Pop Culture Pantheon- Comic Book Heroes and Villains with Egyptian Mythology Powers
There are numerous heroes and villains across the pop culture universes that gain their powers from one mythology or another, both Marvel and DC borrowing from these fantastical sources and ancient cultures.
Within the MCU movies, we see superheroes and villains from many different worlds. Thor and Loki are from Asgard, and they feature prominently in Norse mythology. In the DC Universe, Shazam was recently introduced, and he gains his strength from heroes and deities from multiple mythologies; Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Achilles and Mercury.
Increasingly, Egyptian mythology seems to be a popular source of inspiration spread throughout the DC and Marvel universes. Let’s take a look at several notable heroes whose strength, speed, flight, and cunning comes from the power of the Egyptian pantheon.
With the popularity of Disney+ and his upcoming series causing buzz, the character to start this list with is Moon Knight, aka The Fist of Khonshu. Here is what you need to know about Moon Knight before the show premieres next year:
Marc Spector (Moon Knight’s primary alter-ego) is a Marine and CIA operative turned mercenary. Spector was turned against by a terrorist named Bushman who left him to die in the Egyptian desert. Nearly dead, Spector managed to wander into a tomb with a statue of the ancient Egyptian deity, Khonshu.
Khonshu, also known as Khonsu, is the Egyptian god of the moon. He was believed to watch over travelers who moved at night and he was a key factor in the creation of new life in all creatures. Khonshu appears to Spector in a vision offering him a second chance at life if he becomes his avatar on Earth.
Fractured by his near-death state, Spector’s interaction with Khonshu awakened multiple personalities within him. When he returned to New York from Egypt, he used these personalities to his benefit to fight crime and maintain a civilian life as well. Moon Knight has been likened to Batman, if the Dark Knight had dissociative identity disorder.
Moon Knight currently has eight comic volumes to his name. Most of these volumes are collected trade paperbacks. Earlier this year, there was even a reprint of Moon Knight #1 for fans who want to go back to his origins. The Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1 is a great place to start before the Disney+ series as well, since it collects the original appearances of Moon Knight from Marvel’s Werewolf By Night and the original 12 issues of Moon Knight, among others.
Moon Knight is far from the only character with Egyptian origins in the MCU. Apocalypse, Storm, Ozymandias, Living Monolith, and Shadow King are from the X-Men universe. The Egyptian god Seth appears in the Thor comics. Sphinx appears in The New Warriors, Fantastic Four and Nova. Asp is a mutant who is part of the Serpent Society. She appears in Captain America, Avengers, and Avengers vs. X-Men to name a few.
This is hardly the complete list of characters in the Marvel Universe, but it is a good place to dive in.
(For more on Moon Knight, check out the Comics Haul with Amy and Paul: Moon Knight Edition!)
Hawkman and Hawkgirl
The Marvel Universe is not the only one that contains characters from ancient Egypt. In the CW show Legends of Tomorrow, we were introduced to both Hawkman and Hawkgirl from the DC Universe. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are intertwined throughout their comic history. The first appearance of both Hawkman and Hawkgirl was in Flash Comics #1, and their most popular incarnations are Carter and Shiera Hall.
Their origin is that of the Egyptian prince Khufu and the Egyptian princess Chay-Ara. Prince Khufu and princess Chay-Ara were killed by Hath-Set (in one incarnation known as Vandal Savage) with a knife forged from the mysterious substance known as Nth metal. The metal and the strength of the love between the prince and princess created a bond which allowed the pair to be reborn multiple times throughout the centuries. Hath-Set, being in proximity to the pair, also gained reincarnation.
In almost all the reincarnations, Khufu and Chay-Ara find each other and wind up together. In each reincarnation, both Hawkman and Hawkgirl retain their memories, even if they are buried at first.
Hawkman has multiple standalone series in addition to appearing in All Star Comics, The Brave and the Bold, Justice League of America, Crisis on Infinite Earths and Justice Society of America. Hawkgirl has one standalone series and appears in many of the same series as Hawkman.
The Geoff Johns Hawkman series is a common place for new readers to start as it features the most recent incarnations of Hawkman and Hawkgirl: Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders.
Hawkman and Hawgirl are not the only Egyptian characters from DC Comics to make their way to the big screen. The Black Adam movie is currently scheduled to come out December 22, 2021. Black Adam typically appears as the archenemy to Shazam, but there are multiple issues where Black Adam goes head-to-head with Hawkman.
Before he became Black Adam, Teth-Adam (an ancient Egyptian) was chosen to be the wizard Shazam’s successor. This storyline appears in Shazam! #8, however, Black Adam’s first appearance is in The Marvel Family #1. The powers granted to Teth-Adam eventually corrupt him and turn him into Black Adam. Black Adam was defeated and perished in 1945, but was resurrected in The Power of Shazam! graphic novel in 1994.
In this reintroduction, Teth-Adam is the son of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II. He impresses one of the high priests with his good deeds and the wizard Shazam gives him the power to become the Mighty Adam. He serves as the champion of Egypt for many centuries before he becomes corrupted by Shazam’s evil daughter, Blaze. Black Adam ends up killing the Pharaoh and appointing himself ruler of Egypt. The wizard Shazam learns of the treachery and strips Black Adam of his powers.
There is one graphic novel collection that collects the six issues of Black Adam: The Dark Age. The Power of Shazam! is another excellent jumping-on point to learn about the character and his origins. The Shazam trade paperback by Geoff Johns that collects The New 52 issues and Justice League issues that Shazam appears in also contains Black Adam and is a great reference for learning all about the character as well.
No list of Egyptian superheroes and villains would be complete without mentioning King Tut from Batman ’66. The character first appeared in the episode The Curse of King Tut on April 13, 1966.
Professor William Omaha McElroy, an Egyptologist at Yale University, receives a blow on the head during a student riot, develops amnesia, and believes he is the reincarnation of King Tut. How did Batman and Robin stop him? Well, just another blow to the head and back comes the Professor. (This theme is how King Tut manages to be in multiple episodes).
King Tut was one of, if not the most, popular villains in the Batman ’66 series. He is also one of the few villains to make his way from the screen to the comics. He appears in the Batman ’66 comic series and this villain makes appearances in other tv series and movies such as The Lego Batman Movie.
Which Egyptian hero or villain would you like to see gain a series or a film? Let Your Geek Sideshow and tell us in the comments below!