The Eternals could use Hercules as a way to introduce this powerful new group of superhumans into the MCU. Marvel has always loved to absorb classical legends and ancient mythology into their superhero stories; Thor was one of the founding Avengers in both the comics and in the movies, and he’s lifted straight from the ancient Norse religion. But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby also loved the Greek myths, and in the 1960s they introduced the character of Hercules.
Hercules became a recurring character in Thor, and is particularly well-known for a guest appearance in Tales to Astonish #79, where the so-called Prince of Power took on the Hulk. Over the years, Hercules has been a major recurring character, star of his own popular comic book runs, and a member of several iterations of the Avengers. And now, he could be making his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rumors are swirling that Hercules will finally make his MCU debut in The Eternals.
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The rumors started last November, when casting breakdown included mention of an unnamed “Greek God” character. Since then, they’ve only built up, although the latest rumor suggests Marvel may deviate from the comics and pivot towards a more historically-accurate version of Hercules. There have been reports that Marvel is looking to cast their first openly gay lead, and this has been tied to Hercules. It makes sense; in the Greek myths, Hercules was pansexual, and took his male aide Hylas as his lover. Curiously, though, in the comics Hercules has never been too closely-tied to the Eternals. So why would Marvel choose to introduce him in this film?
The Eternals were created by Jack Kirby in 1976. He drew loosely upon Greek legends for his inspiration, with one of the Eternal cities named Olympia and some of their names lifted from mythology – including Zuras, leader of the Eternals, named after Zeus. Kirby had originally intended the Eternals to be largely outside of the wider Marvel Comics continuity, but over the years that changed, and they’ve become a constant – albeit background – presence in the comics, most notable for teaming up with Thor in “The Celestial Saga.” Unfortunately, this caused something of a problem for Marvel, because there were obvious and explicit connections between the Eternals and the Greek myths, and yet Marvel already had their Greek Pantheon, a race referred to as the Olympians who were equivalent to the Thor’s Asgardians. Marvel simply accepted the similarities, with one Eternal – Virako – describing them as a mystery the Eternals had “never had time nor desire to investigate.” Naturally, these being superhero comics, it was only a matter of time before the Eternals and the Olympians went head-to-head, but the connections were never resolved.
The MCU, of course, has taken a different approach to the comics when it comes to the Pantheons. In the comics, the Asgardians and the Olympians really are gods, in part powered by the belief of others. In the MCU, however, the Asgardians are essentially powerful and long-lived aliens who originate from another of the Nine Realms. They have made their presence known on Earth over the millennia, and were worshiped as gods by Norse society. It’s reasonable to assume that other Pantheons could have similarly been alien races who interacted with humanity in the past. Indeed, referencing The Eternals, Kevin Feige has suggested he quite likes the idea. If Hercules does indeed appear in The Eternals, it suggests that Marvel could be simplifying the relationship between the Eternals and the legends of ancient Greece. Rather than follow the comics, with confusingly similar Eternals and Olympians, the MCU could merge the two. Thus, in the MCU, the Eternals would be the basis for the Greek legends.
Page 2 of 2: Hercules’ Role In The Eternals and the MCU
Further, this raises the possibility that Hercules could be used to introduce the Eternals into the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comics, the Eternals have always been a secretive, reclusive race, reluctant to be drawn into the affairs of man. Indeed, there’s a sense in which that was part of Jack Kirby’s core concept; it simply has to be, because unlike the Asgardians, the Eternals still live on Earth. Humanity is sharing the globe with another evolutionary offshoot, one that has been careful to ensure we don’t know it. The Eternals who live among humans, such as Sersi, hide themselves as much as possible and assume lives of privilege and wealth.
If the Eternals are to be a major player in the future of the MCU, then Marvel need to add a character into the mix to become their public face, someone who isn’t quite so reserved. Hercules is the perfect candidate; in the comics, the Prince of Power simply wants to be loved and adored. He struts around on a global stage, proudly demonstrating his might, sometimes seeking out fights just so he can make the world realize how powerful he truly is. If the MCU’s version of Hercules is an Eternal, he’ll be one who doesn’t want to hide in the shadows but rather who desires to step out into the light. Presumably some sort of crisis will take place that allows him to do just that; and Hercules would revel in it. Where the rest of the Eternals would retreat, he’d embrace the fame that comes from being seen by the world as a superhero.
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This theory suggests that The Eternals serves a double purpose within the MCU. Firstly, it adds another layer of depth and complexity into the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an evolutionary offshoot of humanity who share our own world. Like Wakanda, the Eternals are citizens of a Hidden Kingdom, a window into the potential of the human race. Secondly, though, it also introduces Hercules, a character who has the potential to serve as a loose Thor analogue going forward. Marvel is carefully establishing the next wave of superheroes for the MCU – characters like Black Panther and Captain Marvel – and Hercules would surely number among them.
The parallels between Thor and Hercules could conceivably hint at just how important The Eternals could be to the future of the MCU. Thor and the Asgardians have been an essential part of the first three phases of the MCU, which Marvel call “The Infinity Saga.” Loki’s arrival on Earth was the very reason the Avengers were founded in the first place, and two of the Infinity Stones have been tied to Asgard. It’s possible that The Eternals will be just as important to the next saga; in the comics, the Celestials who created them were destined to return to Earth in order to judge humanity. They’ve been a constant, recurring presence – more so than the Eternals themselves. Just as Thor was central to Marvel’s Infinity Saga, perhaps Hercules will prove to be a key player in everything that’s set to come, a figure who helps Earth’s heroes deal with the cosmic judgment of the Celestials.
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