Also called the Hellhound and a Warg, the Freybug is something of a demonic canine from medieval English folklore. Perhaps the most famous Hellhound is Cerberus from Greek mythology. This is the three-headed dog who stands as the keeper to the gates of Hell. Milton even included him in his epic poem, Paradise Lost, which I recommend reading if you have the patience.
The twelfth labor of Heracles was to bring back Cerberus. Here are two selections which portray this.
On a more personal note, my oldest daughter owns a rescue dog whom she named Cerberus (Cerbie for short). Despite her large size and ominous name, she’s actually an amiable pooch.
As a final offering for your viewing pleasure, here is the rendering of a Freybug by William O’ Connor from his Dracopedia: The Bestiary.
In the Greek pantheon he is the king of the gods, the god of the sky, the heavens, and thunder and lightning. When compared to the Norse pantheon, he might be considered a combination of some of the attributes of Odin and Thor. His name in the Roman pantheon is Jupiter.
In the painting below, Jupiter is shown appearing to Semele, one of his many lovers, as per her request. This, of course, kills her since she is a mere mortal. The account is from The Metamorphoses by Ovid.
I am reminded of God’s admonition to Moses in Exodus 33:20: “No one may see me and live.” This biblical account, by the way, is much older.
Hera is the wife of Zeus and is also one of his (gasp) sisters. Not only did he carry on with mortal women, but also with nymphs and other goddesses. Oh, what has become of our pagan idols?
Zeus also appears in (guess what) Marvel Comics…
… and DC Comics.
I’ll skip the more adolescent, “mean world” representations of later issues.
He is also portrayed in more movies than I care to list. Furthermore, so much of the Greco-Roman pantheon has been appropriated by Marvel Comics and DC Comics that I grow tired of this sport.
Next week, I will change topics and begin a series of posts on mythological beasts and spirits.
There is a recurring theme in multiple mythologies. It is that of a man endowed with incredible strength. I’m sorry, ladies, but this concept emerged from male-dominated societies. I’m not talking about what should be – just what was. The nature of the strong man is varied. To explain this, let us examine some examples (sorry for the bizarre alliteration…).
This is his name in Greek mythology (Hercules in Roman mythology; you may have gathered by now that the Romans were borrowers). He is a demigod, the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Alcmene. His prowess is therefore in between that of a god and a man. Below, he is shown as a child strangling a serpent that was sent to kill him.
But he got bigger…
and did stuff…
… sometimes very bad stuff, sometimes heroic stuff, sometimes a bit of both. He has been shamelessly ripped off by Marvel Comics…
and by DC Comics.
Just when I thought I was researching a fairly safe topic, I found out that things turned ugly in the DC Universe in the 1980s when he was portrayed as subduing and raping Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, the mother of Wonder Woman. In this story, the Amazons in general were drugged and sexually assaulted by his men during a banquet of friendship (an attempt at peacemaking) hosted by the gracious Amazons after they had foiled a first attempt at conquest.
I found this out when I was looking for images to include in this post. I stumbled across a rather offensive and salacious illustration which I decided not to use. Why not? Because it’s my site, and I don’t want to. It was glossed-over, sugar-coated violence against women. Such subject matter began to be covered for purposes of realism, but the imagery and plot are unrealistic treatments. The ugly simply isn’t ugly enough. I have issued this warning before about comics and animation being used in this way. This example underscores the concerns I raised in my post, Graphic Mythology: A False Feminism.
Anyway, I read a synopsis or two of the story and looked into its historical background. It was released during an allegedly feminist period in the development of the Wonder Woman series – ironically, a time when artist and writer George Perez was consulting with Gloria Steinem. The extended story line involves revenge, punishment imposed by the gods, repentance, and forgiveness. That’s supposed to be a good turn of events, right? And then there was this…
Hippolyta has a brief romance with her reformed rapist. DC also did this in their critically acclaimed Watchmen in the sequence when Sally Jupiter willingly had a child by the Comedian some time after his unsuccessful attempt at assaulting her. My concern is that the above imagery and plot device (intentionally or not) reinforce the destructive falsehood that women actually like being sexually mistreated by men. Despite their sensationalism and controversy, these are examples of what has become a tired convention. Better stories are out there, waiting to be discovered/imagined.
The DC story I have been picking on from the Wonder Woman series is a very distorted version of the original myth concerning the ninth labor of Heracles in which he was told to take the belt of Hippolyte, which had been given to her by Ares, the god of war. Perhaps this is how the comic version got away with it. If you’ve read much about him, then you also know that Heracles was no Boy Scout.
Though western civilization is derived primarily from a combination of Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman influences, the ancient Greeks clearly did not have politically correct morals and ethics when it came to the treatment of women. But I want to emphasize that we are not the ancient Greeks and that we should aspire to something better.
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.
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.
Of course, the Romans actually named him Mercury.
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.