Lore Olympus is a modern retelling of the kidnapping of Persephone, written and drawn by New Zealand artist Rachel Smythe and launched on the website WEBTOONS in March 2018. It is one of the most popular webcomics on the site and currently has 5.1 million subscribers. With billboards in Times Square, an Eisner Award nomination, and an animated tv show by the Jim Henson company in the works, it is one of the most popular mythological adaptations in the modern world.
Media centred around the relationship between Hades and Persephone has increased in popularity in the past few years, largely due to comics such as Lore Olympus, Punderworld, and Persephone: Hades’ Torment. These adaptations typically depict the king and queen of the Underworld in a loving and consensual relationship as opposed to one based on a kidnapping. However, the idea of Hades and Persephone being in a loving relationship is not as new as one might initially think.
Appearing in 1995 in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys shows Hades kidnapping Persephone mainly to spite Demeter and the two fall in love before she is later rescued by Hercules.
One of the main reasons why this myth has taken off in popularity is due to it being seen as the “least dysfunctional” divine marriage, with comparisons being drawn with Zeus’s many mistresses and Hera’s volatile reactions to them.
In a world where fanfiction is easier to access than ever, it makes sense that more ‘morally-sound’ adaptations are so popular.
The world of the Lore Olympus is set during an ambiguous era of Ancient Greece where the divine realms are technologically modern, with smartphones and cars, thus separating the gods from the mortals whilst making it easier to humanise them to the modern audience.
The humanisation of the gods is one of the most popular aspects of the comic, especially that of Hera and Zeus, with their marriage being chillingly similar to abusive ones in the modern day.
With Persephone herself, her naivety and uncertainty in Olympus mirrors the anxieites of girls reading the comic. It deals with themes of sexual assault and finding one's place in an unfamiliar world, these being unfortunately necessary explorations in the modern day.
The comic has gathered controversy due to its choices regarding more problematic areas of mythology.
For example, it changes the ancestry of Hera, Demeter, and Hestia in order to make their stories less incestuous, but it almost revels in the age gap between the two leads. Whilst most adaptations keep the exact ages of the gods ambiguous, Persephone is explicitly a 19 year-old student when the comic starts (and drawn to appear near-childlike), whilst Hades is a CEO, thousands of year old and resembling a man in his 50s. One character even comments that he “looks like her dusty old dad”.
The comic does address this gap, lamp-shading how creepy the relationship in the Homeric Hymns could be, though whether it is addressed well is up to the reader. It is clear, though, that the comic is not afraid to address morally murky issues in the same way as the source material.
Whilst it is not for everyone and has its shortcomings, Lore Olympus is an interesting look into how the modern internet sees Greek mythology and how it chooses to adapt it. Mythology is often said to mirror the culture in which it is made and that rings absolutely true for this comic.