Expect to hear big things about Marvel’s Eternals movie very, very soon. Eternals is coming to the big screen as part of Marvel Phase 4, and the cast reportedly includes Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, and more. Marvel’s Eternals aren’t exactly household names yet, but then again, neither was Guardians of the Galaxy a few years ago. We should be learning some big news about Marvel’s Eternals at SDCC 2019, so as anticipation builds, let’s look at the history of the team and the concept.
It’s impossible to discuss the Eternals without discussing Jack Kirby. In the early 1970s, Kirby left Marvel Comics due a number of personal, creative, and financial conflicts. Kirby went to DC Comics where he was given carte blanche to create whatever ideas electrified his brain. When Kirby arrived at DC, he introduced his Fourth World, a series of books that included The New Gods (also soon to get the movie treatment), Mister Miracle, and The Forever People. In the unlikely Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen comic, Kirby introduced Darkseid, the villain of the Fourth World saga, and DC was never the same. Sadly, DC axed the Fourth World titles too early and Kirby, in another fit of creativity, introduced Kamandi, OMAC, the Demon, and a new version of Sandman, but the relationship between Kirby and DC was all too short (and rather contentious) and he returned to Marvel a few years later.
The King essentially picked up where he left off at Marvel and introduced The Eternals. You see, at this point, Kirby was getting away from traditional super heroes (even though he had memorable and whacked out runs on Captain America and Black Panther during his Marvel return) and was more interested in theology, mythology, metaphysics, and other heady concepts. Thus, the Eternals were born, a hidden race of godlike beings that tied into world mythology and the creation of mankind and human civilization.
Like everything Jack Kirby did during this era, the concept of The Eternals was really, really big. And while Kirby never really meant for this concept to become part of the firmament of the Marvel Universe, after the King’s departure, it did just that, birthing a new origin for the Marvel Universe and eventually leading to arguably Marvel’s greatest villain- a purple chap who liked bejeweled gloves. You may have seen a few movies about him.
Who are The Eternals?
According to Kirby’s original ideas, the universe is populated by these giant space gods known as the Celestials. You spotted one of these Kirby creations in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The Celestials travel from planet to planet conducting experiments. Millennia ago, the Celestials arrived on Earth and created three new species: humans, Deviants, and Eternals.
Humans are rash beings who really like red meat, posting pictures of cats on a thing called the internet, and arguing about politics. They suck. Deviants are malformed, evil creatures who are violent in nature and hideous to behold. Deviants were born to conquer and enslave. Their demonic appearance and their innate violence led primitive humanity to believe the Deviants were from Hell and all demon and devil myths sprung up after humanity encountered the horned, fanged, cloven hooved members of the Deviants.
But Eternals are dedicated to protecting humanity from the Deviants. The Greek, Norse, and Egyptian pantheons all were born after humanity’s interactions with the Eternals. Eternals possess immense powers and are functionally immortal. They have two endless conflicts, one with the Deviants, who the Eternals are dedicated to destroying whenever they crawl out from underground, and the other with the Celestials, who one day will return and judge their creations.
You see, the Celestials believe there is a shelf life to their experiments and return at given periods of history to pass judgment. Before Kirby’s Eternals saga began, the last time the Celestials visited Earth, the space gods deemed humanity unworthy to continue and created vast floods to functionally wipe out civilization. From there, humanity rebuilt and stories of the Celestial flood were recorded in the Old Testament. See? I told you Kirby went big.
But there were also some Celestials who did not look so fondly on humanity. 750,000 years ago, the Eternals split into two factions, one led by the good Kronos and the other led by the warlike Uranus. The two sides fought for control until Kronos won and exiled the aggressive faction to space where they settled on Uranus, and eventually, after a conflict with the Kree, ended up on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. Kronos and his Eternals remained on Earth.
So many aspects of the Marvel Universe sprung out of Eternals mythology. For example, the Kree once took Eternal prisoners and used their genetic material to create the Inhumans. The setting of Knowhere which we saw figure prominently in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War is actually the hollowed out skull of a dead Celestial. Most importantly, the saga of the Eternals who settled on Titan also birthed Thanos.
Under the Eternals, Titan had become a haven of science, a high tech paradise that was filled with goodness, until a shadow was born. The leader of Titan, a good scientist named Mentor sired two sons. One was the mischievous and handsome Eros, and the other, was everyone’s favorite gem hungry villain, Thanos. Thanos was rejected by the Titans and exiled. He returned with an armada and wiped the Titans off the moon. Thanos would then go out into the cosmos to satiate his thirst for violence. While Kirby never intended it to be so, the Eternals eventually led to the creation of Thanos. One has to wonder if the coming Eternals movie will tie into the origins of the MCU version of Thanos. Even if they don’t go this route, there is enough story space to fill multiple huge budget films.
The leader of the Eternals, Ikaris has the powers of flight, energy projection, super strength, and limited teleportation. He is a fair and just leader and tries to prevent the coming Celestials’ judgement in the original Eternals series. Ikaris takes his name from his son Icarus, the legendary mythological figure who used a set of constructed wings to fly. As the story goes, Icarus flew to close to the sun and crashed to Earth. In order to honor his lost child, Ikaris renamed himself.
According to Eternals lore, Ikaris was present when the Celestials judged humanity during ancient times. Ikaris took to the sky and guided Noah and his crew of the Ark to safety when the Celestials flooded the world. Ikaris loves human culture and interacts with people as much as he can.
Ajak is part of a sub-race of Eternals known as the Polar Eternals and a perfect example of how Kirby was all about finding continuity between cultural myths. Ajak fought in the Trojan War and was the Ajax of Greek legend. He also greatly influenced Aztec culture as he was the basis of the myth of Quetzalcoatl while the Inca worshiped him as Tecumotzin.
Ajak has been manipulated, driven mad, and killed a number of times since the Eternals revealed themselves to the world. Check out that costume though! Some Hollywood costumes designer has their work cut out for them!
The king of the Eternals, Zuras has been mistaken for Zeus many times in his existence. Due to this, the Eternals formed a pact with the Olympians not to interfere in each other’s affairs. Like all all-father figures, Zuras is a complex and brilliant entity who rules wisely, but often harshly. Zuras has been counteracting the Deviants for centuries and quelled a number of Eternal civil wars, including one with his own brother.
Zuras also has the distinction of forming the first Uni-Mind. What’s that you ask? Well…
A Uni-Mind occurs when a large number of Eternals merge their consciousness into a giant sentient brain with psionic capabilities. The first Uni-Mind was initiated by Zuras during the sinking of Atlantis by the Celestials. A Uni-Mind has been formed a number of times over the millennia, and it’s always bug nuts. I swear to Zuras, if I see a Uni-Mind form on a movie screen in 3D, my life will be complete.
Thena was originally known as Azura but changed her name to Thena to complete the Eternal pact with the Olympians, thus, Thena has been confused with Athena during her very long life. Thena is a scholar and a warrior. She is the daughter of Zuras and has long been intertwined with the Deviant known as Kro. Thena and Kro first met in ancient Babylon where Kro spared Thena’s life. During the 1960s, Kro and Thena formed a bond and fell in love. She had twins with the Deviant and pushed to make peace with his people.
Thena is often in conflict with Ikaris as Thena thinks she is worthy of leading the Eternals into battle. She is a fierce foe, but Thena dreams of a time where her people can live at peace with the Deviants.
Sprite appears to be a child, but he is an incorrigible and, at times, dangerous trickster. Sprite looks harmless, but his pranks inspired Shakespeare to create the character of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr’s Eternals book, Sprite was responsible for the Eternals’ memory loss because he was punishing his race for forcing him to live eternity as a child. Sprite would be a perfect role for Millie Bobby Brown if the casting rumors are true.
Sersi is an Eternal sorceress whose quick temper, fiery passions, and powerful magic inspired the Greek poet Homer to create Cersi, the pig obsessed charmer from The Odyssey. Cersi loves a good party and often seems flighty, but she is one of the most powerful and loyal Eternals. She loves everything about humanity and would rather live in human cities than with her own people.
Sersi has been the most active Eternal when it comes to interacting with the wider Marvel Universe. She has been an Avenger, a member of Heroes for Hire, and a lover to the heroic Black Knight. Sersi will do anything to protect humanity from Deviants, Celestials, or the machinations of her own people. She lives to make sure that the party goes on and she has Doctor Strange level magic to make sure the music never stops.
Makkari is an Eternal speedster who is often mistaken for the Greek god Mercury. He is impatient and impulsive and sometimes greatly annoys the more serious minded Eternals. Makkari has a history beyond the Eternals as a really cool retcon revealed that Makkari fougt crime away from the Eternals in the 1940s under the guises of Mercury and the Hurricane. Not coincidentally, both Mercury and Hurricane were created by a very young Jack Kirby in 1940 and 1941 respectively.
Makkari has some historic significance beyond being a costumed champion. He taught philosophy to Plato, taught writing to the Egyptians, fought Vlad the Impaler, witnessed the Trojan War, and taught guitar to Elvis Presley. And hey, since Quicksilver inexplicably was unable to outrun a bullet in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the MCU has been in need of a speedster. And as speedsters go, Makkari may not be as famed as the Flash, but did Barry Allen teach any chords to Elvis? I think not.
Gilgamesh the Forgotten One
Over the centuries, the Forgotten One has been mistaken for Hercules but has forged a mythical path of his own. Gilgamesh loved the world of mortals and was exiled by Zuras for interfering in the human world too often. Gilgamesh’s deeds became legendary amongst humanity but he was forgotten by the Eternals. Gilgamesh returned after Sprite convinced the Forgotten One to aid the Eternals in their battle against the Deviants. After returning to his people, Gilgamesh briefly joined the Avengers. Gilgamesh is immensely strong and supremely confident. He also wears a bull’s head as a cowl so he has that going for him.
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