(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Managing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with Marvel Cosmic and its many denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views.)
By Byron Brewer
Let there be no mistake, I am All-Father Odin’s numero uno fan. I have always believed he enriched the saga of Thor. But Zeus, father of Hercules … eh, not so much. No reason in particular, and I loved his slug-out with Zuras the Eternal in the Celestials Saga, but the Ruler of Olympus has never been one of my faves.
The red-tressed Zeus is the son of the Titans Cronys and Rhea, the children of sky god Ouranos and elder goddess Gaea (also known as "Mother Earth," Thor’s mom!). His father Cronus rose to power in the dimension which later became known as Olympus after fatally wounding his own father Ouranos. As he lay dying, Ouranos prophesied that one of the children of Cronus would overthrow him in turn, so Cronus ate each of his children as they were born. His wife Rhea hid Zeus, their sixth child, on Mount Lycaeum in Arcadia under the safekeeping of Gaea, who hid the baby and tricked Cronos into eating a stone instead of the infant Zeus.
There Zeus grew to adulthood and then plotted his revenge on Cronus. Zeus poisoned his father, forcing him to spit up his children, all now grown to adulthood, as well as the three Cyclopes, and the three hundred-handed giants called Hekatoncheries which he had also imprisoned. The Cyclopes taught Zeus how to wield his energy-manipulating powers, and Zeus led his allies in a 10-year war against Cronus and the Titans. After winning the war, Zeus imprisoned Cronus and most of the male Titans in Tartarus, and freed his siblings Hades, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon and Demeter from imprisonment.
Zeus drew lots with his brothers Hades and Poseidon, and became supreme ruler of the Olympian gods and their dimension. Zeus married Hera, but engaged in many relationships with goddesses and mortal women alike. Some of his children from these unions were gods and joined the Olympian pantheon, while others were mortals such as Helen of Troy and Hercules, who evantually became a god.
After the Hyborian Age, the ancient Greek civilization began to rise, so Zeus made the Olympian gods known to them to gain their worship. Zeus discovered the principal nexus between the Olympian dimension and Greece was at the top of Greece's Mount Olympus, near Olympia, the principal city of Earth's Eternals. Zeus and his daughter Athena met with Zuras, the leader of the Eternals, and his daughter Azura. Given the physical resemblance between the Eternals and Olympians, both parties formed an alliance, with the Eternals actually representing the gods on Earth. Azura became Thena. However, the humans began to think of the Eternals as the Olympian gods themselves and not merely their representatives, leading to a growing resentment by the gods towards the Eternals which eventually erupted into war for a time.
Christianity eventually became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire, and Zeus decided that the Olympian gods would break most of their ties with Earth, except for Neptune (Poseidon) who would continue to watch over his worshippers in Atlantis. During the war of Troy, Zeus battled Thor who had accidentally been transported there. Pluto deplored Zeus' decree, and challenged Zeus' supremacy many times. A millennium ago, Hercules transported a band of soldiers from ancient Greece through time to battle Norsemen who were under the protection of Thor, leading to war between the Asgardians and Olympians. Zeus met secretly with Odin and the two gods put an end to the war and formed an alliance to defend Earth from the Celestials, along with Vishnu.
In Zeus' first depiction in modern comics, he breaks up a fight between Hercules and Thor with his thunderbolt, and makes them clasp hands in friendship. Zeus was later unable to break Hercules' "Olympian contract" with Pluto. Zeus later exiled Hercules to Earth, but was then himself exiled with the other Olympian gods to another dimension by Typhon. He was rescued by Hercules, and revoked Hercules's exile and sent Typhon to Tarterus. Zeus then thwarted Pluto's attempt to conquer Earth. Zeus was later overthrown by an alliance of Ares and the Asgardian Enchantress and was restored to power by the Avengers. Zeus resisted a failed attempt by Ares and Pluto to foment war between Olympus and Asgard. Zeus also thwarted a conspiracy by Pluto, Ares, and Hyppolita to overthrow him.
Zeus later revealed a pact made a millennium ago to end war between Asgard and Olympus. He also revealed an alliance with Odin and the other sky gods of Earth against the Celestials, who had threatened to close off Earth to all pantheons.
Olympus was later attacked by the forces of the Japanese god of evil, Amatsu Mikaboshi. Mikaboshi also stole Alexander, the son of Ares, and brainwashed Alexander into becoming his personal God of War. In the end, thanks to Ares' love for his son and the power of Zeus, Alexander broke free and apparently slew Mikaboshi. It came with a heavy price, though, as Zeus apparently sacrificed his life to do so; he was stabbed twice by Mikaboshi's dark tendrils, and his body was not found.
During the Dark Reign, it was revealed that Pluto has Zeus prisoner and holds a trial against him with Hercules helping his father. The jury consists of Zeus's enemies, with Typhon as a prosecutor. Ultimately, Zeus is convicted, and willingly drinks from the River Lethe, making him lose his memory and renounce his crown to Pluto. After drinking from the waters, he escapes, and is reborn as an adolescent, with Hercules and Athena realizing the reborn Zeus needs to be hidden from Hera. The child Zeus accompanies Hercules on an adventure in Svartalfheim, where he becomes disgusted with his son's apparently oafish ways, and expresses admiration for Thor. Upon meeting Thor, he is convinced that Hercules himself has virtues.
Hera's weapon Continuum is revealed to be a device to recreate the universe in an improved version, destroying the existing one in the process. Hercules, Amadeus Cho, Zeus and Athena join a group of Avengers in an assault on the Olympus Group Headquarters. He battles Amazon warriors alongside Quicksilver before being captured by Typhon. The knowledge of Zeus' return stuns Hera and he succeeds in convincing her to stop the Continuum machine. Before she is able to do so, Typhon reveals that he is now free from her control. Hera and Zeus try to kill him with their lightning but it is reflected back and Hera is killed. Typhon reveals he is wearing the Aegis breastplate and slays Zeus as well. The souls of the two gods are seen in the company of Thanatos, reunited and being taken to the Underworld.
Eventually, in a mass of “chaos,” Zeus returned to the land of the living and I am sure we have not seen any end to his manipulations of the characters of the MarvelU.– including ol’ Herc!