Tag Archives: Hermes

Ancient To Modern: Swift Afoot

As I get ideas, I will contribute posts to this new category that occurred to me recently. I thought it would be fun to examine images based on ancient mythology and relate them to multiple media today. This will NOT be a scholarly analysis. Instead, I will deal with surface impressions and similarities: eye candy and an intellectual break. At least that’s the plan. Since time marches swiftly on, let’s start with Hermes.

Souls on the Banks of Acheron by Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl
Souls on the Banks of Acheron by Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl

He is the Greek messenger of the gods, and he likes the fellowship of human beings. He seems to enjoy interacting with them, as he does in The Iliad by Homer  He also intervenes for Odysseus on behalf of Zeus in The Odyssey, also written by Homer.  The above painting is an interesting composition in which he is relatively easy to identify. Below, you can see a photograph of a Roman marble (sculptor unknown) from the Louvre which shows him in an interesting pose.

Hermes Fastening his Sandal
Hermes Fastening his Sandal

Of course, the Romans actually named him Mercury.

Mercury and a Sleeping Herdsman by Peter Paul Rubens
Mercury and a Sleeping Herdsman by Peter Paul Rubens

Based on the original, Golden Age appearance of this next character, it is obvious that he was inspired by traditional depictions of Mercury. As in the case of many comic book heroes, a “scientific” rather than a mythological explanation is given for how he obtained his powers. This combination of science fiction and mythology is one of the features that make good comics so much fun to read. Back to the immediate subject at hand, The Flash is a fixture from my childhood, only not in this particular form.



 It is the Silver Age Flash with whom I grew up. By then he was wearing a more streamlined and form-fitting speed suit which was strangely prescient.


For a relatively brief time, life imitated art as elite sprinters in track and field wore body suits made of Lycra.


The Flash has been updated a little in more recent portrayals. You can see in this and other drawings that he is more mesomorphic and that the artists have played around a little with the uniform. As with most DC Comics updates, this character is also angrier. Of course, there have been a number of successors to the original character in the extended story arc.
I’m not making any major revelation by mentioning that The Flash has his own television show on the CW network.



My brother, Doug Jones, did a guest appearance as the villainous Deathbolt on one episode. He also played the same role in Arrow, also on the CW.



I really like this homage by Alex Ross to the Golden Age appearance of The Flash.


But I like pretty much anything by Alex Ross. He really trips my imagination. At any rate I saved this image for last. More next week.

p. s. I almost forgot. Not to be outdone, Marvel Comics also has a superhero with similar attributes. Quicksilver was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the X-Men series.

Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Graphic Mythology: Wonder Woman


It’s time to come full-circle.  Since I started this series, enough time has elapsed for me to do some background research on Wonder Woman, a character that I read about only a little when I was a boy. I will date myself by mentioning that I remember the Silver Age of comics when each issue cost only ten cents. That was also my weekly allowance, and I would walk two blocks to Sullivan’s drugstore on the north side of Indianapolis to purchase the latest issue of Superman. Not much of a surprise there, but Wonder Woman was neglected.

There is more material about her than I originally thought. I mentioned in the first post of this series the original date of her release, and I honestly didn’t realize how long she had been around (since 1941). So let’s do the obvious first by going over her backstory. It is based in part on some concepts from Greek mythology.

Wonder Woman by Alex Ross
Wonder Woman by Alex Ross

In 1200 B. C. the Amazons were supposedly created by Greek goddesses as the reincarnated souls of women who had been murdered by men. One soul (the unborn daughter of the first of these women) was “saved back” to be “born”. This happened in the 20th Century when her mother, Queen Hippolyta, was told to mold clay from Paradise Island into the likeness of a baby girl. The daughter, Princess Diana of Themyscira, was endowed by the gods with various powers and traits.


Demeter gives her strength, Athena wisdom (not always evident in later portrayals) and courage, Artemis a hunter’s heart and communion with animals, Aphrodite beauty and a loving heart, Hiesta “sisterhood with fire” (not quite sure exactly what that one means), and Hermes speed and the ability to fly. She is later sent from Paradise Island and into the world as an emissary to mankind. Her secret identity is Diana Prince.


She is allegedly a feminist superhero, but her real world creation is a nuanced story. There is a backstory to the backstory. More next week.


Mythology on Canvas (Part 9)

The Perseus Series by Edward Burne-Jones (continued from last week):

To fulfill his promise, Perseus must seek the Hesperides (called sea nymphs in this series of paintings) for help, but he does not know where to find them. He must ask the Graiae (“gray ones” or “gray witches”) for information as to their whereabouts. Since they are sisters of Medusa, they are unlikely to help him willingly.

Perseus and the Graiae by Edward Burne-Jones
Perseus and the Graiae by Edward Burne-Jones

The three Graiae have only one eye between them and must share in its use. Perseus steals the eye as they are passing it among themselves and holds it at ransom until they give him the desired information.

Perseus and the Sea Nymphs by Edward Burne-Jones
Perseus and the Sea Nymphs by Edward Burne-Jones

He then goes to the Hesperides (sea nymphs), who give him a sack for safely transporting the head of Medusa. He also receives such tools as a polished shield from the goddess Athena (evidently shown out of sequence with a mirror in the first painting, The Call of Perseus, shown last week) winged sandals from Hermes, a helm of darkness from Hades, and a sword from Zeus. In the above picture, all of these events are consolidated as the conferring of the gifts by the sea nymphs, who are identified by virtue of being shown standing on a puddle.

(to be continued)