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Meet the Olympians: A Pocket Guide to DC's Greek Gods

Meet the Olympians: A Pocket Guide to DC's Greek Gods

By Alex Jaffe Thursday, August 25th, 2022

After millennia of service to her people on Paradise Island, death finally came for Queen Hippolyta in this spring’s Trial of the Amazons. But her closest friends and loved ones may soon learn that their lost queen isn’t so far away. As it turns out, Hippolyta has earned her place on Mt. Olympus, in a role which is at the center of this week’s Olympus: Rebirth. As one adapts to any new setting, it’s important to know who you’ll be sharing your work with. Don’t worry, Hippolyta. We’ve got a cheat sheet for you on the who’s who you’ll be hobnobbing with on Mt. Olympus. These are the Olympian Gods, as we know them in the DC Universe.
 

Zeus

  • Dominion: The sky, thunder and lightning, law and order
  • Family Tree: Son of the Titans, Cronus and Rhea
  • Greek Gossip: Once seduced a princess by turning into a swan

In Greek mythology, Zeus is the king of all gods and the boss when it comes to Mt. Olympus. The DC Universe is a place of many gods of many pantheons, however, essentially reducing his role to a sort of deific district manager. According to the Genesis event in the 1990s, Zeus—and all other modern gods—were created by the “Godwave” emanating from the Source that swept through the universe five billion years ago when the Old Gods died and the Fourth World was born. But that doesn’t usually come up these days.

Ostensibly, the power of Shazam draws upon the “Power of Zeus,” but several sources indicate that the magic god “Zeus” may not be the same entity as the Greek god Zeus. In the past, Zeus has been depicted as a member of the Quintessence, a quintumvirate of figures who oversee matters of major importance to the universe alongside Ganthet, Highfather, the Phantom Stranger, and the wizard Shazam. As far as we know, he is in no way affiliated with Batman villain Maxie Zeus.

Depending on whether you’re reading comics from before or after 2011, Zeus is either Wonder Woman’s great-grandfather by way of Ares and Hippolyta, or Wonder Woman’s father. Similarly, Zeus has been either Wonder Girl Cassandra Sandsmark's father or grandfather, depending on the state of continuity. (Greek god families are complicated.) Either way, as either Hippolyta’s grandfather or former lover, they have a lot to work out.

Poseidon

  • Dominion: The sea, storms and earthquakes, horses for some reason
  • Family Tree: Brother of Zeus
  • Greek Gossip: The entire ten-year epic of Homer’s Odyssey only happened because Poseidon absolutely hates this one guy in particular

As a sea god, Poseidon’s historically been more involved in Aquaman’s life than Wonder Woman’s. Their first encounter, in 1964’s Aquaman #17, is actually over Mera, who Poseidon has decided to take as his own wife. Aquaman is none too pleased about that, so he and Aqualad teach him a lesson about selfishness. Much later, in Peter David’s Aquaman run through the ‘90s, Poseidon blinds Aquaman for daring to fight his son Triton.

So, how did Aquaman end up with his much vaunted “Trident of Poseidon”? In the David Aquaman series, it’s a gift from Poseidon himself once they settle their differences. The later Geoff Johns Aquaman run of the New 52, however, establishes it as an Atlantean relic from the treasures of the ancient King Atlan.
 

Hades

  • Dominion: The dead, the underworld, money
  • Family Tree: Brother of Zeus
  • Greek Gossip: “Cerberus” means “Spotted” in the Proto-Indo-European language, meaning Hades literally named his dog “Spot”

Just because he’s the Lord of the Dead, a lot of people like to cast Hades as a villain. In reality, he’s more just a dude with a creepy job that he takes very seriously. The Justice League animated series implied at one point that he might be Wonder Woman’s father, but that’s never been fully explored. On the occasion that Hades does get swept up in some wicked scheme, it’s usually his wife Persephone who reminds him of his better judgment.

Hades is also, more or less, the boss of the Amazons, from a certain perspective. The so-called Paradise Island of Themyscira is situated atop Doom’s Doorway, one of the only ways out of Hades’ underworld of Tartarus. While enjoying their immortality and disassociation with man’s world, the duties of the Amazons in exchange are to protect this doorway.
 

Hera

  • Dominion: Women, marriage
  • Family Tree: Sister and wife of Zeus
  • Greek Gossip: Unhealthy tendency to take her wrath over her husband’s infidelities out on his mistresses

As the queen of the gods, it’s not uncommon to find Wonder Woman offering a quick prayer to Hera for strength. But as fickle a god as her husband, Hera’s relationship with the Amazons can be rather unpredictable. According to one version of the origins of the Amazon people, Hera was one of the five goddesses to create the reincarnation system which allowed Amazons to be born, and who brought Diana to life as well on behalf of Hippolyta. Despite differences over Diana’s rewritten origin as the daughter of Zeus, the two have put that contention aside and resumed a working relationship. Recently, Hera has appeared to replace Zeus as a member of the Quintessence. While on the job, she was killed by Darkseid, but Wonder Woman brought her back alongside many other dead Olympian gods.
 

Demeter

  • Dominion: Agriculture
  • Family Tree: Sister of Zeus
  • Greek Gossip: Probably still not over the whole Persephone deal

Demeter hasn’t played a large role in the history of the DC Universe, but was present as one of the five goddesses who created the Amazon people and brought Diana to life in her clay origin. But just as in Greek myth, she always does her best to look after her children. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was Demeter who drafted the Amazons into the ongoing battle against the Anti-Monitor’s Shadow Demons, who had staged an attack on Mt. Olympus.
 

Hestia

  • Dominion: The hearth, fire, family and state
  • Family Tree: Sister of Zeus
  • Greek Gossip: Typically stays out of drama—a goddess of the people

As a domestic goddess, Hestia tends to keep away from conflict, but has played an instrumental role in Amazon history. Hestia created the city of Themyscira for the Amazons to inhabit on Paradise Island and empowers the Lasso of Truth with its unique properties.
 

Athena

  • Dominion: Wisdom, courage, heroes, strategy, industry, cities, war (but smart about it)
  • Family Tree: Daughter of Zeus (but not Hera)
  • Greek Gossip: Not as cool as you think, Medusa did nothing wrong

Athena is another one of the five patrons of the Amazons, and the one who bestowed them—and especially Diana—with their extranormal wisdom. Although she has more than her share of faults, Athena is typically the Greek god most associated with heroes and has taken a particular interest in Wonder Woman. In Infinite Crisis, it was Athena who protected the Amazons by spiriting them away to another plane of existence. In Amazons Attack!, however, Athena would fall victim to possession by Granny Goodness, staging a war between the Themyscirans and man’s world.
 

Aphrodite

  • Dominion: Love, beauty, sex
  • Family Tree: Either the daughter of Zeus (but not Hera), or Zeus’s grandfather and primordial deity Uranus, depending who you ask
  • Greek Gossip: Basically responsible for making Pandora want to open that box

Another patron of the Amazons, and the one who, according to the clay myth, specifically breathed life into Diana. Wonder Woman is said to have inherited her beauty and often claims Aphrodite as the patron of her ongoing mission of love. In fact, the earliest Wonder Woman stories by William Moulton Marston set the entire conflict of their existence as an ongoing battle between Aphrodite and Ares, representing love and war. Recently, Aphrodite provided direct companionship to Wonder Woman as an ally in man’s world through G. Willow Wilson’s Wonder Woman series, but was struck down by Cheetah, wielding the Godkiller sword. As with many other Greek gods, Wonder Woman eventually restored her to life.
 

Artemis

  • Dominion: Nature, the moon, hunting
  • Family Tree: Daughter of Zeus (but not Hera)
  • Greek Gossip: Any time somebody dies suddenly of a heart attack or something, it means Artemis just shot ’em

Artemis may be the most respected of all the gods in Themyscira, as the spiritual and traditional leader of all who have adopted her lifestyle. As goddess of the moon, Golden Age comics depicted her home there, but these days she can usually be found around the environs of Mt. Olympus.
 

Hermes

  • Dominion: Speed, wit, cunning, roads, travelers, thieves and athletes
  • Family Tree: Son of Zeus (but not Hera)
  • Greek Gossip: Invented your least favorite uncle’s two favorite sports—racing and wrestling

Hermes was the sole male god involved in Diana’s clay origin, imbuing her with his speed and gift for flight (in Post-Crisis continuity, that is—before that, Wonder Woman could merely glide on air currents). Sympathetic to Wonder Woman’s mission in man’s world, Hermes has been shown to harbor a not-too-secret crush on Diana. But god or not, can you really blame him? I mean, she’s Wonder Woman.
 

Apollo

  • Dominion: Healing, knowledge, art and music
  • Family Tree: Son of Zeus (but not Hera)
  • Greek Gossip: As the bringer of both disease and wellness, may be responsible for COVID-19

Apollo played a major role making a power play for Zeus’s throne in Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman series, but we haven’t talked about that much here since that chain of events was later revealed to be a delusion designed to keep Wonder Woman from returning to Themyscira. He is not affiliated with the superhero Apollo of The Authority and StormWatch.
 

Ares

  • Dominion: War (and really aggro about it)
  • Family Tree: Son of Zeus and Hera
  • Greek Gossip: Easily humiliated, kind of a loser really

Superman has Lex Luthor. Batman has the Joker. And you could make a solid argument that in equivalence, Wonder Woman has Ares. Making his DC Comics debut in Wonder Woman #1, Ares has been Diana’s greatest foe from the very outset of her mission, literally embodying the concept of war which she has made it her personal goal to circumvent. Ares derives his powers from the drive of conflict itself, making it his goal to encourage discontent at every turn. Ares recently attempted to turn over a new leaf within his perpetual cycle of violence by becoming avatar of just and righteous war, although the question remains open if such a thing can even exist. But all that is moot now, as Ares has been drafted as one of the many soldiers of Pariah’s Dark Army in Dark Crisis.

So many gods, all with their own motivations and issues (it explains a lot about the world, doesn’t it?). And actually, we haven’t even covered all of them. There are gods like Hephaestus, Dionysus and Eros…and much darker beings like Hecate. Discover them while learning about the fate of Hippolyta by picking up Olympus: Rebirth, now available in comic shops in our world and presumably theirs as well.


Olympus: Rebirth #1 by Michael W. Conrad, Becky Cloonan, Caitlin Yarsky and Jordie Bellaire is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.