Marvel Studios is constantly trying to innovate and come up with new ideas for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige recently noted that he is already thinking about movies that won't be released for seven years! One of the possible new Marvel movie franchises that is being rumored is an official introduction of the Eternals into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of the more relatively recent additions to the Marvel comic book universe (although still over four decades old), the Eternals have a strange place in the Marvel Universe.
However distant they may seem, the Inhumans are still a lot more tied into the Marvel Universe than the Eternals have ever been and a lot of that owes to the origin of the Eternals when Jack Kirby introduced them in 1976 after he triumphantly returned to Marvel Comics following a five-year stint at DC Comics. Kirby designed them so that they would not be an easy fit into the Marvel Universe and as such, they have remained one of the more mysterious groups at Marvel. We will give you the lowdown on all the facts you need to know about the Eternals before they possibly become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
20 MARVEL'S NEW GODS
By the late 1960s, it was not like Jack Kirby had become a stranger to how the comic book industry worked. In the early 1940s, Kirby produced one of the biggest comic book hits of the era, Captain America Comics, with his creative partner, Joe Simon, for Timely Comics. Timely Comics owner Martin Goodman promised them certain royalties on the sales of Captain America Comics and he quickly reneged. Simon and Kirby then left Timely for National Comics (now DC Comics) where they had a number of hit series, as well. They moved all over the industry over the next decade or so, before breaking up in the 1950s when the industry was doing particularly poorly.
Kirby then essentially created the Marvel Universe with Stan Lee in the 1960s, but by the end of the decade, he was getting the same false promises from Martin Goodman (still Marvel's owner). So, Kirby took his ideas for a new race of gods -- which would have been connected to the Asgardians -- to DC instead, where they became the New Gods, part of Kirby's Fourth World Saga. When Kirby returned to Marvel in the mid-1970s (Goodman was now gone), he liked the idea of a race of gods enough that he came up with a similar concept -- the Eternals -- for Marvel.
19 NOT PART OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE AT FIRST
Even before he left Marvel for DC Comics, Kirby had already begun to be irritated by the increased focus on continuity between the various Marvel titles. Kirby and Stan Lee had helped create the notion of the shared Marvel Universe, but newer writers were taking it far too strictly in Kirby's book. He was fine sharing characters, but he did not want to have to keep track of other titles. He felt that the stories in their actual comics should matter the most, not how they connected to other comics.
Thus, when he returned from DC in the mid-1970s, he made sure to take over books where he would not have to interact with another title. His Captain America run and his Black Panther run had no connections with other Marvel titles and his Black Panther run bore no resemblance to the previous Black Panther series that Kirby took over from. Similarly, with his Eternals, he went even further and insisted that it not be part of the Marvel Universe at all. His idea of the Celestials, the beings that created the Eternals and the Deviants, returning to Earth to judge the planet, really did not work as part of a world where Galactus had already visited in the past.
18 THE INFAMOUS HULK ROBOT
The problem for Marvel was that it knew from years of sales data that the easiest way to help the sales of a comic was to have it take part in the shared Marvel Universe. There were obviously exceptions, like licensed comic books like Conan the Barbarian; but in general, if a comic book was not selling well, the easiest way to boost sales was to have Spider-Man or the Hulk guest star in the book. The editors of the books began to pressure Kirby and he eventually came up with the craziest compromise you could think of, and one of the most memorable -- for better or worse!
He introduced a robot built by two students to be the mascot for their school's all star game and it just so happened to look exactly like the Hulk! The robot then got imbued with cosmic energy and ran amok, leading to the Eternals having to get involved. In other words, there is technically no Hulk in this Eternals universe, but robots that look just like the Hulk are a whole other story. This was Kirby's way of playing ball without changing his status quo for the book. It was a hilarious attempt to keep the Eternals separated from the rest of the Marvel Universe.
17 ANOTHER UNFINISHED CLASSIC
Jack Kirby's original plans for his Fourth World Saga was that he would launch each title and then he would bring in different creative teams on each of the titles. Kirby would direct each team on the books while he did other series on his own. However, DC told him that the books would not sell if he did not write and draw them himself, so Kirby ended up doing all of the Fourth World Saga. Then DC canceled it before he could finish it.
A similar situation happened to Kirby on the Eternals. He clearly had an expansive goal in mind for the series, but he never quite got to it before the book was canceled. He brought the series along slowly, building on the notion of how the world would react if, in effect, god showed up and said that he was soon going to judge the planet. That was what it was like when the Celestials came to Earth. They planted themselves and just started watching. The Eternals and the Deviants then reacted and made their age-old war public, but that was not the main direction of the book. Kirby had deeper ideas in mind. Sadly, the book was canceled after 19 issues, so once again, a Kirby saga of the gods was cut short.
16 THE ETERNALS COME TO MARVEL
Roy Thomas was a big fan of Jack Kirby's work. However, once Kirby was finished with Marvel during his second go-around in the 1970s, Thomas was quick to pick up on the Eternals and try to work them into the Marvel Universe for real this time in the pages of Thor. Thomas was fascinated with the concept the Celestials showing up to judge the planet, so he had Thor meet the Eternals and discover their terrible threat!
Eventually, Thor got the entire pantheon of the gods involved in trying to see if they could possibly stop the Celestials from judging the Earth. After all, if the Celestials decided that the Earth failed their judgment, it would mean the destruction of the planet. Eventually, the Eternals decided to team up with the Pantheon of the Gods (led by Odin) to try to fight back against the Eternals. In the end, however, the Celestials were too powerful for them. Luckily, the Celestials ruled that Earth had passed its judgment and was saved. Amusingly enough, Thomas did not stay on Thor long enough to finish the Eternals/Celestials story, as he left for DC Comics a few issues before Thor #300 (Ralph Macchio and Mark Gruenwald finished the story for Thomas).
15 SUPERHEROES ARE PROTO-ETERNALS
Now that the Celestials and the Eternals were part of the Marvel Universe, writers quickly tried to see if the ideas that Kirby introduced in the Eternals could be applied to the greater Marvel Universe. Kirby was following a number of popular books of the era, like Chariot of the Gods, which suggested that Earth had been visited by aliens millennia ago and in fact it was due to these aliens that the evolution of the human race took place. This followed along the lines of the theories about how any science that was advanced enough could be seen as magic to under-developed people. Thus, the Celestials and the Eternals were responsible for our ideas of what magic is.
Similarly, the idea would be that while the Celestials experimented on humans as well as Eternals, some of the humans maintained a piece of that Celestial tampering, and that is the explanation for how mutants came to exist, that they were the result of Celestials altering the genetic code of humanity. So rather than the Eternals not being part of the Marvel Universe, they were now the foundation of the Marvel superhero era! Interestingly enough, one of Earth's earliest mutants, Apocalypse, was also connected to the Celestials (they gave him his technology).
14 THE ETERNALS BECOME THE TITANS
In the early 1960s, Marvel had a number of opportunities for young creators, as Stan Lee was essentially retired from writing comic books and Roy Thomas couldn't write everything for Marvel. Thus, new writers and artists were brought in and given a great deal of freedom to work out new ideas in the comics. One of these young creators was Jim Starlin, who did a few issues of Iron Man where he introduced the alien race known as the Titans, including the evil Mad Titan known as Thanos.
Later on, Starlin was given writing and art duties on Captain Marvel. In that series, he further expanded on the history of the Titans and followed a lot of the same paths that Kirby was following in his work. Starlin introduced the idea that a lot of the early Earth gods were based on cosmic beings, who ended up leading to the Titans. For instance, Thanos' father, Mentor, was revealed to have a brother named Zeus. Once Kirby's Eternals were made part of continuity, however, "Zeus" was later retconned to become "Zuras," of the Eternals. So the Titans were part of the Eternals, making Thanos part of the Eternals landscape, as well.
13 THE ETERNALS BECOME THE URANIANS
During the 1950s, Marvel was best known for its adherence to whatever the popular trends were of the day. The company had its humor titles, like Patsy Walker, plus it had westerns and science fiction/fantasy comic books. However, every once in a while, Stan Lee would give superheroes another shot. They had worked in 1940s, so the idea was that perhaps they would work again. In 1950, Lee and artist Russ Heath introduced Marvel Boy, a short-lived superhero comic books series.
The concept of the book was that a Jewish scientist decided to leave Earth during the rise of Nazi Germany and he traveled to Uranus, where he met the Uranians. who welcomed him and his son with open arms. His son, Robert, was given special wristbands that gave him superpowers. He returned to Earth and was a superhero there. Years later, this "Marvel Boy" was worked into Marvel's continuity -- as we saw, Marvel always wants to work characters into the overall continuity. Eventually, it was discovered that the Uranians were also originally Eternals before they left Earth and settled on Uranus! It was almost as if there was not a single interesting part of the Marvel Universe that was not somehow connected retroactively to the Eternals!
12 THE SKRULL / KREE CONNECTION
Amazingly enough, for a series that Jack Kirby did not want to have be part of the Marvel Universe period, the Eternals ended up not only explaining the history of mutants on Earth, but also of the various other alien races in the Marvel Universe! Have you ever noticed that each alien race in the Marvel Universe seems to have some sort of gimmick, while also being essentially humanoids?
Well, as it turns out, that was also due to the Celestials. While they are best remembered for their experiments on Earth, it turns out that they experimented all over the universe. They experimented on proto-versions of the alien races that would become the Kree and the Skrulls. In fact, it was the experimentation of the Kree that ultimately led to the race doing experiments of their own, which is how they ended up creating the Inhumans. More or less, if you are part of any sort of unified group that shares distinctive attributes and powers, it is likely that the Celestials had something to do with your creation. This also leads to the connection between Earth and those other planets, as they all have the shared experience of being experimented on by the Celestials.
11 THE ETERNALS ARE IMMORTAL
The main concept of the Eternals' ongoing series was that the Celestials were going to judge Earth within the next 50 years. This allowed for Kirby to have a rather open-ended set-up to his series. It could theoretically go on as long as he wanted to keep it going, provided that the sales kept up. In fact, the big drawback of the series is that there does not seem to be a particular driving force behind the narrative; it is just "let's all wait until the Celestials make their decision." However, the other big hook of the series is that the arrival of the Celestials has led to the Eternals deciding that it is time to come public and let the world know that they exist.
The Eternals were genetically altered by the Celestials so that they are, in effect, immortal. Not only that, but they have been around for so long that humanity has credited them as being some of the biggest myths and gods from the history of the planet. For instance, the speedster Makkari was the god Mercury, Thena as the goddess Athena and Sersi, with her ability to transmute objects, was the witch known as Circe. This all goes along with the idea of advanced science appearing to be magic.
10 GODS OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE
The Eternals' place in the Marvel Universe is a bit confusing, considering that it is not just the fact that humanity has worshiped them as gods, but it seems as though the Marvel Universe specifically treats them as if they literally are gods. This came up in a plotline in the recent series, All-New Invaders, which teamed up the modern day versions of the World War II fighting team, the Invaders. Somehow, almost all of them are alive in present day, from Namor to Captain America to the Winter Soldier to the android Human Torch.
One of their fist missions involved fighting against some Kree who had taken hold of an old weapon called the God's Whisper, which allowed them to control literal gods. In the past, it was used to control Thor, but in modern times, it was used to control Ikaris of the Eternals. Therefore, this suggests that in the Marvel Universe, despite their origins clearly being that the Celestials genetically altered humans, the Eternals are still considered gods. The Eternals, by the way, planned on using the God's Whisper themselves to get revenge on the Kree by using the device to make Galactus follow their commands.
9 THE DEVIANTS
In his Fourth World Saga, Jack Kirby had the basis of the series be the good-hearted heroes of New Genesis pitted against the evil villains of Apokolips. They were all New Gods in their own way, but it was a clear case of good versus evil in the person of Highfather versus Darkseid. When it came to the Eternals, Jack Kirby seemingly continued that concept when he revealed that the Celestials altered Earth's population into three different groups -- humans, Eternals and Deviants.
Deviants were disgusting creatures who typically lived underground and were as evil as the Eternals were good. However, over time, Kirby began to explore some thoughts about whether the Deviants were literally evil or if it was a situation where they were forced into a role from the beginning. This is a similar issue with the Inhumans, who were introduced just casually having Alpha Primitives doing most of their work for them. Are the Deviants actually the bad guys? The leader of the Deviants, Kro, was the basis for the historical idea of the devil, so they weren't exactly sweethearts, but maybe part of their actions were because they were playing the role that was left for them by the Celestials. By the way, his Deviant ancestry explains why Thanos ended up looking the way that he did when he was born.
8 THE UNI-MIND
In the Fourth World Saga, one of the titles that Jack Kirby wrote and drew was called the Forever People, about a group of young New Gods who travel the world looking for adventure in their Super-Cycle. They were designed to be like the hippies of the era (Kirby created them in 1970, after all). When the Forever People found themselves in a jam, they had the ability to merge together to form a powerful joint being, known as the Infinity-Man.
Kirby took that basic idea and turned it on its head with the introduction of the Uni-Mind in Eternals #12. The Uni-Mind was a collective being that was created when the Eternals would merge together to form one gigantic head that shared their thoughts and minds. The concept is that they are able to think better as a collective than they are as individuals. It is how they decided who would be their leader, Zuras or his brother, A'lars (they chose Zuras). When the Celestials came to Earth, the Eternals formed a Uni-Mind to decide what they should do next with the Celestials. It is not just a meditative being, though, as the Uni-Mind also possesses great powers, like mental and energy blasts.
7 THE CELEBRATED ETERNAL CITIES
The Eternals are not just amazing beings themselves; just like how the New Gods live in stunning fashion in New Genesis and Apokolips, so too do the Eternals live in futuristic cities around the globe. Their first home was called Titanos. When that was destroyed, they built three more cities around the world. The lesser cities were called Polaria (in Siberia) and Oceana (in the Pacific Ocean). The main city was called Olympia, and it was near Greece. It, in effect, was the introduction of the idea of Mount Olympus on Earth mythology, as Thena, in particular, liked to embrace the way that humans would treat the ancient Eternals as if they were gods.
Olympia has not remained in one place over the years, however. For a period in the early 1990s, Olympia was transported to the Negative Zone and the Eternals had to fight their way back to their home dimension. In recent years, Olympia has also been depicted as being in Antarctica. It was at Olympia that the Celestials first showed up when they came to make their judgment about Earth. Similarly, it is in the depths of Olympia that the Eternals hold most of their objects of power.
6 WHO THE HECK IS PIXIE?
Most of the Eternals are well-known within the Marvel Universe, but there was one Eternal who actually was one of the first to become a superhero and yet she is now very little known. You see, over the years, Marvel Comics has followed the concept of a sliding timeline. In other words, it has not been nearly 60 years since the Fantastic Four burst on to the scene. Instead, it has been 10 years since the Fantastic Four debuted. Generally speaking, most people just treat that as a generic 10 years and have the past be "10 years ago," rather than specifically 2008. This way, you can avoid things like having to reference the fact that the Fantastic Four have been around for less time than Adele.
However, in 2000's Marvel: The Lost Generation, John Byrne and Roger Stern followed the idea that the Fantastic Four debuted in 1990, so Byrne and Stern told the story of what happened between World War II and 1990 and one of the major players was the Eternal known as Pixie, who became one of the major superheroes during these "lost" years. No one knows what has happened to her in the years since, as she has gone back to being, essentially, lost.
5 THE AVENGING ETERNALS
In Eternals #13, Jack Kirby introduced the Eternal known as The Forgotten One, who is basically supposed to be the sort of prototypical mythical hero, perhaps best remembered as Gilgamesh, but he took on other names as well. Remember, in Kirby's version of the Eternals, there was no Hercules or Thor, so The Forgotten One could have been the Hercules of the Eternals world (before it became part of the Marvel Universe). Walter Simonson had written the last few issues of an Eternals miniseries in the mid-1980s, so when Simonson got the chance to make a new Avengers team in Avengers #300, he made the Forgotten One a member.
Soon after, the Forgotten One was injured and one of his fellow Eternals, Sersi, helped the Avengers out. She ended up replacing her fellow Eternal on the team. Sersi served the Avengers with distinction throughout the first half of the 1990s before leaving the team with the Black Knight. As an Eternal, she always had a bit of a skewed view of the world, since she had been alive for so many years. Her sense of morality was sometimes a bit off from the rest of the Avengers.
4 SPRITE MESSES EVERYONE UP
In 2006, Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. were tasked with rebooting the Eternals. Gaiman centered in one of the odder Eternals, the youngest member of the group, Sprite. You see, the issue with eternal life is that it can really mess with you if you literally cannot age. That was the problem with Sprite, who was designed by the Celestials to eternally be a child. When Jack Kirby came up with the concept, it is unlikely that he was thinking anything of it, but Gaiman latched on to the fact that being stuck as a child forever might drive someone insane.
Sprite, then, decided to avenge himself from being treated like a kid for thousands of years by using the Celestials to alter the Eternals and make them believe that they are all humans instead. They would then slowly come out of their fake lives and see the truth and Sprite hoped it would torture them as much as it could. In the end, Sprite was able to turn himself into a human and run away from the rest of the Eternals, but he was discovered by Zuras, who snapped Sprite's neck as punishment for his actions.
3 CANNOT DESTROY THE ETERNALS
Over the years, it has been confusing as to how you can actually injure an Eternal. Initially, the idea was that while they were essentially immortal, they were not literally immortal. In other words, you could theoretically kill an Eternal. This was proven during the Avengers crossover known as "The Crossing," where the Forgotten One was hunted down and killed by two of Kang the Conqueror's agents. It appeared as though the one way that you could kill an Eternal is to literally atomize them and to spread their molecules too far apart for them to get back together.
However, during Gaiman and Romita's Eternals series, it was discovered that even that isn't enough to destroy an Eternal! Ikaris was atomized during the series, but he was able to then put himself back together. It appears as though the Celestials designed the Eternals so that they would be connected to the Earth (or at least the Celestials "great machine," which is likely the Earth itself). Basically, so long as the Earth is alive, the Eternals will remain alive, as well. This is why, sure enough, during the Eternals series that followed Gaiman and Romita's miniseries, the Forgotten One was shown to be alive and well and with his Eternal brethren.
2 CELESTIAL FAILSAFE
The control that the Celestials have over the Eternals was demonstrated in great fashion during the aforementioned Gaiman and Romita Eternals miniseries, where Sprite has fun messing with Makkari, who believed that he was a human known as Mark Curry until Ikaris opened his eyes to the truth. Sprite (who was playing dumb at the time that he didn't know precisely what was going on) had Makkari run into one of the Celestials. Makkari found his body completely shut down before he could make impact. We have seen that even if they are inadvertently about to hit a Celestial, their bodies will shut down.
This was taken to an even stranger extreme when the Eternals formed a Uni-Mind in the Gaiman/Romita series with the intent of trying to convince the Celestial to leave Earth alone. The Celestials were able to break the Uni-Mind apart and force the Eternals into their various component forms. That is how much control that the Celestials have over their creations. It is really rather disturbing when you think about it. Imagine having seemingly all of the power in the world and yet you are always and truly a puppet of a greater being.
1 INFINITY WAR HINT FOR THE FUTURE
With the rumors that Marvel Studios is planning on doing an Eternals movie in the future, it is interesting to watch Avengers: Infinity War with that possibility in mind. There are two notable instances within the film where it seems like the filmmakers could be setting up a possible Eternals entry into the Marvel Universe. The first came when Thanos finally discovered the Soul Stone. He came to the planet guarded by the Red Skull, who has become a sort of guide to the Soul Stone. Red Skull welcomes Thanos and refers to him as the "Son of A'lars." A'lars, of course, is better known as Mentor, the founder of the planet Titan and the father of Thanos. Mentor was his Titan name, but A'lars was his Eternals name.
In addition, while the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy try to defeat Thanos on his home planet of Titan, he briefly uses either the Reality Stone or the Time Stone to show what Titan looked like in the past. It looked just like the futuristic and glorious type of city that you would find the Eternals living in, like Olympia. Those two mentions are not a lot, but they are little hints towards a possible Eternals future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.