Eternals (comics)

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Eternals
Cover art for Eternals vol 4, #1.
Art by Daniel Acuña.
Species publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance The Eternals #1 (July 1976)
Created by Jack Kirby
Characteristics
Notable members List of Eternals
The Eternals or Eternals
Cover of The Eternals vol. 1, 1 (Jul, 1976). Art by Jack Kirby.
Series publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
Schedule Monthly
Format (vol. 1 & 4)
Ongoing series
(vol. 2 & 3)
Limited series
Genre
Publication date (vol. 1)
July 1976 – January 1978
(vol. 2)
October 1985 – September 1986
(vol. 3)
August 2006 – March 2007
(vol. 4)
August 2008 – March 2009
Number of issues (vol. 1)
19, 1 Annual
(vol. 2)
12
(vol. 3)
7
(vol. 4)
9, 1 Annual
Collected editions
Jack Kirby's Eternals Omnibus ISBN 0-7851-2205-2
Neil Gaiman's Eternals (hardcover) ISBN 0-7851-2541-8
To Slay A God ISBN 0-7851-2978-2

The Eternals are a fictional race of superhumans in the Marvel Comics universe. They are described as an offshoot of the evolutionary process that created sentient life on Earth. The original instigators of this process, the alien Celestials, intended the Eternals to be the defenders of Earth, which leads to the inevitability of war against their destructive counterparts, the Deviants. The Eternals were created by Jack Kirby and made their first appearance in The Eternals #1 (July 1976).

Publication history[edit]

In 1970, Jack Kirby left Marvel Comics to work at DC Comics, where he began the saga of the New Gods, an epic story involving mythological and science fiction concepts, and planned to have a definite ending. However, the saga was left incomplete after the cancellation of the titles involved. Kirby began The Eternals when he returned to Marvel. The Eternals' saga was thematically similar to the New Gods', and the series was also eventually canceled without resolving many of its plots, particularly the Celestials' judgment over humanity (see Fictional Biography below). Initially, the comic book was not intended to be part of the normal Marvel continuity but a stand-alone publication. The Eternals continuity was officially made part of the Marvel-616 continuity in Eternals, Vol. 1 #6, with the introduction of three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Nick Fury being mentioned by name, and an official statement made on the letters page of that issue.

It has long been erroneously thought that writers Roy Thomas and Mark Gruenwald brought the Eternals into official Marvel Universe continuity in a long storyline in the Thor comic book series that climaxed in Thor #301,[1] resolving those lingering plotlines. Subsequent to the Thor storyline, the Eternals (and the mythology connected to them) have appeared or been mentioned in numerous Marvel comics. In particular, the Celestials' experiment on humanity has been used to explain how certain humans can develop super-powers. The Titanians (created by Jim Starlin) and Uranians (created by Stan Lee)[2] were later retconned as being Eternals as well.

The storyline took elements from the ideas of the Ancient astronauts, which postulate that humanity may have been visited by extraterrestrials in ancient times and interpreted them as supernatural beings. Thus, a recurring topic of the plots was to use the Eternals, the Deviants or the Celestials to provide explanations for myths or obscure events from history. In particular, many points from the book Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Däniken were incorporated into the plot, such as the Nazca Lines being a spaceport or the Incas getting technological advances from them and in turn worshiping them as gods.

The Eternals returned for a twelve-issue limited series in 1985 under writer Peter B. Gillis. According to comic book historian Peter Sanderson, "editor in chief Jim Shooter disliked Gillis’s scripts, so Walter Simonson wrote the final four issues."[3] However, Sanderson feels that "of all the attempts to portray the Eternals before the Gaiman revival, the Gillis-Simonson series was by far the most interesting and creative, but it has been grossly underrated and did not lead to an ongoing series."[3]

Neil Gaiman,[4][5] with artist John Romita, Jr.,[6] created a 2006 limited series, which helped bring the Eternals role in the modern Marvel Universe up-to-date.[7] Originally solicited as a six-issue series, an extra issue was added to the run, because, according to editor Nick Lowe, "There was too much story to fit into the structure we set for ourselves. Neil was starting issue five and told me that he might need a seventh issue. He just had too much story to fit in six issues (even with the first and sixth double-sized)."[8]

The first ongoing series since Kirby's run was announced at the San Diego Comic Con in 2007.[9] It is written by Charles and Daniel Knauf,[10][11][12] with art by Daniel Acuña,[13][14] and the first issue was cover dated August 2008. In late 2008 Marvel also published an Eternals Annual by writer Fred Van Lente and artist Pascal Alixe, in which the Eternals come into conflict with the Young Gods.[15] On February 27, 2009, Marvel's Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada confirmed that the ongoing series had been cancelled.[16]

Fictional group biography[edit]

When the Celestials visited Earth five million years ago and performed genetic experiments on early proto-humanity, they created two divergent races: the long-lived Eternals, and the genetically unstable and monstrously grotesque Deviants. These experiments also led to the capacity for super-powered mutations in humans. They also performed this experiment on other planets (such as the Kree and Skrull homeworlds) with similar results.

Despite looking human, Eternals are much more long-lived (but were not originally fully immortal) and that kept them from having much contact with their human cousins. Eternals have a low birth rate; they can interbreed with humans but the result is always a normal human (although Joey Athena, son of Thena and a normal human seems to have become an Eternal with long lived properties and powers).[17] Despite this, the Eternals have in general protected the human race, especially from the Deviants, with whom they've always had an enmity. The Eternals also developed advanced technology.

Long ago, a civil war broke out amongst the Eternals over whether to conquer the other races, with one faction led by Kronos and the other by his warlike brother, Uranos. Kronos's side prevailed, and Uranos and his defeated faction left Earth and journeyed to Uranus where they built a colony. Some of Uranos's group soon tried to return to Earth to re-kindle the war, but they were attacked by a passing Kree ship and forced to land on Saturn's moon Titan. There they built another colony. (Experiments performed by Kree scientists on a captured Eternal led them to go to Earth and perform their own genetic experiments on a group of humans, thus creating the Inhumans.)

One day, Kronos's experiments in cosmic energy caused a catastrophic release of energy throughout the Eternals' city, Titanos, destroying it, activating latent genes in the Eternals, and disintegrating the scientist's body. The Eternals now found they could channel large quantities of cosmic energy themselves, granting them near-godlike power. The accident left Kronos in an immaterial state, so a new leader had to be chosen. For the first time, the Eternals merged into a single being, the Uni-Mind, to decide which of Kronos's sons, Zuras or A'lars should be the new leader. Zuras was chosen, and A'lars chose to leave Earth to avoid causing another civil war, and journeyed to Titan.

There he found that a war (allegedly caused by the Dragon of the Moon) had erupted on Titan and wiped out all but one member, a woman named Sui-San. A'lars fell in love with her, and in time they repopulated Titan. Due to the mix of activated genes from A'lars and unactivated ones from Sui-San, these new Titanian Eternals are not as powerful or immortal as Terran Eternals, but are more powerful and longer-lived than the earlier pre-civil war Titanian Eternals.

While Zuras ruled, three new Eternal cities were built. The first was Olympia, located in the mountains of Greece, near the main portal between the Earth dimension and the Olympians' home dimension, which lead many ancient Greeks to confuse some of the godlike Eternals with members of the Olympian pantheon. Eventually, an agreement was reached with the gods where some Eternals, such as Thena, would impersonate the Olympians before their worshipers. The other two Eternal cities were Polaria (located in Siberia) and Oceana (in the Pacific).

18,000 years ago, the Celestials returned to Earth. The Deviants attacked them, but the Celestials counterattacked, resulting in the sinking of Mu and Atlantis, and much worldwide havoc. The Eternals helped rescue many humans. An Eternal named Valkin was entrusted by the Celestials with an artifact of great power for safekeeping.

At some point during the early centuries, Ikaris and the Eternals came into conflict with the immortal mutant, Apocalypse. This conflict ended when Ikaris and the Eternals defeated him. Ikaris believed Apocalypse was dead.

1,000 years ago, the Asgardian god Thor encountered some Eternals, but the encounter was erased from his mind, to prevent him from learning about the Celestials, who were about to return to Earth. An Eternal named Ajak became the Celestial's spokesperson, and put himself to sleep when the Celestials left, to wait for their return 1,000 years later to judge humanity.

During the early 20th century, a human scientist made contact with the Uranian Eternals and was taken to live with them along with his young son, who would later become Marvel Boy.[18] The Uranians were eventually killed by Deathurge.[19] After World War II, some Eternals allied with humans and Deviants to form the Damocles Foundation, which tried to create a new breed of superhuman to rule Earth.[20] Some Eternals, such as Makkari, were also active as superheroes, or living amongst humans, keeping their true nature hidden. The Eternals also helped to move the Inhumans' city to the Himalayas to keep it hidden.

At some point, Thanos of the Eternals of Titan nearly destroyed their colony, but they rebuilt it, and would help Earth's heroes to oppose him on several occasions.

Cover of New Eternals: Apocalypse Now 1 (Feb, 2000). Art by Joe Bennett.

When the Celestials returned to judge the worthiness of their creations a few years ago, the Eternals found themselves clashing with the Deviants again, and decided to publicly reveal their existence to humanity. Zuras feared what would happen if the Celestials judged unfavorably. They encountered Thor again, and were attacked by Thor's father Odin and the Olympian gods, who tried to prevent their interfering with the gods' plans to attack the Celestials. Eventually, the Eternals decided to help the gods and formed a Uni-Mind to assist the Destroyer's assault on the Celestials.

They were forced to dissolve back into Eternals by the Celestials, and the shock of the attack killed Zuras. Before his spirit fully left the material plane, he instructed his daughter Thena to take his people to explore space. Most of the Eternals did so in the form of a Uni-Mind, but a handful – those most heavily involved in Earthly affairs – remained behind on Earth. Since then, the Eternals have helped Earth's heroes, particularly the Avengers, against several menaces. They also discovered the existence of the Titanian Eternals.

Eternals volume 3[edit]

Recently, the Eternals have begun reappearing on Earth in Neil Gaiman's new take on the immortal beings. Most seem to have no memory of their own history and abilities, except Ikaris, and no records of their previous appearances remain. Apparently the Eternal known as Sprite, angered at having to remain an eleven-year-old and unable to grow any further, managed to induce collective amnesia in the Eternals as well as distort their perceptions of history. This can possibly be seen as Gaiman's attempt to retcon the characters; early stories as well as officially published statistics portrayed most of the current generation of Eternals – such as Ikaris and Thena – as being "only" several tens of thousands of years old but Gaiman's run describes them as being closer to a million years old.

A group of Deviants manage to kidnap Makkari, using him to awaken the Dreaming Celestial. Upon awakening, he decides to judge humanity. The Eternals, realizing that they cannot stop him, leave him be. The Eternals then embark on a quest to go and recruit the other members who have similarly forgotten their true selves due to Sprite's trickery.

Powers and abilities[edit]

Due to the cosmic energy that suffuses an Eternal's body and the nigh-unbreakable mental hold they have over their physiological processes, the Eternals of Earth are effectively immortal. They live for millennia, do not fatigue from physical exertion, are immune to disease and poison, and are unaffected by environmental extremes of cold and heat. Most cannot be injured by conventional weaponry, and even if they somehow are, an Eternal can rapidly regenerate any damage as long as they are able to retain their mental hold over their bodies; this mental bond can be broken however. In the 2006 series it was also stated that Eternals are able to absorb oxygen directly from water, and therefore cannot drown. In the same series, Ikaris was plunged into molten metal and experienced great pain, but no physical injury, which the Deviants attributed to a forcefield which protects Ikaris even when unconscious. It is unclear if all Eternals share this degree of protection.

At one time, the official limit to the Eternals' durability was such that they could only be permanently destroyed by dispersing their bodies' molecules over a wide area.[21] However, this degree of extreme durability was recently revealed to have increased to a much greater degree; as demonstrated in the 2006 Eternals limited series,[22] it is shown that even total molecular dispersal is insufficient to destroy an Eternal. As long as "The Machine" (a restoration device of Celestial origin; possibly the Earth itself)[23] keeps running, any destroyed Eternal will eventually return, as was the case with Ikaris after he was completely vaporized by a particle accelerator as part of a series of "experiments" performed upon him by the Deviants.

This same cosmic energy can be channeled for a number of superhuman abilities. All Eternals are potentially capable of:

  • Superhuman strength. The limits of their strength can be increased as a result of years of focusing some of their energy towards that purpose.
  • Projecting concussive blasts, heat, and/or blinding flashes of energy from their eyes and hands
  • Flight (and levitating others)
  • Reading/controlling minds
  • Generating illusions
  • Teleporting vast distances, though most Eternals prefer not to use this ability as many find it uncomfortable (and according to the most recent series, it also greatly depletes their store of cosmic energy)
  • Transmuting objects, altering both their shape and composition. (The extent of this ability can vary from one Eternal to another.)
  • Forcefield generation providing invulnerability to harm.
  • In addition, groups of Eternals, as few as three at a time,[23] can initiate a transformation into a gestalt being called the Uni-Mind, a vastly powerful psionic entity that contains the totality of the powers and abilities of all the beings that comprise it.

Some Eternals choose to focus on a particular power in order to increase their effectiveness with it. Sersi, for example, has developed the power of transmutation farther than any other Eternal. Additionally, some Eternals choose to focus their cosmic energies into other, non-standard abilities. Ikaris, for example, channels cosmic energy to greatly enhance his senses, while the Interloper uses his to generate fear in others, and Makkari uses his cosmic energies for superspeed.

Limitations[edit]

The recent ret-con of the Eternals' origins and abilities introduces a significant limitation to their powers: They cannot attack their Celestial "masters" for any reason, whether they make a conscious decision to do so, or are tricked into accidentally striking the beings.[24][25] Any such attempt shuts the body of the attacking Eternal down, and is implied to be an automatic defense mechanism of the Celestials' armor.[26] On one occasion, when the Eternals attempted to form a Uni-Mind with the intent of keeping the Dreaming Celestial asleep, they were immediately shut down and discorporated back into their original, individual forms before they could even form a non-aggressive plan of action.[27]

Furthermore, Eternals are compelled to attack and neutralize any being that attempts to engage any Celestial with hostile intent[27] — this compulsion extends even to the Dreaming Celestial, whom the Eternals were forced to defend even as they feared that the newly awakened Celestial would destroy all life on the planet.

Generations[edit]

  • First Generation Eternal (those born before the fall of Titanos): Arlok, Astron, Daina, Kronos/Chronos/Chronus, Master Elo, Oceanus, Uranos.
  • Second Generation Eternal (those alive at the time of Chronus's experiment): A'lars, Arnaa, Cybele, Forgotten One/Gilgamesh, Helios, Perse, Rakar, Tulayn, Valkin, Virako, Zuras.
  • Third Generation Eternal (those born after Chronos's experiment but before the Second Host): Aginar, Ajak, Arex, Atlo, Domo, Ikaris, Interloper, Mara, Phastos, Sigmar, Thena, Veron, Zarin.
  • Fourth Generation Eternal (those born after the coming of the Second Host, 20,000 years ago): Argos, Ceyote, Chi Demon, the Delphan brothers, Druig, Khoryphos, Makkari, Psykos, Sersi, Kingo Sunen, El Vampiro.
  • Fifth Generation Eternal (those born after the coming of the Third Host, 3,000 years ago): Aurelle, Sprite, Titanis.

Antecedents[edit]

  • Arthur C. Clarke's book Childhood's End from 1953 provided large inspiration, including the idea of "Overlords" who control Earth's fate and will reveal themselves further after a 50-year waiting period, the idea of demons being humanity's memory of another species, and the "Overmind" concept which seems to influence the comic's "Uni-mind".
  • Erich von Däniken's book Chariots of the Gods, a 1968 non-fiction best-seller, postulated the concept of alien gods as real. Kirby acknowledged in dialogue with fans of the Eternals that he owed some debt to Däniken's book.
  • The Hurricane and Mercury, two characters of Timely Comics, the 1940s predecessor of Marvel, were retconned as being guises of the Eternal Makkari.
  • Thematically, the Eternals were similar to another Kirby creation, the New Gods — another group of ancient godlike beings in an epic struggle with their opposites, with humanity caught in between.

The Eternal[edit]

The Eternal is a series from Marvel's MAX imprint written by Chuck Austen, based on an idea he had been working on for a while: "I pitched this back when I first started working at Marvel, but Joe Quesada was against doing it. He saw no future in this particular old Kirby concept."[28] Austen described the plot as involving "Ikaeden, the leader of the Eternals, who arrives on Earth at the dawn of man, and evolves humankind from homo-erectus so he can use them as slaves to mine raw materials for the Celestials, his bosses, basically," as well as "Kurassus, who is the second-in-command of the mining mission, and who is determined to undermine Ikaeden and kill Ikaeden's precious slave-girl and son."[28] In an interview with Newsarama he gave an outline of his planned plot:

Originally planned as an ongoing series,[28] it was cancelled after six issues.[30]

Reception[edit]

Reception of the series was mixed. Peter Sanderson calls it "a ghastly mini-series ... which utilized the names like 'Eternal' and 'Celestial' from Kirby’s series but otherwise had nothing to do with it."[3] Les Bowman on ICv2, replying to specific concerns about the sexual content, said that "[m]uch like the Rawhide Kid, Marvel's editorial staff has decided to completely wreck the heritage of a well liked character, or in the case of the Eternals, a group, by perverting it for the reason of free press coverage."[31] Reviews at Comics Bulletin were much more positive,[32][33][34] with the one for the final issue saying that the cancellation of the title was "a damn shame because it was the only MAX series to live up to the billing of the imprint" and that "[i]If you want to read a 1980s EPIC style comic buy this issue and all the others that came before, I doubt there will ever be a trade."[35]

Eternals titles[edit]

The main Eternals titles include:

  • Eternals (vol. 1) #1–19 (written and penciled by Jack Kirby, July 1976 - Jan. 1978)
  • Eternals Annual #1 (written and penciled by Jack Kirby, 1977)
  • Iron Man Annual #6 (November 1983)
  • Eternals (vol. 2) #1–12 (limited series, Oct. 1985 - Sept. 1986)
  • Eternals: The Herod Factor (March 1991)
  • The New Eternals: Apocalypse Now (also known as Eternals: The New Breed) #1 (Feb. 2000)
  • Eternals (vol. 3) #1–7 (written by Neil Gaiman, limited series, Jun. 2006 - Feb. 2007)
  • Eternals (vol 4.) #1–9, Annual #1 (August 2008 - March 2009)

Others include:

Collected editions[edit]

A number of the series featuring the Eternals have been collected into trade paperbacks:

  • The Eternals (collects Eternals (vol. 1) #1-19 and Eternals Annual #1, 1976–1978, Marvel Omnibus hardback, 392 pages, July 2006, ISBN 0-7851-2205-2) collected as a softcovers:
    • Volume 1 (collects Eternals (vol. 1) #1-11, softcover, 208 pages, July 2008, ISBN 0-7851-3313-5)
    • Volume 2 (collects Eternals (vol. 1) #12-19 and Eternals Annual #1, softcover, 188 pages, October 2008, ISBN 0-7851-3442-5)
  • Thor: The Eternals Saga:
    • Volume 1 (collects Thor Annual #7 and Thor #283-291, softcover, 208 pages, October 2006, ISBN 0-7851-2404-7)
    • Volume 2 (collects Thor #292-301, softcover, 216 pages, April 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2405-5)
  • Eternals:

Awards[edit]

  • 2007: Nominated for "Best Archival Collection/Project--Comic Books" Eisner Award, for Marvel Omnibus collection[36]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Thor Annual #7 (1978) and Thor #291-301 (May 1979 - November 1980)
  2. ^ Marvel Boy #1 (Dec. 1950)
  3. ^ a b c Sanderson, Peter (September 17, 2007). "Comics in Context #194: Eternal Verities". Quick Stop Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  4. ^ Know Your Eternals: Neil Gaiman, Newsarama, May 31, 2006
  5. ^ CCI XTRA: Spotlight on Neil Gaiman, Comic Book Resources, August 3, 2007
  6. ^ Following in the Footsteps: Romita Talks "Eternals", Comic Book Resources, June 9, 2006
  7. ^ From Here to Eternalty: Lowe Talks "Eternals", Comic Book Resources, June 8, 2006
  8. ^ "Eternals" Expands To Seven & Nick Lowe Explains, Comic Book Resources, November 24th, 2006
  9. ^ SDCC '07: Eternals Ongoing, Newsarama, July 27, 2007
  10. ^ CCI: Charles & Daniel Knauf: Waking Up from An Eternal Slumber, Comic Book Resources, July 27, 2007
  11. ^ Charles Knauf Talks Eternals, Newsarama, April 1, 2008
  12. ^ Eternal Glory of the King: Knaufs talk “Eternals”, Comic Book Resources, June 11, 2008
  13. ^ EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Acuña talks "Eternals", Comic Book Resources, March 7, 2008
  14. ^ Tuesday Q&A: Daniel & Charles Knauf, Marvel.com. May 27, 2008
  15. ^ Strom, Marc (October 22, 2008). "Eternals: When Gods Collide". Marvel.com. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  16. ^ MyCup o’ Joe: WEEK 8, February 27, 2009
  17. ^ Eternals Volume 4 Issue 9
  18. ^ Marvel Boy #1 (Dec. 1950)
  19. ^ Quasar #2 (November 1989)
  20. ^ X-Force #79 (1998)
  21. ^ Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Volume #1, Issue 4
  22. ^ Eternals (2006) Issue #2
  23. ^ a b Eternals (2006), Issue #6
  24. ^ Eternals (2006), Issue #4
  25. ^ "The Incredible Hercules" (2008) Issue #3
  26. ^ Eternals (2008), Issue #4
  27. ^ a b "Eternals" (2006), Issue #5
  28. ^ a b c Singh, Arune (March 21, 2003). "MAX Muscle: Austen talks 'War Machine 2.0' & 'The Eternal' & 'World Watch'". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  29. ^ Segura Jr., Alex (March 20, 2003). "Austen Adds Two - War Machine 2 & The Eternal". Newsarama. Retrieved 2009-02-23. [dead link]
  30. ^ Brady, Matt (August 25, 2003). "The Eternal, The Crew Cancelled". Newsarama. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  31. ^ Bowman, Les (June 13, 2003). "Les 'Bo' Bowman of The Gamer's Den on The Eternal". ICv2. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  32. ^ Page45 (July 8, 2003). "Review of The Eternal #1". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  33. ^ McCoy, Paul Brian (August 8, 2003). "Review of The Eternal #3". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  34. ^ McCoy, Paul Brian (September 10, 2003). "Review of The Eternal #4". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  35. ^ Moser, Bob (December 5, 2003). "Review of The Eternal #6". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  36. ^ "2007 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards". Hahnlibrary.net. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Reviews[edit]