WHEN HERCULES JOINED THE AVENGERS

This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post will deal with the first time Marvel’s version of Hercules joined the Avengers in the 1960s. The demigod had subsequent periods as a member of the team, but this first time carried on from the lengthy Hercules/ Thor/ Pluto storyline that Balladeer’s Blog reviewed HERE.

ave 38AVENGERS Vol 1 #38 (March 1967)

Title: In Our Midst … An Immortal

Avengers Roster: The Wasp, Goliath, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Black Widow 

Villains: The Enchantress and Ares

Synopsis: The Black Widow is secretly recruited by Nick Fury to go under deep cover by leaving the Avengers and pretending to once again become a communist agent. She is not to tell anyone that she is only faking her return to communism, not even Hawkeye, who is heartbroken and outraged when she departs Avengers Mansion. 

Meanwhile, partway down Mount Olympus, Hercules is engaged in a battle with the god of war Ares. Herc challenged Ares to this fight out of anger over Ares’ taunting refusal to help Hercules against Pluto in the storyline mentioned above.

Little does Herc know that Ares only agreed to the duel as part of a plot hatched with the Avengers’ old foe the Enchantress (Amora). Hercules does not know her, but she shows up pretending to just be a hot woman intrigued by the battle royal between Herc and Ares. 

enchantress marvelShe offers goblets of water to the combatants, but per her secret arrangement with Ares she gives the god of war ordinary drinking water but gives Hercules a goblet filled with water from the Fountain of Eros (Cupid). Drinking from it causes Herc to become a lovesick thrall of the Enchantress.

The villainess leads Hercules to the Earth below to use him as an ally against the Avengers while Ares returns to the top of Mount Olympus to tattletale to Zeus that Herc has returned to the land of mortals in defiance of Zeus’ forbidding the demigod to return there after the trouble he caused last time with Thor and Pluto. 

The Enchantress and Hercules burst into Avengers Mansion and during a destructive battle go on to defeat everyone except Hawkeye, who frees Herc from the villainess’ control with a sulphur (brimstone) arrow. With Herc against her now, the Enchantress is driven away.

Zeus’ image now appears in the trashed mansion, outraged at what Ares told him is Hercules’ disobedience by returning to Earth. Zeus, as big a jerk as Odin is at times, refuses to listen to any explanation and banishes Herc from Mount Olympus for a year.

The Avengers welcome Hercules to spend his exile as a member of their team and he accepts. The Wasp is thrilled to have someone as strong as Thor in the Avengers again, while Hawkeye makes a Steve Reeves joke, bringing the story to an end.

ave 39AVENGERS Vol 1 #39 (April 1967)

Title: The Torment and the Triumph

Avengers Roster: The Wasp, Goliath, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Hercules

Villains: The Mad Thinker and His Triumvirate of Terror

Synopsis: The Black Widow secretly coordinates with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. to pretend to steal Top Secret plans and try to return to communist countries. The Avengers, still oblivious to what is really going on, are stunned by Natasha’s actions.

The Fantastic Four’s recurring foe the Mad Thinker attacks the Avengers with his three latest super-powered androids, the Triumvirate of Terror. The villain’s plan is to loot the data banks of Avengers Mansion to plunder all of their technology and secrets.

The newest Avenger, Hercules, proves crucial to defeating the Mad Thinker and his androids.

ave 40AVENGERS Vol 1 #40 (May 1967)

Title: Suddenly … the Sub-Mariner

Villain: The Sub-Mariner

Synopsis: The fugitive Black Widow steals an experimental jet from General “Thunderbolt” Ross and flies to Communist China.

Elsewhere, the Sub-Mariner (who came BEFORE Aqua-Man) attacks a submarine and an underwater base that has been destroying sea life. Captain America points out to the Avengers that the undersea base is near where the Cosmic Cube (later called the Tesseract and later still retconned into being one of the Infinity Stones) was lost during one of his battles with the Red Skull.

NOTE: This is only the second Marvel story to feature the Cosmic Cube/ Tesseract, which would become a recurring artifact in the future Marvel Universe.

Fearful of what the Sub-Mariner may unleash on the surface world with the powerful Cosmic Cube, the Avengers race to the region of the undersea base where Prince Namor (Sub-Mariner) has taken possession of the Cube. After a lengthy battle against Namor and the subaquatic monsters he creates with the Tesseract, the Avengers emerge triumphant and the Cosmic Cube is lost once again.

ave 41AVENGERS Vol 1 #41 (June 1967)

Title: Let Sleeping Dragons Lie

Villains: Diablo and Dragon Man

Synopsis: In Communist China, the Black Widow is still trying to convince the regime that she has indeed had a change of heart and wants to once again serve as a communist agent. Ultimately, Colonel Ling and Doctor Yen subject Natasha to the Psychotron, a device to determine if she is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, the Avengers are called in so that Goliath aka Henry Pym, PhD, can study the ancient robotic body of Dragon Man, another old foe of the Fantastic Four. Goliath picks up where Reed Richards’ (Mr. Fantastic) research left off. Diablo, the centuries-old alchemist who always uses Dragon Man as an ally, attacks the Avengers and reactivates the huge android.

After a destructive battle with the Avengers, Diablo and Dragon Man escape with Goliath and the Wasp as captives. 

ave 42AVENGERS Vol 1 42 (July 1967)

Title: The Plan and the Power

Villains: Diablo and Dragon Man

Synopsis: Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Hercules trace Diablo, Dragon Man and the captive Wasp and Goliath to Diablo’s castle in the Carpathians. After an epic battle, the Avengers thwart Diablo’s plan to generate an entire army of Dragon Man duplicates with which to conquer the world.

Dragon Man falls into lava deposits deep beneath the earth and Diablo escapes.

In Communist China, the Black Widow survives her ordeal in the Psychotron and is placed in a cell while Colonel Ling and Doctor Yen ponder what to do with her.

Some time after the Avengers have returned to their mansion headquarters, Nick Fury, alarmed at having lost contact with the Black Widow for days, informs the Avengers that she was secretly just pretending to be a traitor. The team prepares to mount a raid to extract her. 

ave 43AVENGERS Vol 1 #43 (August 1967)

Title: The Red Guardian

Villains: Colonel Ling, Doctor Yen and the Red Guardian

Synopsis: While the Wasp, Goliath, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are out of the mansion as the Avengers try to find where Communist China is keeping the Black Widow prisoner, Hawkeye and Hercules are left at the headquarters awaiting word.

Word comes in as to Natasha’s location and the reckless Hawkeye and Hercules fly off in an Avengers aircraft to try to save her themselves. The other team members arrive soon after and set out after them in another aircraft.

In China, Colonel Ling and his colleagues are introduced to the Soviet Union’s top secret super-soldier called the Red Guardian. He is temporarily assigned to them as part of an arrangement between Soviet Russia and Communist China to help China determine the Black Widow’s true intentions.

The reason: He is really Alexi Shostakov, Natasha’s husband, whom she was allowed to think was dead (hence her original code name the Black Widow when she was a Russian agent) but who has secretly been working as the Red Guardian all these years.

black widowNOTE: Yes, originally, the Red Guardian was the Black Widow’s presumed dead husband, NOT her adopted father like in the Black Widow movie.

The Black Widow has survived the Psychotron and passed a lie detector test and is still deceiving the communists that she really does want to work for them again. Not even the Red Guardian’s shocking revelation about his identity gets her to stray from her cover story. 

Hawkeye and Hercules arrive in China and raid Colonel Ling’s base. The two Avengers fight their way past all the communist soldiers, but Hercules is disabled by getting trapped in the Psychotron, which keeps him immobile as he suffers mental images of past foes and monsters he has fought. 

Hawkeye, meanwhile, is defeated and captured by the Red Guardian, whose identity is a shock to him.

ave 44AVENGERS Vol 1 #44 (September 1967)

Title: The Valiant Also Die

Villains: The Red Guardian and Communist Chinese troops

Synopsis: With Hawkeye a prisoner and Hercules trapped in the Psychotron, the Black Widow is allowed the run of the communist base due to her successfully maintaining her cover story that she is there to work for the communist countries once again.

Suddenly, the Wasp, Goliath, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver arrive and begin fighting their way past the Communist Chinese troops as they try to rescue their teammates. Amid the confusion of the battle, Hawkeye escapes and links up with the invading Avengers, but Captain America gets separated from the team.

The Red Guardian faces Cap in one-on-one combat, gleeful at this opportunity to face his American predecessor. Just as Captain America gains the upper hand in the battle, Colonel Ling uses electrical weaponry to shock Cap into a vulnerable position.

The Soviet super-soldier is disgusted at this, because he wanted to beat Captain America in a fair fight. As the chaos of the invasion continues, the Black Widow makes her way to the Psychotron to destroy it, which was her secret mission for Nick Fury all along.

Hercules from MarvelColonel Ling shoots his gun at Natasha, wounding her, but her husband the Red Guardian leaps in the way to take the rest of the bullets himself. With the Psychotron destroyed by the Black Widow, Hercules is free and turns the tide decisively against the communist soldiers in the base. 

The Avengers, carrying the wounded Black Widow with them, withdraw to their aircraft and fly off. Colonel Ling tries to have a nuclear missile launched to wipe out their vessel, but the mortally wounded Red Guardian, motivated by his sense of honor and his lingering feelings for his deceived wife, stops him with his dying breath. The nuclear missile instead blows up the entire base in which all of this drama unfolded.

Much later, back in the United States, the Avengers are at the hospital with the Black Widow and are overjoyed to learn she will survive her bullet wounds.

ave an 1AVENGERS ANNUAL Vol 1 #1 (September 1967)

Title: The Master Plan of the Mandarin

Villains: The Mandarin, the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Swordsman, Power Man, the Living Laser and Ultimo

Synopsis: In this double-sized issue, Iron Man’s archenemy the Mandarin frees a few villains from prison and otherwise rounds up others to form his own super team against the Avengers. The team uses the Mandarin’s new space station as their headquarters.    

Thor and Iron Man rejoin the Avengers just for this mission as the heroes must break up into smaller groups and fan out around the world to deal with the separate attacks launched by various groupings of the Mandarin and his allies.   

Naturally, the heroes defeat each grouping of villains. Ultimately, a grand final battle is held on the Mandarin’s space station. Damage causes the Mandarin to be sucked out into space, so he is assumed dead by the Avengers, who then blow up the entire space station.

NOTE: Needless to say, the Mandarin was not really dead and returned shortly down the road.

ave 45AVENGERS Vol 1 #45 (October 1967)

Title: Blitzkrieg in Central Park

Villain: The Super-Adaptoid

Synopsis: The Avengers are being honored at a ceremony in Central Park. The Super-Adaptoid, still at large following its battle with Captain America in NYC, seizes on the opportunity to attack them. The being, created by A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) using the Cosmic Cube before the Red Skull stole it from them, is able to replicate the powers of any and all superbeings that it faces.

At the end of a colossal battle, the Super-Adaptoid tries to use all its powers at once, which short-circuits it.

NOTE: The Super-Adaptoid would next show up fighting the X-Men before returning to its role as a recurring foe of the Avengers.  

ave 46AVENGERS Vol 1 #46 (November 1967)

Title: The Agony and the Anthill

Villain: Whirlwind

Synopsis: One night Hawkeye and the Black Widow double-date with Hercules and the Scarlet Witch for an evening spent club-hopping around New York City.

NOTE: Ironically, in the 1970s, Hercules and the Black Widow will become a romantic couple after Natasha breaks up with Daredevil, for whom she dumped Hawkeye. 

Captain America and Quicksilver attend a sporting event at Madison Square Garden, leaving Goliath and the Wasp as the only Avengers on duty at the mansion. The Human Top, a longtime foe of Hank and Jan going back to when Hank still went by Giant-Man instead of Goliath, breaks into Avengers Mansion under his new name Whirlwind.

With the element of surprise, he traps the Wasp and Goliath in a death-trap using some of Hank’s own insect research science. While Goliath uses his old Ant-Man powers in conjunction with his growing powers to escape the death-trap, Whirlwind plants a bomb elsewhere in the mansion, hoping it will kill the rest of the Avengers when they return.

Cap and Quicksilver return in time to battle Whirlwind, who escapes. When Goliath and the Wasp warn their teammates about the bomb that Whirlwind planted, Quicksilver is able to swiftly find it and take it outside, where he throws it far into the air to explode harmlessly.

NOTE: Whirlwind would return in the near future as a member of Ultron’s version of the Masters of Evil to do battle with the Avengers. 

ave 47AVENGERS Vol 1 #47 (December 1967)

Title: Magneto Walks the Earth

Villain: Magneto

Synopsis: Captain America resigns from the Avengers, wanting more time to himself for a while. In the future he will, of course, rejoin the team.

In England, Dane Whitman, making his FIRST EVER APPEARANCE, ponders a way of restoring the family honor following the revelation that his late uncle was the supervillain called the Black Knight. That villain had fought Giant-Man and the Wasp in the past and then the Avengers as part of Baron Zemo’s original Masters of Evil. Recently, Dane’s uncle had died in battle with Iron Man.

Dane Whitman decides he can restore the family honor by adopting the Black Knight title, which has been in the family for centuries, but as a superhero instead of a supervillain. He starts experimenting with some of his late uncle’s high-tech devices as well as the mystical artifacts in Garret Castle.

Kit Harington as Black KnightDane’s tampering with all this has the unintended effect of freeing Magneto and the Toad from their captivity on the planet ruled by the Stranger, where they have been since Magneto’s brief escape in X-Men #18. With the Stranger preoccupied with his other projects around the universe, Magneto plans to reassemble his Mutant Brotherhood now that he and the Toad are back on Earth.

Magneto easily defeats the new Black Knight and, since Mastermind had recently joined the team of mutant supervillains called Factor 3, Magneto and the Toad defeat and abduct the other two remaining original members of the Mutant Brotherhood – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.

The two Avengers refuse to work for Magneto again, but he is confident that he can change their minds.

ave 48AVENGERS Vol 1 #48 (January 1968)

Title: The Black Knight Lives Again

Villains: Magneto, Toad, and the Black Knight

Synopsis: Hercules returns to Mount Olympus to plead for a shortening of his exile to the world of mortals, but finds the kingdom completely deserted. Back in New York, the other Avengers receive word of Magneto’s abduction of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

Dane Whitman, meanwhile, has genetically engineered a winged, flying white horse named Aragorn to use in lieu of his late uncle’s black, winged flying horse named Elendil. He arrives in New York to tell the Avengers about Magneto’s abduction of Wanda and Pietro, not realizing they already heard.   

His costume and flying horse make the Avengers assume he is the villainous Black Knight, who must have somehow survived his seeming death at Iron Man’s hands. (Hey, who can blame them for that, given how many presumed-dead supervillains show up alive later on?) Our heroes attack him.

The Dane Whitman Black Knight is able to use his late uncle’s high-tech weapon the Power-Lance well enough to hold his own against the Avengers, then flees in disgust, returning to England.

NOTE: In the near future, the new Black Knight will be recruited by Ultron, who assumes he is still the villainous Black Knight. Ultron makes Dane Whitman part of his new Masters of Evil, alongside the Melter, Whirlwind, Radioactive Man and Klaw. Dane works to undermine Ultron, who doesn’t suspect he is really on the side of the law, and ultimately goes on to become an Avenger.

ave 49AVENGERS Vol 1 #49 (February 1968)

Title: Mine is the Power

Villains: Magneto, the Toad and Typhon

Synopsis: On Mount Olympus, Hercules encounters Typhon, the old foe of Zeus from Greek mythology. Typhon reveals that he is the one who freed himself from Tartarus and managed to exile Zeus and all the other Olympian deities there, so that he may conquer the world of mortals.

After a fight between the two, Typhon manages to exile Hercules to Tartarus as well, leaving Earth at his mercy. Elsewhere, Magneto and the Toad show the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver their new island headquarters.

Magneto continues trying to convince Wanda and Pietro to rejoin his Mutant Brotherhood, playing on the suspicion and bias that so many humans still feel toward mutants. The Scarlet Witch is adamantly opposed to Magneto, while the more bitter Quicksilver is not as passionate about it as Wanda.   

When the Scarlet Witch insists that Magneto try a peaceful solution in dealing with humankind before resuming his war with them, Magneto hatches a plan. Pretending to be going along with Wanda’s demand, the villain flies himself, Toad, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch to New York City, where they crash the U.N. General Assembly.

magnetoMagneto duplicitously addresses the assembly, calculatedly antagonizing them by delivering an ultimatum: either the nations of the world provide mutants with a country of their own, governed by Magneto himself, or he will resume his destructive war against humankind.

The assembled U.N. delegates refuse the ultimatum, and their security forces attack Magneto, Toad, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The Avengers, having heard the news reports about Magneto and company barging into the U.N. building, have arrived by now and battle Magneto and the Toad.

Amid the chaos, Magneto surreptitiously causes gunfire from the U.N. security forces to wound the Scarlet Witch in the head, injuring her severely and knocking her out. He did this deliberately to take down the skeptical Wanda, who was openly hostile to him, then preys on Quicksilver’s protective instincts toward his sister to make him decide to rejoin Magneto.

In the resulting battle, Magneto and Quicksilver win out over the Avengers and leave the U.N. building with the Toad and the wounded Scarlet Witch. Still pretending to have tried to make peace, Magneto vows that this incident means unending war between mutants and humans as he and the others fly off back to their island headquarters.       

Back with Typhon, the countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea lie helpless before him.

ave 50AVENGERS Vol 1 #50 (March 1968)

Title: To Tame a Titan

Villain: Typhon

Synopsis: The Avengers, reeling from their defeat at the U.N. and the attendant negative news coverage, fly to the Mediterranean Sea to aid Hercules against Typhon, who is wreaking havoc on nations in the vicinity. Zeus and the other Olympians exiled in Tartarus pool their powers to send Hercules back to Earth, hoping he can defeat Typhon and free them all.

The Avengers arrive at the scene to help Herc defeat Typhon, thus ending his rampage. Hercules frees the other Olympian gods by wielding Typhon’s battle axe, and, when his father Zeus rewards him by immediately ending his exile, Herc accepts.

Uncharacteristically emotional, Hercules resolves to forever value his time as an Avenger, like when he traveled with Jason and the Argonauts in the ancient past on the Quest for the Golden Fleece. The rest of the team return to New York, worried about what will happen with Magneto and the others.

herc drinkingWell, that wraps up Hercules’ first stint as an Avenger. Herc will rejoin the team for varying time periods in the years ahead.

To tie up loose ends:

The Avengers work with the X-Men against Magneto in a crossover story. They defeat his plan to use plundered technology from the Stranger’s World to let him enthrall every non-mutant mind on Earth. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are, in defiance of all reason, never held accountable for their return to Magneto’s side. The Scarlet Witch has lost her hex powers due to her head injuries, and she will not regain them until two years down the road, during the Avengers’ first battle with their recurring villain called Arkon.  

4 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

4 responses to “WHEN HERCULES JOINED THE AVENGERS

  1. Great memories here. And that dazzling artwork!

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