WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for recent issues of The Avengers and Infinity Countdown.
While the original Elders of the Universe-- The Collector, The Stranger and Ego -- were created in the '60s by Stan Lee with artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby, there have been a handful of new Elders created in almost every decade since then. But even though some of these cosmic entities have existed for 40 or 50 years, they haven’t had much character development since they debuted. They've been killed off and resurrected several times, but that's about the extent of their personal growth.
Well, the creators behind Avengers: No Surrender and Infinity Countdown are looking to change all that. Gerry Duggan, Jim Zub, Al Ewing, Mark Waid and a legion of artists have begun to dig a little deeper into the pasts and futures of everybody’s favorite band of tunnel-visioned immortals, and it's been a hell of a lot of fun so far.
While The Elders have been involved in Marvel’s cosmic escapades for decades, it was Benicio del Toro playing The Collector in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film that introduced the world at large to these powerful aliens. When Howard the Duck got a miniseries in 2015 and The Collector made a cameo, it was clear Marvel was trying to capitalize on the film’s success. Then, when it was announced Jeff Goldblum would play The Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), even casual fans wanted to know more about these eccentric demigods. Thus, Marvel has made sure to include The Elders in a number of comic book storylines in the last couple of years, most notably the Contest of Champions miniseries that ran from 2015-2016.
Fast forward to 2018, and The Elders are at the heart of both of Marvel’s current big storylines. Further, the creators telling these stories have finally built out their personalities a little more. In the pages of Avengers: No Surrender, the Earth is being used as a gameboard for The Grandmaster aka En Dwi Gast yet again. In the first few issues, his competitor was kept in the shadows to conceal the character’s identity. Initially, readers were led to believe it may be Kang the Conqueror, as his game against Gast is referenced early on. However, it turns out his challenger is just that -- a newly introduced Elder going by the title The Challenger.