Some people compare superheroes to mythical gods because of their supernatural powers (and for their all-too-human squabbles), and Marvel has made a mint on translating a Norse deity into a superhero with Thor. But beyond the borders of Asgard is a cornucopia of gods and demigods in the Marvel pantheon just waiting to be reawakened and put back into the fight. And I’m not talking about Marvel movies (although that’d be nice, too!). I’m talking about Marvel Comics’ staff bringing these heroes (and villains) of lore back into the mix.
He’s the obvious one, isn’t he? In terms of mythological figures in the Marvel Universe, Hercules is second only to Thor in terms of popularity and use. Introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Thor’s Journey into Mystery, the so-called Prince of Power has been a frequent face in the halls of various Avengers headquarters, and has served as a member of the Champions, the Defenders and even Damage Control. After decades working as little more than a stand-in for Thor, Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak carved out a new path for the hero — a drunken, belligerent but well-meaning path. Since the end of his solo series in early 2012, Herc has been a background character popping up in Avengers Academy, Fantastic Four, Wolverine & the X-Men, Age of Ultron and Fearless Defenders. Will there come a time when a new wave of Marvel NOW (All-Drunk Marvel NOW!?) comes to Herc? We hope so.
Technically this Alpha Flight isn’t from a pantheon, but she’s the daughter of a god. Created by John Byrne, Narya is the daughter of the Inuit goddess Nelvanna of the Northern Lights and a human. Raised by her future Alpha Flight teammate Shaman, she eventually joined the Canadian government superhero team. She’s died, but like many other superheroes returned — albeit as a younger version of herself pulled from the past. Most recently she was recruited as part of Hercules’ God Squad but, like Alpha Flight, has been pretty much absent of late. Given her unique power set, background and memorable design, I could easily see Snowbird included in one of the dozen Avengers books on shelves.
Seth, the Serpent God
In addition to being a goldmine for potential heroes, mythology is also a potent source for villains: Take, for example, the Egyptian god Seth. Worshiped as the god of death, the Marvel version was introduced by Bill Mantlo, Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema in a mid-’70s issue of Thor. In comics, Seth has faced down fellow gods, met Apocalypse before he even had that name and even fought Moses. And he can turn into a giant snake. Come on, Jason Aaron, why haven’t you used him in Thor: God of Thunder?
Although this Greek god of war has been a part of Marvel lore since the 1960s, he never really received his due until 2006, when Marvel tapped Michael Avon Oeming and Travel Foreman to create a miniseries giving this character the spotlight. After Civil War, Brian Michael Bendis roped the character into the launch of Mighty Avengers. During “Dark Reign,” Ares found himself fighting on the side of Norman Osborn, and ended up dying in the culmination of that event, Siege. While the militaristic and savage anti-hero rubbed some fans (and fellow heroes) the wrong way, he was a highly interesting character that still has room for development.
As Odin is to the Norse, Manitou is to the Native American in Marvel comics. Created as an amalgam of various Native American mythological figures, Manitou is a rarely seen but powerful god who’s played an integral role in stories featuring characters ranging from Ghost Rider to Thor to the Celestials. He even appeared in Infinity Gauntlet. Manitou is actually a title for the head of Native American mythology in Marvel lore, passed down to various individuals upon their death. Imagine if Marvel were to engage more with the Manitou character, not as a historical artifact but as a living, breathing hero like Thor?
Amatsu-Mikaboshi is one of the best supervillains to debut at Marvel in the past decade. Inspired by a Japanese god of the same name, Mikaboshi was introduced as an adversary for both Thor and Ares in the mid-2000s. After appearing in a Thor miniseries and the first Ares mini, Mikaboshi had the biggest reach during the Chaos War event series, forcing Hercules to assemble a group of gods and demigods known as the God Squad. A supremely dark villain, the near-limitless power writers have given this character might also be the reason he’s not seen more often; similiar problems to cosmic entities like Oblivion and Eternity, as well as dream-based foes like Nightmare. But I imagine a writer with some motivation and some interest could have an interesting story to tell with Amtasu-Mikaboshi, especially against the right hero or heroes.