One of mankind’s first heroes of the people. This figure of myth was believed at one time to have been very much a real individual, so much so that there was a powerful political force in the ancient world who claimed their authority from being the descendents of Herakles.
So of course he has been in numerous forms in various comics, television programs, and films. As such, Hercules has so many unique and distinct versions dating from the 1950's & 60's sword and sandal movies starring the likes of bodybuilders Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Alan Steel, Mark Forrest, Mickey Hargitay, to Lou Ferrigno in the 80s to comic incarnations such as the Marvel Comics version, the DC Comics version and even the Hercules adaptation from Disney.
NAME: Alcaeus Palamon or Alcides (name at birth); Herakles "Glorious Gift of Hera," name given to him by his mother when, at the age of 8 months, he strangled two snakes sent to his crib by Hera; Hercules (Roman name)
BIRTH/DEATH: Conceived Feb 10 during an eclipse. Born ether Oct. 31 or Nov. 4th, 1286 B.C.E. Died Aug. 12, 1226 or 1223 B.C.E.
SYMBOLS: War club, Lion skin cloak, bow & arrow, His own naked self.
AREA OF CONTROL: Personification of Strength, courage, endurance, triumph though adversity and the masculine ideal. Guardian of the Gate to Olympus, and along with Hermes, God of travelers, also had numerous healing springs dedicated to him.
USUAL IMAGE: Huge Muscular figure, usually shown bearded, sometimes not, wearing the skin of a the Nemean lion, and carrying either a club or a bow and arrows.
Numerous statues and images found on coins and pottery from ancient Greece, Rome & even Egypt.
However according to archeologist John Romer, if you want a good idea of the image of Hercules in the Roman mind, look at the early images of Jesus Christ. The theory being that the early Roman Church, not being able to deal with the idea of a dark skinned Semitic Messiah, used the image they were most comfortable with, the image of Hercules.
HOLY BOOKS: Imagines. Philostratus the Elder / Metamorphose & Fasti. Ovid / The Library II. Apollodorus / Fabulae. Hyginus / Memorabilia. Xenophon / Aeneid. Virgil / Trachiniai. Sophocles.
HOLY DAYS: Heraclia (Heraklia) August 12 - 13 (some areas till the 19th) once every four years on the anniversary of his death.
PLACE OF WORSHIP: Temples
RELATIVES: Zeus (father), Alkmene (mother), Amphitryon (stepfather), Iphicles, (half brother), Megara (1st wife), Deianira (2nd wife), Hebe (3rd wife & half sister, Goddess of Youth), many sons & daughters (over 50) who grew to such fame in their own right that they and their children were referred to as the Herakleidai, also Alexander the Great claimed to be one of his descendents, Queen Omphale (Owner for three years.)
FORM OF WORSHIP: Animal sacrifices, bonfires, prayer. It's to be noted in the Aesop fable, when the man's wagon is stuck in the mud and he prays to God to get him out and the answer is that God helps those who help themselves, the god being referred to is Herakles.
SYNODEITIES: Gilgamesh (Babylonian,) Samson (Hebrew,) Thor (Norse,) Oghma (Gaulish,) Cu Chulainn (Celtic,) King Arthur (Arthurian,) Jesus Christ (Judo-Christianity,) Kal-El (Pop Culture.)
DETAILS: When most people think about Herakles, or to use his Romanized name Hercules, they imagine a big, muscular man who beats the crap out of monsters and throws other guys wearing gladiator armor and sandals around all over the landscape.
True he did fight a lot of monsters, however to the ancients there was a lot more to him.
In fact he may have been one of the most widely worshiped gods of the ancient Greco-Roman world, his popularity was so great that recent finds have discovered Egyptian temples where he is worshiped along with Horus, Isis and the other Egyptian Gods & Goddesses.
It's thought that Hercules may have been the deification of the chiefs and shaman of pre-civilized Greece.
If that is true it seems that as his myth grew it grew to also become the embodiment of masculine destiny, which may explain why his main enemy was a goddess.
Hercules is also one of a group of heroes, popular in their cultures, who are a combination of the unattainable higher `Other', and the earth who decides to side with the earth part of his makeup and become a god of the people.
Other such beings can be found in many different/separate mythologies/religions. Some examples are Thor, born of the mysterious sky god Odin and Jord the Earth, Cu Chulainn fathered by the god Lugh and a human woman or for that matter Jesus Christ from the frightful vengeful Y.V.H.V. and Mary.
A god for those finding themselves part, willingly or not, of a growing patriarchy, where they are expected to take the part of deities, while knowing themselves to be all to much wholly just a human of the earth.
Hence the popularity of such man-gods as Hercules, who given the choice of two goddesses; one offering the path of pleasure and vice while the other offers a life of struggle and virtue, picks the difficult path; that of struggle and virtue. Another very appealing example of Hercules' character is demonstrated when he comes upon the plight of Prometheus, a Titan whom was bound to a rock where an eagle would come and feast on his liver every day, Hercules feels compassion for Prometheus and frees him from this torture. What's most unbelievable is that Zeus allows it! This showed Hercules' kind and compassionate side and proved him to be one of the few gods to actually go against the gods by helping others they have condemned and actually have it mean something, takes the time to side with the human side of things and free him from his torture.
Most mythology based depictions of Hercules in comics, cartoons and movies depict him basically as he is shown in the more mainstream (safer) versions of his myth, being sure to leave out his non-heroic temper tantrums where he actually killed his wife and several offspring.
Blue Ribbon Comics however took the unique approach of showing him in modern times wearing a suit and tie, but still Hercules and from time to time called to Olympus by Zeus (whom they drew looking oddly like Ming from Flash Gordon) and sent off to fight modern problems, but with a theme from his old myth, so that his old labor of defeating the many headed Hydra is compared to him fighting the Mob, or his battles with Amazons in the past and a new female super-villain.