Marvel Characters That Were Ripped Straight From Ancient Mythology

List Rules
Vote up the characters with powers of mythic proportions.

There are some who believe that the Avengers and other heroes of Marvel Comics and the MCU are the modern equivalents of the gods and goddesses of old. There’s a point to be made there, as both pantheons feature larger-than-life characters with wondrous powers wielding undue influence over humanity, and onto whom humanity can project its wildest idealizations. But when it comes to Marvel, specifically, it’s not really necessary to make the distinction - because several of the heroes and villains in the annals of Marvel Comics are genuine mythological figures, ripped right from the pages of ancient legend.

Everyone knows that Thor was a real Norse god, but Marvel’s mythological roots go much, much deeper than Asgard. It’s hard to find an ancient form of belief that hasn’t been represented in the pages of Marvel Comics and, in most cases, in the shape of a costumed superhuman. Some have left a more legendary impression than others.
 


  • 1
    89 VOTES

    In the mythology: Ares is the Greek god of war, known primarily for his role in several myths, rather than for any widespread worship of his personage. Whereas Athena represented the honor and glory of war to the Greeks, Ares represented the brutality of it, and his history is filled with several atrocities, including instigating international conflict and demanding human sacrifice. 

    In the comics: Although he’d been around since the days of Ancient Greece, when his home dimension of Olympus interacted with the local populace, Ares didn’t become a prominent figure in the Marvel Universe until the modern era. There, he stepped up to join Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers, filling in for Thor as the team’s go-to god. He remained linked with Osborn until Osborn laid siege to Asgard, after which the immensely strong Ares turned on his boss - and was torn to shreds by the Sentry as a result.

    In the MCU: The head of Ares was glimpsed on the planet Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok, suggesting a past visit to the planet’s gladiatorial arena. 
     

  • 2
    166 VOTES

    In the mythology: Although the Odin of Norse mythology is still the Allfather, creator of Earth and humankind and god of war and wisdom, he’s not quite the grizzled old warrior king depicted in the pages of Marvel Comics. Instead, the mythological Odin is more often depicted as a one-eyed old wandered, more of a benevolent wizard than anything else - one whose primary interactions with humankind came long after his busiest days were done. Still, make no mistake: Odin is a supremely powerful entity, and he does still own the throne of Valhalla, where he is surrounded by the spirits of the worthy dead.

    In the comics: Everything that is true of Odin in Norse mythology is true in the comics, and then a great deal more beyond that. The Marvel Comics Odin also created humanity approximately 1 million years ago, around the same time he fathered Thor. This Allfather, however, is a significantly more active figure, frequently leading the legions of Asgard into war and ruling the Nine Realms directly from his throne. Odin isn’t the most powerful entity in the Marvel Universe, but he’s not terribly far off of that title, either. 

    In the MCU: The Odin of the MCU did not create humanity, nor has he been around long enough to have done so. Instead, he’s best understood as an alien warlord who conquered and then protected the group of planets known as the Nine Realms for millennia, inspiring Norse legend and otherwise remaining largely out of sight until the modern era.
     

  • 3
    95 VOTES

    In the mythology: Thor is perhaps the most prominent figure in Norse mythology, a god of thunder said to be worshipped by generations of warrior Vikings. Though tales of him wielding the mighty hammer Mjolnir and slaying legions of enemies with it are ostensibly heroic, Thor can also be viewed as a villain of sorts depending on one’s perspective. 

    In the comics: The Thor of Marvel Comics is, more or less, the exact same deity depicted in Norse mythology - save for a few bits of comic-only flair, like the worthiness enchantment on Mjolnir and his innate altruistic nature. As far as Marvel Comics is concerned, Asgard and the other realms are best understood as alternate dimensions, but their inhabitants are directly responsible for inspiring Norse mythology - which isn’t really mythology at all by this telling, just accurate history.

    In the MCU: Though the lightning powers and enchanted hammer remain the same, the Thor of the MCU differs from that of Marvel Comics - and mythology - in almost every other way. This Thor has only been around for about 1,500 years, long enough to be worshipped by Vikings, but not long enough for true godhood. In the MCU, Asgardians are essentially aliens with technology so advanced it seems magical, though that distinction has begun to slip more and more as of late. 
     

  • 4
    127 VOTES

    Bast

    In the mythology: Bastet, sometimes going by Bast, is the child of Ra and an Egyptian goddess worshipped for her warrior mentality, though that reputation changed when she started to be depicted as a cat instead of a lioness. Hailing from the Bubastis region on the Nile River, hence her name, worship of Bast spread to other regions of Africa - including some fictional ones, apparently. 

    In the comics: Bast is the primary figure of worship in the comic book Wakanda, where she is thought to be responsible for the power behind the Black Panther. According to Bast herself, she’s a once-mortal being who gained enlightenment and moved to a higher plane of existence, only to end up worshipped by a number of earthly civilizations, to whom she bestowed several boons. Eventually, Bast would make a permanent home in Wakanda, where generations of Black Panthers would commune with her via ingestion of the heart-shaped herb and gain wondrous powers. She’s played a particularly prominent role in the life of T’Challa, the once and future king. 

    In the MCU: The Bast of the MCU has only ever been glimpsed during T’Challa’s visits to the Ancestral Plane. By all appearances, she’s of a similar nature to her comic book counterpart, though there’s no way of knowing for sure - or even of determining whether she was a herb-induced hallucination or not. 
     

  • 5
    87 VOTES

    In the mythology: Zeus was, after a fashion, the leader of the Greek gods of Olympus, from which he ruled with his mighty lightning bolts and host of other magical powers. Unlike his Norse counterpart, Odin, Zeus did not create humanity, but he did create the first woman, Pandora, and used her to unleash evil into the world. In general, Zeus’s depiction has been that of a pseudo-villain more so than a heroic figure, and his deceitful and deeply problematic romantic history is the clearest indication of that. 

    In the comics: In the annals of Marvel Comics lore, the Olympians are deities of a sort, but they hail from a “pocket dimension” known as Olympus, which at one time was directly connected to Ancient Greece. It was there that Zeus developed his reputation as an overseer of humanity, though he would retreat in the centuries to come and only rarely step in to influence the comings and goings of Earth. In the modern era, Zeus has often been an antagonist to other godly heroes, such as Thor and his own son Hercules, and has even occasionally dabbled in outright supervillainy. 

    In the MCU: The casting of Russell Crowe as Zeus in Thor: Love and Thunder, heralded the arrival of the Greek pantheon to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
     

  • 6
    68 VOTES

    In the mythology: Hercules, alternately known as Herakles, is perhaps the most famed demi-god in all the Greek pantheon. The son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Hercules grew up supremely strong, but was constantly harassed by Hera, Zeus’s spurned wife. At the height of their conflict, Hera tricked Hercules into slaying and consuming his own wife and children, leading him to adopt his iconic heroic labors as a means of restitution. When those were completed, Hercules was granted immortality and took his place alongside his family in Olympus for all time.

    In the comics: Hercules, like all Greek mythological figures in the Marvel Universe, hails from the pocket dimension known as Olympus - but unlike his fellow Olympians, Herc spends most of his time on Earth. There, he’s been influencing worldly events since the days of Ancient Greece and right up into the modern day, where he’s frequently served as an Avenger, a Defender, and a solo hero of some repute. Aside from Thor, Hercules is the mythological figure who has had the most direct impact on protecting Earth and its people over the years, including going to war against the Chaos King and even his own father, Zeus, when the latter turned to supervillainy. Usually wielding his golden adamantine mace, Hercules is still an ever-present component of Marvel Comics to this day.