The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. – Robert Jordan, from the Wheel of Time book series

A few weeks ago, I posted a poll asking whether or not you thought superheroes are a type of modern mythology. It was a sentiment I’ve heard a few times, and as a huge fan of superheroes, and superhero comics, I wanted to get your thoughts on it. I was actually pretty surprised by the results, as an overwhelming majority came in with a ‘no’ answer on this.

This all led me to consider the question of what mythology is. Some of the comments pointed out that what we call mythology are things that a certain culture once believed were true, whereas comic books and superhero stories are made up for entertainment. Both, I think are meant to instill morals.

Regardless of definitions, I find it interesting that elements of these ancient cultures are still alive in popular culture today. To illustrate this point, just last night, I had a chance to watch Hercules, the new movie starring Dwayne Johnson as the titular hero of old. This was but one of many versions of the hero’s tale.

Growing up, I often watched Kevin Sorbo or Ryan Gosling play the role. Originating in Ancient Greece, the tales were adapted again and again (beginning with the Romans, who gave him the name we know him by today). He was featured in tales during the medieval period, and was a frequent subject of artists during the Renaissance. It would seem that he truly is a timeless figure. Is this what it means to be a mythological figure? If so, I suppose may yet be a while until we can say for sure whether or not superheroes stand the test of time.

Personally, I hold with another definition of mythology for these purposes – “a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs associated with a particular group or the history of an event, arising naturally or deliberately fostered” () – with the emphasis on the stories. As I said earlier, there have been a number of incarnations of Hercules over the years, each with a bit of a different spin on the figure. This year’s film, from director Brett Ratner, is no different. The film (based on a comic book series!) supposes that Hercules was no mythological figure, but rather a historical one, and the stories of his deeds were greatly exaggerated. It’s a more realistic take on the character, and reminded me of 2004’s King Arthur in that way.

Instead of single-handedly completing the tasks of the famous 12 labors, Hercules secretly works together with a ragtag team of other warriors, including Atalanta and Autolycus among others, to promote his legendary image. It is in the storytelling of their deeds that he becomes the hero as we know him. It’s certainly an interesting take on the legend, and worth investigating for that bit alone. And while we’re on the subject of ragtag bands of heroic misfits – we come full circle to our original question about comic book heroes with Guardians of the Galaxy. Go. See. This. Movie! Rukizzel and I have been talking about it pretty much nonstop, since seeing it a few days ago. And I fully intend to see it several more times in the next week or two. It’s just that good.

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