Saturday, January 30, 2010

1982 – Hercules



Hercules Prince of Power
4 issue miniseries
Writer/Artist: Bob Layton

This Hercules miniseries was Bob Layton’s first writing job and he succeeded in bring this character out of the shadows where most second-stringers find themselves. Interestingly, this miniseries was the first that Marvel Comics had put out and its success paved the way for what is now an industry standard.

The current Incredible Hercules series owes a lot to those 1980s miniseries as it solidified Hercules’s brash, impetuous, and fun-loving nature. This miniseries was my first exposure to Layton which prompted to catch up on his Iron Man run and get in ahead of the crowd on Layton and Michelinie’s Iron Man – Armor Wars a few years later.

From Wizard #199, Layton added:
“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.”

In much the same way as Thor was exiled to Earth as Dr. Donald Blake, Zeus exiled his son to deep space in hopes that Hercules learns humility. He's joined along the way by a robotic Rigellian Recorder who is eager to witness the god's adventures and serves as the perfect straight-man for this comedy duo.

From an interview with comicbookresources.com, Layton’s discusses his approach to Hercules:
“I loved the big dumb lug. And I felt that he hadn't found his niche' in the Marvel Universe, being relegated to supporting roles and such. Also…I felt that the Marvel books took themselves WAY too serious in those days. I wanted to lighten things up a bit. The only problem was convincing the parties involve that poking fun at the Marvel Universe wouldn't do permanent damage to it as a whole.

A bit more insight from boblayton.com:
“At the particular time that I began to conceive of a Hercules series, Marvel was looking to experiment with concepts that had a finite beginning and end.   When I heard that, the notion of developing Hercules as a limited series popped into my head. I’ve always loved tongue-in-cheek adventure movies like the “The Three Musketeers” or “The Adventures of Robin Hood”. The idea came to me to create something in that genre, but capitalize on the science-fantasy craze that Star Wars had created at that time. I'll have to admit that the technology in Hercules was visually influenced by the Star Wars films.”

What is so fun about this miniseries is how it captures the essence of being human through a demigod. While Hercules is a “big dumb lug”, you can’t help but find him a sympathetic character that you cheer for along the way. It’s also his good nature that hits home and reminds you to enjoy life and have fun. At the same time, there are thought-provoking moments on immortality and on the destructive effects the Olympian pantheon has had on Earth.

The Hercules: Prince of Power Premiere Edition is still in print and reprints both the 1982 and 1984 miniseries.

A new series, to be written and drawn by Bob Layton and Ron Lim, based on this future world, Hercules: Twilight of a God is in plan, but has yet to be scheduled.

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