Zeus (1500 B.C.)
The big daddy of old-school Greek gods, Zeus had many names and many more children. He’s been represented countless times in pop culture, from Clash Of The Titans to a recent Canadian indie band that took his name.
Thor (no solid date)
It’s no wonder that Thor has survived the mists of time, since he’s massive, muscled, and carries a huge hammer. Marvel made Chris Hemsworth in his mold.
In H.P. Lovecraft’s mind, creatures like Azathoth sprung to life frequently. This particular one is a “boundless daemon sultan,” which sounds pretty badass to us. Azathoth would appear in Lovecraft’s work several times.
Eru Ilúvatar (1977)
There are plenty of formidable characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe, but only one “Father Of All,” who’s not really mentioned all that often, but who is personally responsible for creating both men and elves.
Another God that’s easier heard about than heard from, One-Above-All exists in the Marvel Universe, and his only weapon “is love!” Sounds like a Jay Z verse.
Gozer The Gozerian (1984)
Gozer, the ultimate evil in Ghostbusters, isn’t too scary to look at: He’s a Sumerian shape-shifter god who takes the form of whatever the beings nearest his entry point to a universe are thinking about. In this case, something that could never hurt a Ghostbuster: the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
James T. Kirk and crew spend most of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier trying to reach the purported home of God, but once they get there, all they find is an entity with a bad attitude and a huge ego. Not even the real Almighty could save this William Shatner-directed mess, though—it’s widely considered the worst of the Star Trek films.
The Nine Divines (1994)
Obscure faiths abound in the world of The Elder Scrolls, Bethesda Softworks’ long-running series of role-playing games, but the most prominent religion swears fealty to the Nine Divines—a polytheistic bunch that oversees such virtues as beauty, logic, and justice. If that’s too tame and friendly, Elder Scrolls players can also cast their lot with the Daedric Princes, demigods whose ranks include such troublemakers as Molag Bal, the prince of domination and spiritual enslavement. He’s real fun at parties.
In the Transformers universe, Primus and his brother Unicron were created simultaneously, but only Primus exists in all universes at the same time, so he’s got that going for him.
The Technical Boy (2001)
In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, the old gods are forgotten in favor of the new ones, which are created by modern people’s desires. Hence The Technical Boy, who’s like the Comic Book Guy of slobby new gods, dwelling in his basement and hanging out on the Internet all day.
The Architect (2003)
Even an all-encompassing simulation of humanity needs somebody to program it, and in the Wachowski’s sci-fi trilogy, The Architect is the one wrangling the code. Purportedly, his purpose is to “balance the equation” of the Matrix, but the equation deteriorates, and Neo has to “reboot” the Matrix to save the world. It’s pretty confusing.
Flying Spaghetti Monster (2005)
Originally invented as satire to protest the teaching of intelligent design in schools—creator Bobby Henderson argued that his equally baseless theory of an omnipotent Flying Spaghetti Monster ought to be taught in schools, too—the FSM grew into a cultural phenomenon, as tongue-in-cheek adherents formed a shaggy movement known as “Pastafarianism.”
Ah Muzen Cab (2014)
Ah Muzen Cab—the god of bees—offers hornet-like speed and wasp-esque swarming power to players who fight under his guise in the online battle-arena game Smite. He’s a great choice for players who prefer to stand back and unleash a ranged attack; he’s a terrible choice if you’re allergic to bees.
Illustration by Jeremy Wheeler.