As a kid, I was fascinated by books about mythology, specifically the Norse and Greek pantheons. I devoured anything and everything I could. Picture books, chapter books, encyclopedias – you name it. If it had mythology, I probably read it before the seventh grade.
Of my favorites was a book about the Norse end of times event, Ragnarok (spoiler : everyone dies) and another out of the UK about the Greek gods complete with British spelling and old time artistic drawings of Hercules performing his Twelve Deeds.
Fast forward a couple of decades and mythology still interests me to the point that I’m always on the look out for stories that have a basis in it. Greg Van Eekhout’s excellent Norse Code tackled Ragnarok. The Cohen Brothers transformed the Odyssey into O’ Brother Where Art Thou. There were plenty of others. Hercules, however, seemed to be overlooked. A cheesy show or film there but he seemed to be the forgotten hero.
Enter into the mix Hulk Hercules : Professional Wrestler by Catherine Schaff-Stump.
The story of Hulk Hercules is told through the eyes of Tony Vanelli, (a kid not unlike me all those years ago) who, along with his sister, spends the school year with his Italian grandmother and professional wrestler Uncle Leo. Tony’s grandmother indulges his passion for mythology by telling him all the tales of the Greek Gods. These stories play out side by side with the main plot, interspersed with commentary from Tony and his family.
Then the strange things start to happen, events that cement in Tony’s mind that Uncle Leo is more than he seems. (Note – I desperately want a Hephaubot.) Tony and his sister are swept up in an adventure straight out of legends where they find out that while being a hero in a myth is easy, being a hero in real life is harder and far more dangerous.
In Hulk Hercules, Schaff-Stump brings the Greek Gods into the modern era, saddling them with jobs and all the problems that us normal folk have. Without providing spoilers, it’s suffice to say that each of the God’s mortal residences is highly appropriate for their role in the pantheon. On top of that, they are forced to deal with their immortality and, oh yeah, Hera wanting revenge. Even the tasks are given a modern day spin. The myth of the Cattle of Geryon is replaced by a burger eating contest.
Without being too complex, Hulk is easily digested by the young and thoroughly enjoyable by the more grown up reader. Considering the often adult nature of many myths, it was pleasant to see the story told in a family friendly manner.
For fans of mythology, Schaff-Stump has given us a story that is a fun twist on the old tales. For newcomers, it might also spark a new interest and on top of that, a fun story. No matter where you fit, Hulk Hercules : Professional Wrestler won’t disappoint.