BIOGRAPHY - Page 1
Hera's start in life was ultimately very traumatic and may somewhat explain her behavior as she grew to adulthood. The daughter of the Titan Gods, Cronus and Rhea, she was devoured by her father as she was born, as he had heard a prophecy that one of his own children would eventually usurp him. Later this prediction did come to pass and Hera's youngest brother, who unlike her had been rescued by their mother, returned to overthrow their father, killing him and freeing Hera from her father's belly, along with their other siblings Poseidon, Hades, Demeter and Hestia. With Cronus dead, Zeus ascended to the king of the gods and took Hera as his wife, making her his queen. [Incredible Hercules #130]
While the marriage was fruitful, Hera and Zeus did consummate their union and had several children of their own, Zeus was not satisfied with monogamy and very soon Olympus was populated with his many “bastards,” much to Hera's enduring disgrace. The situation was not helped when Hera gave birth to their youngest son, Hephaestus. The boy was born hunchbacked and somewhat deformed. For a narcissistic goddess like her, a child like Hephaestus simply would not do. Immediately after his birth, in a fit of rage, Hera threw him from Mount Olympus. The infant fell for nine days and, when he hit the ocean, he broke his leg. Hephaestus was found by a sea nymph named Thetis, who raised him. When he reached adulthood and was found to be an excellent armor smith, Hera felt she had made a mistake. As an attempt at an apology, Hera arranged his marriage to his allged half-sister, the beautiful goddess Aphrodite. Ironically, Hera had in fact placed Hephaestus in a situation similar to herself, as his new wife was anything but faithful, fornicating with even his own elder brother, Ares, Hera's favorite child. [Incredible Hercules #140]
Despite her own seeming lack of maternal instincts, Hera's role as matriarch of the Olympians and goddess of childbirth did grant her some unusual abilities. At one point in ancient history, while with her stepdaughter/niece Athena, Hera came across an abandoned baby boy lying on the side of the road. Athena bade her stepmother to feed the abandoned little boy. In an uncharacteristic act of compassion, Hera peacefully picked up the infant and nestled him into her bosom to feed. Suddenly, she felt him bite her with such a force that she flung him away from her. Her divine breast milk had granted the boy enduring invulnerability, so he remained unscathed. In actuality, the baby was yet another of her husband's bastards and her stepdaughter Athena had duped Hera into granting the baby the very invulnerability that would protect him from Hera's wrath throughout his life. Hera was furious at this ruse and did attempt to get her revenge by sending serpents to murder the boy. However, despite his age, given his preternatural strength, he simply killed his assassins. Ironically, the baby would later be renamed Heracles or “glory of Hera.” It is disputed whether this was an attempt at appeasement on the part of the boy's mother Alchema or by others to mock Hera. If this was an attempt at appeasement, to say it failed would be an understatement and Hera would bear a particular hatred for her namesake for millennia to come.
Heracles (sometimes Hercules/Herakles) grew to adulthood and became a noted Grecian hero. As Hera and Athena bore witness to his heroic deeds, Athena revealed to Hera why she had manipulated her all those years ago. Athena claimed that Heracles would function as a champion for the mortals, a killer of monsters so that one day mankind could enter a new age of reason/science. Hera was enraged and considered Athena's plan idiotic and even suicidal, given that gods derived their powers from worship. She swore that one day her eldest son, Ares, god of war, would murder Hercules and become the true champion of Olympus. Further, she promised Athena that there would one day be a reckoning between the two of them as payback for how she had humiliated her. [Incredible Hercules #126]
Hera continued to plot against Hercules as he established himself. She concocted the “13 labors of Hercules,” a series of trials that were designed to be unconquerable. She had one of her devotees King Eurytheus commission the now very arrogant Hercules to do these tasks. Eurytheus was Hercules’ cousin and Hera had spent years at this point sowing hatred between the two men. To her great dismay, Hercules proved adequate to her trials. During one such test, Hercules was to steal the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (who was Hera's granddaughter through Ares). Hercules managed to seduce Hippolyta and she parted with the girdle willingly. So committed to his defeat, Hera then descended to Themiscyra herself posing as an Amazon and convinced the warrior women their queen was under attack. Still, Hercules managed to escape the city with the girdle despite being pursued by the full force of the Amazon nation. [Incredible Hercules #122]
[Note: The death of Heracles' wife Megara and children is often attributed to Hera and believed to have prompted his labors. In Incredible Hercules #115, Hercules disputed this and said his stepmother was not responsible for their deaths and that he began the labors before his wife and children died. Given the horrific relationship between Hercules and his stepmother, it seems unlikely that he would lie to protect her reputation.]
Much to Hera's irritation, Hercules did eventually complete all her “impossible” trials, though he did meet his end by someone else's hand sometime later anyway. Hercules was poisoned by a centaur named Nessus and, dying, he opted to join the funeral pyre of his nephew and friend Iolaus. Upon his death, Zeus decided to raise him unto Olympus and made him a true god. As a peace offering to Hera, Zeus married Hercules to Hera's daughter Hebe, goddess of youth. This did nothing to quench Hera's scorn towards her stepson. It did not help matters that Hercules, like Zeus before him, was frequently unfaithful to his new wife. [Incredible Hercules #129]