The New Gods and the Eternals share more than a few similarities. Both occupy a cosmic corner of their respective superhero universes that often keep them from interacting regularly with other heroes, both were created by Jack Kirby and both are strange sets of ethereal god characters.
Both are also coming to the big screen. Marvel officially announced Eternals as the next franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at Comic-Con International in San Diego with an appearance by the entire cast. Meanwhile, a film adaptation of The New Gods is currently in pre-production and set to be directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Tom King. But which Kirby pantheon is more powerful, both on the page and off? Here’s the impact both franchises have had within their comic universes, and which one is going to likely be more powerful at the box office.
Kirby created the New Gods when he left Marvel for DC in 1971. The New Gods are the powerful lords of two alien worlds: New Genesis, a peaceful paradise presided over by Highfather, and Apokolips, a barren and fiery hellscape controlled by Darkseid. Known as the denizens of the Fourth World, the two planets were constantly warring for dominion over the universe. The main players in this story were Orion and Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle.
Scott was the son of Highfather, and Orion was the son of Darkseid. They were traded at birth as part of a peace treaty known as the Pact. Orion was raised on New Genesis, and Scott on Apokolips. Scott’s will was too strong to be beaten, and he eventually escaped Apokolips alongside his new love, the former Female Fury Big Barda. Meanwhile, Orion resisted his natural anger and learned peace on New Genesis, becoming one of its strongest defenders.
In the original comics, both men ended up on Earth, fighting against Darkseid’s influence on the planet. Other major players in the saga included Lightray, Darkseid’s lieutenants Granny Goodness and Dasead, and the passive observer Metron. They have played major roles in many DC comics stories, with Darkseid often being held up as the most powerful and dangerous force in creation.
When Kirby returned to Marvel in 1976, he created the Eternals. Like the New Gods, they were powerful cosmic beings operating on a massive scale. However, they had more direct involvement with humanity than their more inherently alien counterparts. When the Celestials came to Earth over five million years ago, they created the Eternals and their opposites, the Deviants. This tampering empowered the species that would become humanity, allowing for supernatural powers to develop.
The Eternals enjoyed long lives and superpowers, developing incredible technology. Some of them protected humanity from the ire of the Deviants, which hated both species. Over time, the Eternals were granted incredible energy manipulation powers. Some colonized other worlds, including Jupiter's moon, Titan. Others were worshiped by ancient humans as gods, such as with the ancient Greeks.
In the modern day, many former citizens of Titan are deep in space. However, some had deeper connections to Earth, like the benevolent Ikaris, the lively Sersei, the sagely Thena and the ingenious Makkari. The Avenger Starfox hailed from Titan, as did his demented brother Thanos. However, outside of Thanos, they’ve never played as large of a role in the Marvel Universe as one would expect. They even died recently during the opening storyline of Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’ Avengers. Even Thanos and Starfox are dead, this time in the pages of Guardians of the Galaxy. In the comics, the New Gods definitely have the edge in terms of power and impact.
The New Gods ended up being some of the most popular creations of Kirby’s at DC. Mister Miracle and Orion have both headlined their own series over the years. One of them, Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, even went on to win multiple Eisner Awards earlier this year. The characters have played major roles in crossovers like Final Crisis. Darkseid especially has become one of the most iconic DC villains, serving as a threat to the entire Justice League. Darkseid has appeared in much of the animated DC universes, including Super Friends, the DCAU, Young Justice, the new animated movie continuity and Teen Titans Go. Darkseid has even made the transition to live-action shows like Smallville.
By contrast, the Eternals have never really appeared in any other format. The series had much less of an impact on the Marvel Universe than the New Gods characters had at DC. This meant that when characters were adapted for cartoons or television, Marvel often went with different characters instead. The Eternals never appeared in something like Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which managed to slip other celestial powerhouses like the Beyonder into the narrative. The Eternals, even among comic fans, are something of an unknown.
Technically, characters from the New Gods have already premiered in the DC Extended Universe. Steppenwolf is one of the generals serving under Darkseid, and he appeared as the chief villain of Justice League. He was clearly designed as a tease for the arrival of Apokolips into the DCEU, but the film franchise's change in direction stalled those plans. A New Gods film has been in pre-production for over a year, with Tom King confirming that he’s just begun to co-write the script with director Ava DuVernay. There isn’t any confirmed release date or cast for the film yet.
That’s not the case with Eternals. The Celestial beings are set to be the main characters of the next MCU film, with a confirmed release date in 2020. Directed by Chloe Zhao, the film will star Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Lia McHugh, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry and Ma Dong-seok. Eternals is also coming out following the massive success of the MCU’s 2019, with Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home both breaking $1 billion along with Avengers: Endgame becoming the biggest box office success of all time.
Despite their significantly lesser representation over the decades, the Eternals are poised to become part of the biggest film franchise of all time. That gives them an enormous edge in terms of becoming more famous. The New Gods have a wealth of stories to draw from for future films, and the prospect of an Ava DuVernay and Tom King collaboration is definitely exciting. But Eternals are almost here, giving them the definite edge… at least for now.
Directed by Chloé Zhao with a screenplay by Matthew and Ryan Firpo, Eternals stars Richard Madden as Ikaris, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Lia McHugh as Sprite, Don Lee as Gilgamesh and Angelina Jolie as Thena. The film arrives in theaters on Nov. 6, 2020.
Directed by Ava DuVernay with a script by DuVernay and Tom King, New Gods currently has no release date or cast announced.