How Marvel’s Eternals fit into the Avengers universe, based on comics

In 2019, Spider-Man: Far From House brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Stage 3 to a close, and the fog raised on what Marvel prepared to do next. Together with the more earthbound Shang-Chi and the time-loopy Loki, November’s Eternals assists the mega-franchise take a significant dive towards the cosmic.

It’s a vibrant relocation — even for a studio that has actually formerly taken dangers on homes like the Guardians of the Galaxy — for 2 factors. The very first is that these characters are developed around a principle which might reword whatever we understand about the MCU. The 2nd is that, even for long-time comics fans, the Eternals are the sort of characters that trigger the concern: Who are they, once again? The responses are, as you might anticipate from the trailers for the film variation, unusual.

Who (or what) are the Eternals?

In order to address that concern, we need to go back to 1970, the year Jack Kirby parted methods with Marvel Comics.

To call Kirby a famous developer would be badly downplaying it: In his time at Marvel, and its precursor Timely Comics, he was accountable for co-creating Captain America, Thor, Iron Guy, Black Panther and assisting to lay the structures of the whole Marvel Universe. Nevertheless, Kirby didn’t feel he was being properly credited for these contributions, among the factors he leapt ship to competitor publisher DC Comics.

His opening salvo there, starting in 1970, was the “Fourth World” legend. Throughout 4 series and one graphic book, Kirby wove his own science-fiction folklore fixated the New Gods, 2 warring pantheons. These stories presented characters like Darkseid, Mister Wonder and Justice League bad guy Steppenwolf to the DC universe.

When Kirby went back to Marvel in 1976, he restored with him all the fixations that had actually specified his 4th World books. Which is to state that, at very first blush, the Eternals are a hell of a lot like the New Gods — another league of superpowered legendary beings, at war with their dark reflection.

From The Eternals, Marvel Comics.

A group of Celestials collect in The Eternals.
Jack Kirby/Marvel Comics

The Eternals are sorta the origin of the Marvel Universe

With The Eternals, Kirby once again combined folklore with sci-fi to develop an origin story for the whole Marvel Universe, or a minimum of its variation of Earth. Countless years earlier, huge beings referred to as Celestials came down from area and genetically explored in the world’s hominid population. This, in the Marvel Universe, is canonically how people developed from our ape forefathers — with an assisting hand from the gods.

However humankind weren’t the only outcome of the Celestials’ experiments. They likewise developed the Deviants, misshapen animals with no hereditary stability — each specific appear like they come from a various types — and Homo immortalis, much better referred to as the Eternals.

The Eternals #9, Marvel Comics (1977).

From The Eternals #9.
Jack Kirby/Marvel Comics

The Eternals are the winners of this hereditary lottery game: They’re all in outstanding shape, with great hair, and imbued with cosmic power. This grants them the capability to improve the world at a molecular level, along with levitation, telepathy, super-strength and a grab bag of other relatively generic superpowers.

As their name recommends, the Eternals are likewise never-ceasing. This isn’t a quality they were naturally imbued with, however. As with all excellent superheroes, it’s in fact the outcome of a clinical experiment failed, back in the Eternals’ very first house city of Titanos.

Ever Since, the Eternals have actually existed along with human history, mainly in their secret mountain-top cities, however periodically coming down to socialize with their hereditary cousins. Kirby takes this chance to mash up genuine history and legends and blends them with the Eternals’ story, referencing the scriptural flood and the lost continent of Lemuria, and encounters with Shakespeare and the Incan Empire.

The concept is that the Eternals influenced people’ earliest conceptions of gods, from the Aztecs’ Quetzalcóatl to essentially the whole Greek and Roman pantheon. The Eternals reside on Olympia, and their name are all twists on classical folklore, so that Mercury ends up being Makkari; Zeus ends up being Zuras. Naturally, according to the Eternals, it’s their names that are the genuine offer. The more familiar variations simply a case of human mispronunciation.

From The Eternals #5, Marvel Comics (1976).

Sersi calls Makkari in The Eternals #5, Marvel Comics.
Jack Kirby/Marvel Comics

However who are the Eternals?

The real characters of The Eternals, 4 years on from their initial conception, stay a reasonably blank slate. As with other comics that cover whole types, like the X-Men or Inhumans, there are a great deal of them. However actually, there are just 3 names you require to understand.

Ikaris was the first Eternal introduced, and sits neatly in the familiar superhero archetype of straight-arrow team leader. Think Captain America or Superman — the latter especially, given Ikaris flies around in a blue, red and yellow costume, and battles villains with his eyebeams.

It’s worth noting that all Eternals theoretically have the same powers — unity is a big part of the concept, to the extent that any group of them can form a collective consciousness known as the “Uni-Mind” — but since Kirby’s original series there’s been a push to differentiate the way they use those powers. As is common for characters of the handsome leader archetype, Ikaris has the vanilla powerset. And, unfortunately, a personality to match.

From The Eternals, Marvel Comics.

Ikaris in blue and red, at right.
Jack Kirby/Marvel Comics

More interesting is Makkari, the Mercury analogue. True to his name, Makkari shares his central mantra with Sonic the Hedgehog: He, too, has gotta go fast. In Kirby’s original series, that manifested in Makkari being an engineer, constantly inventing new vehicles, but over time, he’s become more of a traditional Flash-style speedster.

However, the clear standout character is Sersi. She’s the Circe of Greek myth, best known for transforming Odysseus and his crew into pigs in Homer’s Odyssey, but also claims to have taught Merlin every trick he knew. Think of the magical duel sequence from The Sword in the Stone, where two sorcerers constantly change forms — that’s Sersi.

In the present day, she’s also a party animal. Even after the other Eternals retreated to their mountains, Sersi continued to live among humans, just because they’re more fun. She has a low threshold for boredom and a long-standing, highly relatable eagerness to jump Captain America’s bones.

Kirby’s series consistently put Sersi on the sidelines, but since then, of all the Eternals, she’s the one who has left most of a mark on the Marvel universe. She’s had plenty of her own adventures, encompassing time travel and alt-universe boyfriends. To put it another way: She’s the just member of the core Eternals cast who has served as an Avenger.

Why are the Eternals obscure?

Despite the involvement of a legendary creator, the Eternals never really took off with readers. Kirby’s original series was cancelled after 19 issues and an annual, and while the intervening years have seen a few short-lived series and the odd team-up with Thor and the Avengers, they’ve never quite stuck.

A celestial, in The Eternals, Marvel Comics.

A Celestial, in The Eternals, with ship for scale.
Jack Kirby/Marvel Comics

The comic’s main contribution to the wider Marvel universe is probably the Celestials, the massive humanoid space gods who created the Eternals and who returned to Earth in Kirby’s series to judge whether the planet was worthy of being saved from destruction. The Celestials have become part of the cosmic firmament, recently cropping up in an Avengers storyline that ended with the team turning a hollowed-out Celestial corpse into their new headquarters.

That same story seemingly killed off the last remaining Eternals. It’s indicative of the characters’ standing in the comics that most of these apparent immortals weren’t even deemed worthy of dying on the page — by the time the Avengers arrived, all but Ikaris were just corpses in the background.

The problem with the Eternals

When you invent half of a universe, a little repetition is probably inevitable. But it means the Eternals have always struggled to find their place in Marvel’s crowded cosmology.

They weren’t the first time Kirby had mixed sci-fi technology and mythical magic. And by the time the Eternals were introduced, there was already a pantheon of Greek gods living on an Olympian mountain in the Marvel Universe, with the likes of Zeus, Athena and Hercules. And they’re not the only secret race of mythologically-named superhumans created by aliens with genetic tampering, either: That also describes the Inhumans, with their Gorgon, Triton, and queen Medusa.

These similarities didn’t go unnoticed at Marvel, and in the years after Kirby’s series ended, editorial attempted to improve the situations by knitting the Eternals closer into the existing fictional fabric. Creators found ways of connecting them to other parts of the Marvel Universe — and that might also give us a clue of how they could fit into the MCU.

A series of “Untold Tales of the Marvel Universe” stories established that the ancient Kree once captured an Eternal, which inspired them to perform their own experiments on humanity, eventually creating the Inhumans. Other stories explained that some Eternals left Earth for other planets, like Alars — brother of Zuras, the Eternals’ all-father figure — who went into self-imposed exile after his brother was chosen as king and eventually landed on Titan. Yes, that Titan.

Alars found another exiled Eternal on Titan, and they had two children together: Eros, also known as Starfox, and his older brother, Thanos. So, Thanos, the Mad Titan from Titan, is an Eternal by birth. Infinity War made this connection canon in the MCU, with the Red Skull greeting Thanos as “son of Alars.” You might notice that Thanos doesn’t really fit the “human-shaped person with good hair and a tan” description of most Eternals, which is because his recessive “Deviant” gene gave him the appearance of the other Celestial-created race.

The groundwork for the Eternals had been laid years before the movie hit theaters. We had already met our first example of the species, albeit a rather unusual one, and glimpsed a few Celestials in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies: Knowhere, the Collectors’ base of operations, is actually a severed Celestial head floating in space. And Marvel proved with the Guardians that relatively unknown characters can actually be a blessing, because they provide a blank canvas.

But can the movie Eternals do what the comics have never quite managed, and find their own niche?

If we’re looking to the comics for answers, one potential solution might lie in Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.’s Eternals. While the 2006 miniseries itself is a little uneven, it takes the promise of the very first Eternals covers — “when gods walk the Earth!” — and reworks it to really focus in on the idea of mythical beings existing in the modern world. Because if you hire Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods and The Sandman, to write your comic, you’d better expect a Neil Gaiman story. The story reworks the mythology in a way the movie doesn’t follow, but it found clever ways to cross the characters into Marvel’s heroic world.

And while Marvel didn’t quite run with Eternals on the comics side, this is what Marvel Studios does best. All you have to do is watch the end of the Eternals movie to understand there’s a future someplace in the MCU for these unusual, odd characters.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.