HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD. (First Second, 2012)
Written and illustrated by George O’Connor
HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD is the fourth graphic novel in George O’Connor’s Olympians series. The series will ultimately feature a graphic novel for all twelve of the major Greek gods and goddesses. The books featuring Zeus, Athena, and Hera have previously been published, and Poseidon is scheduled to arrive in 2013. In each graphic novel, O’Connor seeks to share some of the origins of the featured god or goddess, provide a sense of the god or goddess’ personality and their role in the ancient world, and highlight one of the stories associated with the god or goddess. These goals are met through O’Connor’s sometimes modern text (Hermes refers to Zeus as “Pop,” etc.) as well as his superb illustrations.
This story of Hades focuses on how he found/took a wife, Persephone, and features an extensive look into the underworld and some of its most famous inhabitants including Cerberus, Tantalos, Sisyphus, and the Kindly Ones. Hermes Psychopompos plays a major role in this graphic novel as well, as he is the messenger to the gods in addition to the one who transports or guides the dead to Hades. As Persephone’s mother, Demeter, goddess of agriculture and the seasons, also has a prominent role in this graphic novel. Unbeknownst to Demeter, Zeus had promised her daughter Kore (she changes her name to Persephone when she becomes queen of the underworld) to Hades as his wife.
One day, surrounded by a storm of dark clouds and tremendous winds, Hades sweeps in and takes Kore. Demeter, not knowing what has become of her daughter, spends months searching for her, and during this time, she neglects her duties, which causes the earth to become barren and the crops to fail. Meanwhile, Kore/Persephone is adjusting to life in the underworld and is beginning to appreciate both Hades and her role as a queen. Eventually Demeter discovers who took her daughter and she confronts Zeus demanding the return of Kore/Persephone, but by this time Persephone has grown accustomed to her new home and to seal the deal she has eaten six pomegranate seeds, with the result that she must spend six months of each year in the underworld. The six months she spends with her mother on earth are indicated by the seasons of spring and summer, while the six months she spends with Hades are the fall and winter.
The art and the text in each panel work together seamlessly to provide readers with the complete and intriguing story. O’Connor’s artistic style can be described as sketchy (meaning lots of somewhat rough lines) and realistic. The feelings and mindset of all the story’s players are obvious by the way O’Connor draws their faces and body stance. O’Connor is a master at using color to convey the different moods and settings. The underworld is conveyed in dark, but layered, hues, while vibrant colors indicate the world above when Demeter is happy and muted, washed-out colors when she is without her daughter.
O’Connor’s graphic novel format and storytelling style will allow readers of all ages and abilities access to his retelling of some of the stories surrounding Hades. In author’s notes, notes on individual panels and a bibliography, O’Connor also provides information on his research and writing process, as well as further details about each of the primary characters. Cross-curricular Connections
: History/Social Studies, Language Arts/English, Visual Literacy, Art and Science (in regards to the seasons and the gems and minerals of Hades’ realm) Ideas for Classroom Use
: Supplemental Text (Grades 5-12)
The easiest, and probably the most obvious, use of HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD would be as a supplemental text. I think that this graphic novel and the others in the series would help a textbook passage on ancient Greece come alive. There are many ways that this could be done without requiring class sets of books, such as reading it to the class using a document camera. Another option is to divide students into small groups with one copy per group. If this were done with the graphic novels for different gods and goddess, students could jigsaw about their findings in small groups. Greek God/Goddess Trading Cards
At the end of each graphic novel, O’Connor provides a page long rundown of each god or goddesses stats along with a picture. For example, on page 75, of HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD, is Demeter’s page. It includes: what she is goddess of, her Roman name, her symbols, her sacred animals, her plants and places, her month, her celestial body, and her modern legacy. Based on this idea, students could create their own trading cards for chosen gods or goddesses or other major players in Greek mythology. ReadWriteThink’s Trading Card Creator (now available as an iPad app) makes a perfect tool for this project. An Olympian Family Tree
On the back of the front cover of HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD, O’Connor provides a family tree of the major Greek gods and goddess, including the Titans and the Olympians. This provides a great jumping off point for the creation of a class-wide family tree. Groups could be assigned different branches or generations of the tree to research and create entries for on the tree. The required information could be varied depending on the grade of the students and the depth of the course, but could include an illustration of his/her symbol, powers or gifts and domains.
Another interesting activity using the family tree would be to compare the Greek family tree to the Roman family tree as many of the same gods and goddess were maintained but their names and other characteristics were changed. A Modern Hell
Hades had appropriate ways of making the inhabitants of his realm atone for their earthly sins. One such example, in HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD, is Tantalos. He was once a favored mortal of the gods, but he murdered his son and then concealed his son’s body in food that he served to the Olympian gods and goddess. His punishment was to spend eternity hungry and thirsty even though he was surrounded by water and grape vines. Each time he bent to take a drink the water receded and each time he reached for the grape vines they would move beyond his grasp. Students could develop appropriate eternal punishments for modern crimes and/or for literary or historical evildoers. How would texting in class be punished in the underworld? What punishment would Voldemort face? How might Hitler atone for his crimes? Additional Resources and Activities: Titans, Gods, and Mortals—Your Source for All Things Olympian
George O’Connor’s website for the Olympians series provides additional information about the Greek gods and goddesses, as well as his obsession with the topic, and related activities. One of the most interesting activities involves two different versions of the same panel; one version doesn’t include any text and the other doesn’t include any illustrations. Students would need to fill-in their own versions of what was missing. There are also several Readers’ Theater scripts and a matching game. The Online World of Rick Riordan
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians novels of Rick Riordan are a perfect intertextual match to O’Connor’s graphic novels. Riordan’s books are set in the modern world, but the Greek gods and goddesses still exist and, to some extent, play a role in daily life. Riordan’s website provides more information on Greek mythology and further activities centered around the gods and goddesses. This would also be a good place to send students who have become taken with the topic of Greek mythology to find additional books to read. Theoi Greek Mythology: Exploring Mythology in Classical Literature and Art
This website is an extensive collection of information on Greek mythology. Although it is massive, it is well-organized, which makes it is easy to find what you are looking for. The site does focus on more than just the Greek gods and goddesses, but a wealth of information is provided about each god or goddesses, including ancient images, links to myths, encyclopedia entries, offspring, cult status, and so on. Ancient Greek & Roman Gods for Kids
Although this website is loaded with ads, it is worth surfing around because of all the resources it gathers in one place. There are links to lesson plans, games, craft activities, and more, all focused on Greek and Roman mythology. Aimee Rogers is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota studying children’s and adolescent literature. Prior to her return to school, Aimee taught high school students with special needs, in a wide variety of settings, for ten years. She misses working with adolescents but is developing a passion for working with undergraduate pre-service teachers. She has a growing interest in graphic novels for children and young adults and is hoping to make them the topic of her upcoming dissertation.
© 2012 Aimee Rogers. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Something Wicked This Way Comes: Scary Booooooooks! Get to Know the 2012 Annual Convention Authors: George O'Connor