I would like to take a post to recognize the costumes, makeup, props and sets of a show called “Young Hercules.” This aired on Fox Kids in 1998-1999, and it wasn’t until I got to revisit it very recently that I realized how much the show shaped my imagination. Jane Holland, wherever you are, stand up and give a bow. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone, costume wise. Props, sets, and makeup are something else. Credits aren’t consistent everywhere I’ve looked. See the list of the crew on IMDB here.
Click all images on this post to enlarge.
This show featured exaggerated fighting, special effects, minor slapstick acting and hit-or-miss scripts, and I love it all the more for this. The fight scenes were thoughtfully choreographed, whooshing sound effects for simple movements were almost precursors to the show “Scrubs,” and all creative aspects were inspired. The costumes generally piggy-backed on the current fashions of exposed midriff, late 90’s hairstyles and silver accessories, as well as past fashions of “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” Nevertheless, I see a bit of a fashion subculture in these shows and it’s only after looking back that I recognize the origins of my own sense of style not only in clothing but in my own imagination.
I’m can’t remember if I first discovered Greek Mythology or Ryan Gosling. One created interest in the other, and as an impressionable eleven-year-old who loved costumes, this show was eye-candy. This detail, I’m sorry to say, isn’t well captured on screencaps I’ve taken, but I will try to explain with picspam and minor fawning. It should also be noted that I’m not a costumer or fashion consultant, so I’m not well versed in how to describe all that I see. Let the pictures speak for themselves. Some of my observations will overlap with the other shows featuring these characters, and some of these costumes only appear in “Young Hercules.”
My inner fangirl is embarrassed that I admit I haven’t yet seen Xena or Hercules: tLJ, but that will certainly change after this experience with Young Hercules. (I’m also going to stop typing title quotations for the benefit of my eyes; it’s a blog, so I’m less formal.)
Lilith wasn’t my favorite female character to say the least, yet I copied her outfit for a Mary Sue that was thankfully never used in a Young Hercules fanfic. My character was used in other projects, but her outfit stayed behind. I could never have passed it off as original, and I’m glad to refer to it and its original creation today. Besides, my Mary Sue has become a different person through the years. Also, I never wrote that fanfic. The concept is still in my mind, and while I spent the past few years wondering how the heck I came up with it, I now see, after re-watching the show, how my mind could come to that plot device. In Young Hercules, lots of minor female characters showed interest in the story’s hero. Why would my Mary Sue be any different? (To answer future questions: no, you may not hear what my story was about.)
I would love it if Jane Holland and her prop partners made a steampunk movie. Their handiwork with leather and metal could make some astounding pieces. Some interesting objects were made for Hephaestus, god of the forge, and his enemy, a cyclops with a handmade blowtorch. Or rather, the characters made some interesting things. I’d also like to think Hephaestus made his own clothes given their craftsmanship.
My favorite props were a centaur medallion given to Hercules by the centaur Cheiron, and the head of a staff carried by the only character who actually died in any episode. (Eurydice, her friend, and Jason’s father don’t count) This staff’s head was made to look like a gold fish with emeralds for eyes. I never got a good look of it in the one episode that featured its owner. It was one of the most elaborate pieces of the show, but sadly of no real use. Marco, we miss you but you were only created so you could add some reality to a monster’s danger.
Accessory wise, the elaborate rings the character Ares wore were probably out of my radar back then, but they didn’t go unnoticed this time. I would very much like to meet the person who made them. Iolaus also wore some interesting jewelry including bands and a thick, silver ring in his cartilage (more on Iolaus later). And for some reason, Strife wore a large, dangling, spider earring in one ear. Because of this show, I grew fond of large, silver and pewter rings and earrings which I still own even though they were always too large for me. I had no idea how to shop for fit in middle school, but I won’t even begin to consider getting rid of them because they still very much represent my tastes.
For an epic reveal, click to enlarge while listening to “Rose of Pain” by X-Japan.
Speaking of Ares, can we please remember that he wore an Elvis Presley knock-off and sang in a mortal talent show? The music for the show was excellent until this episode. I don’t know what happened to let this episode enter the world, but Kevin Smith’s facial expressions and subtle gyrations made up for it by making me laugh away the confusion until I was beyond tears. This guy was an excellent performer in any situation. And, at the very least, the costume was magnificent.
Actual lyrics: “Here, kitty, kitty. Come on, let’s play.”
Variations of Ares’ usual costume can be found online as he, like Discord and Strife, was a recurring character from Xena and Hercules:tLJ. This was information I didn’t know until recently when I was researching the actors of Young Hercules. I much prefer Ares’ look in Young Hercules. With longer hair, he looked more epic. (You know, about as much as the god of war can get.) I also prefer Discord’s maroon dress in this show as opposed to the other productions, but only because that’s what I’m used to. In several episodes, she wore a strappy, lace dress almost exact to what she wears in Hercules:tLJ and Xena. This dress, actually, might be the dress from the other shows minus an additional panel over the sternum and bust, which was likely added as per request of the children’s Fox network. My research shows me Strife’s costume tended to be the same: an all black, trenchcoat-thick suit decorated with safety pins. The design has become an icon to his character.
I’ve noticed that vests and tops were shown special attention. The biggest example of this is Apollo (Scott Michaelson), whose vest might actually have been brighter than his sunny pants. (See left.) A lot of thought was also put into the three best friends and heroes, Hercules, Iolaus, and Jason. While Hercules’ costume was fairly plain (minus the costumer’s obsession with large belts), Iolaus and Jason showed drastic differences due to their character histories. While his pants were a bit less plain than Hercules’, Iolaus’ vest was made to look like a hodge-podge of patches. It’s been hinted many times that Iolaus comes from a poor and/or troubled background. Jason, on the other hand, showed his royalty with a well-crafted, studded masterpiece.
Among the three friends, I preferred Iolaus’ out of all the pants. This is still true today even though my own characters’ fashions were inspired by the black leather featured on this show. You can’t go wrong with brown or burgundy leather.
Two surprises were the costumes of Skourous, the father of Iolaus, and Stregna, Nemesis’ nemesis (haa!). Skourous, a dignified warrior, was impeccably dressed in a be-studded top and contrasting scarf. Two accenting buttons appeared to be flowers, and would have looked out of place were it not for the dressy scarf. Stregna followed the same harsh, leather-like fashions of goddesses, but while the front of her top was plain, the back surprised me. Running vertically were corset-like laces on a leather-looking top—a standard in this production.
Hephaestus’ sense of fashion was no surprise, though I wonder what types of metal the embellishments on his vest and shirt are made of. His pants, not shown, was a cotton or cotton-poly blend featuring lizards. I’m not sure what he has to do with lizards, but it fits his surfer dreadlocks. Holland must have wanted to keep his appearance unique to the other gods because, historically, he is a bit of an outcast. He’s commonly thought to be crippled or lame, but for some reason it appears they softened the meaning of the word and made him dim-witted, or “So totally lame, dude.” Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I always found him to be a lovable character.
Young Hercules didn’t feature all leather and metal, though. The costumers experimented with fur, silks, and velvet. Although these particular costumes tended to be less decorated, they were no less important. Hercules’ mother Alcmene, played by Sharon Tyrell, typically wore a fairly plain peach gown. In one of the last episodes of the season, she surprised me with a less homely look. (See right.) Did I mention fringe was given to the more feminine women of the show?
When Prince Jason became the acting regent for his kingdom, his outfit changed from the hard, leather vest to a softer, sleek, satiny ensemble. While his character became more dignified for this regal role, the chiseled arms and face of Chris Conrad softened very little underneath the costume.
The coats for Zeus an the random mafia members were impressive. That’s right, I said “mafia.” I wasn’t aware Italian Americans existed in ancient Greece, but maybe they were actually from Sicily. But whatever; their coats rocked with their turned up collars and embroidered edges.
Zeus in general was a surprise after an entire season of being absent. Whether the show had intended to be renewed or not, it was a good finish to the season as well as the series. Before his appearance, I’d pictured Zeus in a toga (and who wouldn’t?) but the ensemble that was chosen was pleasing to the eyes and no less godly. Zeus’ coat was incredibly embroidered, and I wish I could have taken a better picture of the designs.
Feathers were won by two characters: Nemesis and the Golden Hind. On Nemesis, they were confined to her breastplate but made her costume that much more unique. From the bow and arrow to her accessories, her outfit branched out from the show’s norm. The feathers put to mind the costume of a ballet swan. Despite her hairstyle, I loved everything about her. Back in 6th grade, I would have been jealous of her because she looked surprisingly close to my Mary Sue. However, this episode was far enough into the season that I was relieved my character came first.
The Golden Hind’s feathers were probably supposed to look like tufts of fur. They look like feathers to me. The actress wore these on a slightly transparent shirt under a gold bikini top. I’m pleased to see the bikini top didn’t look cheap at all. The craftsmanship put into it was incredibly deliberate, and that’s why I love this show (among other reasons listed everywhere). Nothing looked cheap. Even if a character only showed up in one episode, like Nemesis, Holland put a lot of thought into the appearance of the role.
And now a word about the makeup. This appreciation mainly came from the episodes with Bacchus, played by Kevin Smith in this series, and Eurydice, played by Morgan Reese Fairhead. Even when calm, the makeup for Bacchus showed severe anger lines. As the character changed emotions, though, this face wasn’t stagnant. The rubber mask was flexible enough to move as Mr. Smith’s own skin moved, giving any alternate expression a more calculating and dynamic visage. Watching this character, I felt drawn to the subtleties of the face. The muscles underneath the black leather inspired yet another character of mine, who will also remain nameless.
In one episode, Eurydice was talked into marrying Bacchus to save her friends. When Eurydice entered the room (cave) for the wedding, I gasped. With a combination of the hair, makeup, lighting, and fog effect, I thought for a second that I was watching a runway show. (See right.) Although I didn’t particularly care for her house coat costume as a whole, the straw-like, straight hair accent of the upper body was admittedly pretty awesome and fashion-forward.
I have always loved makeup like Discord’s. For years, I’ve been trying to achieve her smoky eye. It’s probably time I used better shadow. The makeup artist, Michael Krehl, turned a sweet young woman into a cruel vixen. This harsh but put-together look introduced me to gothic fashion.
Both Meighan Desmond and Joel Tobeck are so pasty without character makeup, it’s difficult to tell how much foundation they wore for their roles. Strife wins the award for the palest god to ever exist. It’s safe to say he at least wore a thin layer of eyeliner or mascara as his eyes were very pretty. They’re pretty in general, but they always stood out more when he played this character. Strife might have been my gateway fandom into guys who wear eye makeup.
Kudos to everyone who worked on the set. Although all the buildings looked like they were made of styrofoam and certain models fell apart just as easily, I have to hand it to the interior design. Kora’s restaurant genuinely looked like a cool place to hang out. I got a sense of the hugeness of the academy as all the scenes didn’t just take place within one or two rooms (five or six, to be exact). Items as small as lighting fixtures didn’t go unnoticed.
So there you have it. 34 images and the plots of some episodes later, I hope you can see why I kept watching this show and began to love it, too. When first watching Young Hercules back in the day, I was entertained by Strife, Discord, Iolaus, inspired by Bacchus and Lilith, and absolutely batty over Ryan Gosling. This second time, I was inspired by Strife and Discord, and batty over Dean O’Gorman and Kevin Smith. Ryan Gosling was and is still adorable.
This show only lasted one season despite its apparent popularity. This isn’t unexpected; nothing lasted on Fox Kids except for Power Rangers. Unfortunately, only a CD of the show’s music is currently available (unless Hulu feels like being nice for a month or so). Any DVD entitled “Young Hercules” is the film starring Ian Bohen that started the TV series—unless there’s a dubbed German version out there that I’m not aware of.
Jane Holland worked on other leather-rific shows such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Legend of the Seeker, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. I’ll soon be delving into Hercules:tLJ and Xena. Legend of the Seeker is one of my favorite fantasy television shows.
You can see more images and learn more about the show at the following links:
The Wikipedia page
The Young Hercules Wikia
The Xena and Hercules Wikia
An old website with interviews
Mikes Images, where I got some screencaps
The YH page of SciFi On TV
All images belong to MCA Television, Renaissance Pictures, and everyone else involved with the production. Image sources include Hulu screencaps and all the sites listed above.