It is already pretty exciting to know that Eternals, one of the most anticipated 2021 movies, is helmed by an Academy Award winner like Chloé Zhao - the visionary director of Nomadland. However, what especially excites me personally is that this long-awaited installment to the Marvel movies will be the first iteration of the lesser-known superhero team outside of Marvel Comics, which never gave them much time to breathe despite their importance, anyway. Still, there is plenty to learn about the Eternals from the comics before their film hits theaters, starting with where these mysterious immortals came from.
Eternals Were Created By The Celestials Out Of Early Human Beings
Behind the scenes, the Eternals (who technically first appeared in 1940’s Red Raven Comics #1) are the brainchild of Jack Kirby as the legendary comic book writer’s own sci-fi twist on Greek mythology, before crafting a similar story for DC with the New Gods in the early 1970s. On the pages of Marvel Comics (who gave the Eternals their first self-titled series in 1976), the ageless, super-powered beings were created by the Celestials, which fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe should be familiar with already.
The story goes that the godly Celestials came to Earth to conduct experiments on the planet’s most primitive beings, resulting in three wildly different new species. One of these new creations would come to be known as the Eternals. Among the other two species, one would be able to look at the Eternals as saviors, while the others would see them enemies.
Eternals Protected Humans From The Celestials’ Other Creation, Deviants
The Eternals were bred in smaller numbers and were found to be technically immune to time and death, hence their name. Meanwhile, another creation, known as the Deviants, were literally described in Marvel comics as a structurally unstable, “ever-changing and destructive failure” on the Celestials’ part. The humans were the only Celestial-bred species on Earth that truly resembled a perfect balance of structure in their eyes, ensuring they were destined to inherit the Earth.
Even though they would come to live apart from all other living beings on Earth, the Eternals made it a responsibility to defend the humans from the monstrous Deviants. In fact, living in solitude for innumerable amounts of time would lead them to develop the necessary powers and skills to protect the humans.
Eternals Have Many Of The Same Powers, But Some That Are Unique To Themselves
As beings of the same extraordinary species, the Eternals are each capable of a similar variety of abilities, including your typical enhanced strength and speed, harnessing cosmic energy, and, of course, the gift of immortality. However, each member does possess a certain power or skill that makes them unique to one another, such as the flying Ikaris (played by Richard Madden in the Eternals movie) who gets his name from the mythical figure Icarus, who flew too close to the Sun. Makkari (traditionally a man, but played by The Walking Dead’s Lauren Ridloff) is the fastest and Gilgamesh (Don Lee) is the strongest.
Kingo, whom Kumail Nanjiani got ripped to play, actually possesses all of the Eternals’ powers to a very high degree, but refuses to use them because he is a Samurai. Also skilled in combat, and wise to boot, is Angelina Jolie’s character, Thena. Phastos, the MCU’s first openly gay superhero played by Brian Tyree Henry, is also genius, most notably in technology.
Eternals Have Crossed Paths With Several Other Well-Known Marvel Characters
As I mentioned before, Eternals will not only be the team’s first appearance in the Marvel moves in order, but the first time they have been been featured in a different medium than comics (unless you count a motion comic series from 2014). In fact, Marvel Comics has never been a particularly consistent home for the team’s story to be told… but more on that later. Luckily, for all of their most prominent moments in the pages of Marvel, the Eternals have been known to collaborate (or come at odds) with many well-known characters in the Marvel Universe.
For instance, Apocalypse, one of the oldest mutants on record, whom Oscar Isaac portrayed in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, managed to defeat Ikaris in battle, but still had his evil plans to blow up the underground city of Lemuria ultimately thwarted. The Eternals also once aided Thor before erasing his memories of them so as to keep their existence a secret. Ironically, the Eternals themselves would, at one time, suffer that same affliction.
Neil Gaiman Revived Eternals As Modern-Day People With No Memory Of Their Past
As I also mentioned before, the Eternals are a lesser-known group of superheroes in the world of comic books. Part of this is because their first self-titled series was canceled in 1978 after just two years, leaving much of Jack Kirby’s vision left hanging in the balance, before their short-lived 1985 revival. In 2006, celebrated writer Neil Gaiman would revive them for their most ambitious story yet.
Neil Gaiman’s seven-issue Eternals series follows a group of seemingly normal, modern-day human beings who, over time, begin to regain their memories of being the ageless, powerful, god-like defenders against the forces of evil they once were. It turns out that an Eternal named Sprite (who will be played as a girl in the movie by Lia McHugh, from the 2020 horror film The Lodge) altered the others’ memories out of anger for being stuck as an 11-year-old boy. They are all able to remember who they are just in time for the Celestials’ attack on San Francisco.
It has been rumored that Neil Gaiman’s 2006 limited series served as the basis for the Eternals movie. Personally, I very much hope that this rumor turns out to be true, as the concept is fascinating. Of course, on the other hand, Gaiman’s comic book efforts have an infamous reputation for ending up in development hell and, since the film is finished is set to come out Friday, November 5, 2021, maybe director Chloé Zhao and screenwriters Ryan and Matthew Firpo found another route to go in, which I trust will be just as interesting.