Hercules: The Turkey Day Wars

Happy Thanksgiving readers and friends, and welcome back to another Rotten Ink Turkey Day update all about the one and only mighty hero of Greece, the slayer of the Nemean Lion, the pride of Olympus and the hero who has been a main stay in culture and media as he has muscled his way into books, movies, TV, comics and video games. Of course I am talking about Hercules! Writing about Herc on this holiday as truly become something I look forward to doing; this sword and sandal hero was always one of my favorites growing up as his labors and adventures always captivated me. So while your turkey or ham is cooking and those potatoes are waiting to be mashed, let’s take another turkey day adventure with the one and only Hercules and this time the company who has brought us this adventure is Radical. So sit back, hit mute on the football game and get ready to spend some quality time with Herc and me here at Rotten Ink!

As I am sure you readers know what I am about to say and it may come as no shock, but I am going to say it anyway: I am a fan of the legend of Hercules from the myth all the way to cinema and have always enjoyed the fact you could take this hero and place him in any situation and watch as he saves the day. I mean think about classic style films “Hercules Against The Moon Men” and “Hercules Against The Mongols” that took our hero out of his normal settings and had him battle people and things not from his era.  Somehow, they just worked. But one of the biggest adventures Hercules has ever had was from the myth and would be his 12 Labors. Ever since I was a kid, one of my favorites of his 12 Labors was when he took on the Nemean Lion, a true battle of man and beast. The Nemean Lion was a massive beast that had super sharp claws and his skin could not be pierced by weapons. He tormented the people of Nemea and was rumored to been created by Typhon and Echidna. King Eurystheus was in charge of giving Hercules his labors, and his first one was to kill Nemean Lion who was a super lion and who was said to be unkillable, Hercules started his journey by buying arrows and talking to locals about the location of the beast, and once he found its cave, he blocked one entrance and forced the lion to fight him in closed combat where he was able to nab the lion into a headlock and choke the life out of it. Once dead, Herc used the animal’s own claw to skin it and carried the dead animal back to the kingdom where he both amazed and scared the King who banned him that moment on from entering the Kingdom after his labors. Hercules would go on to wear the hide of the Nemean Lion as part of his armor. I am not sure why I like the first labor as much as I do….I am sure it has to do with the fact I have always liked lions and Hercules and having them fighting each other in a death match is pretty epic. I want to also say that The Nemean Lion, while dead in the mythology world, just might live again in the pages of Sparkle Comics, but you will have to wait and see how and what comic it comes back in. And I want to say this is just the start of Hercules’ Labors as we will be taking a bigger look at his labors on another update in the future.

In 2014 Radical Comics was able to have a movie made based on their Thracian Wars comic series thanks to Paramount Pictures who released it worldwide to the joy of modern sword and sandal fans. The film was directed by Brett Ratner and stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Hercules along with such actors as Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Reece Ritchie and was a great action film with lots of Hercules moments of power…well sort of. The film is about Hercules and his friends creating a legend about himself that allows them to get paid in order to do amazing things like defeat the undefeatable and wage one man wars, all the while the story goes out about it being Hercules, when in fact it was he and his crew. But they soon find themselves being tested when one kingdom doesn’t buy into the stories, and Herc and his crew must fight for their lives. I really do like the twist in this film as it makes you wonder if Hercules really the son of Zeus or is it all made up in order to build his legacy, then at moments he is as great as he says he is…so I think it is really up to the viewer to decide. I saw the movie in the theater when released, and it was fantastic even making the # 5 spot on my “Matt Goes To The Movies 2014” update for Superhero Movies and was one I recommended to friends who ended up seeing it and enjoying it. Oddly enough, in 2014 another Hercules movie was in cinemas called “Legend Of Hercules.” While entertaining, it was not in the same league as this one. The film did poorly at the US box office only bringing in $72,688,614.00 on a budget of $100 million and was 46 over all at the cinema. But it did however bring in more than many other cult films released that year like “Purge: Anarchy”, “Robocop”, “Dracula Untold”, “Muppets Most Wanted”, “John Wick” and “Birdman” to name a few. So if you like Hercules films or just like fun action films starring The Rock, make sure to check this movie out!

So now that we have chatted a little about Hercules in myth as well as in modern cinema, I think it’s time we get to the comic review of the five issue mini series from Radical, because I am sure you are ready for some tasty thanksgiving dinner like I am! So let’s get into this one. I want to thank Mavericks Cards And Comics for pulling these comics for me when released. Yep, this is a comic mini series that I made sure to get when released as I worked for Mavericks at the time and had to check out a new Hercules book. I want to also remind you that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and you are looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So if you’re ready to join Hercules as he goes to war, we should get to the comic reviews.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 1  **1/2
Released in 2008     Cover Price $1.00     Radical Comics     # 1 of 5

Iolaus and Meneus are traveling to a poor and sloppy kingdom on Amphiaraus’ promise of gold and victory as the young King has hired Hercules and his crew to bring Thrace back together by winning a war. But these barbarians of the Kingdom all take turns making fun of Hercules as well as his mother to try and get under the skin of Meneus and Iolaus before Herc arrives. But once Hercules and the rest of his crew show up, their words and mood changes as they see they truly are warriors and can back up their words and Hercules is a man with a loyal & brutal band of friends. But when Hercules is pushed too far by the words of one of the barbarian warriors, he is forced to kill him and orders his friends to kill every man and woman in the throne room and they do just that! Hercules, who was hired to bring Thrace together and train these barbarians to fight, became their Grim Reaper, as he delivered nothing but brutal death. After the slaughter Hercules and his men soon find out that the king and his guards were not the true King and his men as outside is the true King Coyts and his men looking well armed, trained and angry.

This first issue started out a little slow and was worrisome onwhether it would deliver a fun Hercules adventure, and by the end it turned into a bloodbath slaughter that would make Conan The Barbarian happy! The comic’s plot is this: Hercules and his crew are hired mercenaries who arrive at a terrible kingdom with a jerk King and a room full of drunken slobs that end up pushing the son of Zeus’ buttons that leads to them all getting slaughtered only for Hercules to find out he has been set up as the real King is outside with his massive army! Hercules is very cocky in this issue and partly lazy and is willing to start a war over being insulted. He also very much depends on his crew in order to win battles as well as scout the way of the land before he even arrives. I also like that he is wearing the hide of the Nemean Lion. His crew are loyal to Hercules and are amazing warriors who are brutal and all have their own weirdness from one having visions to another who is a cannibal. The fake King and his drunken goons are rude and crude and all find themselves very dead and have no skills when it comes to battle! While we barely see King Coyts in this issue, you can tell he is going to be one proud and strong fighter. The one thing that I liked in this comic is the fact that while Hercules is our main hero, he is also very arrogant and showcases that he is not fully a good guy. I also really like the fact that this comic is very bloody and had kills that would fit in most Horror Comics! The cover is very cool and very eye catching for fans of Sword and Sandal and Greek Mythology style comics. The interior artwork is done by Admira Wijaya and is pretty great and very fitting for this style of comic. So I will say the first issue is a great set up for this mini series and was a great way to try and bring Hercules back to the world of comic books. So with that let’s see how Herc and his crew deals with the army that is waiting for them at the end of this issue.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 2  **1/2
Released in 2008     Cover Price $2.99     Radical Comics     # 2 of 5

Hercules and his crew stand their ground as King Coyts and his army order them all to stand down and follow him into the hall where Herc and them slaughtered all those people only to find that King Coyts set them up to test how brutal they were as fighters. Hercules and his crew have now gotten the jobs to train the soldiers for war and Coyts’ daughter seems to have taken a liking to Hercules, but our heroes also seem to be very on edge on this job they have taken as things just seem very odd. Plus the army’s general Sitaces seems to also to be keeping an eye of Hercules. After months of training, the army is ready for war and they decide that night to kill a young boy to appease their God, and this act sickens Hercules and his crew. Sitaces makes his army and Hercules attack small villages and slaughter all the people they come across, and finally right before the big battle, Sitaces must return to King Coyts and tell him of their victories and as he leaves, it’s clear Hercules and his people have been set up as they are attacked by a sky full of arrows!

In this issue Hercules and his band of warriors are paid lots of money, wine and good times in order to train an army of soldiers who are just brawlers, but along the way they soon find that this army are scum and they kill to bully and their general seems to have another mission and that’s to ride the world of them! Hercules in this issue is a great teacher of war and seems to be pleased with spending time with the King’s daughter as well as have the thrill of battle, but while enjoying it all, he also seems to be on edge and aware. We also get to know female warrior Atalanta who is a lesbian and has a love hate friendship with fellow member Meleager a warrior who was a ladies man and has fallen head over heels in love with her. Sitaces is a very bloodthirsty warrior in King Coyts’ army and rocks a wicked scarred face and seems to not value any human life. And as far as King Coyts, he is a man drive by ego who will do what ever it takes to be the ruler. I really like the ending of this one as hundreds of arrows are falling from the sky and could kill not only Hercules and his crew but also any of the army who have been left behind with them. This also makes you wonder if Sitaces set them up or if it the scouts did! The cover is great and eye catching for fans of Hercules and Sword and Sandal and the interior art by Admira Wijaya is great and fitting. Over all a great second issue and one that helps build up this adventure for Hercules. So with that let’s see how Hercules escapes this deathtrap.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 3  **1/2
Released in 2008     Cover Price $2.99     Radical Comics     # 3 of 5

Hercules and his crew are like lambs to the slaughter as the enemy is all around them and they are stuck in a valley, but like all heroes Hercules pushes back and drives his enemies lead by Lord Rhesus back and now have them on the ropes. Hercules himself, while wanting to end the battle, is also very mad at one of his crew Tydeus, who is bloodthirsty and not listening to orders causing them to be at odds. Hercules and his crew now have Rhesus and his guards backed against a cliff, and it’s clear they are not going to just give up and push the fight until only Rhesus is left standing and instead of dying at the hands of Hercules flings himself off the cliff! As Hercules and his crew sit for a while, an arrow comes from nowhere and kills Meneus and this sets Hercules into a rage who rips the attacker apart with his bare hands. Once they bury their friend, they head back to King Coyts with a story of victory and also slightly accuse Sitaces for the set up, but it’s quickly smoothed over as Hercules goes off with the King’s daughter and a big feast is planned. Later that night after the feast Hercules sneaks up and hears King Coyts praying to his Gods in order to get the power to his newly trained army to attack Greece and Mount Olympus!

Man, this was one pickle that I was sure would leave Hercules injured, but instead sees him win against all odds and end a war with one brutal battle. This issue’s plot has Hercules and his crew being set up, and they must fight for their lives in order to escape the valley. Once they do so, they lose one of their own members to a sneak attack and return to employer only to learn he is a scumbag who wants to over throw Greece and kill Zeus on Mount Olympus! Hercules in this issues shows why he is a true iconic fighter as he does not stress over the attack and leads his group to a victory. He also shows he is pure power as he rips a man apart in a bloody gory rage! His crew are all great fighters and sadly their youngest member Meneus is killed with an arrow to the head and Tydeus is out of control and is a warrior who just enjoys killing and eating his victims! King Coyts and Sitaces are pure scum who both crave power and terror as they just used Hercules and his crew to train an army for them that they will in turn be used to attack them and their homelands! What I really like about this comic series is that while Hercules is our “hero,” he really is no hero and is just a demi-god doing bad things for others in order to get gold! I also like that his crew, while all warriors, do seem to care about each other, well all but Tydeus who cares about no one but himself even if the others watch out for him. The cover for this issue is great and the red brings out the wicked look of Hercules who clearly is in a rage for war. The interior art once more is done by Admira Wijaya and is good stuff. Over all this is another great issue in this mini series and makes me look forward to reading the final two issues.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 4  ***
Released in 2008     Cover Price $2.99     Radical Comics     # 4 of 5

Hercules is talked out of attacking the King in the temple, and this is a bad thing as he finds the tracks of Hercules in the snow and places he and all his crew under arrest until he can figure out a way to kill them all. Hercules tries to use his charm on the King’s daughter but soon finds that she has been using him all along and spying for her father and for him escaping and plotting against the King, Hercules is taken and tortured by Sitaces who is taking joy in his evil deed! Sitaces admits that he has been with the King’s daughter and he was not the one who set them up, all the while he is whipping and burning Hercules’s flesh. But Hercules has had enough and with his power he breaks free and smashes and kills two guards as well as breaks the back of Sitaces and brings the dungeons walls down on top of him! Hercules then rushes to his crew, and they make their escape in a bloody fight that leaves King Coyts in a rage and wants all of them dead! Hercules and his friends regroup around a campfire and decide that they will not run to Greece, and they will bring the fight to Coyts as they want to bring him down.

Wow! This fourth issue is great and showcases just how badass Hercules is as he bashes, smashes and slaughters any and all who get in his way. In fact I would say that this is the best issue this far in the series and is action packed and had a real feeling of dread and danger as the issue’s plot has the King and his army holding and bullying Hercules and his friends until they have had enough and push back! I also like the fact that the King’s daughter was just a pawn in her dad’s game as she in real life hates Hercules and Greece and was only using him to get information. Hercules in the issue really has been pushed as not only does the King plan on attacking his homeland of Greece but he also has been used and now abused and this means war in his eyes. His crew are also being treated like scum and are forced to stay inside a building and are not being feed and bullied into not having weapons and are all marked for death. King Coyts is a ruler who has used and abused his way into being even more powerful and is wanting to bring down Greece and Zeus as he has zero respect for those Gods. His daughter as well is scum as she uses sex in order to try and manipulate her target. And Sitaces the army leader is sadistic and gets what he deserves as he is broken and crushed leaving him a none factor now in the coming blood battle. This issue is filled with lots of action and lots of blood and feels like a true Sword And Sandal film from the 60’s with added modern style gore. Plus I really like the cliffhanger of Hercules and friends gearing up for a battle that they are the underdogs in, but they show no fear in the face of death. The cover is great and Admira Wijaya’s interior art is as always solid. Over all this issue is a great one to build up to the final in the mini series and is making me really looking forward to see how this adventure comes to an end.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 5  **1/2
Released in 2008     Cover Price $2.99     Radical Comics     # 5 of 5

Hercules and his crew sneak back in the kingdom and start their slaughter and take out many of the guards by setting a fire in their quarters while they sleep. Once inside the castle, Hercules and his friends kill even more guards and even ram a spear into the King’s Daughter! King Coyts sees that his days are numbered and runs to make his escape as Hercules and friends follow him into a chamber of mazes and traps. But after dodging traps and almost capturing the evil King, Hercules and his crew find themselves trapped in the chamber as Coyts escapes….into the waiting ax of Tydeus who beheads the King and will dine on his brain after he frees his friends. Once free Hercules and pals find the gold room and steal all they can carry and as they leave the castle, they are greeted by Rhesus who they thought was dead and now has a new army and allows Hercules and them to leave with their lives, but not the gold! In the end Hercules and some of his friends sail away on a new adventure as Tydeus and others go their own way ending The Thracian War.

Hercules and his friends have gotten revenge after being set up and have stopped an attack on Greece but as always walked away empty handed when it comes to being paid for training an army to fight. So everything they did in this war really only caused death to people and only made them look like heels in the eyes of the people who witnessed their slaughter and training of a tyrant’s army. Hercules in this issue really just wants to end the life of King Coyts and his daughter and wants to stop the planned attack on Greece and while he does get to stop the act of war and gets to kill the daughter of his enemy, he is sadly not the one who gets to kill King Coyts. That honor went to Tydeus who is crazy and is a berserker when it comes to attacking and is really the most scummy of all of Herc’s teammates and by all accounts is just a cold blooded murderer. King Coyts is not only scum but also a coward who runs when it comes to battle and the odds are not in his favor. His daughter, on the other hand is a fighter and does not die without putting up a fight. The issue while bloody and filled with action seems to be more of a fast paced issue and the action seems to go by way too fast. But with that said, I will say that I do think Radical Comics really does know how to make a good comic mini series based on Hercules and writer Steve Moore shows he really does understand the world of Sword And Sandal. Plus the art by Admire Wijaya is very fitting and is perfect for this style of comic books. The cover for this issue I have is also very eye catching and reminds me of Frank Frazetta. Over all this is a great mini series and was an enjoyable read and fun review this Thanksgiving update, and I would recommend if you like Hercules to check this series out. Below is some artwork from this series so you can see the style of Wijaya.

Thanks once again for spending a part of your Thanksgiving holiday with me here at Rotten Ink as I am sure you’re much like me and are very much looking forward to diving into a tasty dinner and a chatting with family and loved ones. So next year, meet here again and we will once more talk about Hercules and cover another comic adventure of his! But to wrap this up as mashed potatoes are calling my name, make sure to spend some time with your loved ones as the Christmas season is just around the corner. Oh and I must also share with you that my next update will be a “From Horror Movie To Horror Comic” update, and we will be traveling to Skull Island to once more visit Kong! So until next time, read a comic or three, eat a second plate of food and as always support your local Horror Host. See you all back for another tour of Skull Island on our next update.

Hercules: The Legendary Turkey Day Journeys In Mashed Potato Land

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s another great holiday filled with turkey and all the fixings so I figured we ought to once more take a look at that Greek hero Hercules! As you long time readers remember last Thanksgiving we took a look at the Steve Reeves inspired Hercules comic made by Dell.  Well this year we are covering the Topps’ Kevin Sorbo TV version of the muscled hero. This Thanksgiving I am at my parents’ house spending time with family, eating way to much food and loving life so let’s not wait any longer to dive into this review because I am pretty sure I am close to being in a food coma! Oh yeah enjoy the Indian and Pilgrim below because thats what Thanksgiving’s all about right? Or is it football…I forget.

thanksgiving sexy indianTurkey Artpilgrim princess

In 1994 MCA/ Universal Television created a two hour block of programing called “Action Pack” that would consist of TV Shows or a Made for TV Movie all done by Renaissance Pictures, which was founded by Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert who brought us The Evil Dead films. This block of TV lasted until 2001 and gave us such shows as “Xena: Warrior Princess”, “Cleopatra 2525”, “Jack Of All Trades”, “Vanishing Son” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” not to mention the Hercules films that came before it was turned into an ongoing series and even one’s based on TekWar and Midnight Run. I can remember when the Hercules films first started to air; I was hooked and would watch them all the time, I even taped a few on the old VCR that was near its last legs of life. The big issue around here was that lots of times the Action Pack did not have a set time when it started and many times sports games and other programs would be on or push its airing to later in the day. This was changed after a while, and I can remember always waking up like clockwork to watch Xena: Warrior Princess, and my Dad turning to it and poking fun at it, as my Mom would make us breakfast. In this modern day and age of TV where crappy reality shows and infomercials rule the airwaves things like Action Pack and horror hosts are truly missed… and oh yeah MTV needs to just end already when they choose to air things like Jersey Shore, Teen Wolf and Teen Mom over playing music videos what they were founded on.  They are dead to me.

Universal Action Pack logo

On January 16th 1995, after a year of just being made for TV movies (5 in total) Hercules: The Legendary Journeys became a full fledged TV show that would last a total of 6 seasons with 111 episodes. The series would follow Hercules played by Kevin Sorbo as he traveled around wronging rights and challenging the Gods who were doing cruel things to humans. Many times he would be joined on his adventures by his best friend Iolaus (Michael Hurst) or even goofy con man Salmoneus played by Robert Trebor and together they would face warlords, thieves, monsters and Gods and all done in a cheesy over the top way. The show, while having some serious moments, was mostly a tongue in cheek show filled with silly humor and outrageous fighting. I loved this show when I was younger and tried to never miss an episode when I could find it on.  I loved old sword and sandal films and always enjoyed the stories and quests of Hercules so watching a TV show done by the people who made The Evil Dead films was a super win for me. One great thing about the show was when they had monsters on and the great cheesy special effects they used, while some times they would just CGI the monsters other times it was guys in rubber suits or makeup. During the show they also introduced a character named Xena who was a female warrior who was cold blooded and a killer.  Well she became so popular that they turned her good and gave her a show called “Xena: Warrior Princess!” Hercules was the top rated syndicated show for many years until Xena took the top spot, but Hercules was the original and spawned lots of merchandise from books to t-shirts and everything inbetween. It also spawned many clone shows like Conan The Adventurer, The Adventures of Sinbad, The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Tarzan: Epic Adventures and Beastmaster showing just how impactful this series was for the time. By the end of the series, Hercules lost steam and Xena was clearly the rising TV star so the show ended marking the end of Hercules being a TV superstar, and also marked the end for many of these silly adventure shows. The show did go on to be released on VHS and DVD so for those looking to rewatch or discover the show the home media market has you covered.

The Legendary Journeys 1The Legendary Journeys 2The Legendary Journeys 3

Kevin David Sorbo was born in 1958 in Mound, Minnesota and grew up in a normal household.  While in college and afterward, he began modeling in print ads and TV to help pay his tuition, and this helped kick start his acting career that started in 1986. Kevin took small roles in TV Shows like Santa Barbara, Murder She Wrote and The Commish until landing the role of Hercules in the 1994 made for TV film Hercules and The Amazon Women.  He would go on to play Hercules in four other made for TV films, a full fledged TV series as well as voiced an animated version in “Hercules & Xena: The Battle For Mount Olympus”. In 1997 he also played the lead character in the comic book movie “Kull The Conqueror” that was slated to be the third Conan movie, but was changed to Sorbo as Kull when Arnold Schwarzenegger turned the role down. Hercules The Legendary Journeys ended in 1999, and his next big show was the 2000 sci-fi adventure series “Andromeda” were he played Captain Dylan Hunt.  The show ended in 2005. After this role Sorbo took small roles in many TV shows like “The O.C.”, “Psych” and “Two And A Half Men”and did a string of direct to video films like “Never Cry Werewolf” and two Walking Tall films. Sorbo also has done some voice work for video games like “God Of War III” where he voiced Hercules and Crusher in “Skylanders: Giants” as well as a few more. Sorbo is still active in acting and has taken many roles now in Christian based films as well as other independent productions.  He can also be seen at many comic and sci-fi conventions as a guest. I always liked Kevin Sorbo as an actor and really think he made a great Hercules, and at some point in time I would love to work with him on an episode of Terrifying Tales Of The Macabre where he and the Baron host the Steve Reeves Hercules movie. So here is hoping that Sam Raimi and company get an itch and make a new Hercules film for TV and have Sorbo back where he belongs.

Kevin Sorbo 1Kevin Sorbo 2Kevin Sorbo 3

Before we get too much into our look at Topps Comics 5 issue run based on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys we should also take a brief moment to take a look at a few of Hercules most popular sidekicks that not only joined him on this super popular show but as well as in this comic series. Iolaus is Herc’s best friend and his traveling buddy who goes on most of his adventures with him.  He is a skilled fighter and well trained with a sword. Iolaus is played by Michael Hurst and is the most popular and best liked of all his sidekicks and was in 79 episodes. Salmoneus is a older man who is balding with a beard who is a pure con man and will uses his friendship with Hercules to get money.  While he is a screw up, his heart is always in the right place and he values his friendship with Hercules. Salmoneus is played by Robert Trebor and appeared in 23 episodes and went on to be a regular on Xena Warrior Princess. Atalanta is a powerful female with strength and power who is a loyal friend to Hercules whom she also has a crush on.  She alongs side Hercules even created the first Olympics. She was played by female body builder Corinna Everson who made muscle bound women attractive to teenage boys.  She appeared in 3 episodes. So now you know a little more about his sidekicks, and if you watched the show then you I am sure all ready knew all this.

Iolaussalmoneus Atalanta

On of my favorite Greek Mythology monsters has always been The Minotaur, and in 1994 one of the made for TV Hercules films came out called “Hercules In The Maze Of The Minotaur.” The film followed Hercules who was retired but is drawn back into adventure when a small village is being terrorized by a evil Minotaur. I really enjoyed the film and can remember watching it many times when it aired and even taped it on VHS. The Minotaur in the movie had a great classic look and was fun to look at as the head was 4 times the size of the actor’s body. The Minotaur was played by Anthony Ray Parker who was known for roles like Dozer in The Matrix and Deputy in The Frightners and many other small roles in movies and TV. It’s a fun silly adventure movie that’s a fun watch on a boring night.  So if you’re bored this Thanksgiving night and are looking for something to watch with your family, give this one a thought.

Hercules In The Maze Of The Minotaur 1Hercules In The Maze Of The Minotaur 2Hercules In The Maze Of The Minotaur 3

Toy company Toy Biz, who was making toys based on Marvel Superheroes, decided to make figures based on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys starting in 1995 that consisted on 5” basic figures, taller monster figures and even 10” figures. The toy line lasted for a total of 3 waves that included six different versions of Hercules, 2 Xena’s and other characters like Iolaus, Ares, She-Demon, Centaur, Minotaur, Mesomorph, Mole-Man, Salmoneus and Atalanta. The larger monster figures in the series included the likes of Hydra, Ceberus, Graegus and many others. I was a little older when these figures came out, but I still collected many of them from the first wave as I got Hercules, Xena, Iolaus and Minotaur and put them on a shelf in my room.  In fact I still have them to this day. Some years later at a thrift store I found the Hydra for .49 and had to buy it because why the heck not? The figures, while cheesy looking, held the appeal of the show and I for one am glad they were made. At some point when I am able to get a bigger place to live I am sure the old Hercules toys will make an appearance in my film editing room.

Toy Biz HerculesToy Biz XenaToy Boz Ares

Titus Software made a video game based on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in 2000 for the N64 that was about Hercules trying to save his father Zeus from his step brother Ares who has taken the King of the Gods hostage and by doing so had shaken the mortal world and Mount Olympus to the core.  It’s up to Hercules to save him and set everything right. The game was your typical beat em up on the N64 and was a fun solid action game. When the game first came out while I had an N64, Sony’s Playstation was more of my system so I never did play it on release as the rumor was that a port of it was coming to Playstation. I waited and waited and even a very cool Xena game came out and I bought it and beat it to hold me over, but Hercules never did make it to the Playstation and that truly did suck for fans like me. A few years ago when I was working on some video game reviews for Bloodline Video, I chose to play and review Hercules for the N64 and while the game was flawed it still was a very cool game that I gave 2 1/2 stars to.  Sadly though the gaming magazines were not as nice to the game, and it mostly got poor to middle of the road reviews. But if you have a N64 and liked the show, I would say check it out.

N64 Hercules 1Hercules N64 CoverN64 Hercules 2

So I hope you have your walking shoes on, and that your belly is not filled with too much turkey and mashed potatoes because its time for us to go on a journey with Hercules and see what adventures we can get in to! So before we start I should remind you that I grade these comics on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, and its art and story. I also want to thank Mavericks, Bell Book and Lone Star for having these issues in stock for me to be able to review for this Thanksgiving update. So let’s begin because Hercules grows tired of waiting for us.

Hercules 1

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys  # 1  ***
Released in 1996   Cover Price $ 2.95   Topps Comics   #1 of 5

Salmoneus, friend of Hercules, is in a small village telling all who will listen and donate some coin about the famed 12 Labors of his friend.  After his story he meets Pronoea, a woman who pays him to help her find Hercules as she really needs his help. While traveling to find him, the pair comes across a band thief Centaurs who want to steal all their money but they are saved by Hercules who chases them off and finds that Pronoea’s husband has been kidnapped and he is more than happy to help her get him back. After Salmoneus heads back to the village Hercules and Pronoea begin their rescue quest that leads them to her husband who is the Titan Prometheus who has been shrunk down to normal size.  His voice taken and is tortured by a giant gold metal bird who rips at his guts everyday! Hercules is shocked to learn his own father Zeus is the one who is holding the Titan prisoner and after killing the golden bird Herc sets him free and finds out that Zeus, while the one who bound Prometheus, is not the one who made him mute and before they can escape they are attacked by Olympus fighters Bia and Cratos who knock out Hercules and re-chain Prometheus!

Topps Comics really captured the adventure and silly nature of the TV show perfectly with this first issue and proved that when they bought an IP, they treated it right. Hercules in the issue is very noble and clearly wants to do the right thing to help his fellow man. While Hercules is strong, it’s clear he is out matched when he must fight both Olympian fighters whose punches are as strong as a charging Rhino. Salmoneus is as sleazy as ever and, while a friend of Hercules, seems to always try to find a way to make a quick coin from the friendship. Pronoea and Prometheus are victims of the Gods who are using them as pawns in some sort of game to get at each other as well as Hercules. Bia and Cratos are mountains of “men” who have no mouths and are only around to destroy those they are sent after.  The Golden Metal Bird, while tough, is more of just a torture device. I find that the comic has some pretty gruesome moments as Prometheus has his stomach ripped open and you can clearly see his insides.  What makes this a nice touch is that this punishment is also told in real Greek mythology. The art done by Jeff Butler is fantastic, and all the characters look like the actors who play them on the show, and the story by Roy Thomas is also fantastic as this story arc is called “The Trial Of Hercules Part 1.” The cover as well is eye catching, and I can remember buying this issue new off the stands at Mavericks and thinking how cool the cover looked. Well this issue ends with Hercules being taken prisoner and taken away so let’s see just how much trouble our hero is really in shall we?

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Hercules: The Legendary Journeys  # 2  ***
Released in 1996   Cover Price $ 2.95   Topps Comics   #2 of 5

Hercules finds that he is being taken by Bia and Cratos to Zeus who is putting Hercules on trail for freeing Prometheus from a punishment he placed on the Titan. The three Furies are acting as the jury, Zeus himself is the judge and Ares The God Of War is building the case against his half brother. Meanwhile Salmoneus and female powerhouse Atalanta figure out Hercules is in trouble and head to aid him. While Salmoneus shows up to the trail and acts as Hercules’s lawyer, Atalanta frees Prometheus who comes to Hercules’s defense and tells the truth that Ares is the one who made him mute to protect a secret that would have had all the Gods at war with each other! Zeus goes back to Mount Olympus as Ares and Hercules fight that ends with The Furies finding Hercules not guilty and Ares guilty and they take the God of War away to be punished. In the end Prometheus and Pronoea grow back to titanic size as Hercules with friends Salmoneus and Atalanta walk away possibly to have another adventure.

This second issue and the last part of the “Hercules on Trail” storyline is a well done issue and once more captures the magic of the show making for a good read. Hercules seems like he is in deep trouble as he has crossed the path of his father Zeus who is not happy about it at all! Ares wants nothing more than to kill or watch Hercules get murdered making him one evil villain! Prometheus and Pronoea come in at the last moment for the save as they are able to tell he secret that the Titan knows; they truly are the lifesavers of Hercules. Salmoneus is as greedy and spineless as ever and it takes some pushing for him to even attempt to come to his friend’s aid. Zeus is stern and fair and flexes his muscles to show everyone why he is the King of the Gods. Bia and Cratos are pushed to the background of this issue and just become the whipping boys of Hercules’s rage. Atalanta, while cool to see in this comic, doesn’t offer much to the plot, and it’s a shame cause she is a real butt kicker in the show.  In fact one odd thing this comic does is showcase the fact other characters like to look at her boobs and butt! The Furies are ugly females who live for nothing more than to dish out justice, and they seem to enjoy the fact they get to attack Ares who made the mistake of trashing their odd appearances. This issue for being about a trail is pretty action packed and has many good fighting with the best being the Hercules and Ares brawl, and like the first issue this does have some blood as Atalanta is stabbed in the arm protecting Salmoneus from robbers. The art is top notch again done by Jeff Butler, and the story is still done by Roy Thomas showing that they make a great comic making pair. The next issue teases that Xena The Warrior Princess will be appearing and while the fan boy in me is pretty hyped for it, another side kind of just sighs and wishes they would just keep Xena in her own Topps Comic that was gearing up to being made. To sum it up these first two issue are fantastic and are perfect fun cheesy reads for fans of the show like myself.

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Hercules: The Legendary Journeys  # 3  ***
Released in 1996   Cover Price $ 2.95   Topps Comics   #3 of 5

Xena, along with her friend Gabrielle, travel to her home village to find it burnt to the ground and her mother is being held captive by a scar faced general named Aesor who claims that he works for Hercules and that her mother will die if she does not join their army! Xena doesn’t believe these claims until she sees Hercules on the hill watching the carnage below.  This makes her mad, and she and Gabrielle beat up all the soldiers with only Aesor escaping. Xena’s mother takes her to see the body of an old man from the village that was killed during the raid, and Xena swears revenge and heads to Hercules’ village. Iolaus is throwing a birthday party for Alcmene as Xena shows up in a rage and starts attacking, right before things get to bad Hercules along with Salmoneus and Atalanta show up and Xena takes her rage out on her true target Hercules! The two do battle all the while Hercules tries to calm the situation down and proclaim his innocence, and only after Salmoneus talks sense into Xena (whom he is also friend with) does the pair decide to leave their friends behind and team up to find the answers. As the pair travel the run into an old woman who claims she saw Aesor going one way and turns out she in fact is a he and is the shape shifter who claimed to be Hercules known as Periclymenus.

This third issue is more about Xena then Hercules, and while it makes sense to build up this adventure, it’s still a little of a letdown as the title hero seems to be taking a back seat to a hero they clearly were getting ready to push in her own comic series. The story in this issue is pretty classic stuff as Xena thinks Hercules has wronged her village, but in reality the pair of heroes is being set up by a shape shifting bad guy who has his own plans of domination. Hercules once more is a hero and doesn’t want to fight Xena who is going crazy but more wants to talk it out.  Once more Herc is a class act. Xena is a tough woman who, while is a loose cannon, wants so badly to wrong rights and is doing so cause of her rocky past. Iolaus and the rest of the sidekicks, while great seeing them, all seem to just be glorified cameos. The fact Xena thinks that Hercules has sent men to murder and burn down her home village shows just how much she really doesn’t know her friend and proves that she is easily tricked into a rage filled rampages. Periclymenus in his true look is a creepy looking demon type and will indeed be a tough foe for our heroes to beat.  Plus he is able to change his looks and also has an army of back stabbing bad guys. This issue as well is a team up of artist Jeff Butler and writer Roy Thomas and once more proves they are a great team who seem to know the IP and really care about making a quality story. The cover I have is a little silly; it’s a huge live action still of Xena making it clear that Topps was already moving past Hercules and gearing up to focus on their new prized IP. Well let’s move onto the fourth issue and see how our heroes will be able to stop Periclymenus.

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Hercules: The Legendary Journeys  # 4  ***
Released in 1996   Cover Price $ 2.95   Topps Comics   #4 of 5

Periclymenus’s army is attacking another village and have orders to kill everyone.  As the attack happens Hercules and Xena come to the rescue and find out that Periclymenus used them as a diversion so that he could attack Hercules’s home village and kidnap his mother! As Hercules and Xena rush to help, Atalanta, Iolaus, Salmoneus and Gabrielle hold off the attacking army but Periclymenus disguised as the fake Hercules is able to kidnap Alcmene and tells her he needs her help to find a man that will be able to give him the strength of Hercules to go along with the look! When Hercules and Xena arrive, the group informs them of the kidnapping and they all break into groups to find her.  Hercules and Iolaus are a team and end up finding Periclymenus who has found who he was looking for that was his brother who made an elixir that turns things super strong and changing into a Chimaera (a giant flying monster with the head of a goat, upper body of a lion and lower body of a dragon) and sets his site on killing Hercules!

This fourth issue is action packed, and every main character from the show has a good role to play! The whole plot of this issue is a kidnaping and rescue that leads to the baddie getting more power just in time for a final showdown that will be coming up in the final issue. Hercules saves people’s lives and for doing so he puts his own mother at risk.  This major risk helps bring out the human side of him and helps us as the reader feel as if things really could go badly for him. Xena in this issue takes a backseat and plays the role of sidekick as well as Atalanta, Salmoneus and Gabrielle; while they all fight they are not the main focus. Iolaus is a true friend of Hercules and fights along his friends side even when the odds are against them. As for Periclymenus, we learn a little something about him.  So besides being a shape shifter he also has a brother who makes powerful elixirs that can give him more power and up his shifting abilities. Plus the fact that he is now a giant Chimaera looking to rip Hercules apart adds so much to the danger Herc is truly in. Butler and Thomas make a great pair again and deliver another solid and fun issue, and I am really hyped to read the 5th and final issue so let’s not wait any longer.

Hercules 5

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys  # 5  ***
Released in 1996   Cover Price $ 2.95   Topps Comics   #5 of 5

Xena and Gabrielle find Aesor who is being chased by a club wielding giant, and they make a deal with him that they will save him if he takes them to where Periclymenus is holding Hercules’s mother. Meanwhile Hercules and Iolaus find a way to hurt the Chimaera version of the shape shifter who disappears. Hercules finds his mother who must bandage her head due to fallen rocks as Periclymenus’ brother tells them all about their troubled past as well as that when he changes now that his striped black birthmarks will appear on what or whom ever he looks like. Xena and crew coming running up with a giant following and to everyone’s horror they watch has he smashes Aesor into paste! But together Hercules and Xena stop and reluctantly have to kill the giant, just as Periclymenus shows himself again as he was the bandage around Alcmene’s head.  He battles both Xena and Hercules and even knocks his own brother off a cliff.  In the end Xena tricks him into falling to his death or so they all think as he really just took the place of his brother and plans to fight another day as our heroes think the battle is over.

Periclymenus is cold blooded as he knocks his brother off a cliff to his death and then uses his own brothers appearance to have Hercules and Xena save his evil life! He was a great bad guy and when gaining his new powers really was a tough foe for our heroes to fight. Hercules uses all his power, will and wits to try and out muscle the shape shifter and does so to save not only himself from death’s grip but also his mother and friends who are also all in grave danger. Xena uses her skill and mind and is the one who gets the battle to end when she tricks the shape shifter into reaching for a small bottle of the elixir causing him to fall off the same cliff he shoved his brother off. Alcmene as well as both Gabrielle and Iolaus all play small but important parts to this issue’s wrap up story and each show a warrior’s spirit. The issue as well has some blood as the Giant splats Aesor with his club that becomes blood soaked, and then the Giant gets stabbed in the face by Xena’s sword and then falls on top of a stone spike and all done with the red stuff showing. Butler and Thomas once more make a great team and it’s really cool that they were the team for all 5 issues, and each one was well done and solid showing the talent each had and the love of the source material they shared. In fact I would say that this could be one of the best comic series based on a 90’s TV show made at this time and once more brings out my respect for Topps Comics, a company that truly is missed by this comic reader. If you’re a fan of Hercules The Legendary Journeys or just fun cheesy adventure comics based on Greek myths, then I would say that this comic series is worth your time for a read, and I will say they held up after all these years and I liked them back then and find myself liking them now.

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So I hope you had a legendary journey with Hercules and me on this Thanksgiving in 2014, and I must say that this Topps series was really well done and makes me miss them as a comic company even more! Plus it makes me miss the good old days of TV way before reality shows ruled the airwaves when shows like Hercules and Xena were highly watched and loved by viewers. Oh well, like everything in life stuff changes and we ca’nt stop the future. Our next update will be a comic based on a episode of the 1982 Incredible Hulk Cartoon where Hulk fights an ancestor of The Hunchback of Notre Dame! Well I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends and that your bellies are not too filled so that you saved room for dessert.  So until next time, enjoy life and make sure to have your own legendary journey!

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