In 2012 Marvel Studios combined some of their biggest superheroes: Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor to create the first superhero team-up film: The Avengers. Each of these heroes had previously starred in their own stand-alone movies, so the sight of them fighting alongside one another made for exciting entertainment. Although it was a revolutionary movie event, the idea of having your biggest heroes unite to make an even-cooler team isn’t new. It’s actually ancient! This idea got its start in Greek mythology with Jason and the Argonauts. Here are five reasons why the Argonauts are actually the world’s first superhero team.
- All of your favorite heroes team up for an epic adventure. Just like the Avengers, many of the Argonauts had their own standalone adventures and were famous in their own right: Atalanta the agile warrior woman, Hercules the strongman, and Orpheus the musician. Each of these heroes had already “starred” in their own myths, so their teaming up made the story that much more exciting.
- Jason is the Argonauts’ Nick Fury. Although most of the Argonauts were famous, the team’s leader, Jason, did not have his own myth until the gods gave him the task of uniting a team of famous heroes and helping them work together. Sound familiar? Basically, Jason is the Nick Fury of the Argonauts—the man working to unite previously established heroes as a team.
- Teamwork makes the dream work. In the 2012 film, The Avengers the biggest obstacle the heroes face is not external; it’s learning to stop fighting amongst themselves and unite against a common enemy. Likewise, as the Argonauts journey afar to the land of Colchis, they encounter many obstacles—deadly monsters, clashing rocks, and even witches. Each Argonaut brings a special ability or skill to the table, but their teamwork is not without its struggles. Just like the Avengers, the Argonauts learn that their success hinges on their ability to unite…or should I say, assemble? See what I did there?
- Infinity Fleece: In later Avengers films, the heroes must struggle against Thanos and his quest for the Infinity Gauntlet, a mighty artifact of ancient power. The Argonauts are in search of a renowned artifact as well: the Golden Fleece. Although the Golden Fleece does not have any inherent power, it signifies Jason’s right to rule his father’s kingdom. Also, the Fleece is guarded by an enormous serpent, which the team must find a way to defeat. A giant serpent is not exactly like taking on Thanos, but hey!
- Cyborg warrior-woman or side-switching witch: In the Avenger films Nebula, the blue-skinned, adopted daughter of Thanos, (spoiler alert) eventually switches sides from bad girl to good girl. Similarly, Medea, the daughter of King Aeetes, the wicked king of Colchis, undergoes a similar change (thanks to an arrow of love from the god Eros) and joins Jason’s team. However, after the events of the story, she eventually turns against Jason—with grisly results (i.e. murdering her own children). Not cool, Medea.
Want to learn about Jason and the Argonauts (the original Avengers) with your students? Then there’s no better way than using our Reader’s Theater script-stories that bring the ancient myths to life. “Jason and the Argonauts: Parts I-III” appear in Reaching Olympus: Heroes, Beasts, and Monsters. Each script-story takes approximately 30-40 minutes to read aloud and comes with a teacher guide that features background information, story summary, anticipatory questions, literary connections, teachable terms, recall questions, and discussion questions. For more information, click here.