife. Travelling to Tiryns, a centaur, Nessus, offers to help Deianira across a fast flowing river while Heracles swims it. However, Nessus is true to the archetype of the mischievous centaur and tries to steal Deianira away while Heracles is still in the water. Angry, Heracles shoots him with his arrows dipped in the poisonous blood of the Lernaean Hydra. Thinking of revenge, Nessus gives Deianira his blood-soaked tunic before he dies, telling her it will "excite the love of her husband".

Several years later, rumor tells Deianira that she has a rival for the love of Heracles. Deianira, remembering Nessus' words, gives Heracles the bloodstained shirt. Lichas, the herald, delivers the shirt to Heracles. However, it is still covered in the Hydra's blood from Heracles' arrows, and this poisons him, tearing his skin and exposing his bones. Before he dies, Heracles throws Lichas into the sea, thinking he was the one who poisoned him (according to several versions, Lichas turns to stone, becoming a rock standing in the sea, named for him). Heracles then uproots several trees and builds a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta, which Poeas, father of Philoctetes, lights. As his body burns, only his immortal side is left. Through Zeus' apotheosis, Heracles rises to Olympus as he dies.

After his death in the pyre, Heracles ascended to Olympus as a god, and having finally reconciled with Hera, he got her daughter Hebe as his fourth and final wife. They had two sons together, Alexiares and Anicetus.

Fawcett[]

When Billy Batson transformed into Captain Marvel he would gain the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. The wizard Shazam, Captain Marvel Jr., and the Lieutenant Marvels also possess the same powers.

Frank Comunale[]

In the Diana the Huntress origin story, Hercules is dispatched by Zeus to help the allies.

Hercules

MLJ[]

Hercules is sent by his father to the modern world to rid it of evil.

Quality[]

Hercules was summoned by Kid Eternity at least twice. Also, another character took his name.


Public Domain Appearances in Media[]

All works featuring Hercules published before January 1, 1929 are in the public domain in the US.

A list of notable works can be found here.


Public Domain Comics Appearances[]

  • Mystery Men Comics #2
  • Blue Ribbon Comics #4-8
  • Blue Bolt vol. 2 #5
  • Whiz Comics #26
  • Boy Comics #9
  • Yellowjacket Comics #1, 5
  • Jumbo Comics #107
  • Hit Comics #25, 30
  • Stamps Comics #6

See Also[]

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