Hercules

Created by Dan Zolnerowich

NAME + ALIASES:
Joe Hercules

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Unnamed mother (deceased)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
None

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Hit Comics #1 (July 1940)

APPEARANCES:

  • Hit Comics #1–21 (July 1940–April 1942)
  • Starman v.2 #35 (mention)

+ History

Splash page from Hit Comics #12 (1941). Art by Reed Crandall.

Just in case, Hercules’ first adventure began with the proclamation (disclaimer?): “He didn’t come from another planet… He wasn’t made by a mad scientist or by some other fantastic manner… He’s a real American youth, imbued with the greatest strength mortal man ever possessed.”

If anything, Hercules resembled Quality’s own hero, Doll Man. Both features were created by Eisner/Iger men and both drawn at some point (though not created) by Reed Crandall. Joe Hercules’ first adventure attempted to move him a step away from Quality’s own fictional universe; the story asserted that Doll Man was only a character who existed in the comic books of Joe Hercules’s world. Before long, Hercules’s powers grew far beyond those of mortal men but the sales didn’t grow to match. It wasn’t for lack of promotion. Quality featured Hercules on the covers of Hit Comics #3, 10-17 and put him in the first feature slot. Curiously, “Hercules” was replaced by a similar strongman, Stormy Foster, and the two overlapped for a few months.

The first story was signed with the pen name “Dan Enloz” (spelled backwards yields the beginning of “Zolnerowich”). With the second issue, the byline changed to “Gregg Powers,” which was probably Zolnerowich, but Reed Crandall also used that alias when he drew it (Hit #11–16).

Joe Hercules was described as a country boy (even a “hick” by his enemies). He lived with his mother in the Midwest town of Maryville. Supposedly, he was not super-human, but celebrated as one of the strongest men alive. He’d planned to use the money he earned to help people as a doctor or lawyer. But the greedy J. Willistone Jyppe killed Joe’s mother in order to own all of Maryville. Joe took his quarrel directly to Jyppe and was arrested. In jail, he was inspired by his comic book hero, “Doll Man.” He busted out of jail, fashioned an outfit not unlike the diminutive hero’s, and set out for revenge. (Hit #1)


[ Read the full profile in the Quality Companion ]

DC

At DC, one mention was made of Hercules. His fate was revealed by Green Lantern (Alan Scott), who said to Starman, “Did you see that story in Newsweek about that hero from the 1940s, Hercules? He has Alzheimer’s. At least I’ve got my wits.” Both heroes admitted that they didn’t remember Hercules. (Starman vol. 2 #35)

Notes

Another Quality hero, the Unknown, also looked like Hercules and Doll Man. One month before Quality, two other publishers unveiled their own Hercules. Timely’s was a remarkable strongman (Mystic Comics #3). And MLJ’s Hercules was about the Greek hero coming to modern-day America (Blue Ribbon Comics #4). The popular films starring Steve Reeves weren’t released until the late 1950s.

+ Powers

Hercules, when he first debuted, was supposedly non-super-powered. His brawn grew rapidly to allow impossible feats of strength, like stopping and lifting a cars, crushing guns, and leaping up mountains. He seemed to be invulnerable, even surviving a fall from a tall building.