Anyways, later in life, Sigurd meets his true love, then consumes a potion of forgetfulness (been there), and proceeds to forget his true love. He marries someone else, then helps his new brother-in-law get with his former lover by exchanging shapes with him and wooing her in his place (haven't specifically been there, but yeah, I can relate). This, oddly enough, ends in disaster, and Sigurd, his love, and several other people all die bloodily.
So yeah, don't be under the impression that we invented "dark" and "gritty" superheroes in the 1980s, because the Scandinavians have been all over that shit for centuries.
Gilgamesh is the oldest superhero on this list, and right from the start we can see all the elements of a classic superhero. Superhuman strength, two-thirds god, one-third man, ruler of Uruk ... wait a second. Two-thirds god? Hang on. OK, I've done a bit of work here with a calculator, an eighth-grade health class pamphlet, and some LEGO figures, and that's not really possible. So here, in one sentence, our unknown Sumerian pulp writer has implied the wildest fucking origin story ever written.
Image Source/Getty Images
"So was it two gods and one mortal in, like, a tent one night? Or was this done surgically?
Or was one god beating off into ..."
Gilgamesh was, by most accounts, a bit of a dink. He took advantage of his rule to sleep with young brides on their wedding nights and challenge the men of his city to tests of wit and strength. The gods themselves had to keep him in line by sending him a badass friend, called Enkidu, to look after him. Enkidu was a wild, hairy man who also possessed superhuman strength, and after wrestling with Gilgamesh, earned his respect.
The two then go on all sorts of adventures, slaying a lion-snake-vulture monster, slaying a pretty big bull, probably slaying a lot of things, to be honest. But then they get into all sort of trouble because the gods really liked that bull they killed, and they slay Enkidu in revenge. Gilgamesh then vows to go on one last big score and find the sole living immortal to learn from him the secret to eternal life. He ends up finding him but isn't satisfied with the answer he receives.
Samantha via Wikimedia Commons
"What the hell is a gluten?"
And that's more or less the end of his story, and we're lucky to have that much, because it was written on a 4,000-year-old rock. But that itself underscores an important point. Seeing as Gilgamesh hails from what is essentially the dawn of history, it's reasonable to speculate there were plenty more superheroes before him. He was just one of the first written down. So rest assured that just about every modern take we've got on the superhero genre has been discussed around a fire millennia ago.
"And then in his suit with nipples this large, our hero ..."
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and your best friend. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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