Promotional art for New Avengers: Illuminati #1, by Jim Cheung.
|First appearance||New Avengers #7|
|Created by||Brian Michael Bendis (writer)
Steve McNiven (artist)
Namor the Sub-Mariner
The Illuminati are a group of comic book superheroes who joined forces and secretly work behind the scenes in Marvel Comics' main shared universe. The Illuminati were established to exist (via story retcon) in their first published appearance in New Avengers #7 (July 2005), written by Brian Michael Bendis. Their history was discussed in the special New Avengers: Illuminati (May 2006). The group was revealed to have been formed very shortly after the Kree-Skrull War, which was depicted in Avengers #89-97 (1971-1972).
Creator Bendis says on the group's members:
They each represent a certain something that is very special to the Marvel Universe:
They all bring with them a unique viewpoint and perspective that isn’t shared by the others.
- Namor is a ruler of the oceans and represents the antihero mindset.
- Tony Stark represents the Avenger type of hero, one who understands and appreciates that a hero can work with the government, rather than outside of it. He also represents the common man, as he possesses no natural superhuman abilities.
- Reed Richards represents the science-based part of the superhero community.
- Black Bolt represents the Inhumans, who are an important part of Marvel history and play an important part in events that have not yet come to pass. He also represents a ruler/king archetype, one that has also been filled by Namor.
- Doctor Stephen Strange speaks for the mystical/non-scientific side of the Marvel universe.
- Professor Charles Xavier is there on behalf of the mutant community.
The group forms at some time in the aftermath of the Kree-Skrull War, and probably after the Avengers/Defenders war. Iron Man realizes that each of the individual members had information about these alien races beforehand, and they could have collectively stopped it. He brings together the Illuminati with the Black Panther in Wakanda, and proposes that they form a government of superhumans. Namor refuses, on the grounds that too many superheroes are violent outsiders (such as Hawkeye and Quicksilver, both former criminals). Xavier refuses on the grounds that mutants are already feared and hated, and if Iron Man thinks he can fight this with iconic superheroes, it will result in heroes being feared and hated as much as mutants. Doctor Strange refuses on the grounds that too many heroes are anti-establishment and that the group Iron Man has assembled to form a governing body would not be 'anti-establishment', but rather a form of 'counter-establishment'. The group does, however, agree to meet to exchange information regularly. The only individual present who outright refuses to meet or even participate with the others is the Black Panther, who fears the association will end in less than altruistic actions.
Publication history 
The Illuminati first appeared in the Sentry story arc of New Avengers, written by Brian Michael Bendis. Bendis explored their history in the New Avengers: Illuminati one-shot (May 2006), which built up to the Civil War event that summer. Bendis, along with co-writer Brian Reed and artist Jim Cheung, produced a five-issue miniseries filling out what the group does behind the scenes between their formation and dissolution. The first issue of The New Avengers: Illuminati was released in December 2006  and the final issue was released in November 2007.
Fictional group history 
||This section's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (October 2011)|
First meeting 
Iron Man (representing the Avengers), Mister Fantastic (representing the Fantastic Four), Namor (representing Atlantis), Black Bolt (representing the Inhumans), Professor Xavier (representing the X-Men), Black Panther (representing Wakanda), and Doctor Strange (Sorcerer Supreme of Earth) meet in Wakanda, in the aftermath of the Kree-Skrull War that ravaged Earth. Iron Man highlights the fact that numerous heroes possessed information that could have prevented the war had they been combined, as well as the fact that Earth’s heroes are the only defense against an attack on that scale. From this, he concludes that a representative body, similar to the United Nations, be established amongst the heroes. The others in attendance debate the effectiveness of such a body, pointing out issues of trust amongst heroes and the bureaucracy that would result; however, most agree that continued secret meetings such as this one could help deal with larger threats in the future. All agree to this except the Black Panther, who takes issue with their self-righteous attitudes and predicts disaster when they disagree.
Skrull Empire 
The Illuminati travel to the homeworld of the Skrulls, who are still reeling from their defeat during the Kree-Skrull War on Earth. The group warns the Empire not to attack Earth again, but is unable to escape afterwards. The Skrulls analyze their captives (physiology, genetics, technology, etc.) and glean information from their behavior, until Iron Man is able to lead an escape. The Illuminati recognize that another attack is inevitable, while the Skrull Empire begins to make use of the data they compiled. By using a clone of Black Bolt and technology from Richards, the Skrulls were able to be undetected by superheroes.
Battle with the Pride 
When Tony Stark relocated to Los Angeles after Obadiah Stane took over his company- the other Illuminati leaving him alone after Namor pointed out that Stark would never accept charity and needed this time to prove himself worthy of his membership, he encountered the Pride- the six families who controlled crime in the city, parents of the future makeshift superhero 'team' the Runaways- and learned about the Gribborim that they worshipped while establishing a new company, prompting him to contact Doctor Strange for information about the Gribborim. This led to a brief fight between the Illuminati and the six Pride families, but although the Illuminati won and the Pride were temporarily locked up- although only Tony and Reed were present at the arrest due to their more 'media-friendly' image-, Tony knew that the Pride were too well-connected to keep them contained for long, prompting him to depart from Los Angeles after leaving the Pride a warning message to inform them that he would be back if he had any reason to suspect that they were acting against his new company.
The Beyonder 
In New Avengers: Illuminati #3, it is stated that during the opening moments of the first [Secret Wars], Professor Xavier and Reed Richards sought to, but were ultimately unable to, use Xavier's mind control power to render the heroes and villains kidnapped by the Beyonder for participation in the Secret War unconscious, so that they could deny the Beyonder his pleasure of forcing both sides to fight for his amusement. The issue also contends that the Illuminati confronted the Beyonder during the events of Secret Wars II. The story itself was filled with major continuity errors (Tony Stark is referred to have been present during the original "Secret Wars" storyline when James Rhodes was actually Iron Man during the storyline, the Beyonder is proclaimed to be an Inhuman who was a mutant before he was exposed to the Terrigen Mists, as well as the implication that the events of Secret War II never really happened and instead took place within an asteroid replica of Earth that the Beyonder created, and that in the end Black Bolt, under the guise as the Beyonder's "king", convincing him to go into another dimensional exile); as such, canonical status is unknown.
Marvel Boy 
The Illuminati approach Noh-Varr, a Kree warrior who tried to take over the Earth, in his prison, reasoning that it is better to convince him to change on his own rather than to just try and make him change using their abilities. They demonstrate the Kree connection to the Inhumans, and their desire to protect Earth. They demonstrate the primitive nature of humanity, but also the potential of the race to evolve and better itself. Ultimately, using Captain Marvel (a deceased, Kree-born superhero), they try to convince Noh-Varr to use his powers to protect the Earth and guide humans to better themselves.
The Sentry 
Iron Man informs the Illuminati of the formation of a new Avengers team in light of the breakout from the Raft. All but Namor wish him well in his endeavor, and Iron Man moves on to the issue of the Sentry. Although none of the Illuminati have any recollection of him, Mr. Fantastic discovers that he has files on the Sentry and Professor Xavier discovers that his mind has been tampered with. Mr. Fantastic is able to use the files to get through to Robert Reynolds, a.k.a. the Sentry, and help him reverse what has been done to him. Iron Man tells the group that the Avengers take full responsibility for the Sentry, should he ever lose control, but dodges their questions about other recent Avengers inquiries.
House of M 
Though the Illuminati did not appear to exist in the House of M reality, a mysterious group called 'The Council of Kings' included both Namor and Black Bolt in the group, as well as having Black Panther (who had been present at the Illuminati's inception) and consisting of six different people, all rulers both Mutant and otherwise of their own respective kingdoms in the House of M. These included Black Bolt of the Inhumans, Namor of Atlantis, Victor von Doom of Latveria, Storm of Kenya, Sunfire of Japan, and Black Panther of Wakanda. The group met up to discuss the likely attack by Apocalypse in the name of Magneto on Black Panther's country, and all but Doom agreed to assist T'Challa in defeating him.
Maria Hill, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., approaches Iron Man concerning the Hulk, who has recently destroyed Las Vegas. Iron Man presents a solution to the problem of the Hulk to the Illuminati (excluding an absent Professor Xavier), suggesting that they shoot him into space. Namor, alone, dissents to the plan from the outset. He argues that they have no right to banish their ally from Earth and accuses them of not helping to cure Bruce Banner to the best of their abilities. The other four members vote in favor of the plan, and Namor departs. While leaving, he says that the Black Panther was correct, and Namor predicts (correctly) that the Hulk will eventually return to seek justified revenge.
Registration and the Road to Civil War 
Despite deciding not to meet again, Iron Man calls together the Illuminati (excluding Professor Xavier, who is in exile in Scotland after the "M Day" event) to introduce them to the Superhuman Registration Act. He illustrates the fact that recent events have raised suspicion of all super-powered individuals and groups, and that one wrong move on the part of a hero will trigger disaster.
"A hero, probably a young one... One of the Young Avengers, or those kids in Los Angeles... Some carefree happy go-lucky, well-meaning young person with the best of intentions will do something wrong. He will be trying to save someone do something heroic but he will make a mistake. Turn to the left instead of the right and people will be hurt or killed because of it. And it will happen on live TV, or it will be recorded... and like Rodney King, it will play over and over. All over the world. Until the unrest that is already bubbling over will boil over... and every politician looking to make a name for himself will run right on TV and they will tell America how they are going to save the world from these out-of-control costumed characters who think the law does not apply to them. And half of us will go along with it and half of us will not. And because of this mini-rebellion, our lawmakers will be forced to make an example of someone. Someone like our friend Spider-Man. Someone they can make a real spectacle of. Someone they can unmask on TV, destroy his marriage and family and pin a crime or two on! All for the whole world to see. And the country will rupture. Sides will be taken and people will be hurt. Friend against friend. People who used to be adversaries finding themselves teamed up against a common cause. Friends dying at the hands of a former ally or teammate. That is what will happen."
If the Act passes, a war amongst heroes will result and cause untold damage. In order to avoid it, Iron Man reiterates his idea of a representative body of superheroes, and urges the group to come out in favor of registration prior to a disaster. While Namor dismisses the issue as none of Atlantis’ business and Doctor Strange and Black Bolt disagree on principle, Mr. Fantastic agrees with Tony. The damage is done, however, and the Illuminati dissolve.
Infinity Gauntlet 
Mr. Fantastic reveals to the group that he has been collecting the Infinity Gems, and hopes to collect them all with the help of the Illuminati. Despite a general apprehension, the group manages to acquire all six gems. Upon doing so, Mr. Fantastic attempts to will the Gems out of existence, but he is unable to do so. Faced with this failure, and a reprimand from Uatu, the Watcher, he makes the controversial decision to give each Illuminati member one gem to hide so that they may never be combined and used again.
Civil War 
Although the Illuminati never met or operated as a group during Civil War, their actions in the conflict reflect their reactions at the last meeting. Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic became two of the leading members of the pro-registration side, and worked closely with the United States government and S.H.I.E.L.D. Doctor Strange stayed out of the conflict, meditating and fasting, though he later admits, after joining the New Avengers and finding new love, that he regrets his lack of involvement. Afterward, he would join the New Avengers, who continue to operate underground without registering. Black Bolt and the Inhumans stayed out of the conflict, but began their own Cold War with the United States. Namor was involved only so far as it served his interests. This included avenging the death of his cousin in the Stamford tragedy, and coming to the aid of his friend Captain America’s forces in the final battle. Professor Xavier was not on Earth during the conflict.
World War Hulk 
During Civil War, Reed is contacted by Amadeus Cho, who informs him that Hulk did not land on the intended planet. When the Hulk ultimately returns to Earth, he seeks revenge on the Illuminati as Namor had warned. He became King of the planet he landed on, before the ship malfunctioned and destroyed millions of the inhabitants, along with the Hulk's wife and unborn child. His first act is to attack and defeat Black Bolt at the Inhuman settlement on the moon. After providing New York with a twenty-four-hour time limit to hand the other three Illuminati over to him, the Hulk approaches Xavier at his mansion to determine whether he would have supported the Illuminati plan had he been present. He battles the X-Men, but after learning of the mutant population's recent severe losses as a result of "M-Day", the Hulk decides that the X-Men have suffered enough and departs. Having then taken over Manhattan Island, the Hulk is attacked by Iron Man in a new 'Hulkbuster' armor, only for him to be defeated and Stark Tower to be destroyed. Despite the aid of the other members of the Fantastic Four, including temporary members the Black Panther and Storm, the same fate befalls Mr. Fantastic. Dr. Strange tries to enter the Hulk’s mind, but Hulk tricks Strange into presenting himself in a physical form that he attacks upon appearance. Strange later invokes and is possessed by the demon spirit of Zom, hoping that he could stop the Hulk before it was too late. However, he loses control of his newfound power, and he almost caused some civilians to die during his battle with the Hulk. Although the Hulk saves them, this action makes Strange lose his confidence in his powers and makes him vulnerable for the Hulk to defeat him.
Hulk then implants the Illuminati members with obedience discs and forces them to fight each other in his makeshift gladiatorial ring in Madison Square Garden. However the Hulk spared them from killing each other, showing them that he proved his point to the world. They survived the encounter by Hulk's mercy and the timely intervention of the Sentry which leads to a prolonged battle where both Hulk and the Sentry reverse back to their human forms and Bruce Banner knocks out Robert Reynolds with a final punch. This allows enough time for Stark to use prototype defense satellites to negate the Hulk's powers. The Illuminati is also partially cleared from the responsibility of Sakaar's destruction when Miek admits he saw the Red King's forces breach the ship's warp core and kept quiet to initiate what Miek felt was Hulk's destiny as the "Worldbreaker". Namor, being the only Illuminati member opposed to shooting Hulk into space from the beginning, was spared by Hulk for that reason, and remained uninvolved throughout the conflict.
Secret Invasion 
Iron Man calls the Illuminati together one more time to show them the body of the Skrull that was posing as Elektra. He feels that the Skrull represents a secret invasion of Earth, and that the group is responsible (after traveling to the Skrull homeworld years before). His suspicions are proved correct when Black Bolt reveals himself to be a disguised Skrull. The five remaining members are able to barely defeat it, and its two compatriots, and begin making plans to detect and defeat the remaining Skrulls. They soon realize, however, that this is pointless, as they cannot trust each other, going each his separate way, for better or for far, far worse, upon realizing that they have lost far more than just a world: they have lost each other's trust, and have lost the last hope of uniting the superheroes against the Skrulls...
Though in Secret Invasion, just like in Civil War, though for reasonably different incentives (they could not trust each other because of their own actions during the War, and they could not trust each other because of the actions of outside enemies during the Invasion), the Illuminati never worked together as a group, and the Illuminati itself is most likely to be permanently shattered. However, all six of them were affected in some way during the invasion, as were all inhabitants and allies of Earth.
Iron Man and Mister Fantastic were the two chief fighters of the Secret Invasion, taking central roles in the main battles, and key to the ultimate failure of the Invasion, though neither survived unscathed. Iron Man brought the Skrull corpse to the world’s top minds, and summoned Criti Noll (in the form of Henry Pym) and Mister Fantastic to examine and dissect the body. Stark was soon, as planned by the Skrulls, called in, along with his Mighty Avengers to the Savage Land, where one of the first and most significant of battles of the invasion took place. It started when a spaceship crashed there, several dozen superheroes came out, and the New Avengers also arrived on the scene. Just as Mister Fantastic ingeniously discovers the method of concealment the Skrulls have been utilizing to become virtually undetectable, Criti Noll acts, using a special, Skrull-designed gun to subdue Reed Richards and prevent him from maintaining solidity; the remaining members of the Fantastic Four are also swiftly taken out elsewhere for most of the invasion, though all survive, if but barely. Agent Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D. frees Mister Fantastic and takes control over the Skrull ship he was held in to the Savage Land, but sadly not before the Skrulls manages to infect Iron Man with an alien virus disabling himself, his armor, and S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. Veranke, disguised as Spider-Woman, also attempts to crush and destabilize what remains of Stark’s morale, will, and faith by trying to convince him he is actually a Skrull sleeper agent, but the Black Widow convinces him, at least slightly, otherwise. Richards and Brand arrive, with Reed using a self-designed machine to reveal the Skrulls in the midst of the Savage Land battle, which are quickly disposed of by the heroes. Reed and Tony lead the other heroes back to the now chaotic New York for the final battle, in which Reed exposes the Skrulls and which he is a prime target. Reed survives, and Tony, though his secondhand and relatively crude armor he had quickly constructed suffer enough damage to force him to initially retreat from the battle scene, uses a spare old Iron Man armor to enable him to aid the struggle against the Skrulls, freeing the prisoners, including Pym and Jarvis.
Quest of the Hood 
The Illuminati reunited with founding members Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Doctor Strange and Professor Xavier returning. Medusa has joined the group as well (filling in for the presumably deceased Black Bolt) after learning that the Hood is targeting them for the Infinity Gems, seeking to reform the Infinity Gauntlet and regain the power he lost after the Siege of Asgard. With the Hood having being defeated once more, the Infinity Gems were re-divided among the Illuminati members with Captain Steve Rogers in possession of the sixth gem in Black Bolt's absence.
Aborted Reunion 
Captain America arranged another meeting of the Illuminati during the war between the Avengers and the X-Men in an attempt to talk with Namor after he was possessed by the Phoenix Force, but the meeting quickly fell apart; Professor X resented how the other four members were subconsciously blaming him for the current mess, Mister Fantastic felt that the Phoenix Five were not actually doing anything wrong as their actions had all been fundamentally beneficial, and Doctor Strange and Tony Stark felt that the meeting was pointless as they doubted that Namor would appear. When Namor arrived in the room after the others had left, Captain America asked him to stand down, but Namor refused, although he acknowledged that he still respected Captain America as a friend and ally.
Colliding universes 
When Black Panther discovered a threat to the entire Marvel Universe, he saw no option but to call together the Illuminati again, including former member Black Bolt and mutant scientist Beast, to deal with the threat. Professor X is not part of the call because he was killed at the end of the war between the Avengers and the X-Men. The Illuminati are later designed like the new team of New Avengers.
Before the meeting with the Illuminati, Black Panther confronts Namor (who nearly attacked his home Wakanda) in the room locked and guarded. Their conversation is brief but tense, with Namor is still king of Atlantis unbowed before Black Panther's tightly-controlled rage. Black Panther informs him that, as soon as the current crisis is settled, Black Panther will kill him.
When Captain America try to use the Infinity Gauntlet to push the colliding universe back for some time, but during the process, the gems are destroyed except the time gem vanishes. Captain America felt they were not doing the correct thing and decided to leave the Illuminati, but before leaving, Doctor Strange wipe his mind of the Illuminati meeting, after Black Panther taking his place.
The Cabal 
Other versions 
In this reality, Mister Fantastic killed the other Illuminati members to keep them from being too ambitious.
In this reality, the Illuminati consisted of Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Black Bolt, Doctor Doom, and Magneto. The Superhuman Registration Act and the Initiative were successfully implemented because Doctor Doom and Magneto were members of the Illuminati.
The Illuminati received controversy upon revelation of its existence, mostly due to the fact that many major events have had no interaction from the group at all, such as the Secret Empire's takeover of America, Doctor Strange and his Defenders taking over Washington, D.C., and various other events that have been left, supposedly intentionally, out of continuity in Marvel's newest status quo.
Members as of New Avengers Vol. 3 #3
Original Team 
|Character||Real Name||Joined In||Notes|
|Mister Fantastic||Reed Richards||New Avengers #7 (July 2005)||Also leader of the Fantastic Four|
|Doctor Strange||Stephen Strange||Earth's Sorcerer Supreme|
|Namor||Namor McKenzie||King of Atlantis|
|Black Bolt||Blackagar Boltagon||King of the Inhumans|
|Iron Man||Anthony Stark||Also a member of the Avengers|
|Professor Charles Xavier||Charles Xavier||deceased in Avengers vs. X-Men #11|
|Character||Real Name||Joined In||Notes|
|Black Bolt (Skrull)||Unknown||New Avengers: Illuminati Vol. 2 #5||deceased|
|Medusa||Medusalith Amaquelin Boltagon||Avengers Vol. 4 #8||Left in Avengers Vol. 4 #12, Queen of the Inhumans and current member of the Future Foundation|
|Captain America||Steven Rogers||Avengers Vol. 4 #12||Left in New Avengers Vol. 3 #3. Current member of the Uncanny Avengers and leader of the Avengers|
|Black Panther||T'Challa||New Avengers Vol. 3 #1|
|Beast||Doctor Henry "Hank" McCoy||also a member of the X-Men|
In other media 
- The Illuminati is referenced in The Super Hero Squad Show episode "Tales of Suspense". War Machine tells Iron Man that he had to cover for him when handling the Illuminati.
- The Illuminati appear in Planet Hulk. They are featured as a recorded message telling Hulk that he is too dangerous to be on Earth and apologized for what they had to do. However, they programmed the ship to land on a vegetation planet, but Hulk landed on Sakaar.
- CGD – New Avengers #7
- CGD – New Avengers: Illuminati
- GCD :: Issue Details
- Illuminating the Illuminati with Brian Bendis, November 7, 2005, Newsarama
- Marvel Catalog
- WW: Chicago '06 - Bendis Talks Illuminati Miniseries, Newsarama[dead link]
- New Avengers: Illuminati One-Shot
- New Avengers: Illuminati #1
- New Avengers #44
- Iron Man Legacy #6
- Iron Man Legacy #10
- Iron Man Legacy #11
- New Avengers: Illuminati #3
- New Avengers: Illuminati #4
- New Avengers #7-10
- Black Panther #7
- New Avengers: Illuminati #2
- Civil War #6
- Civil War #7
- World War Hulk: X-Men
- World War Hulk #5
- New Avengers: Illuminati #5
- Avengers Vol. 4 #8
- The Avengers #12 (2011)
- New Avengers (vol.2) #29
- New Avengers vol. 3 #1
- New Avengers vol. 2 #2
- New Avengers vol. 2 #3
- Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #3
- Comic Buyer's Guide 1626
- Illuminati at Marvel.com