Since the release of Neil Gaiman novel American Gods back in 2001, the story became a hugely popular one with readers across the globe. Featuring an array of compelling, intriguing, and memorable characters, Gaiman introduced a version of America that could only have been dreamt up by the most creative of minds, with an intense raw brewing between the old gods and the new. Now, that world and the characters within it will become the subject of a television series developed by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for the TV network Starz.
Gaiman is working closely with those behind-the-scenes on the series, which will kick off with an eight-episode debut season on April 30. Starring the likes of Ricky Whittle (The 100) and Ian McShane (Game of Thrones), it looks likely to be must-see television.
Ahead of its debut however, we’ve decided to rank every major god in the series from worst to best. Now be warned, there are some minor spoilers ahead, but don’t let that put you off! So here it is: Every God In The American Gods Series, Ranked.
We kick things off with Vulcan, simply because he’s a brand new character to American Gods, created by Gaiman specifically for the television series. Introduced as an ancient god of fire and metalworking, but having since rebranded himself as the god of guns in a bid to boost his popularity, not much is known about Vulcan past what showrunner Michael Green told those awaiting the series’ debut.
Described as “the god of the volcano and the forge”, Vulcan will be played by L.A. Law and Psych actor Corbin Bernsen. He’ll allow for some interesting additions to the series that readers of the novel may not yet be privy to, which is always important for a story that some fans know from beginning to end. Now even those who have read the book could be in for some big surprises, especially with Vulcan as perhaps the only “new-old god” in the series. Exactly where his allegiance will fall is still up in the air.
Though it feels a little icky putting Jesus this low on a ranked list, he doesn’t play that big of a role in the American Gods story. In fact, in most versions of the novel he doesn’t appear at all, instead being relegated to a bonus chapter that’s included in special editions of the book, known as the “author’s preferred text”. Turning Jesus into a character in a book is always dangerous with religion being such a huge topic of debate in the real world, but that’s not stopped showrunners on the new series from bringing him on board.
Jeremy Davies (of Lost fame) will be one of several actors stepping into Jesus’ sandals throughout the season. It’s likely that his appearances will come alongside Easter, with his mentions in the book usually coming as part of the chapters that detail the conversations that took place with that character. When it comes down to it however, Jesus doesn’t have an overarching narrative within the American Gods universe, so exactly what we should expect is still up in the air.
Though his appearance in the American Gods novel isn’t one that has too much of an impact on those characters that are integral to the story, Jinn is still a compelling character with a great tale to tell, no matter how short it is.
From the Middle East, the Jinn is otherwise known as an ifrit. This Jinn is exhausted and living a life as a taxi driver. When he meets a young man named Salim in his taxi, the two become entangled in a relationship that burns as hot as the Jinn’s fiery eyes. Whether his story is a part of American Gods to make a statement on sexuality, passion, the beauty of an old god or something else altogether, the chapter that Jinn and Salim are involved in has been a talking point ever since it was first read.
The chapter is clearly significant for Gaiman, as it will be translated onto the small screen at some point during this first season of the show. Whether the Jinn will have a bigger role in the live adaptation however remains to be seen, though he is pegged for multiple episodes.
13. Low-Key Lyesmith
As Shadow’s cellmate, Low-Key Lyesmith is a prominent character throughout his time behind bars. Unfortunately, it just so happens that we don’t get to read too much about that time in the original novel, as we join Shadow just a few days before his release. That’s not to say Low-Key doesn’t have an impact on Shadow’s future, with the fellow inmate giving him some pearls of wisdom that help him out early on in his journey; one in particular when he’s in the airport following release.
Low-Key does make a return later in the book and is actually a huge part of the overarching narrative, but revealing anything beyond that would make for a huge spoiler for anybody new to the story. Cheeky and infectious at times; hideously annoying at others, Low-Key is the perfect embodiment of the trickster Norse god. It should be interesting to see how he weaves his way throughout the TV series.
12. Mr. Jacquel
Running the Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor with his partner Mr. Ibis (a character we’ll delve deeper to a little later in the list), Mr. Jacquel isn’t immediately one of the more memorable additions to the American Gods story, but is a man who adds yet another layer of integrity to the fantastical sides of the tale.
Able to take the form of a long-muzzled, black dog with pointed ears, Mr. Jacquel is a professional when it comes to performing autopsies at the funeral parlor, though he indulges in some less-than-appetizing behavior while he works.
His most exciting scenes are the ones that take place in the latter stages of the novel and so because of that, we imagine that his best bits will be kept for future seasons rather than taking place throughout the first eight episodes coming to viewers this year. Unfortunate, but something to look forward to.
11. Mad Sweeney
Originally from Ireland, Mad Sweeney is a leprechaun who guarded a sacred rock over three thousand years before the events that take place in American Gods. Gaining power through his madness, the character is introduced to readers and viewers as one who’s looking for a fight. In fact, his first scene sees him trade blows with Shadow as the two engage in fisticuffs for sport. Though it seems like a pointless encounter to outsiders, it’s one that changes the entire narrative of the story and Shadow’s life forever.
Enjoying his booze, Mad Sweeney is known to his fellow gods as Suibhne, a frequent drinker with a potty mouth and an affinity for chaos. Actor Pablo Schreiber is the perfect embodiment of the character, and while it was sad to see Sean Harris quit the show, it may have been a blessing in disguise if Schreiber’s performance is anything to go by.
10. Technical Boy
Technical Boy is the new god embodiment of every single whining teenager that relies far too heavy on their social media stock. American Gods’ most unlikeable character is unfortunately one of the most powerful, acting as the internet in this story and able to “delete” people and other living entities from existence with the simple click of a button. Clearly worshipped by the masses because of the widespread use of and reliance on the internet, Technical Boy has never been more aware of his power, but uses it for nefarious means.
Played by Bruce Langley in the TV series, Technical Boy will be one of the characters that has changed most when compared to his novel counterpart. This is mostly in part due to the evolution of the internet since the novel’s original release in 2001; a lot has happened in regards to both the internet and technology in general. Finding out exactly what those changes are is going to be exciting for long-time fans.
9. Mr. Ibis
Working alongside the previously mentioned Mr. Jacquel at the Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor, this Egyptian god is a wise one, brought to the small screen by Demore Barnes, and the author of some of the Coming to America stories that are scattered throughout the American Gods novel.
Serving as a major contrast to some of his most loyal friends, Mr. Ibis is a rather stern character who recounts tales of old gods to Shadow, offering the audience a look into the context surrounding some of the characters that would be hard to relate to, or follow, without his wisdom. You could say in fact that Mr. Ibis is the closest thing to a narrator that the story ever gets. His inclusion is a fundamental one; without him we would be left clutching at straws when it comes to bringing substance to some of the more mysterious faces in American Gods.
For many, seeing Easter embodied by Kristin Chenoweth is one of the most exciting things about the upcoming American Gods TV series. Though she doesn’t have that many appearances throughout the original novel – especially towards the beginning – she’s certainly an infectious and mesmerizing character who engages in extravagant events, no matter what the occasion. Seemingly afraid to sign herself up for the battle against the new gods, Easter claims to be happy with the amount of worshipping she receives when first approached by Shadow and Mr. Wednesday.
Late in the story, however, she proves to be extremely important in bringing Shadow’s journey full circle. Saying much more would spoil the surprise, but she’s certainly going to be at the root of some compelling scenes.
Like others on this list, we think Easter will be enjoying an expanded role throughout the TV series, pegged to appear in six of the first eight episodes. Exactly how her time will be spread throughout the first season however is yet unknown to us.
As an old god and the Queen of Sheba who requires worship through sex, Bilquis doesn’t appear too often throughout the American Gods novel, but when she does she makes an incredible, lasting impact. Though she’s present in only two chapters, it would seem Bilquis will be making a huge mark on the television series, as the actress Yetide Badaki is pegged to appear in all eight episodes of the first season. With character posters, special teasers focusing on the character and more, it’s clear that the role is going to be an expanded one.
Unfortunately, no new information has been revealed as to her scenes which will be unique to the series, with the clips we’ve seen of Bilquis so far remaining loyal to her scenes from the novel. Perhaps viewers will find out a little more about Bilquis’ backstory, with the goddess often suspected of being half-human, half-demon. It’s certainly a storyline that would make for exciting viewing.
6. Mr. World (and the Black Hats)
As the leader of the new gods, Mr. World is one of the most powerful entities in the American Gods story. With such a self-explanatory name, it’s easy to understand why he’s hugely dangerous and so, when you learn he’s willing to do anything to wipe Shadow out and Mr. Wednesday out, he immediately becomes the main antagonist of the tale.
Not appearing until the twelfth chapter of the novel, Mr. World is a part of a group known as the “Black Hats”, alongside Mr. Town, Mr. Wood, and Mr. Stone; all of whom exist because of America’s obsession with the “Men in Black” and Black helicopters.
Working in espionage for the new gods, he and his cronies aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, and it doesn’t take long for them to do exactly that. Seeing this group of cold-blooded killers in action is going to make for some must-see television.
Though he’s clearly out of his mind at various points of the story and takes part in one of the craziest high-stakes games of checkers against Shadow, there’s something we can’t help but love about Czernobog. From Slavic mythology, there’s nothing pretty about this god of darkness who lives alongside the Zorya Sisters (more on them later), dreaming of the good old days when he could put his almighty sledgehammer to good use.
One of Czernobog’s favorite activities is using that very sledgehammer to smash in the heads of cows – and the occasional human who is willing to put their life on the line. What he initially is against, however, is joining the war against the new gods, as he instantly becomes wary of Mr. Wednesday’s motivations for storming so quickly into battle. This wariness is something that he likely later recalls when shady events begin to take place.
As the mouthpiece for the new gods, Media makes her play for Shadow very quickly. She is the ultimate personification of television, worshipped by the millions of Americans who cannot go a day without sitting down in front of the box to indulge. Clearly, she’s one of the more powerful gods involved in the story.
Offering Shadow a place to work away from Mr. Wednesday and alongside the new gods, Media does her best to poach the story’s protagonist, taking on a variety of characters from the small screen such as Lucy Ricardo from I Love Lucy and Diane from Cheers while doing so.
Gillian Anderson will be seen stepping into the role in the Starz series, slated to be appearing in seven episodes, but as you can see from the image above, a lot of what will be involved in regards to her character is being kept under wraps. When it comes to the small screen adaptation of the American Gods story, it certainly looks like we’ll be delving deeper into the personification of each character than ever before. Media is one of those characters who could provide a wealth of exciting new material in the TV series.
3. The Zorya Sisters
Made up of Zorya Vechernyaya, Zorya Polunochnaya and Zorya Utrennyaya, the Zorya Sisters are a trio of old gods who come from Slavic mythology and are relatives of the previously mentioned Czernobog. Representing the Evening Star, the Midnight Star, and the Morning Star respectively, the characters are based on two guardian goddesses who represent the Auroras and were tasked with watching over the doomsday hound. It is said that if they failed in their task and the chain holding the winged hound was broken, it would devour the Ursa Minor constellation and bring the universe to an end.
Little bits of this are hinted at throughout the American Gods novel, though it’s never explicitly stated. Of course, the difference with Gaiman’s story is the inclusion of a third sister. While she’s described in some versions of the Slavic myth, everything about the Midnight Star was a work of fiction for the novel.
While we know Cloris Leachman will be playing Zorya Vechernyaya and Erika Kaar steps into the shoes of Zorya Polunochnaya in the television series, there’s not yet been any mention of who would play the third sister.
2. Mr. Nancy
Also the topic and titular character of spin-off novel Anansi Boys, Mr. Nancy is one of the old gods and a central character to this story. Through his quick wit and sarcastic ways, Anansi uses his powers to make fun of those he doesn’t think are up to par with his own wisdom.
Throughout American Gods, Mr. Nancy tells a series of stories based on West African animism in which he also features as a spider. Playing tricks on other animals in the story, the tales are intricately written and provide some much-needed moments of escapism throughout the novel.
Pairing those stories with Anansi’s incomparable personality makes him one of the funniest and intriguing members of American Gods’ character roster. When you need a laugh, he’s there to provide the giggles, and his bond with Shadow is something to be admired. We can’t wait to see Orlando Jones’ portrayal on the small screen.
1. Mr. Wednesday
Who else could we logically place at the top of the list? Though he’s not the first non-human being Shadow meets, he’s the one that makes the biggest impact. Journeying throughout the entire American Gods story with Shadow, Mr. Wednesday is otherwise known as Odin, the old Norse god of knowledge and wisdom. Using those traits to his advantage through his travels, his main goal is bringing fellow old gods on board to join him against the new gods in the inevitable impending war. Of course, when many of the gods he’s hoping to recruit are happy with the amount of worship they’re receiving, that proves to be a task that’s wholly more difficult than it should be.
Building a trusting and fascinating relationship with Shadow, Mr. Wednesday is the one true indispensable character and component to the American Gods story. Forever infectious with his slick conversational skills and con artist tricks, he’s the only god that could top this list. Ian McShane is a perfect casting choice and should provide some edge-of-your-seat moments throughout the live series.
American Gods premieres April 30 on Starz.