Zeus: King of the Gods

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Overview

George O'Connor is a Greek mythology buff and a classic superhero comics fan, and he's out to remind us how much our pantheon of superheroes (Superman, Batman, the X-Men, etc) owes to mankind's ORIGINAL superheroes: the Greek pantheon.
In OLYMPIANS, O'Connor draws from primary documents to reconstruct and retell classic Greek myths. But these stories aren't sedate, scholarly works. They're action-packed, fast-paced, high-drama adventures, with monsters, romance, and not a few ...

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Zeus: King of the Gods

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Overview

George O'Connor is a Greek mythology buff and a classic superhero comics fan, and he's out to remind us how much our pantheon of superheroes (Superman, Batman, the X-Men, etc) owes to mankind's ORIGINAL superheroes: the Greek pantheon.
In OLYMPIANS, O'Connor draws from primary documents to reconstruct and retell classic Greek myths. But these stories aren't sedate, scholarly works. They're action-packed, fast-paced, high-drama adventures, with monsters, romance, and not a few huge explosions. O'Connor's vibrant, kinetic art brings ancient tales to undeniable life, in a perfect fusion of super-hero aesthetics and ancient Greek mythology.

Volume 1 of OLYMPIANS, ZEUS: King OF THE GODS, introduces readers to the ruler of the Olympian Pantheon, telling his story from his boyhood to his ascendance to supreme power.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kathie M. Josephs
This graphic novel opens with Zeus suddenly appearing from a circle, drawn with lines and shadows. Gaez, better known as Mother Earth, loves all her children, but she is still not satisfied until Zeus is created, marking the beginning of a new race of Gods. Now the story takes on its own life. As a young man, Zeus and his father Kronos fight a horrible battle. The illustrations portray holes in the earth, lightning bolts, and Zeus trying to overcome his father to become ruler. Other gods look to Zeus for his wisdom and guidance. The whole world knows when Zeus was angry, because the skies shake with thunder and lightning. A great deal of information is given, yet it is clearly presented to be understood by even younger readers. The full-color graphics have an enormous impact on the story. The author includes notes at the end of the book accompanied by page numbers for better comprehension. There are discussion questions and additional recommended books in this genre. The graphic format is perfect for students who are reluctant readers and never seem to finish a book on their own. Young adults who want to read anything they can get their hands on will enjoy the graphics, exhilarating story, and fast-paced text. This book would be a great addition to a classroom or school library. Reviewer: Kathie M. Josephs
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up—This 12-volume series debuts with the origins of Zeus. O'Connor begins his retelling by starting from literally nothing. Then a simple brown circle introduces readers to Gaea, or Mother Earth. The creation of Olympians unfolds slowly with simple straightforward lines and silhouettes. Dark browns and blacks echo the early development of the Titans. The first fully rendered face is that of the infant Zeus, with his birth symbolized in a pastel palette. This new race of Gods is visually and strikingly different. Zeus's virility and vitality both bring the story to life and make it accessible to young readers. Zeus's encounters with gods, particularly his battle with his father Kronos, are visually compelling. Images of grasping hands, thunderbolts, close-up visages, gaping holes in the earth, and silhouetted bodies bring Zeus's struggle for dominance into clear focus. Oversize panels reinforce the heroic proportions of the story. It is telling that from such a simple beginning, the complex story is able to evolve naturally to a satisfying conclusion, as depicted on the final page showing Zeus and the new race of numerous immortal gods. O'Connor clearly hints throughout the retelling that more stories are forthcoming: "And that is a tale for another day." Endpapers show the Olympian Family Tree. Back matter includes an author's note, notation of Greek words, discussion questions, and recommended reading. This ultimate superhero story will appeal to anyone who enjoys Greek mythology or great comic art.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Kirkus Reviews
An energetic graphic series on classical mythology debuts with the origin story of the Big Cheese Olympian, Zeus. Appropriately heightened, stately language narrates the joining of Gaea with Ouranos, the Titans' rise to power and Kronos's devouring of all his children but one-Zeus (pictured with lots of muscles and, oddly enough, Nordic blond good looks). In contrast (and in the same spirit as G. Brian Karas's rendition of the King of the Gods's story for younger readers, Young Zeus, also 2009), speech-balloon dialogue is decidedly colloquial: "Hey Metis. How about a kiss?" O'Connor pulls out the comic-book stops in his artwork, consciously echoing superteam portraits of yore in his line-up of angry Olympians and allowing the Clash of the Titans to extend over pages and pages of hugely satisfying sound effects, crumbled mountains and thrown lighting bolts. He plants clues in both text and images to stories to be developed as the series continues. Extensive backmatter includes an author's note, full-page character profiles, "G[r]eek Notes," discussion questions ("Has your dad ever tried to eat you?") and a bibliography. Holy Cyclopes, here's a keeper. (Graphic mythology. 8-14)
From the Publisher

Review in 1/1 Booklist

O’Connor unveils his new Olympians graphic-novel series with this story of the daddy of Greek gods.  Most immediately striking about this, aside from the exciting artwork, is the care O’Connor takes to visualize the creation myth that begins with Gaea creating and taking as a husband the sky, Ouranos. Their children—the Titans and other proto-Olympian entities—are often neglected or at best murkily covered, but here they’re vividly portrayed with all the magnificence of their beyond-good-and-evil power. After this breathtaking and lengthy sequence, Zeus enters the scene to grow from a feisty nymph-needling youth to a lightning bolt–wielding avenger. The extended, earth-shattering battle he wages with his father, Kronos, takes up the bulk of the story, delivering page after page of cataclysmic blows with the sensibility and hyperkinetic pacing of a literary superhero comic. While O’Connor includes a generous bounty of bonus materials to gratify myth hounds, this series could well become the initiation point for a new cadre of acolytes. New volumes should come quickly, with Athena's book due in April 2010.

Review in 2/1 Publisher’s Weekly

O'Connor (Kapow!; Journey into Mohawk Country) embarks on a new project: a series of graphic novels for young readers about Greek mythology (Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess follows in April, with Hera and Hades in the pipeline). While the D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths is the gold standard for illustrated introductions to Greek mythology, O'Connor offers a modern take with a new view of these “original superhero stories” with gritty yet heroic art and spare prose that lets the myths speak for themselves. The story is the one most schoolchildren know—the Titans created Zeus and Hera, as well as the Cyclopes, and adventure ensued—but O'Connor brings the young gods to life with memorable compositions and attention to detail (childlike fear on Hera's face as she navigates the treacherous new world, a bat screeching away as Zeus confronts the Cyclopes). Back matter includes notes, a bibliography, a list of recommended books for further reading, and discussion questions for readers, making it attractive for teachers and librarians for its information and depth of research. But that shouldn't stop tweens from enjoying the story. Ages 9–12. (Jan.)

Review in 12/15 Kirkus Reviews

An energetic graphic series on classical mythology debuts with the origin story of the Big Cheese Olympian, Zeus. Appropriately heightened, stately language narrates the joining of Gaea with Ouranos, the Titans’ rise to power and Kronos’s devouring of all his children but one—Zeus (pictured with lots of muscles and, oddly enough, Nordic blond good looks). In contrast (and in the same spirit as G. Brian Karas’s rendition of the King of the Gods’s story for younger readers, Young Zeus, also 2009), speech-balloon dialogue is decidedly colloquial: “Hey Metis. How about a kiss?” O’Connor pulls out the comic-book stops in his artwork, consciously echoing superteam portraits of yore in his line-up of angry Olympians and allowing the Clash of the Titans to extend over pages and pages of hugely satisfying sound effects, crumbled mountains and thrown lighting bolts. He plants clues in both text and images to stories to be developed as the series continues. Extensive backmatter includes an author’s note, full-page character profiles, “G[r]eek Notes,” discussion questions (“Has your dad ever tried to eat you?”) and a bibliography. Holy Cyclopes, here’s a keeper. (Graphic mythology. 8-14)

Review in 12/15 Shelf Awareness

Here it is! The book you've been waiting for: the first in a 12-book graphic novel series about the Greek gods, called Olympians. And it's just in time to satiate the kids waiting anxiously for The Lightning Thief's movie release (and aimed at the same age readers). Going back to sources from antiquity, including Homer and Hesiod, George O'Connor begins his story with the creation of the gods and lays the foundation for their famous jealousies and rash actions. For starters, Ouranos (the sky), husband to Gaea (Mother Earth), favors his Titan offspring ("They were ageless and beautiful and so tall that their heads scraped the sky") over the one-eyed Cyclopes and Hekatonchieres (each of which has 50 heads and 100 hands). So Ouranos condemns the latter two lines to a chasm deep within the earth. Gaea (pronounced GHEE-uh), however, wants all of her children to be free. So, at her urging and with Kronos in the lead, the Titans "cut open the sky" and drain Ouranos of power. Much to Gaea's dismay, Kronos, now ruler of the Titans, "has too much of his father in him," and he, too, refuses to free his brothers below the earth. So she appeals to the next generation--Zeus.

O'Connor, who early on demonstrated his love of comics with his debut picture book, Kapow!, taps into the more complex visual characterizations he explored in his artwork for last fall's Ball Peen Hammer (by Adam Rapp) here. Kronos and Zeus, even at their most chilling, never lose their dimension or their charisma. The artist uses long vertical cartoon panels in wine, rust and midnight-blue tones to emphasize the commanding grace of the Titans, as well as the "new life" that arises from the drops of Ouranos's blood (and the text plants seeds to further installments: "What came from that [pink froth] is a tale for another day"). The first sight of a maturing Zeus warrants a full page and a much lighter palette in terra cotta, forest green and robin's egg blue. Eight equal panels chronicle Zeus's transformation into an eagle ("To be an Olympian... was to be able to change shape as others change their mind"), and when Zeus meets Metis (a daughter to Oceanus and future mother of Athena), the story shifts from the omniscient narrator's voice to direct dialogue between the pair. But the climactic duel between Kronos and Zeus (father and son) is O'Connor's crowning achievement here. While carefully adhering to the Greek legends, O'Connor endows these mythic characters with a freshness and magnetism that will attract even today's visually savvy youth.

Review in 3/10 School Library Journal

Gr 4 Up–This 12-volume series debuts with the origins of Zeus. O’Connor begins his retelling by starting from literally nothing. Then a simple brown circle introduces readers to Gaea, or Mother Earth. The creation of Olympians unfolds slowly with simple straightforward lines and silhouettes. Dark browns and blacks echo the early development of the Titans. The first fully rendered face is that of the infant Zeus, with his birth symbolized in a pastel palette. This new race of Gods is visually and strikingly different. Zeus’s virility and vitality both bring the story to life and make it accessible to young readers. Zeus’s encounters with gods, particularly his battle with his father Kronos, are visually compelling. Images of grasping hands, thunderbolts, close-up visages, gaping holes in the earth, and silhouetted bodies bring Zeus’s struggle for dominance into clear focus. Oversize panels reinforce the heroic proportions of the story. It is telling that from such a simple beginning, the complex story is able to evolve naturally to a satisfying conclusion, as depicted on the final page showing Zeus and the new race of numerous immortal gods. O’Connor clearly hints throughout the retelling that more stories are forthcoming: “And that is a tale for another day.” Endpapers show the Olympian Family Tree. Back matter includes an author’s note, notation of Greek words, discussion questions, and recommended reading. This ultimate superhero story will appeal to anyone who enjoys Greek mythology or great comic art.–Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Starred Review in 4/1 BCCB

Readers who find Edith Hamilton–styled myth retellings just a tad too stately or a touch too solemn will be delighted with this debut title in the Olympians series of graphic novels. O’Connor takes his subject seriously, adhering closely to Hesiod’s Theogony; he ramps it up with artwork that retains the majesty of a creation story while sparkling with dashes of comic-book humor that nestle readers right into a comfort zone. Beginning with Gaea’s creation of her heavenly mate, Ouranos, he launches into the epically dysfunctional family drama that is the story of their belligerent offspring. These ur-creatures, regal and monumental, seem to be chiseled out of elemental earth itself, but teens who are immersed, or even slightly dipped, in contemporary comics will also recognize that carefully staged group poses of the Titans and Kronos’ six children recall superhero teams mustering their forces to kick some cosmic butt. It’s this balance between respect for myth and adherence to comic-book form that works so wonderfully well here: Zeus is every inch the ripped stud, equally adept at warfare and womanizing; Metis, who helps him conquer his child-consuming father, is a not-as-ditzy-as-she-looks blonde; and Hera, Zeus’ sister and wife, is both a vulnerable rescued maiden and a no-nonsense queen. O’Connor packs his title with delicious end matter, including full-page summaries of several main figures, in presentations reminiscent of game-character bios; a note on oral and written transmission of Greek myths; “G[r]eek Notes” that explicate the contents of various panels (and sometimes provide tie-ins with contemporary comic book heroes); a bibliography and list of recommended reading; discussion questions; and an Olympians Family Tree that graces the front endpaper. This will be a worthy lead-in or companion piece to Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze. EB

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596434318
  • Publisher: First Second
  • Publication date: 1/5/2010
  • Series: Olympians Series, #1
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 212,666
  • Age range: 9 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: GN640L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.56 (w) x 10.02 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

George O'Connor is an author, illustrator and cartoonist. His first graphic novel, Journey Into Mohawk Country, used as its sole text the actual historical journal of the seventeenth-century Dutch trader Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert, and told the true story of how New York almost wasn't. He followed that up with Ball Peen Hammer, the first graphic novel written by playwright Adam Rapp, a dark, dystopian view of a society's collapse. Now he has brought his attention to Olympians, an ongoing series retelling the classic Greek myths in comics form. In addition to his graphic novel career, O'Connor has published several children's picture books, including the New York Times best-selling Kapow, Sally and the Some-Thing, and Uncle Bigfoot. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The first six pages establish the setting of the story, relying on lots of space and few words. How does this choice convey the setting? How would you rewrite those first few pages if you could rely only on words to convey the same feeling? If you were making a movie, what would the music for this scene sound like?

Gaea is female. Does this surprise you? Why or why not? Do you think of the Earth as being either male or female? How about God?

Page 4-5: It's strange that the gods of time were ageless. They are also described as tall and beautiful, but somehow they have siblings who are ugly and horrible. What do you make of this? Does O'Connor offer an explanation? Look at all the places where time is mentioned-what's the big deal with time? How many Titans were there? Can you name them and list their characteristics?

Page 14-15: These two pages are visually very striking. Page 14 has just one panel with a full picture of Zeus in front of some mountains. Then on page 15, we see many panels, each with a small piece of Zeus. Why do you think O'Connor chose to do this? What effect does it have?

There are many women in Zeus's life. Who are they and how do they influence him?

Page 30: There are no words on this page. Why? Would you add words? If so, what would they be?

How does the myth of Zeus explain why our continents are laid out the way they are? What is a modern explanation?

Size, scale, and time are hugely important in the story of Zeus, and O'Connor's art takes full advantage of this in his drawings, for example, page 41. Where else do size and time matter?

Page 62: "But Zeus had too much of his father in him." Compare this to page 10: Who else had too much of his father in him? What does this mean? How are fathers and sons depicted in this story?

This book ends after a series of great battles. Much has changed for Zeus and his family. And yet, there is still a great deal of tension. What do you think will happen next? Why?

Was Zeus real? What other ancient Greek heroes have you heard of? Which are "real?" How do myths blur the lines between gods and people?

There is a whole lot of family drama in Zeus's life. If he's a god, why can't he just solve this nonsense? Which other family members could be seen as part of the problem? Is there a family member you would expect might be more helpful?

Several times we are told, "That's a story for another day." What do you make of this? What effect does this self conscious appearance of the narrator have on the story?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommended

    Zeus: King of The Gods What I got out of the book was that you can learn about complicated story lines and plot through entertaining pictures. The author writes about Zeus¿s back story and how he later becomes king of the Greek gods and rules over the old world. Greek mythology is filled with heroes and monsters of different sorts so I find it rather fascinating, but also rather complex. With various names and various personalities¿ Greek tales and myths is fun to read and learn about. With unsuspecting turns and plots it opens the reader to a whole new world of magnificent culture and ideas that can be related back to our own society. For example Zeus is a man with super human strength but he has an ego and still makes mistakes like most regular people. I find Zeus one of the more exciting and interesting of Greek tales. His father Kronos tries to be rid of his children for fear that they will one day over throw him. Zeus¿s mother loved her children so much and couldn¿t bear to see Kronos swallow all of them for fear of revolution, that she hides her last child and sends Zeus to safety. Zeus grows up to become strong and in touch with his godly powers and later soon learned to master them. He then decides to confront his father and fight him to overthrow his corruption. Zeus frees his brothers and sisters by making Kronos cough up all the children born before him. They help Zeus to fight against Kronos and the titans. Zeus also releases the Cyclopes that Kronos and the titans had imprisoned in Tarturas or the underworld. Their war lasted many years and changed the face of the world. Finally Zeus and his force defeated the titans and dammed them to darkness in the deepest hole of the earth forever, leaving the gods to rule in their place. After defeating their father, Zeus and his family made their home on the tallest mountain left standing from the war. This mountain was called Mount Olympus. As far as tales go, this legacy will never end because elements of their culture have taken root in many aspects of our society. For example, Zeus still remains as a traditional representation of power today. This is why I find Greek mythology so fascinating, because it is timeless. Additionally, it is much easier to understand in graphic novel form.

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