Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy: A Kinder, Gentler, More Modern Heracles


  • Janice Siegel Hampden-Sydney College



Hellboy, Heracles/Herakles/Hercules, Classical Reception, Reception of Mythology, Mythic Hero


In Hellboy (2004, Sony Pictures), Guillermo del Toro presents a mythic hero (half human/half demon) seemingly made from the same mold as the classical hero Heracles (Hercules). Hellboy’s modern world is shaped by a cosmology not unlike that of Greek mythology, and as is true for Heracles, his unique pedigree and superior physicality empower him to mediate between the forces of supernaturality and humanity. Hellboy’s experiences evoke comparison with most characters and exploits in the Heraclean mythological corpus; his good character precludes comparison with others. Hellboy must contend with his own versions of Hera, Eurystheus, and a Nemean Lion/Hydra-like monster. He, too, relies on his own superhuman strength, innate cunning and an Athena-like protector to be successful at his job. Both heroes navigate a difficult path to their very different destinies. But in the end, Hellboy’s compassion, humility, unerring moral compass, and genuinely altruistic motivations make him both a better man and a better mythic hero, one worthy even of being loved.