Zeus: the excitement of Greek mythology in comic form

George O'Connor's new Olympians series of kids' graphic novels retells the Greek mythos in comic form. The first volume, Zeus: King of the Gods, is just great -- full of dramatic upshots of titans and gods standing astride the globe, wiseacre dialog from the young Zeus, and horrific, crawly and monstrous denizens of Tartaros. There's a great set of lighthearted educational materials at the end, along with RPG-style character sheets for prominent gods and their offspring. The second volume, Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess, comes out in a couple weeks, and on the strength of Zeus, I'll definitely be reading it. If you were lucky enough to discover the Greeks as a kid and remember the excitement of the heroic tales and grotesque comeuppances (not to mention all the creepy incest!), be prepared to renew your exhilaration.

Zeus: King of the Gods

(Interior pages from Newsarama's review)


    1. Zeus was blond, as was attested to by his golden locks and beard on his great statue at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, later taken to Constantinople by the Christian Greeks and destroyed in a fire in the 5th century AD, but not before it served as a model for depictions of Christ Pantocrator in the copulas of Orthodox churches.

      Tom Stone (author of “Zeus: A Journey Through Greece in the Footsteps of a God.”)

      1. Any gold and ivory statue is going to have either gold or white hair. All the gods are like that.

  1. Helivoy, read “…and call me Conrad” by Roger Zelazny. Usually published under the title “This Immortal” but I think it was recently re-released under the author’s original title.

    You might like it. Karagiozis gives the kallikanzeroi what for.

  2. I’m interested in reading up on Greek Mythology and the stories that make it up. Could anyone recommend a good start for the non-genius?

    1. Not comics, that’s for sure.

      Homer’s epics are the first place to go. Try the Fagles translations.

      The Homeric Hymns would be next.

      Hesiod’s mythological poems are good.

      Apollonius’s Argonautika is awesomely awesome: Peter Green did an excellent scholarly translation about a decade ago.

      Ovid’s Metamorphoses are a masterful re-telling of these myths from a sexy Roman perspective: ultra-mean and catty. A. D. Melville’s your man for Ovid, IMHO.

      Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths is a great, modern, all-purpose retelling of all of the myths, from the creation down to Odysseus’s return from Troy: his notes are crazy but marvelously so.

      That should get you started. If you largely stick to translations of the primary sources, you’ll be fine.

      1. Not comics, that’s for sure. Homer’s epics are the first place to go. Try the Fagles translations. The Homeric Hymns would be next. Hesiod’s mythological poems are good.

        Wow! And after Amsterdaam wakes up with the lively reading on his/her face hopefully another’s reply will be less snobby and more useful.

        1. Hmmm, if Homer’s not lively reading for you, then you’ve sort of excluded yourself from a debate on Greek mythology and its texts, let alone my putative snobbery. Education I haz it: big deal! Telling someone to set their sights lower than what they’re capable of is true snobbery, no? As for waking up with Homer on your face, lolz, I hope that wasn’t too painful! :P

          For the rest of you shocked, shocked by my “offhand dismissal”: I took Amsterdaam at his/her word, and simply pointed him/her to representative texts in the tradition. By all means offer your own works, but I’m simply taking Amsterdaam at his/her word, and offering some basic texts to get started with. As someone who’s taught said texts in translation to undergraduates with no introduction to the material, I can tell you all (who perhaps lack my experience) that if college students can rise to the challenge of Homer, so can anyone else. They’re fun texts, and in my professional opinion a much more helpful, truer introduction to the material than a comic book. Homer gave us both the first action war-movie (the Iliad) and the first novel (the Odyssey): why settle for less?

          1. The translated poetry, for one. Fagles’ versions are very good, but even they are not an easy read, and if I didn’t know what I was in for I imagine I wouldn’t have bothered. A prose version as an appetizer is a good idea, and may well help you enjoy the originals more later on.

    2. Tdawwg’s lists some great resources, but I don’t think they’re quite what you are looking for, Amsterdaam. They’re more the sort of standard reference works one might consult for a college course; not the sort of thing for someone looking for a general introduction to Greek Mythology. For that person, I would recommend the Classic D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. Its actually a children’s book, but like the best children’s literature it will also appeal to adults. It’s beautifully illustrated and surprisingly complete. What’s more, you can probably breeze through it in a single afternoon. Check it out…it’s a book I’ve treasured my whole life and it’s one I continually refer back to.

    3. Try reading Tom Stone’s “Zeus,” recommended by George O’Connor in his book. It ties most of the Greek myths to the life story of Zeus from his birth to his ascension into the Christian firmament.

      Tom Stone :)

    4. As Tdawwg mentioned, Graves’ “The Greek Myths” is a great, sprawling work. As a counterpart to that, you might try Karl Kerenyi’s “The Gods of the Greeks”, which is a pretty concise retelling of the main myths. Kerenyi writes them as if he were an ancient Greek storyteller; though he not always succeeds creating this impression, it is an entertaining read, nonetheless.

  3. Amsterdaam — get ahold of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series — 5 novels that are a very well-written adaptation of the Iliad and the Odyssey, tailored to young teens, but a fun romp for adults, too.

    Author Rick Riordan does a really good job of adding a modern twist while remaining true to the original story.

    My son (who has read them all at least 5 times…how’s that for a thumbs-up!) insists on adding the name of all the novels:

    1) The Lightning Thief
    2) The Sea of Monsters
    3) The Titans’ Curse
    4) Battle of the Labyrinth
    5) The Last Olympian

    ignore the movie, by the way — it’s an enjoyable movie, but any significant resemblance to the book is purely accidental.

  4. Bullfinch’s Mythology is a classic on the subject.

    These stories weren’t just fantasy entertainment, they were trying to explain the world and the way people were. Many of the religious ideas we take for granted we also present in these old stories, like how Herkules was seen as protector of the “little guy” like Jesus is. These simularities were commonly used by Christian missionaries to convince people to convert. Even the sky blue and clam shell of Aphrodite were appropriated for the Virgin Mary.

  5. and horrific, crawly and monstrous denizens of Tartaros.

    Ah, yes. Tartaros, ancestral home of the Cavity Creeps. Enter at your dental peril.

    1. Creh-est! Creh-est!

      [I was just trying to explain those ads to my officemate yesterday….]

  6. Then after reading the tdawwg list, check out Dan Simmmons’ Ilium and Olympos story. Pretty cheeky of him :-)

  7. Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey is a trippy, Oulipo-esque retelling of Homer. Highly recommended.

    Another generalist book, but one that’s beautifully written and comes from deep knowledge of the sources, is Roberto Calasso’s The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. More than any other work (aside from Homer et al.) this kick-started my love of Greek and Roman literature: Calasso writes like a god, and this is a beautiful, luminous text.

  8. Wow, reviewed on BoingBoing, very exciting!

    I agree with Tdawwg’s recommendation of the Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony– one of the best, most beautiful books I ever read, and one of the greatest aids to me in helping visualize the way the Greeks viewed their gods– but I do vehemently disagree with his offhand dismissal of comics as a way of learning mythology. In my defense, I went back to the original sources for this series (Zeus: King of the Gods is a retelling of Hesiod’s theogony, with a little of the Titanomachy of Appolodorus sprinkled in).

    Regarding the dislike of the Athenian-chiton-wearing Zeus, well, in a perfect world, he’s be strutting about in full-on heroic nudity, but, you know, kids are going to read this. What can you do? ;)

  9. Full disclosure: I got started with the Dungeons and Dragons Deities and Demigods book. But I’m assuming we’re a bit more advanced than that!

    Hope the tone wasn’t too sharp: but I’d beg all of you to go for the good stuff, and allow yourselves the challenge of the originals. Comics rock, to be sure!

  10. As a greek I was about to recommend Nikos Tsiforos Greek Mythology which is a lot of fun, but i couldn’t find it on amazon so i looked it up on google, re-read some parts and realized why: It must be hugely difficult to translate because it’s written in old greek street slang and that’s the whole fun of the book.

    1. Me too randomcat, me too. The comic seems almost listless compared to the craziness of the D’aulaire’s version.

      There were some books I took out of the library over and over again. That was one of them. Another was Holling Clancy Holling’s Pagoo.

    2. jeez, I must have read that book about a million times; D’aulaires was my favorite book when I was little! I blame that book for my interest in mythology. XD

  11. I’m lucky–I grew up with greek and roman mythology as my bedtime stories, and I’m still shocked by western-culture people who don’t know at least the more common tales. (In our house, xianity was just yet-another-mythology.) In grade school I read piles of greek and roman tales, and discovered other mythologies on my own. Our school libraries had many of Padraic Colum’s books, such as The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy, The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles, The Children of Odin. A bunch of them are in Project Gutenberg. They’re simplified and prettied up, but they still make a quick painless introduction.

    Bulfinch has been mentioned (a few at gutenberg, and plenty at any halfway decent used bookstore). Edith Hamilton’s books were also ubiquitous when I was growing up, and are still common in used bookstores: The Greek Way; The Roman Way; Mythology. Adult books, but shorter than Bulfinch.

    Not to be missed: Mary Renault’s The King Must Die and the sequel, The Bull From the Sea, which are outstandingly good novelizations about Theseus’s life. Her other books are good too, but not for homophobes (many are about Alexander.)

    For original sources, I wish I had read Herodotus’ Histories when I was a kid. I skipped it because of the boring title, but it really amounts to a wonderful collection of travelers’ tales. “Digressions are part of my plan”.

  12. Long published and good for the beginner or the hardcore myth-geek, Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes” is an excellent resource.

  13. Those of us not too good to read comic books about Greek mythology might want to consider Steven Grant’s revisionist take on the Odysseus legend, ODYSSEUS THE REBEL. Not core mythology, but has some worthwhile meta commentary about how myths develop. You can read the whole thing on-line for free at http://www.bigheadpress.com/otr

  14. my son and other kids will surely love this since he’s fond of playing the age of mythology. kudos!

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