The cosmic landscape of the Marvel Universe is home to a number of familiar alien empires and cosmic beings, but there are still entities and races lurking on its outer edges, waiting to be discovered. In the current “Fire From Heaven” arc of Marvel’s Royals series, writer Al Ewing and artist Javier Rodriguez are chronicling an encounter between the former Inhuman Royal family and just such a previously undiscovered race. These beings could hold the cure to the mysterious disease that is killing the Inhumans’ former Queen, Medusa, and provide an alternative to the Inhuman’s transformative Terrigen, which was destroyed in 2016’s Inhumans vs. X-Men miniseries. Unfortunately, the beings the Royals discovered are the Progenitors, a mysterious and powerful race that helped create Inhumanity — and stealing from them will lead to dire consequences.
“Fire From Heaven” comes to a close in Royals #12, the final issue of the series, and by the time it wraps the titular characters will be back on Earth and one of their number will be dead. Their nightmare continues though in the January one-shot Inhumans: Judgment Day, by Ewing and artist Mike del Mundo, where Earth’s Inhumans must protect their planet from the wrath of the Progenitors.
Ewing spoke to CBR about the Progenitors, the romantic relationship that’s blossomed between his cast members Medusa and Gorgon and bringing his cosmic Inhuman saga to an epic close with Judgment Day.
CBR: Al, we’ve now met the Progenitors and seen them in action, and they’re a very mysterious race. What inspired their creation and their computer-like way of thinking and viewing the world?
Al Ewing: I wanted to introduce a new alien species into the Marvel Universe, and I wanted them to be physically imposing, and I wanted them to be unknowable. There have been some comparisons made by fans to the Celestials — those aren’t without merit, considering there’s a touch of the Von Daniken about the Progenitors — but the Celestials are, now, fairly knowable and fairly known. So I wanted to create something new, something that was more a kind of mid-point between the Celestials and, say, the Kree, a species that was a Type Three, Type Four civilization, but not so advanced as to be hanging out in the cosmic realms. And something that could go anywhere if other writers wanted to use them. And when Javier Rodriguez came back with his designs, that inspired a lot of where they ended up going — those designs were so good, so perfect, that they shaped a lot of my thinking about what these creatures were.
They’re a system. Each different “class” of Progenitor has a different function inside the system, and it’s all overseen by the “Overlord-class,” the highest point in the system. So when we see them “speak,” it’s in a very computer-like way. But I also chose that way of speaking because I didn’t want them to be familiar. I didn’t want them to talk like people talk. The “essentially speaking English” thing works for most of the alien races, because they all serve, in one way or another, as metaphors for what we know. The Progenitors are metaphors for what we don’t or can’t know.
(Fun fact — they were originally going to talk entirely in alchemical symbols. That idea proved unworkable very fast, though I’m sure Clayton Cowles, our letterer, would have been over the moon with me about it.)
[Laughs] Some interesting relationships developed during your cast’s journey to the Progenitor’s homeworld; the biggest one being the romantic one between Medusa and Gorgon. Gorgon clearly has feelings for Medusa and it’s clear she cares about him. But is Medusa thinking long term here? Does she believe she might survive this trip? Has she thought about what might happen between her and Gorgon if she does survive?
Well… what if this isn’t a mistake Medusa’s making? What if it’s fine? If Medusa does survive, I’d imagine what would happen between her and Gorgon is… more of what’s been happening. And at some point it might lead to an awkward conversation, or some hurt feelings. Welcome to the world. Welcome to humanity. I mean, two old friends got together, entirely consensually, and they’ve started something, and a lot of their mutual friends are taken aback because there’s a weird class situation involved, and some don’t fully approve, and everyone’s just going to have to navigate the situation as it continues — how is this not just life? Sometimes life doesn’t have long term strategies. Sometimes two people just fall together, and nobody was planning on that outcome, but it’s here now and it feels right and let’s just see. Why is that so unthinkable?
If the question you’re asking is, “is Medusa going to suddenly walk it all back and return us all to a simpler time,” then no, that’s not going to happen. What is going to happen is that Medusa and Black Bolt are eventually going to have to talk. I’ve actually written that conversation — I made sure to run it past Saladin Ahmed too, because as far as I’m concerned he’s the final authority on Black Bolt, and Black Bolt is one of the best titles out right now. That happens in Judgment Day, coming this January.
Which isn’t to say Medusa doesn’t die, of course. Ouija boards exist.
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