This character came about via multiple inspirations. First I'll state that I've had a practically lifelong fascination with Greek/Roman Mythology. I've read many books about the Zeus and the gods of Olympus. Back in 2013, sometime before the film came out, I posted a link to the trailer for the film OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN on my Facebook page. One of my friends joked that he was disappointed after watching it because, based on the title and the first image, he assumed it would be a film about the Greek Gods, with Morgan Freeman starring as Zeus.
That immediately put the image in my head of Zeus, drawn as Black man. Thinking of Freeman specifically I thought, "why not?" He's already played GOD before, TWICE. Hmmmm...
This idea just sort of floated in the back of my head for awhile. I was once thinking of an idea for a movie about a bunch of older superheroes who have to come out of retirement for one last mission to save the world. My dream cast was Robert Deniro, Kathy Bates, Angela Basset and Morgan Freeman. And I started thinking about the kind of superheroes I'd create for them. And the idea of Freeman as a superhero named "Zeus" seemed useful. This isn't something I ever sat and wrote down, it was just something I would think about from time to time.
Then I bought a copy of ABSOLUTE ALL-STAR SUPERMAN (the greatest Superman story ever written), and in the backmatter, Grant Morrison speculates about characters from "New Olympia" (mentioned in the book, but never actually seen), where a new race of Gods live, ruled by "Xeus."
Immediately a light went off in my head as I just loved the spelling of the name, with an X instead of Z, and I added that to my mental catalog of "Black Zeus"
A year later, while writing my blog for IF I COULD MAKE A SEQUEL TO "HANCOCK" once again I had the idea of creating new heroes to be played by established actors. Once again, I had the idea of a Black superhero named Zeus who would be the leader of a new superhero team that would appear in this movie. This time I was thinking of Denzel Washington in the role. But I also thought if he wasn't available for it, it could also be offered to Morgan Freeman.
Again, these just remained thoughts in my head, until I saw Denzel Washington in THE EQUALIZER. I loved it. In this film, he basically plays a superhero. He's Batman/The Punisher. And it works. Even with Denzel being pushing 60, it was believable that he could kick so much ass.
So with that, I finally got around to fully developing this character. The above image is from ARIS ILLIOPOULIS, but it's not the first image I got of the character, that was actually this image from CELINA HERNANDEZ:
I was going for a relatively simple costume design. Y'know, Zeus is usually depicted in mostly white robes, so I figured Xeus would have a mostly white costume, with some yellow (like lighting). And since he is meant to be an older man, again I'm thinking Morgan or Denzel, my idea was that the costume would kind of lose, not the standard skin-tight superhero costume. I was picturing something that wouldn't look too unusual on them, like Morgan's white shirt and pants in Evan Almighty:
I also got the following image from Aris:
In addition to the images from Aris and Celina, I also commissioned one from an incredible artist by the name of JEREMY FARLOW aka DAGGERPOINT,
And then this image from JOSHUA COVEY:
Good stuff. You may notice one slight change in Joshua's image, which is that instead of a goatee, Xeus has a mustache-less beard. That was at my direction, as that came from a redesign by Keith Howell, but I will save that for a future post.
So the backstory I came up with for the character is taken from some thoughts I had once about if I were able to revamp the old MILESTONE COMICS superhero ICON. One of my little problems with that character is that he wasn't really "Black", he was a green(?)-skinned alien who took the form of a Black man when he landed on Earth. I would change that to he is a Black man, an actual human, but he's from a parallel universe, with an alternate timeline.
In Xeus' original timeline, the ancient Greek inventor Hero Of Alexandria somehow found the means to mass-produce his proposed steam-engine. Thus, the Industrial Revolution began a full 2,000 years earlier than it did in our reality. Therefore, their current society is far more technologically advanced than our is in the present day (by the time Columbus was "discovering" America here, they were already colonizing Mars). This explains Xeus' superhuman powers (super strength, stamina, speed, near-invulnerable, and able to project bolts of lightning from his hands and eyes) they're a combination of genetic engineering and scientific tools which he possess.
He was scientist, experimenting with inter-dimensional travel, which lead to him transporting to our world, without the means to return to his own. Initially preferring to live in obscurity, while working on ways to return home, he eventually decides to go public as a superhero, using his abilities for fight for truth, justice, and all that stuff.