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  1. #1
    Squall's Avatar
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    If Superman is the American Hercules, then who's the Greek Batman?

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    I always found it facinating how our modern mythology really isn't that different in its themes from classical and ancient mythology. For example, George Lucas has said more than once that his Star Wars Saga is like a modern mythology; he compared it to The Odyssey, except with light sabres and starships instead of broad swords and sailboats. I thought it was a great analogy!

    This makes me think: Many people view Superman as the modern American version of Hercules. Well, since human nature really hasn't changed much since Ancient Greece, was there a character in ancient Greek mythology who closely resembles Batman?

    (I can vaguley remember an episode of the Disney's Hecules cartoon that had a Batman-like character work with Hercules to save ancient Greece from a villian of some kind. Of course, that character was a Disney creation, but it was hilarious to see those two have a Superman/Batman "World's Finest" thing going on! )

    My knowledge of ancient mythologies is more or less nonexistant, so I was wondering if anyone else knew if my question had an answer. Also, feel free to open this thread up to discuss other DCAU characters that resemble characters in ancient and classical mythology! (Wonder Woman notwithstanding, of course.)

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    Dens Maris's Avatar
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    Hades, Lord of the Underworld.

    Really.

  3. #3
    EJill34 is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dens Maris
    Hades, Lord of the Underworld.

    Really.
    According to Maxie Zeus...

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    Eddie G. is offline Former Wolf/Writer.
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    Superman is not completely defined as the modern Hercules, he is also considered to be a modern version of Mosses. As for Batman, I'm not sure if there was a Greek version of Batman, however we can see many versions of the Batman through out lit. One character who Batman is not only somewhat inspired by but has been incorporated into the Batman mythos as an influence in Bruce becoming Batman is Zorro.

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    Perhaps Odysseus from the long book The Odyssey. Here was a hero living on a journey to find his home. On his way, he faced many powerful gods and goddesses, and believed he could be somewhat better than they are. He does learn his place, however, that no matter how great he was, he was just a human compared to the gods of Greece.

    From the mythology stories or myths, I think Odysseus fits Batman pretty well.

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    Squall's Avatar
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    Was Odysseus a regular human who used brains, training, and gadgets to try to do good deeds and hold his own with gods and monsters in the violent and dangerous fictional world of Ancient Greece?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fernus
    Perhaps Odysseus from the long book The Odyssey. Here was a hero living on a journey to find his home. On his way, he faced many powerful gods and goddesses, and believed he could be somewhat better than they are. He does learn his place, however, that no matter how great he was, he was just a human compared to the gods of Greece.

    From the mythology stories or myths, I think Odysseus fits Batman pretty well.
    That was my thought as well. Odysseus was a man who beat (and outlasted) big bumbling brutes by being smarter and more determined than they were. It's probably appropriate that Bats cites Odysseus in "Only A Dream".

    Although if you're looking for someone a little brawnier who combined smarts, combat skill, and determination, Theseus could be seen as a Greek Batman. Unfortunately there are parts of his legend (ie. he's a rapist) that are unpalatable to modern tastes.

    KK

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    Fernus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squall
    Was Odysseus a regular human who used brains, training, and gadgets to try to do good deeds and hold his own with gods and monsters in the violent and dangerous fictional world of Ancient Greece?

    He outsmarted the Cyclops by using wit, as Batman would use. Remember, in Only A Dream when Batman told the story about Odysseus telling the Cyclops he was "nobody"? He was a normal human, defeating or escaping from monsters all over the fictional land.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Krypton_Knight
    That was my thought as well. Odysseus was a man who beat (and outlasted) big bumbling brutes by being smarter and more determined than they were. It's probably appropriate that Bats cites Odysseus in "Only A Dream".

    Although if you're looking for someone a little brawnier who combined smarts, combat skill, and determination, Theseus could be seen as a Greek Batman. Unfortunately there are parts of his legend (ie. he's a rapist) that are unpalatable to modern tastes.

    KK
    I agree, Odysseus is an excellent analogy for Batman. And, truthfully, I don't think Odysseus is at all lacking in the necessary Batman-style brawn, KK: Remember Penelope's test for her unwanted suitors? She said she would only wed the one who could string her hubby's bow and make the improbable arrow shot; she was confident that no one besides Odysseus had the strength to manage to get the bow strung at all, much less wield it for the shot--and she was right.

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  10. #10
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    Last December, I actually wrote a paper on this very matter for my classical literature class. I compared Superman to Achilles (not Hercules) and Batman to Odysseus. I based my decision to draw the parallels between Achilles and Superman largely based on the scene in The Iliad where Achilles has retreated from battle and is begged to return just as in Kingdom Come where Clark retires and Diana has to try to stir his sense of duty. I also based it on Achille's fame for his incredible strength, the fact that he inspired his whole army, and his arbitrary weakness in his heel (Superman's arbitrary weakness, of course, being Kryptonite.)

    But Batman is definitely Odysseus. That one just speaks for itself.
    "He will be that world's man of tomorrow." -Jor-El, Superman: Birthright #1

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    Quote Originally Posted by BonyT
    I agree, Odysseus is an excellent analogy for Batman. And, truthfully, I don't think Odysseus is at all lacking in the necessary Batman-style brawn, KK: Remember Penelope's test for her unwanted suitors? She said she would only wed the one who could string her hubby's bow and make the improbable arrow shot; she was confident that no one besides Odysseus had the strength to manage to get the bow strung at all, much less wield it for the shot--and she was right.
    True. And he also wrestled Ajax to a draw in the Iliad. But he's perceived as less of a physical figure and more of a trickster, and that's what I was basing my observation: the "feel" of the character as opposed to the details.

    KK

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    also in a lot of ways Superman was a parallel to the Jews fleeing persecution in their homelands, for one thing Jor-el, Lara, and Kal-el are all vaguely hebrew-sounding names, for another thing Krypton is a lot like war-torn europe and both Siegel and Schuster were Jewish
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    Howdy,

    I'm not sure that there's a perfect analogy to classical Greek mythology to Batman or Superman, but one can draw parallels pretty easily. I'm pretty sure that Grant Morrison was thinking of the Greek pantheon when he did his run on JLA. Off the top of my head, he did Superman:Zeus, Batman:Hades, Wonder Woman:Athena, Aquaman:Posideon, and The Flash:Hermes. Not quite sure where J'onn and GL went, though -- the remaining "big guns" are Artemis, Apollo, Hephasteus, Ares, Hera, Aphrodite, and Hestia. I guess you could make a case for GL:Apollo (Sun God -> guy who creates stuff from light). Steel became Hephasteus.

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  14. #14
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    Not sure how Krypton = "war torn Europe", but anyway...

    Minor nitpick: Heracles = the Greek guy with super-strength; Hercules was his Roman name. Not that anyone cares (besides the Wonder Woman writers), but anyway... :-)

    -B.

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    Eddie G. is offline Former Wolf/Writer.
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    I don't mean to repeat myself, but I think the Greek figures who've been mentioned are in reality not like Batman or Superman at all. There are similarites but I don't think they're strong enough to make connections between.

    Batman was more based on Zorro and influenced by detective stories and crime novels.

    As for Superman, he's Mosses. His parents sent him away, he was adopted by a new type of people, and then tried to bring justice to social problems and crimes that the new people he was raised amongst comitted. One could also say that currently Lex Luther represents Ramses, but it's really stretching it.

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    BonyT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Blue Wolf
    I don't mean to repeat myself, but I think the Greek figures who've been mentioned are in reality not like Batman or Superman at all. There are similarites but I don't think they're strong enough to make connections between.

    Batman was more based on Zorro and influenced by detective stories and crime novels.

    As for Superman, he's Mosses. His parents sent him away, he was adopted by a new type of people, and then tried to bring justice to social problems and crimes that the new people he was raised amongst comitted. One could also say that currently Lex Luther represents Ramses, but it's really stretching it.
    The similarities between Batman & Superman & the Greek/Roman mythological figures mentioned are more in personality type than events, you're right about that, Wolf.

    I think your analogy to Moses definitely makes some sense, considering Superman's creators. But I feel compelled to point out that the Moses analogy isn't perfect in terms of matching details with Superman's story, either. Yes, Moses was set adrift in a wicker basket on the Nile by his mother to save his life, very much like Superman's origin story. But ultimately, Moses was sent by God to be used in achieving the freedom of his native people, the Hebrews, from the oppression and enslavement of his adopted people, the Egyptians--not to work for social change or justice within Egyptian society. In contrast, Superman's native people were destroyed, and he was fully adopted into his new world.

    So you're right that there are only certain similarities with the Roman & Greek figures; but it's also true that the Moses analogy, while quite valid, isn't a perfect match in terms of details, either. So just because the Moses analogy has merit, it doesn't invalidate the Greek/Roman analogies.

    (One other minor aside: It may not be valid to refer to the Pharaoh in Moses' time as "Ramses": While scholars have long associated the Pharaoh of the Exodus with Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great--a view popularized to the public by Cecil B. De Mille--in recent years cause has been found by Egyptologists and Biblical scholars to believe that the dating of the Pharaohs may be off by some centuries. So the Pharaoh that Moses dealt with may have actually been a different ruler, perhaps Pharaoh Dudimose in the 13th Dynasty; the Bible only ever calls him "Pharaoh." )

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  17. #17
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    if I had to break it down, I say Batman was more an amalgam of Zorro and Sherlock Holmes in the sense that he's a folk hero but also the DCU's greatest detective and that he's not so much based off greco-roman mythology as he is more modern mythology, AKA literature
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    BonyT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shogunthethird
    if I had to break it down, I say Batman was more an amalgam of Zorro and Sherlock Holmes in the sense that he's a folk hero but also the DCU's greatest detective and that he's not so much based off greco-roman mythology as he is more modern mythology, AKA literature
    In terms of conscious influences on the creation of Batman, I'm sure you're right. The point about mythological figures is that they are archetypal in nature; thus, the basic types they represent are reflected in measures, even unconsciously, in various figures throughout literature. The connection with mythological figures, at least for me, isn't about Batman or Superman being expressly modeled off of them so much as it is about recognizing certain of those basic archetypal connections between Batman or Superman and some of those characters from mythology.

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  19. #19
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    This is an interesting discussion especially because I've always been interested in Jungian philosophy. Basically, Jung believed in archetypes, which were finite generalizations of people, who were present in all cultures. These were part of the collective unconscious of humanity, and were Jung's explanation for the man gods or virgin births in unrelated cultures.


    So basically, even in Batman was meant to be a combination of Zorro and Sherlock Holmes, he still fits the description of Odysseus pretty well. This is a good example of an archetype: a perfect human hero, with discipline, strength, and wits, who is a match for any god or supernatural being. Were these similarities intentional or part of the writers' subconscious?

    Moses is pretty dead on for Superman's origin. That never occurred to me. Maybe they should make Supes stutter.

    Catwoman

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    BonyT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catwoman
    So basically, even in Batman was meant to be a combination of Zorro and Sherlock Holmes, he still fits the description of Odysseus pretty well. This is a good example of an archetype: a perfect human hero, with discipline, strength, and wits, who is a match for any god or supernatural being. Were these similarities intentional or part of the writers' subconscious?
    Yes, that's precisely what I meant, catwoman. And you correctly picked up on the fact that I had some of Carl Jung's ideas in mind; he may not be well-thought-of in psychology circles anymore ( ... or so I understand; psychology is not a field of study that I know much about), but his observations on myth still resonate. Even the terms we're using here, "archetype" and "collective unconscious," are ideas introduced into our vocabulary by Jung.

    For that reason, I'd say that the mythic analogies are likely unconscious. (According to Jung, they operate in purest form on an unconscious level anyway.)


    Quote Originally Posted by catwoman
    Moses is pretty dead on for Superman's origin. That never occurred to me.
    Nor to me, until Blue Wolf mentioned it; but like you, I think he's completely correct about that. But unlike the Batman/Odysseus analogy, the Moses/Superman connection is, I'm sure, quite conscious, considering Superman's creators.

    BTW, the term "myth" has come to be equated with "falsehood" in our language; but the term that Jung used has a different sense altogether. "Myth" for Jung referred to the fundamental stories of a culture, without any reference to whether or not the stories were factual. So, even though Moses is an actual historical person who received his mission from God, whereas the Greek and Roman mythological figures are purely fictional, we can still talk about the "mythic" implications of Moses' story without belying in any way its factual reality.

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