Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at email@example.com).
Reader John M. tweeted to me, confused about an aspect of the LAST Comic Book Questions Answered that I posted! You see, I wrote about how Jack Kirby did not get a chance to ever draw Thanos when he returned to Marvel in the second half of the 1970s, because Jim Starlin mostly handled all of Thanos' appearances during that time period and otherwise, Kirby rarely worked on other people's characters during this time period, only making exceptions for the covers of comic books that he would do to help the sales of those books (sort of like how Brian Bolland, Arthur Adams, Artgerm and more do that stuff today) and Thanos happened to not appear in any of those books (again, because when he DID appear in comics, the very popular artist, Jim Starlin, would typically do those covers). In any event, I mentioned that Jack Kirby's Eternals series was explicitly intended to NOT be in the Marvel Universe.
John wanted to know, then, what the heck was the deal with the Hulk guest-starring in the series? How could Kirby have it not set in the Marvel Universe while having the Hulk guest-star?
An excellent question, John, and one I will address right this moment!
First off, though, let me note that I did a 20 Cool Facts About the Eternals list a little while back, and this Hulk story was covered in that list, along with lots of other cool stuff, in case you are so inclined.
Anyhow, Jack Kirby, with the Eternals, was clearly trying to do his own riff on the then-recent book, Chariot of the Gods, which theorized that aliens had visited Earth in the past and had given ancient humans access to technologies greater than they would have otherwise had access to and that explained the pyramids and stuff like that.
It was a really popular book that was even made into a movie in 1970.
Anyhow, that was the basic concept of the Eternals. That the Celestials had come to Earth in the past and had experimented and created three distinct races - Eternals, Deviants and Humans...
Now the Celestials were returning and, well, what the heck do you do in that situation? How does the world react to something like that?
That was what Kirby wanted to explore in his book, less a standard good versus evil story, just a more general, "What do you do when god comes back to Earth?" That idea explicitly does NOT work when you have had Galactus come to Earth in the past, when you have Silver Surfer flying around, moping and learning about humanity or when you have the God of Thunder fighting against the God of Mischief in the streets of New York City. So it was clearly intended to NOT be in the Marvel Universe.
The problem, of course, is that that is not the type of comic book that Marvel was used to selling. When the sales on the book did not exactly set the world on fire, editorial pressured Kirby to tie the book in with the Marvel Universe and Kirby came up with a way to appease Marvel while...well....not exactly tying in with the Marvel Universe.