BY MATT TUCK
You’ll want to get your hands on Journey into Mystery Annual #1 and Thor #129 because Hercules and Ares are on their way to the MCU.
Of course, this hinges on whether or not Russell Crowe’s recent spoiler pans out to be true. About a month ago, the news broke that the two-time Academy Award winner was joining the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder. At the time, the role was a mystery, prompting plenty of speculation. Then last week, Crowe said in an interview with an Australian radio station that he would be playing Zeus.
This has yet to be confirmed by either Kevin Feige, the master of all things Marvel, or Thor director Taika Waititi, but it seems plausible. While the MCU has not explored anything outside Norse mythology, the Greco-Roman pantheon has been a staple of Marvel Comics since the 1960s. Just as Zeus and Odin are rivals in the comics, they could very well be written as competitors on the movie screen. Zeus has even interacted with other Marvel heroes, and he once beat up the Hulk.
As the ruler of the Greek and Roman gods and king of Mount Olympus, adding Zeus to Love and Thunder is significant. Not only is he the most powerful of the Ancient Greek gods, but his presence signals the arrival of the Olympians and all the other deities and demi-gods from Ancient Greek mythology. When it comes to the Marvel mythos, there are no two more important Greco-Roman figures than Hercules and Ares.
THE PRINCE OF POWER
Both Hercules and Ares have a long history in Marvel Comics. Hercules has the bigger fan base and has been the more prominent of the two over the decades, even joining the Avengers and founding the original Champions. What could get him into Love and Thunder is his famous rivalry with Thor that has lasted for decades, and that would be perfect for the action-comedy world of the MCU. It would not be too far out of the realm of possibility to have a Thor-Hercules 1980s “buddy cop” style movie of their own, and it would be a huge hit.
There are so many ways Hercules could be incorporated into the MCU even without Thor. He has enough personality to carry his own franchise, either on movie screens or in a Disney+ series. With his Avengers history, he could join Marvel’s premiere squad. He also has a romantic link to She-Hulk, and I can see him crossing over to her streaming series as well. Another factor is Hercules’ history with Amadeus Cho. In the early 2000s, the genius-level teenager was Herc’s sidekick before transitioning to the Totally Awesome Hulk.
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY ANNUAL #1
Hercules made his first appearance alongside Zeus in 1965’s JIM Annual #1, igniting their epic rivalry. There have been rumors of Hercules joining the MCU for the past couple of years ever since Marvel had said they were looking to cast a gay hero for The Eternals. Since Hercules has a fluid sexual orientation in the comics, it led to speculation that the character Marvel Studios was looking to referring to was the Prince of Power.
Now that we have new reason to believe Hercules is coming to the MCU, prices for JIM Annual #1 are on the move. Already this month, an 8.5 earned nearly $2,195 on April 22. A day later, a 7.5 set a new record with a sale of $1,545, which is more than double last year’s high of $739. Even a 4.5 is now a $700 comic. If we see him in the MCU, those FMVs could double in short order.
THE GOD OF WAR
Just like the ancient myths, the Marvel version of Ares often switches his allegiance from good to evil depending on what side gives him the best advantage. He has been a member of both the Avengers and the Dark Avengers. He even had one of the most intense death scenes in all of comics when Sentry literally ripped him in half during the Siege of Asgard.
Between Hercules and Ares, the latter may be the more likely to arrive in Love and Thunder. After all, Waititi included his face on the Grandmaster’s tower alongside other champions of the arena Bi-Beast, Man-Thing, and Beta Ray Bill. After all the speculation, it would be fitting for Ares to be the first of those Easter eggs to finally pay dividends.
There is a much bigger picture when it comes to Ares and the MCU. The war god has been associated with a hotly rumored team: the Dark Avengers. After the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, fans are reading between the lines and predicting that either the Dark Avengers or the Thunderbolts are incoming, and Ares would fit in with either group. If Love and Thunder introduces Ares, that will basically confirm that at least one of those factions is coming.
Although the modern version of Ares is the most recognizable, he made his first appearance in the Silver Age in Thor #129. The more speculation there is for the god of war, the more popular this once-overlooked issue will become. Because of its underappreciated status, this is still a very affordable key issue, especially in comparison with those huge prices of JIM Annual #1. The highest graded Thor #129 to sell this month has been the 8.5, and it sold for $450 on April 22. The next day, a 7.5 sold for $364. Those are great prices for what could become a major key if Ares makes a splash in the MCU.
Rest assured, Hercules and Ares are bound to become MCU stars. At this point, we are just waiting for Marvel Studios to confirm Russell Crowe’s Zeus casting, and that will all but seal the deal for Hercules and Ares. It just makes too much sense to add these two to the MCU for them to stay on the shelf for much longer.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.