Thursday, 19 November 2015

The most forgettable comics I have ever owned - Part 15: Marvel Premiere #26.

Marvel Premiere #26, Hercules We all know that the most traumatic event in the entire history of western civilisation was that moment in Jason and the Argonauts when Hercules just decided to go wandering off and depart the movie, never to be seen again.

What on Earth were they thinking of?

He's Hercules!

You can't introduce him into your movie and then have him disappear halfway through it! He's the star of the show, for Pluto's sake!

Admittedly, the film's called Jason and the Argonauts, not Hercules and the Argonauts but that doesn't matter. Even when he's being the least physically impressive Hercules you've ever seen, he's still the star of the show and, quite frankly, of anything else he ever appears in.

Admittedly, that may not be true of comics.

In all honesty, I was never much into Marvel Comics' version of Herc. He just seemed like a less interesting version of Thor, with less powers, less brain cells and a mace that was a pale imitation of the thunder god's invincible weapon.

Still, despite his limitations, he did at least manage to get around a bit. As well as showing up in Thor's comic, he managed to become a member of both the Avengers and the Champions, as well as having a fight with the Hulk in one of his earliest appearances.

Not only that but it seems he also managed to get his own solo adventure in Marvel Premiere.

Not only that but I actually had a copy of that self-same adventure. I think I may have got it in one of those polythene bagged triple packs that Marvel seemed keen on at one point.

Not that it made any huge impact on me. I must confess that, until I stumbled across the cover online, I'd totally forgotten I'd ever had it.

Now reminded of its existence, all I can recall of it is that Typhon was in it and that, for some reason, his axe was stuck to his hand. By the end of the tale, he'd somehow got his hand free of his axe. Whether that put him in a better mood and led to him renouncing evil, I don't know.

Sadly, by the next issue, Hercules was gone from the mag, replaced by Satana, suggesting that perhaps the Marvel big-wigs didn't have a huge amount of faith in his ability to sell a comic.

Still, if the comic failed to stick in my head, it did at least give us a Jack Kirby cover that helped remind us of his days on Thor and I suppose we can at least appreciate that much.

In the meantime, just what did happen to Hercules after he parted company with Jason and the Argonauts? Is he still on that island, still searching for his missing friend who was blatantly crushed under that big statue? Someone should have said to him, "Look. He's dead. He's been crushed by that big statue. He's gone splat. Now forget about him and help us in the far more important matter of stealing a dead sheep."

For that matter, what happened to Jason and the Argonauts? At the end of the film, they just fell into the sea and the final credits rolled. We never got to find out if they got home or if they drowned or if they were just picked up by the harbour police and charged with stealing someone else's rightful property.

Epic quests, they can be a frustrating thing for the casual observer.


TC said...

As a kid, I remember being annoyed when Hercules dropped out halfway through the movie. Now, though, what strikes me is how the Argonauts considered him their MVP for no real reason that I can see. They were on the brink of mutiny, refusing to go on without him, until Jason called on Hera to calm them down. But, looking at the facts, Herc was a liability, not an asset. His stealing the javelin-sized brooch pin from the gods' treasure chamber was what caused Talos to attack them in the first place.

As you said, it was Jason & the Argonauts, not Hercules & the Argonauts, so I guess they had to downplay Hercules. Which may be why they cast Nigel Green instead of some pumped-up body-builder like Steve Reeves or Gordon Scott as Herc. (Green looked bigger when he played the sergeant in Zulu than he did as Hercules. Maybe it has to do with expectations.)

What happened to Hercules afterward? Hera said that "Zeus has other tasks for him," so I assumed he went off to do the 12 Labors or something. As for what happened to Jason and the Argonauts, Zeus says that the game is not over, and that they have other adventures ahead of them. I believe Ray Harryhausen wanted to do a sequel, but, for some reason, it was never made.

In the 1958 Steve Reeves movie, Hercules stays with the quest from beginning to end. I guess one version is as valid as another. Although, IIRC, in the original myths, Hercules did abandon the voyage halfway through. Whatever.

Marvel's depiction of Herc was similar to the 1963 movie: arrogant, over-confident, impetuous, but basically good-hearted. In appearance, both Marvel's and Charlton Comics' Hercs looked like they were influenced by Steve Reeves.

Anonymous said...

Well, TC, if Zeus was anything like my dad, he would have said, "Hercules doth need to come home now and mow the Olympian yard, take the Olympian garbage out, and walk Cerebus. Then and only then may he cavort with mortals."

Steve W. said...

TC, you're a font of knowledge.

I seem to recall that, in the original myth, Jason's brand new girlfriend chops her own brother to pieces and flings his body parts into the sea to distract the pursuing ships. It's strange they didn't include that in the movie.

Steve W. said...

I've just realised that should have been a fount of knowledge, not a font of knowledge.

Anonymous said...

I always kinda thought this website was a FONT and a FOUNT of knowledge, Steve.
m.p. (snickering quietly to himself at someone else's mild embarrassment)

Anonymous said...

What happened to Jason at the end, Steve? He went home and settled down to family life with Medea of course....


Colin Jones said...

And after chopping up her brother Medea later killed the two children she had with Jason - the woman was a psycho. In Jason & The Argonauts the land of Colchis was described as being "on the other side of the world" - in fact it was on the other side of the Black Sea barely a couple of days sailing from Greece :D

Anonymous said...

Presumably, Marvel Premiere and Marvel Spotlight were like DC's Showcase. That is, it was a try-out mag where they would feature new characters, or old secondary characters. If they proved popular, they might go on to star in their own ongoing self-titled solo comic. Evidently, Hercules never caught on. But, neither did Satana, AFAIR. In fact, did any Marvel Premiere feature ever spin off into its own series?

DC also sold comics in bagged three-packs, in 1966-67. Since that was during the Batman TV fad, each bag included an issue of either Batman or Detective Comics. And usually, also one of Justice League, World's Finest, or Brave & Bold, all of which co-starred Batman.

At about that same time, King Features tried publishing their own comic books, instead of licensing them to Gold Key and Harvey. They also tried selling them in bagged 3-packs. One set would have the serious adventure comics (Flash Gordon, Phantom, Mandrake the Magician), another would have the funny ones (Beetle Bailey, Popeye, Blondie). That didn't last. By 1970, they were back to outsourcing, with Charlton publishing the King characters.

IIRC, Hulk and Star Wars were being sold in bagged 3-packs in the late 1970's.

Steve W. said...

I've just checked the, "Marvel Premiere," covers on the Grand Comics Database and it looks like the only characters who went on to have their own comics off the back of it were Warlock and Iron Fist. All the rest would appear to have been deemed not worthy of promotion.

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