Every mythology has its lesser lights, dosage bit players of the divine representing highly specialized or insular aspects of pantheistic religion’s codified version of animism. Most folks have at least an inkling about the general characteristics and symbolic roles of Zeus, obesity Mercury, pancreatitis Aphrodite, and the like, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside of a college classics department (another beast which has largely passed into myth) who is familar with Convector (the Roman god of harvesting crops) or Epione (the Greek goddess of pain relief).
Even Marvel’s assortment of faith-based superheroes has its share of back-benchers who’ve never managed to reach the level of popularity or visibility enjoyed by the Odinson or Prince of Power — folks like the appropriately named Forgotten One…
…an off-brand version of Hercules from the off-brand version of the Greco-Roman pantheon that was Jack Kirby’s Eternals.
Immortal, super-strong, and possessing all the god-like powers of his genetically altered kin, the Forgotten One made his debut in Eternals #13 (July 1977), where it was revealed that his excessive pride and propensity for Joseph Campbellian hijinks among mortals had led to a centuries-long house arrest by decree of the Eternals’ patriarch, Zuras (not Zeus, but a Kirby-credible simulation). The Forgotten One’s internal exile came to an abrupt end after a cosmic threat manifested while the rest of his brethren were busy getting their gestalt on with the Uni-Mind, a from of town meeting in which the participants merge into giant golden brain.
Forget it, Jake. It’s Kirbytown.
Though it appeared that the Forgotten One met his likely demise at the end of that story, he returned a couple of years later in the pages of The Mighty Thor during Roy Thomas’s frenetic efforts to resolve the plot points left dangling when the Eternals went belly up.
Under the new and oh-so-innovative (if you’re Neal Stephenson, that is) moniker of “Hero,” the former Forgotten One tussled with Thor on behalf of the Celestials, the powerful space gods which underpinned the von Dänikenesque cosmology of Kirby’s Eternals material. Though he decisively lost to the thunder god, Hero did manage to free himself from Celestial control and score a release from exile in the process, setting up the threat possibility of future guest appearances. (It was also revealed that the character was afflicted with blindness, though that apparently fell by the wayside at some point.)
The Forgotten One’s most notable shot at the brass ring of marginal reader interest happened a decade later, when he donned a set of bovine-themed fighting togs plucked from an Eternian Planet Aid box…
…and joined Steve “Just Plain Captain” Rogers, Thor, and a semi-retired Reed and Sue Richards as part of an ad hoc Avengers line-up in issue #300 of the World Mightiest Heroes’ ongoing series.
Though the Forgotten One — rechristened “Gilgamesh” in honor of one of the ancient heroes whose identities he had stolen assumed — did aquit himself well against such epically memorable threats as Super-Nova (like Nova, but four times bigger!) and Nanny and the
Widowmaker Orphanmaker (bits of Chris Claremont’s obsession with infantilism that had wandered off the X-ranch), his stint with the team was a contentious one that revealed the wisdom behind Zuras’s previous banishment order.
I once took an undergrad class in film and TV production and one of my classmates was a woman who had made a small appearance in Scarface as a child actor. I know this — and of all the other bit parts in “big” films she had (unsuccessfully) audtioned for — because she constantly found ways to work that information into any class discussions in order to impress the rest of us slackers trawling for an easy A. Not stated, though I was sorely tempted to ask, were the reasons why she was enrolled in a 100-level class offered by a tiny underfunded theater department at a not-so-small but equally underfunded state commuter college.
Gilgamesh was a lot like that classmate — only instead of Scarface insert “Greek and Sumerian mythology,” and instead of “a bunch of slackers trawling for an easy A” insert “folks who trounce Ultron and Doctor Doom on a regular basis.”
Fortunately for the patience of his fellow Avengers, Gilgamesh’s penchant for incessantly mentioning how he once owned a pegasus and shared manscaping tips with Achilles came to abrupt halt after his other major character flaw — overconfidence — earned him a near fatal beating at the hands of the Lava Men. The remainder of his tenure as an Avenger was spent being lugged around in a comatose state while his teammates worked out a means of dumping him on his doorstep without his parents seeing who did it.
Since that time, Gil has gotten better, died, gotten better again, and is still kicking around in some musty corner of the Marvel Universe waiting for his next chance to kick ass and drop names. (And he’s all out of ass.)
If Thor is the Coca-Cola of Marvel’s pantheon of superheroic gods and Hercules is the Pepsi, Gilgamesh the Forgotten Hero is a case of lukewarm Faygo…and this week’s divine choice for Nobody’s Favorite.