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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Olivia Arancina
of Olympus, Inc.

Olivia Arancina, who is commonly known by her super-heroic name "Aphrodite," is one of the main supporting characters in Ultra, the critically-acclaimed 8-issue miniseries by the Luna Brothers. Ultra is set in a world where the line between being a super-hero and a pop media celebrity was thin to non-existent. Aphrodite is one of the best friends of the series' title character, Pearl Penalosa (a.k.a. "Ultra"). Along with Jennifer Janus ("Cowgirl"), these three friends work as professional superheroes in Spring City and spend considerable time together socially when they are off-duty.

Aphrodite is something of Wonder Woman analogue, but not so directly as many other Wonder Woman analogues (e.g., Sun Woman, Power Princess, Winged Victory). In many ways, Aphrodite has more in common with Wonder Girl, or Donna Troy. Olivia Arancina is the "new Aphrodite" at Heroine Inc., a woman chosen to replace a previous super-heroine by that name. The previous Aphrodite had been one of the world's most popular super-heroines, regarded as a great role model and inspiration for other super-heroines. The new Aphrodite has only recently begun her career as a super-heroine, and she is well known more because of her previous career as a super-model than because of anything she has yet accomplished as a super-hero.

One of the reasons that Aphrodite may be considered a partial analogue to DC Comics icon Wonder Woman is that Aphrodite clearly has a strong connection to the Greco-Roman mythological pantheon, the gods who are the source of Wonder Woman's power. However, the exact nature of Aphrodite's connection to Greco-Roman gods is unclear. Unlike Wonder Woman and Donna Troy, Aphrodite does not have a worshipful attitude toward the gods and goddesses of Greco-Roman classical religion (or "Greek mythology"). Aphrodite works for Olympus Inc., which in this series is a Fortune 500 multi-national company. The world does not believe that Aphrodite is an actual Greek goddess. Yet when we see Aphrodite in a meeting at Olympus Inc., she is surrounded by what appear to be the actual Greco-Roman pantheon. The meeting is led by by Zeus, depicted traditionally, with the addition of a business tie. Zeus is identified by name.

Aphrodite has strong beliefs in the supernatural. For example, in Ultra #1, Aphrodite starts off the central plot that runs throughout the miniseries when she suddenly stops the car that she, Ultra and Cowgirl are driving in when she sees a cheap poster on an apartment building advertising a fortune teller. The fortune teller tells Aphrodite that she will suffer a loss within seven days, tells Cowgirl that she will receive what she has given within seven days, and tells Ultra that she will find "true love" within seven days. Aphrodite's two friends think that the crack addict fortune teller is a complete fraud, but Aphrodite is convinced that the fortunes she gives each of them are genuine. Ultra asks her, "Don't tell me you believe all this mumbo jumbo?" Aphrodite answers, "Yeah! As a matter of fact I do! Growin' up, my family loved this kinda crap. We ate it up!" Aphrodite remains convinced of the veracity of the fortunes throughout the miniseries. She is soon joined in her belief by Cowgirl, and together the two of them bring considerable pressue to Ultra to look for her "true love."

In an "interview" with Aphrodite, published in Ultra #2, reveals that Aphrodite always had super-human powers, and apparently comes by these powers naturally. Based on the what is revealed through various hints dropped in the Ultra miniseries, Aphrodite may actually be related to real Greco-Roman gods. She may even be the actual Aphrodite of Greco-Roman myth. The "information" revealed by her publicists and interviews about her being born in the United States but raised in Italy could be intentional subterfuge on her part, a ruse to establish a contemporary, human identity rather than reveal her true nature. Aphrodite certainly seems to be living up to the traditional Aphrodite's reputation as a goddess of sensuality, love and romantic passion. Aphrodite's key characteristic is that she is obsessed with love and sex. This aspect of Aphrodite's personality becomes a major plot point at many times in Ultra, playing into the way she pressures her friend about her long-single, non-dating status. Aphrodite encourages Ultra to look for her "true love," or at least a good romp.

In the Ultra series, Aphrodite represents the desire for love, sex and beauty. Aphrodite is a positively portrayed, strong, successful, fun-loving character. But sometimes Aphrodite's focus on these aspects of her life appear obsessive, even pitiful. She is, like the classical Greco-Roman goddess, an embodiment of an aspect of human nature, including both is positive and negative ramifications. Aphrodite is identified as "open-minded", but also "promiscuous" and shallow. At one point, conflict over the differences in their lifestyles erupts, as Ultra berates Aphrodite for being a whore. Ultra accuses Aphrodite of pressuring her to act the same way, so that she can feel better about herself. This is quite a fight, during which Ultra aptly points out that Aphrodite does not represent balanced, normal or healthy attitudes toward love and sexuality. But the friendship between Aphrodite and Ultra is strong, and they apologize to each other and make up soon thereafter.

Aphrodite is the second most important character in the Ultra miniseries, but the focus is clearly on the title character herself (Ultra), and we are left to speculate about the true nature of Aphrodite. She may:

1) simply work for a company named "Olympus Inc." and dress up as "Aphrodite"; the fact that her personality embodies the concerns of the mythological Aphrodite is a coincidence
2) or she is somehow descended from the Greco-Roman mythological gods, in which case Greco-Roman classical religion is part of her family heritage
3) or she is actually the real "Aphrodite", goddess of love and beauty spoken of in Greco-Roman mythology.

Which of these possibilities best describes Aphrodite might be left to the reader to decide. But whichever theory is most accurate, Aphrodite's religious affiliation is best described as Greco-Roman classical religion.

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Webpage created 10 June 2006. Last modified 10 June 2006.
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