Listen to our podcast about this article: PodCapers Ep. 15: The Justice League as the Greek Gods
Everyone knows that superheroes have their origins in the ancient myths of Greece, Rome, and other old empires. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Today, we worship superheroes in the same ways we once worshipped the gods. Okay, so maybe we’re not sacrificing virgins on the pyre, but it’s hard to deny that comic cons feel like a religious experience for some and that we all accept the sanctity the Bible of Canon.
Looking even closer, you’ll start to see even more similarities between the JLA and the Greek gods. And it’s not just the obvious ones – all twelve major Olympian gods have a counterpart on the Watchtower. So how exactly do the two pantheons measure up?
12. Zeus = Superman
The ruler of the sky with nigh-unlimited power.
Perhaps one of the more obvious entries on the list, but that doesn’t make the comparison any less appropriate. Both Superman and Zeus are born leaders, the most powerful of their respective groups. Superman is often thought of as godlike, the alien deity who has become incredibly protective of his adoptive home. Like Zeus, Superman dons a disguise so that he may walk among the mortals and see what life is like on the ground. But both are much more at home in the sky, soaring above us like the gods they are.
11. Hades = Batman
The dark prince, preferring underground quarters and with unimaginable wealth.
As Hades is the dark brother of Zeus, so too is Batman the dark counterpart of Superman. Like Hades, Batman makes his home underground and a significant part of his power comes from his riches. This aspect in particular perhaps makes Batman more like Pluto, the Roman version of Hades, but we’ll table that for the moment. It’s hard not to think of Batman as ruling the underworld of the DC Universe, deciding the ultimate fate of damned souls. Additionally, Batman is often found on the outside of the Justice League circle, the member no one quite trusts, much like Hades and his Olympic family.
10. Poseidon = Aquaman
Ruler of the seven seas, able to command the ocean and its inhabitants.
Ok, you knew this one was coming. It’s actually harder to find differences between Poseidon and Aquaman, considering the former is one of the main inspirations for the latter. They both even have the same weapon of choice, the trident. Perhaps the main difference between the two is that while Poseidon is one of the three most powerful of the Olympian Gods, Aquaman is something of a joke. I guess it just goes to show that the ancient Greeks thought that the ability to talk to fish was a lot cooler than we do.
9. Hera = Wonder Woman
The protector of the family and traditions.
So, putting aside the whole warrior aspect of the “Amazon warrior” for a moment, Wonder Woman is really all about the traditions of her people. She fiercely defends her home and her family. Probably the main thing she would disagree with Hera about is the whole “needing a good man thing”, although she does find herself paired with Superman almost as much as Steve Trevor, so then again, maybe not. At any rate, both are effectively the “mother” of their respective groups, and react quite fiercely if any of her number are attacked.
8. Artemis = Artemis
The young maiden and hunter, who prefers the night and the bow.
This one felt a bit too obvious, but in light of the success of Young Justice, I really couldn’t resist. True, the one lives up to her namesake quite purposefully, but the fact that Artemis the goddess is usually portrayed as being young was an important factor in this choice. None of the adult members of the Justice League felt right in this position. And honestly, why would I even consider anyone else when the choice is so clear?
7. Ares = Hawkman
All he knows is war, and he actively seeks out conflict.
Of all of the members of the JLA, Hawkman is perhaps the only one with a bit of warmongering streak to him. He relishes battle much more than the others. With his weapon of choice the deadly mace, it’s no wonder he is often seen as more warrior than peacekeeper. In addition, both have quite the complicated love life (although for very different reasons), but it would not be untrue to say that each has an eternal love, despite their warlike natures.
6. Hephaestus = Green Lantern
Creates tools and weapons beyond imagination.
Hephaestus, especially as portrayed in the Percy Jackson books, is the innovator of the gods, the one who built wonders like the master lightning bolt, the golden bull, and those cool robotic spiders. Okay, so the spiders aren’t exactly in the myths, but still. Like Hephaestus, Green Lantern’s only limit is his imagination; if he can think it up, he can make it. While Lantern may not play the role of weapons supplier like Hephaestus, he very well could, and it would be a tough call to say which actually makes the better sword.
5. Apollo = Green Arrow
An archer of unmatched skill with a bit of a rebellious streak and a love of song.
Aside from the obvious archery connection, this pair are both known for going against the grain from time to time. Apollo was never exactly the best behaved of Zeus’ children, often running around chasing nymphs when he shouldn’t have been. Green Arrow, on the other hand, has made a reputation for himself as an anarchist and occasional communist. But still, the most important thing is that these two wield their bows with impeccable accuracy, and one can imagine Ollie as a decent enough singer. Right?
4. Athena = Oracle
An expert tactician, preferring to fight her battles using wisdom over strength.
Where Ares represents the anger and rage of battle, Athena represents the calm and strategic warrior. Both Athena and Oracle prefer to use intelligence, both gathered and their own, to their advantage to win a their wars. True, Athena might still be found on the front line, but Oracle would be right there beside her if she could. It is also worth noting that it is only as Oracle that Barbara Gordon resembles Athena, and much less as Batgirl, for it is only as Oracle that her true strengths are properly utilized.
3. Aphrodite = Black Canary
Wields her beauty as a weapon and can bring men to their knees just by the sound of her voice.
Black Canary clearly relies on her beauty as a distraction; no one who’s seen those fishnets can deny it. She has also been known to be a bit of a seductress in her time, although she did eventually settle down with Green Arrow. And while her power may not relate directly back to Aphrodite’s true forte, she is often the most feminine of the female members of the team.
2. Hermes = The Flash
A trickster and messenger, with feet as quick as his wit.
Hermes and Flash are both known for their speed, each able to run faster than any other. The Greek speedster heavily influenced the original Flash costume and he still retains nods to the winged feet and ears in modern incarnations. In addition, both Flash and Hermes are prone to a bit of mischief, and are as quick with a joke as they are at anything else.
1. Dionysus = Martian Manhunter
The lover of wine and parties, never without a smile or a drink.
Everyone knows Martian Manhunter is the party animal of the Justice League. I mean, come on, just look at that face! I can’t count the number of times Manhunter was late to a crime scene because he was out drinking with his Martian buddies, claiming to be a rock star from Mars and doing that thing where he turns his head into Mickey Mouse and…
Oh. Wait. I’m thinking of Charlie Sheen. I guess there isn’t really a good Dionysus equivalent on the JLA. But honestly, isn’t that kind of a good thing? You don’t really want a drunk out there, trying to save the world, do you?