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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
of the Avengers
The marvel superhero known as "Hercules" has been a member of superhero teams such as the Champions and (most notably) the Avengers. Hercules is the actual son of the Greco-Roman deity Zeus. Hercules can be classified as a devout adherent of Greco-Roman classical religion.
Hercules was one of 33 characters who were identified as the most religious superheroes in the Marvel Universe in Infinity Crusade (June 1993). In this issue, a powerful being who identified herself as "the Goddess" kidnapped the superheroes she had identified as being the most religious active superheroes at the time. The Goddess was a manifestation of the "benevolent" side of Adam Warlock, and she planned to use these heroes in her crusade to rid the galaxy of evil and usher in a new golden age of peace. After these 33 characters had been kidnapped by the Goddess, the remaining superheroes gathered to try to figure out what was going on. The Vision analyzed data about who had been taken and who had not, and explained his analysis (Infinity Crusade #1, page 32):
Now that the appropriate files have been examined I believe I have sufficient hard data to put forth that theory I mentioned earlier. I feel confident I know why these particular paranormals were abducted. All the missing share a common trait or experience... An event or attitude that might be categorized as religious. Many among the missing hold deeply felt moral stands or intense spiritual belief systems. Those who do not fit that profile have all had after-death experiences... My theory does not hold that these attitudes aided in the missing individual's abduction, only that these traits may have determined who would be taken.
From: "What religion do superhero's belong to? [sic]" forum discussion started 18 July 2002 on "Toon Zone" website (http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?t=41332; viewed 21 May 2007):
From: "The Corner" (letter column), published in National Review Online, 29 July 2002 (http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/2002_07_28_corner-archive.asp#85293899; viewed 12 May 2006):
07-18-2002, 01:02 PM
What religion do superhero's [sic] belong to?
I'd like to discuss what religious beliefs are favorite costumed hero's belong to. Everyone knows Daredevil is Catholic. But beyond that, what do we know of superhero's beliefs? I'm thinking of mostly the Marvel Universe, but you DC fans feel free to contribute as well...
07-18-2002, 04:03 PM
...I think we can safely exclude the gods of the respective universes from this discussion, since it's pretty clear who Thor, Hercules, Odin, Loki, and Zeus would believe in...
07-19-2002, 11:06 AM
Actually, I think we could include Thor and Hercules in this discussion. Funny thing is, if you follow Thor's title closely, he reveals that he and the rest of the Asgardians believe in a "Higher Power". In issue 20 something of the current run of Thor, a little child makes Thor pause along the street. The little kid says something like. "My mommy says that you're a liar claiming to be a God, and that there's only one God, but you're not it". Thor explains something like, "I'm a higher being, but their is a higher being than me and my kind, so your mother is right to believe whatever she chooses".
This belief actually goes back to the Stan Lee written days of the title. He included Thor and the rest of Asgard as having this belief to get any Christian readers upset off his back.
But the belief makes sense from an Asgardian point of view. They're immortal, superior beings. If they "worship" anyone, it's Odin. But even Odin believes in the "higher force", as seen in the current series' 2nd annual, where he saved Jake Olsen's soul from Hel, (the Asgardian version) and released it to heaven.
So why believe in a higher being if your an Asgardian? Because Asgardians may be immortal, but they can still be killed, (as witness recently by Odin). A death in Immortal Asgard is always a mournful period. Since they know they'll never die of old age, the effect is like they feel they'll never see their dead friends again. Most Christians, (or other believers of faith) have the knowledge that they'll will see their dead loved ones again someday in Heaven. Asgardians have no such assurance since they live forever. But they can console themselves with the fact that if they ever do die, at least THEN they can see their loved ones again. So that's why I feel it makes sense for them to believe in a higher power.
Posted 2:08 PM
Email box ...filling with...comic geeknesssss...losing...consciousness. A few quick points... Thor and Hercules, obviously, are Methodists. Whoops, just kidding. But they clearly have religions as they are Gods and adopting atheism would be suicidal...
From: "Religious Themes in Comics" forum discussion page, started 21 May 2003 on "Sketchy Origins" website (http://www.sketchyorigins.com/comics/archive/index.php?t-1380.html; viewed 12 May 2006):
From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" discussion board started 20 October 2004 on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 8 June 2006):
05-21-2003, 02:10 PM
I enjoy Religion in comics most when it's explored through the personal experience/development of a character, for example, I really liked the New Mutants issue where one of the characters [Magma] who believes and worships the Roman(/Greek) Pantheon of Gods is doubting her faith and then she gets to meet Hercules... Anything that makes it personal, that respectfully approaches and explores the human experience of how the individual relates to the Divine through the traditions of their own Religion is always interesting to me!
Date: 20 Oct 2004 21:55:56
Subject: Religious beliefs of Marvel characters?
Does anybody know the religious beliefs of various characters?
Date: 20 Oct 2004 23:16:20
From: Samy Merchi
Barring any actual solid evidence in the characters' own books, you could always fall back on the Infinity Crusade and see which sides the characters were on in that conflict. Anybody feel like whipping those issues out and checking these specific characters?
Date: 21 Oct 2004 03:52:34
From: The Black Guardian
Anyway, here's the list of those who "faithfully served" the Goddess: Captain America, Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man, Jean Grey, Namorita, Silhouette, Spider-Man, Puck, Archangel, the Inhuman Crystal, Firelord, Hercules, Shaman, Talisman, Moondragon, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Silver Surfer, Sersi, the Living Lightning, Thor, the Invisible Woman, USAgent, Moon Knight, Wolfsbane, Doctor Strange, Wonder Man, Daredevil, the Black Knight, Windshear, Sasquatch, Storm, Gamora, Sleepwalker.
IIRC, even if you read the crossover, it's still pretty vague in what religions the heroes believed.
Date: 21 Oct 2004 03:57:48
From: Samy Merchi
In many cases, it [Infinity Crusade] is the strongest canonical reference to many of the characters' religious stance. Some lucky ones have been dealt with at more depth in their own books (DD, Rahne, Storm et al.) but for many characters Infinity Crusade is the biggest canonical reference. If we want to go by canon rather than sheer postulation.
Date: 21 Oct 2004 21:06:41
From: Matt Deres
At the risk to my sanity, I've dug out that series [Infinity Crusade] to investigate...
Hercules sees a thunderbolt...
From: "Banned for using this nic" thread began 4 Apri 1999 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/f38288dc4e56542/8a873a0a53da3d0d; viewed 12 June 2006)
From: Robert Justus
Date: Tues, Apr 6 1999 12:00 am
...the only really religious person that's sane that I recall in DCU is Huntress, and I guess Wonder Woman... Anyone else...? ...I'm just wondering if DCU has many more religious heroes than I can recall.
I don't think we should count Spectre or Zauriel. I tend to think of them like Thor or Hercules. Representatives of religion, not worshipers...
From: "Atheist superheroes?" thread, started 21 September 1999 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe/browse_thread/thread/e8d686f0b20944a6/e46638dbdaa8a219; viewed 22 June 2006):
Date: Tues, Sep 21 1999 12:00 am
...Anyone care to post a list of those characters whose spiritual beliefs are on record?
From: Andrew Furdell
Date: Tues, Sep 21 1999 12:00 am
I can name a few more:
Hercules (Ancient Roman...they count too you know!)
[Plus 4 other characters listed]
That's all off the top of my head... there's probably more.
From: "Religion of comic book characters" forum discussion started 17 March 2006 in "Media & Popular Culture" section on "IIDB General Discussion Forums" website (http://www.iidb.org/vbb/archive/index.php/t-158938.html; viewed 10 May 2007):
March 17, 2006, 09:54 PM
This might be old, but I found it interesting,
Supervillains tend to be atheists, superheroes tend to be theist...
March 17, 2006, 11:11 PM
I like how they classify Thor and Hercules as adherents to the Teutonic and Greco-Roman classical religions respectively. Um, Thor and Hercules don't have religion; they ARE religion...
From: "Atheist representation on the Avengers" forum discussion started 20 June 2001 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?trd=010620110715; viewed 24 May 2007):
Posted by Jae on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 11:07:15 GMT
Atheist representation on the Avengers
The teams pretty well rounded now, but are there any atheistic members?...
Posted by D-Man on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 20:10:53 GMT
...Probably the best comic you could find to figure out who believes in a god or a god, or have deep faith in God or a god would be:
The Goddess uses the heroes' faith and belief in gods and such to recruit heroes.
Here are a list of Avengers who are "believers" so are recruited by the Goddess:
Hercules (duh he's a god)
Thor (duh he's a god too)
Posted by Taxman on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 14:17:36 GMT
I just dug up some back issues of "Infinity Crusade"...
...I think that it is pretty safe to assume that none of the Crusaders [i.e., people chosen by the Goddess] are atheists. It is also interesting to me that Hercules, Wonder Man, Black Knight and Sersi all partook in the Supreme Intelligence execution. Each one, though, is an interesting case study.
From: "Religious Characters In Marvel" forum discussion started 15 September 2006 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-143850.html; viewed 25 May 2007):
09-15-2006, 09:01 PM
The other day I was thinking about religion and comic books... What I'm interested in is the way religious characters are portrayed in comic books...
I think the first step is listing what characters are what religion...
09-15-2006, 09:55 PM
...I believe the Atlanteans still worship Neptune
I think I remember an old New Mutants story that featured a group of people that still worshiped Hercules...
09-15-2006, 10:10 PM
The Nova Romans worship the Roman pantheon. Hercules isn't a god, so I while he's probably revered I don't think he's worshiped.
09-16-2006, 02:53 AM
Hercules was worshipped as a god by the Romans and Greeks. He had shrines and temples dedicated to him. In the myths Hercules became a full-fledged god after his mortality was burned away. Dionysos is another demi-god (at least a demi-god in most versions of his myth) becoming a full-fledged god, so it isn't uncommon.
09-16-2006, 03:38 AM
Hercules is very much a god. He was the subject of quite serious worship in ancient Rome and Greece...
09-16-2006, 02:31 PM
Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek Heracles. Their stories are identical though.
From: "Unpractical Ethics: Superheroes", posted 11 October 2005 on "Millenial Star" website [which comments on topics relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] (http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/10/11/unpractical_ethics_superheros; viewed 5 June 2007):
Comment from: Clark Goble
re: Its interesting to see that people try to find the values that they themselves hold dear in popular culture. We try to see the Mormon Parallels in characters that are decidely un-Mormon.
What is interesting to me are the structural parallels. As you said, Marvel intentionally revolutionized comics in the 1960's by introducing more focus on continuity as well as focusing on social, psychological and other issues. The characters became flawed and very human. Comics from the 1950's are much less interesting precisely because of that. I think in the late 80's on up they became unduly focused on darkness. But perhaps that's just from my limited reading back when I was single and bored at Borders.
Anyway, while they clearly aren't Mormon, it seems that similar issues arise at times in our scriptures. I've brought up Enoch quite often. But also the Three Nephites. (Who have their own set of urban legends)
Your later comment about how religion informs our moral choices is an apt one. The fact is that there are very different forces at place between the religious and the secular. It's interesting that comics embraced so much quasi-religion. (Typically mythic beings such as Thor, Hercules, and then similar characters in new guises and histories) I think the huge divide traditional Christianity put between man and God led to this. It's an interesting issue. Reminds me of that thread from last year on T&S about enchantment in the world. i.e. how many religious people see the world as fundamentally enchanted. That's not to say we need buy into many wrong superstitions. But I do think we see the world differently in a way that perhaps fantasy like comics can capture and deal with better than traditional literature.
10/12/05 - 16:42
From: "Comics and Religion Discussion (DC/Marvel)" forum discussion, started 30 May 2007 on "Killer Movies" website (http://www.killermovies.com/forums/453153_1-successful-religion-based-comics-dc-marvel; viewed 6 June 2007):
May 30th, 2007 11:42 PM
Thor believes in the Norse religion... Hercules believes in the Greek religion...
But how come no one in the MU has started a religion based on the Celestials, or Eternity/Infinity, etc?
May 30th, 2007 11:44 PM
...as for people like Thor, they believe in themselves and their Pantheon, but that wouldn't be their "religion" because Thor realizes that Odin didn't just create the multiverse.
From: "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 10 March 2007 on "Brian Michael Bendis" part of "Comic Creator Boards" section of "Jinxworld Forums" website (http://www.606studios.com/bendisboard/archive/index.php/t-106242.html; viewed 6 June 2007):
03-10-2007, 10:46 AM
An ASTONISHINGLY detailed site that delves into the religions of superheroes. Someone has WAY too much time on their hands.
03-10-2007, 10:54 AM
Not a lot of atheists.
03-10-2007, 11:07 AM
Yeah, its kind of hard to be an atheist when you encounter gods and abstract entities on a semi-regular basis.
Even hard in the DCU, which is why I thought Mr. Terrific was a dumbass.
I mean c'mon. Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman draw their powers from ancient Pantheons, Raven is a daughter of a demon, the Spectre is the Spirit of God's vengeance, things like Etrigan, Zauriel, not to mention the various characters actually, you know, going to Heaven and Hell for whatever reason.
03-10-2007, 11:14 AM
All those people could just get their powers from a really powerful person, who got them from another really powerful person, etc. making Reed Richards:
1: the smartest man ever...
03-10-2007, 11:17 AM
But the gods physically appear in front of these people. Heck, freaking Thor and Hercules are superheroes. Zauriel is a superhero who happens to be an angel, and the FF have actually met God (who appeared to them as Jack Kirby, heh).
From: "New Joe Fridays: Week
49" forum discussion, started 1 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=114952&page=5; viewed 8 June 2007):
06-03-2007, 04:58 AM
You brought up the issue of comic-book stereotypes and religions. Since I study religion (all kinds, really) this is something I've thought about a lot...
What religions do we find represented in Marvel? A lot of them are "weird" ones associated with exotic fantasy. Several decades ago, comic book writers could be fairly sure that none of their readers would know or be Tibetan Buddhists, Kali devotees, Voodoo practitioners, or Gypsies, so they felt free to make up details out of whole cloth, or portray some religions as wicked. Today this is no longer possible. Recall the Hindu reaction to Krishna's appearance on "Xena: Warrior Princess" (as a villain). So today, weird or evil religions are more likely to be entirely fictional, like the Triune Understanding (a Scientology pastiche) or the Ultimate Shi'ar (a cult not an alien race). The Greek and Norse pantheons appear to also be fair game...
From: "Religious Beliefs of DC Heroes" forum discussion, started 4 July 2006 on ComixFan website (http://x-mencomics.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?p=1357699; viewed 6 July 2007):
Jul 4, 2006
I am a Christian (Baptist) in real life and I was wondering if anyone knows any DC characters that have been labled to a certain religion. I think DC has tried to stay away from religion, but... I thought this would cool topic. So please list anything you might know on this subject.
Jul 5, 2006
Well I don't think DC characters are very relgious because DC comics in general seem to have a very general liberal feel to it. That's not to say only conservatives are religious, but that's my opionion. Ok lets see... well Wonder Woman is polytheist since she believes in the Greek Gods. And I know Green Arrow II (Connor Hawke) is a Buddhist. But that's all that comes to mind. And since Donna Troy, Wonder Girl, Hercules, Fury (Golden Age), Fury II, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and Mary Marvel are all heroes who got there powers from the Greek Gods I say they're polytheists as well.
From: "The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 27 June 2007 on "City of Heroes" website (http://boards.cityofheroes.com/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=8576731; viewed 6 July 2007):
06/27/07 02:31 PM
The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters [link to: http://boards.cityofheroes.com/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=8576731]
My Local newsradio station pointed this site out.
Let the battle begin.
06/27/07 08:32 PM
Know what's wierd? Many of the characters mentioned ARE gods, yet have religions listed for them. Moon Knight is the earthly avatar of Khonshu, Thor, Hercules, et al are full-on gods, and bunches of others have personally met god/gods, which makes the subject of "faith" moot (you can't have "faith" in what you know for fact, granted, you can still carry the belief system from a religion, but you could just as easily come up with independant beliefs after having met God).
From: "Religious Super Heroes PC or otherwise" forum discussion, started 17 September 2003 on "HERO Games" website (http://www.herogames.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-8036.html; viewed 12 July 2007):
Sep 23rd, '03, 09:31 PM
On topic, why do y'all think it is that GMs (and comics in general) tend to focus on the bad guys as religious (well, demons and the like) but usually fail to have religious heroes? There are of course exceptions like Nightcrawler, but they are the exception.
Sep 24th, '03, 03:53 AM
Originally posted by Isaiah_26_4
It's important to recognize that there's a substantial difference between "being religious" like Nightcrawler and being "of a religion" like Thor or Hercules...
Thor and similar characters are based on pagan dieties, but hardly act religious. ("All-Father Odin, helpeth me kicketh mine enemy's butt!" hardly constitutes praying. :) ) I think you'd need to look for characters based on current "real" religions' heroes and villains. DC's Azrael [sic: this poster means "Zauriel"] probably qualifies; I think he's supposed to actually be an angel.
From: "Gods and Champions" forum discussion, started 11 September 2004 on "HERO Games" website (http://www.herogames.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-21728.html; viewed 12 July 2007):
Sep 11th, '04, 04:46 AM
Doesn't it seem that religious based Superheroes get a sort of lopsided treatment? Characters like Thor, Hercules and others never seem to catch much flak for claiming to be pagan gods and such, but Christian based supers are either unheard of or portrayed as over zealous wack jobs. I'm not a particularly religious person so please don't take this a some sort of rant, just something I've noticed.
I think characters like Thor should be facing some major PR [public relations] issues, more so than mutants, really. Claiming not only to be divine, but Pagan would raise some serious issues in some places. Maybe there would be an organization like the Church of the Archangel Michael or other mutant hate groups, but religiously inspired and dedicated to putting down/debunking the false gods. Has anyone done anything like this in their campaigns?
Sep 11th, '04, 05:13 AM
...One could take the approach that Marvel Comics has classically used, in which Thor stated quite clearly that even the Gods of Asgard, Olympus, etc. were neither the full story nor the last word regarding divinity, and that there were cosmic gods beyond even their power and understanding.
Sep 11th, '04, 05:26 AM
Mainstream comic books have generally handled religion poorly, for various reasons. The "pagan god" types in early Marvel had no real problems since a) the comics avoided dealing with the real-world religious aspects of the characters, and b) the general public didn't actually believe that Thor, etc. were really "gods", just people with special powers who had names similar to (or stolen from) the mythology books.
Various stabs have been made at dealing with the Norse religion and its interaction with other faiths over the years in Thor's book, some more successful than others.
Hercules' various solo series have largely avoided the topic...
Sep 11th, '04, 04:51 PM
...I think that the body-on-the-street thinks that people like Thor and Hercules are just picking those names, based on mythological beings, because they have powers that happen to match, kind of like old Pro Wrestlers like Zeus and, again, Hercules.
Another thing comes down to just how one defines 'god' vs 'God', for lack of a better way to put it. Thor and Hercules and their ilk are extra-dimensional beings who were once worshipped by humanity and possess significant power. God, in the Christian sense, is a being of unproven existance in whom people have faith. Nobody worships Thor or Hercules anymore (at least, not in an organized sense, as far as I know), so nobody raises a fuss...
Sep 11th, '04, 05:06 PM
I don't know about "organized", but I know there's groups worshipping the Norse deities. The only ones I've heard of worshipping Greek deities are specifically worshipping the Greek goddesses (so Hercules doesn't qualify :) ), but there may be some out there who worship the whole pantheon.
However, I lost several of my contacts when the new age bookstore that carried my stained glass on consignment closed, so I may be way out of date here.
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