Happy Thanksgiving friends, family and readers, and thanks for spending a part of your holiday with me here at Rotten Ink once again. As we all are sitting here waiting for the turkey, ham or whatever your main dish choice is to cook and while Football is on the TV, I want to reflect that this year will be the seventh time I have covered the one and only Greek Mythology hero Hercules. With this go round we will be covering a comic that showcases his 12 Labors! The tale of Hercules is one that I have always enjoyed, and I can remember renting many books from the library and even buying some all about Greek Mythology as it has always captured my attention as well helped fuel my creative mind, not to mention the classic Sword And Sandal films were staples of my viewing when I was a youngster. So if you’re ready to go on another Turkey Day Adventure with Hercules and myself, we should start our amazing adventure and see how Herc conquers his 12 labors and delivers another special update.
One of my favorite Hercules films of the 60’s has to be the one called “Hercules Against The Mongols” from 1963 that had Mark Forest play the role of Hercules! The film follows Hercules as he takes on the heirs of the conquerer Genghis Khan and shows why good always beats evil. But while this is a fantastic Sword and Sandal fantasy adventure film that showcases the power and noble was of Hercules, the sad fact of the matter is that this film was not originally a Herc film and was only dubbed one in the USA when distributers thought that the name meant more to movie goers than Maciste, the real hero behind this film as well as many of the Hercules, Samson and Goliath films here in America. The thing I like about this film is that Hercules takes on an army of bloodthirsty warriors who just want to conquer, take over and kill…and they don’t stand a chance against the pride of Olympus. Mark Forest makes a pretty good Hercules, and while he is now Steve Reeves, he captures the cocky hero nature of this demigod hero. This movie can be found on VHS, DVD and even plays on TV Station Comet TV from time to time, so if you love Hercules flicks, make sure to check this one out.
While we are talking about the film Hercules Against The Mongols, we should take a few moments and talk about actor Mark Forest who played the title role. Lou Degni was born on January 6, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York and began his bodybuilding career at the age of 13 as he knew that becoming a strong man was his calling. This lead to him opening his own gym in Long Island so that lifting would always be a part of his life. But during his adult life, he also tried his hand in acting and auditioned to play Tarzan in a film and did not get it but did end up taking a gig in Las Vegas playing one of Mae West’s musclemen and even helped earn his status of strongman by entering and winning weightlifting competitions including Mr. Muscle Beach in California. In 1958, the world of cinema changed when Hercules starring Steve Reeves hit cinemas around the world and the sword and sandal films became big business! And the second American actor approached to travel to Italy and make these films was Mark Forest who made his first film in 1960 with “Goliath And The Dragon” and many more would follow like “Son Of Samson” (1960), “Mole Men Against The Son Of Hercules” (1961), “The Lion Of Thebes” (1964) and “The Terror Of Rome Against The Son Of Hercules” (1964) and many more. During this time of course Lou Degni took on the stage name of Mark Forest, and this was the name he was best known for. Mark would ride the short lived popularity of the Sword and Sandal genre until the end, and afterwards got involved in opera in Italy and later became a vocal coach in California. Mark Forest is one of those classic actors that I hope someday soon Monster Bash Convention brings in so that I can meet him, while long retired from acting and weightlifting, Mark is a true legend of Cinema strongmen.
Remember in our first update about Hercules when we took a look at the DELL Comic and the Steve Reeve movies? Well we also talked about WWF Wrestler Hercules Hernandez during that update, and for this update I want to briefly talk about another Pro Wrestler who went by the ring name Hercules Ayala and was a monster of the squared circle. Hercules Ayala, whose real name is Ruben Cruz, was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico on July 14, 1950 and upon moving to the mainland of the U.S., he meet NWA wrestler Angelo Savoldi at a gym and was trained by him to become a wrestler himself and had a very brief run in the WWWF. He then would go on to wrestle in such federations as Stampede Wrestling for around 8 years and even won the Tag Titles with Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart! Also during this run, he worked for smaller Canadian federation Lutte Internationale where he became their Heavyweight Champion beating David Shultz and losing it a month later to Abdullah The Butcher. He would return to Puerto Rico and would join WWC and as well would capture their World Title beating Randy “Macho Man” Savage! He would go on to feud with Carlos Colon and would lose a loser leaves town match in 1989 and was written off from WWC. A few years later, he would show up in AWF and become a World Champion again for a short time. He would go on from there to work sport appearances in Puerto Rico even for WWC again. While he is not a huge name here in America, he does have a big name around the world and his many title wins in many federations show that he made his mark in the world of Pro Wrestling.
So I am sure many of you readers are wondering about the Hercules Comic that I was writing and my friend Jeff Potter was doing the art for that was going to be released by Sparkle Comics as part of the Sword And Sandal Comic line…well sadly the comic has been placed on the back burner for now as the first release in the series Samson was not the mega hit we had hoped for causing some shifts in the production line, and Potter and I worked on bringing back classic superhero Black Jack back to the comic world instead! But while on the backburner for now, it does not mean that this Hercules comic is 100% dead as at some point Jeff and I will return to it and unleash it onto the indie comic reading masses as I am proud of the story I wrote and I know Potter’s art will kill it! So for those of you Hercules comic fans know that we will be releasing this comic soon it was just not in the cards for 2019. Below is some very early concept art that Potter did for the series so you can see the style we were aiming for.
So I think it’s time for this update that we take a look at the graphic novel of Hercules and the 12 labors set before him, and this one is a great pick to showcase Hercules in all his heroic glory. I want to thank Amazon for having this in stock and making this update possible. And as always I want to remind you all that I grade this comic on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So if you are ready, let’s head out and see just how Hercules can complete his 12 labors!
Hercules: The Twelve Labors **1/2
Released In 2007 Cover Price $8.95 Graphic Universe #1 of 1
Zeus, the King of the Gods, had an affair with a mortal woman that spawned the demigod Hercules who was hated by his stepmother Hera! When Hercules was a youngster the evil Goddess even sent venomous snakes to his crib to kill him, but they were no match for his power. As an adult Hera, masking herself as Zeus, makes Hercules pledge himself to his cousin King Eurystheus who is jealous of his powerful cousin, and with Hera whispering in his ear, they come up with labors for Hercules to do. The first labor has Hercules going to Thebes and killing the man-eating lion with the thick hide with his bare hands, and when he does so, he skins the lion and makes himself a new cloak! His second labor is to go to the swamps of Lernea to take out the Hydra! Once in the swamp Hercules and his nephew figure our how to defeat the Hydra and do so. The third labor is to bring back a golden deer, that King Eurystheus thinks Hercules will kill and bring down the wrath of the gods for killing it…but Hercules is too smart and brings it back alive! After each finished task, King Eurystheus is getting more and more angry at his cousin and Hercules with ease finishes the next that are to kill a massive Boar, clean out multiple stables in a single day, chase off killer birds who are tormenting farmers, steal a angered white bull from a King, later steal a pair of horses that are being abused by a king that are now cruel and man eaters and his ninth labor has Hercules at was with the Amazon Women as he is tasked with getting the queens golden belt! And after each task King Eurystheus grows more frustrated, and Hercules himself gets more disappointed as he does not like being a thief for his greedy cousin. The tenth labor has Hercules stealing cattle from a Monster that he ends up killing. With his eleventh labor he must get a golden apple from a tree that he needs the help of Titan Atlas to do so and must switch places with him holding up the sky for a short time! With his twelfth and final labor, King Eurystheus send Hercules to Hades to bring back the three headed dog Cerberus and with the blessing of Hades, he tames the beast brings it to King Eurystheus and ends his labors!
This graphic novel is a great kid friendly read that brings the legend of Hercules alive for readers. The plot is simple and has Hercules having to do labors that are impossible for most in order to please his greedy cousin who is a King with the hopes that Herc will die as that is what Goddess Hara, who is the one who set this up, wants. Hercules is very prideful, noble and respectful to the demands of the Gods as he does what he is asked even if he disagrees with it. Plus I feel like the Hercules has the feel of Hercules from the old Sword And Sandal films, making it a very fun adventure to read. Hara is the issue’s main villain as she gets joy out of trying her best to kill and ruin Hercules and his legacy. She pushes so much for his downfall that she herself gets outsmarted by Hades who figures out that she is the one who has set this all up. The second baddie has to be King Eurystheus who is just a cruel and jealous man who hates his cousin cause he has the power and respect that he wishes he had! The side killer animals are great as well as who don’t love the Nemean Lion or Cerberus! The pacing of this graphic novel is also very fast and teaches you the story without dwelling on the small details, making it a cool action comics mixed with a little history in folklore. It’s also very cautious of showing any violence as it’s clear this is meant for all ages and to be used as a teaching comic. The cover reminds me of something you would find at a School Book Fair and is eye catching for youngsters, but not so much for adult readers. The interior art is done by Steve Kurth and is good stuff and has a real Marvel/Star Comics appeal. Over all this is a great read and one that could help get kids into Greek Mythology as it delivers a fun time. Check out the art below to see the style of Kurth!
Thanks for spending another Thanksgiving with Hercules and myself here at Rotten Ink, and as always Sword And Sandal comics will always have a home here on this site….but I am sad to say that next year will be the last time, at least for a while, that I will cover Hercules on a Thanksgiving update as I felt I have talked about almost all I can about this iconic mythology hero. Now don’t get too sad as I will continue to do Thanksgiving Day updates as many of you readers seem to enjoy them on this holiday, so next year I will be taking a look at Hercules Unbound from DC Comics and this will wrap up this tradition of Herc on Turkey Day! I hope you enjoyed this update and that you are having (or had) a great Thanksgiving as holidays with loved ones, something you should never take for granted. Our next update will start our countdown to Christmas Eve and we will be taking a look at the GoBots, those underrated changing robot toys from the 80’s! So until next time enjoy your turkey, watch a football game or two and as always cherish your loved ones. See you next update for a robotic good time!