From fifth grade to eighth grade, I loved Greek Mythology, and there was nothing I believed more than this: Zeus and Hera SUCKED.
In all the ways. I mean, if you asked me, I couldn’t even say something I liked about them—it was a long list of this-and-this-and-this-and-this against them. To be fair, a lot of my mythology material supported my opinion:
- Myth-o-Mania—Zeus is a fat, lying turd and Hera is superficial and whiny
- Percy Jackson—Zeus is ignorant and rude, and Hera is corrupt and manipulative
- Pandora—Zeus punishes the protagonist and Hera is the actual antagonist
- Iris, Messenger—Zeus is a fat bastard on a couch and Hera is his fat, bitter wife
- Cronus Chronicles—I don’t recall exactly, but by the time I got to the end of this trilogy I believe I was pretty fed up with ALL the gods
- Hercules (Disney)—well, Zeus and Hera weren’t evil, but Hades was, and who’s going to trust a movie where Hades is the bad guy?
Sure, I read Edith Hamilton’s rendition. I was so myth-crazy I read every page of the Western mythology in my mythology encyclopedia. (It’s small print and at over a foot long; I don’t know what I was thinking.)
Everything just confirmed my fears: Hera was abusive, vindictive, jealous, and idiotic; Zeus was unfaithful, unwise, a major jerk, and ugly. This I believed with all my heart, and NO ONE was going to tell me I was wrong.
Enter George O’Connor.
I picked up the first two books of the Olympians graphic novel series on a whim: Athena and Zeus. Athena I liked, but Zeus? I didn’t have much hope: I fully anticipated the disgusting hatred for Zeus I’d always had.
I was so confused, I read it again. And again. And dang it all—I got it.
There was something about Zeus. It’s not that he was completely evil, I realized. It was just that he wasn’t completely good.
Okay, fine, I thought. FINE. I concede. Zeus is okay. Only okay. But no way, no how, by any means or any miracle of God would he convince me in his next book that Hera was anything like that.
Hera is his favorite goddess.
What the flipping what what? I flipped straight back to the beginning—because no way in Tartarus could this guy consider HERA of all people to be best! Had no one told him about the vindictive jealousy? Did he not realize that he drew Hera being a complete *censored* to the whole Olympian population?
But… Again… It isn’t that Hera is completely evil. It’s just that she isn’t completely good.
Zeus was a father. A husband. He loved his family and wanted what was best for everyone—he sought justice and peace and compromise; he did great things. Hera was a mom. She made Hercules into a hero. She had her girlish days. She hurt on the inside but she never let it break her—she was strong.
What I’d never stopped to think about in the mythology fiction I read was that some authors commit terrible, terrible crimes by sorting the gods into two parties: “good guys” and “bad guys.” But that’s not how Greek philosophy worked. The gods are imperfect, because humanity isn’t perfect, either. What I find in every one of George O’Connor’s books is not some story about good and evil, but tales of heroes, gods, and monsters.
No perfect men. No perfect gods. No perfect ending.
We can’t limit the gods to one simple ideal or opinion. Because they’re ambiguous. Because we’re ambiguous, too.
There are only a handful of authors who have given my perspective a 180, and this is one place I never expected it to happen. But, if we expected it, perhaps we wouldn’t change. That begs the question: