Voice of Olympus: Reviews

Mount Olympus Presents:

Hercules: The First Superhero

An Unauthorized Biography

by Philip Matyszak

I now have a new favorite book on the Theban Hercules, one that stands out in a bookcase crammed with many such books, one that has already earned a place on my shelf of honor, containing beloved tomes I re-read annually.

Hercules: The First Superhero can be compared to a composite piece of jewelry composed from fragments of antiques, polished up and threaded with ultra-modern string. The beads are quotes from actual ancient authors who provided us with what we know about the life of Hercules. The charms are images from ancient art. And the thread is a very modern, and extremely amusing, narrative that ties the work together. I laughed aloud at several points, something I rarely ever do while reading.

Unlike most books on my divine ancestor, operant archetype and tutelary deity, Hercules: The First Superhero does not focus exclusively on the famous Labors. It begins with the exploits of Hercules' grandfather Perseus and extends into our world today, where the echoes of Hercules' mighty presence still reverberate.

Details which are usually ignored or minimized in other accounts, such as his early military exploits and married life with Megara, are honored and respectfully granted their proper place in this Unauthorized Biography. And keen insights abound. Philip Matyszak gifted me with a much broader, and deeper, understanding of King Eurystheus' perspective and motivations. This alone impressed me greatly and I am truly thankful for my expanded outlook on what the villainous Assigner of Labors may have been thinking or hoping to accomplish.

Attention is also drawn to alternate versions of events, as well as continuity glitches in the overall saga. This is helpful and necessary, for the epic survives through fragments that are rife with inconsistencies. 

There is even a Bibliography of modern and ancient texts at the tail-end  of the tome for those who wish to explore the sources used and learn more about the life of Hercules. Other than Theocritus' Idylls, which I don't recall ever reading, all of the books listed are, or were at one point, honored guests in my personal library.

Hercules: The First Superhero kept me company on my own wide-wanderings for a bit over a week. It was a wonderful companion and I enjoyed the time we spent together. Though I have completed it, it is definitely worth a more leasurely re-read before I introduce it to my other treasured tomes.


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