The Living Tribunal
Art by Jim Starlin
|First appearance||Strange Tales #157 (June 1967)|
|Created by||Stan Lee |
|Abilities||Reality warping |
The Living Tribunal is a fictional cosmic entity appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Strange Tales #157 (June 1967) and was created by Stan Lee, Marie Severin, and Herb Trimpe.
The Living Tribunal debuted in a storyline called "The Sands of Death" in Strange Tales #157–163 (June–December 1967), giving mystic hero Doctor Strange a limited time to prove Earth is worth saving. Established as apparently the supreme power in the Marvel Universe, the character made several sporadic appearances over the years, including What If #32 (April 1982); Rom #41 (April 1983) and Secret Wars II #6 (Dec. 1985). The Living Tribunal revealed clues as to its true purpose and nature in Silver Surfer vol. 3, #31 (Dec. 1989).
After brief appearances in the role of observer in Guardians of the Galaxy #16 (Sep. 1991) and Quasar #26 (Sep. 1991), the character had a significant role in the limited series Infinity Gauntlet #1–6 (July – Dec. 1991), Warlock and the Infinity Watch #1 (Feb. 1992), and DC vs. Marvel #1–4 (April – May 1996). The Living Tribunal's role was eventually expanded on in She-Hulk vol. 2, #12 (Nov. 2006).
Fictional character biography
The Living Tribunal is an entity that oversees and maintains balance in the realities that constitute the Marvel Comics Multiverse, including the mainstream universe and all alternate universes. He serves as a judge of these realities.
The character is first encountered by Doctor Strange, announcing its intent to destroy Earth due to its potential for evil. After a series of trials Dr. Strange is able to convince the Living Tribunal that good also exists, and Earth is spared. The Tribunal reappears to the Galadorian spaceknight Rom; appears briefly with the rest of the cosmic hierarchy when in discussion with the entity the Beyonder; and reveals to the former Herald of Galactus (the Silver Surfer) that its three faces represent "Equity" (hooded face), "Vengeance" (partially shrouded face), and "Necessity" (fully shrouded face). The fourth side of the Living Tribunal's head is a void, with the entity claiming that the cosmic entity the Stranger once existed as this part of its being.[clarification needed] The character also witnesses the triumph of the hero Quasar—acting as the avatar of cosmic entity Infinity—over the villain Maelstrom, who acts for the entity Oblivion.
During DC vs. Marvel/Marvel vs. DC, the Tribunal teamed up with the Spectre to save their worlds from the two cosmic brothers' attempts to destroy one of the two multiverses. Their pact, with the help of Access, created the Amalgam multiverse by merging the two multiverses, in order to "buy some time". As the new Amalgam multiverse was unstable, the former multiverses are restored. The struggle of "The Brothers" continues until the efforts of Batman and Captain America against them make them realize they both "Did Well", and the multiverses are spared.
The Living Tribunal's power is virtually limitless, as the entity prevents the Infinity Gems from being used in unison, although it remains subservient to a single, even higher entity referred to as "The One Above All" (not to be confused with the celestial also called the One Above All). The entity has representatives called The Magistrati who dispense judgments by request on alien worlds, and chose to reveal the previously unseen face of "Necessity" to She-Hulk as a reflection of her own face, stating that the face is a "Cosmic Mirror which reminds us to always judge others as we would have ourselves judged".
When Yellowjacket ventured into the Multiverse during the Time Runs Out storyline, the cause of his death was discovered: the Living Tribunal had died fighting the Beyonders while attempting to halt the annihilation of the Marvel Multiverse.
After the devourer of worlds Galactus evolves into a lifebringer, Lord Chaos and Master Order consider this to throw the cosmic hierarchy out of balance, and ask the new Living Tribunal to render judgment. However, when the Tribunal decides in favor of a "new balance for a new cosmos", Order and Chaos join forces to seemingly kill the entity. The Living Tribunal is later resurrected and seen taking Lord Chaos and Master Order to judgment after the defeat of the First Firmament.
Powers and abilities
Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet ranked the Tribunal's power as the highest in Marvel's regular multiversal hierarchy. However, the Tribunal has also referred to a higher entity that vastly eclipses its own power, and was killed by the Beyonders.
The Living Tribunal was the embodiment of the Marvel Multiverse, and the sum totality of all the abstract entities within it. Nonetheless, he is inferior to the multiversal incarnation of Eternity and was referred to as an internal function of the entity.
In other media
- In the 2016 film Doctor Strange, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Mordo wields a staff named "The Staff of the Living Tribunal".
- Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the screenwriters of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, revealed during their panel in Hall H at SDCC 2019, that the Living Tribunal was originally planned to have an appearance in Infinity War. They would have judged Thanos for all the crimes he had committed against the universe.
- DeFalco, Tom; Sanderson, Peter; Brevoort, Tom; Teitelbaum, Michael; Wallace, Daniel; Darling, Andrew; Forbeck, Matt; Cowsill, Alan; Bray, Adam (2019). The Marvel Encyclopedia. DK Publishing. p. 215. ISBN 978-1-4654-7890-0.
- Wells, John (2014). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1965-1969. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 188. ISBN 978-1605490557.
- Brevoort, Tom; DeFalco, Tom; Manning, Matthew K.; Sanderson, Peter; Wiacek, Win (2017). Marvel Year By Year: A Visual History. DK Publishing. p. 122. ISBN 978-1465455505.
- Bailey, Caleb (July 30, 2019). "The Living Tribunal's 10 Most OP Moments In Marvel Comics". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on July 31, 2019. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- Strange Tales #157–163 (Jun. – Dec. 1967)
- Rom #41 (April 1983)
- Secret Wars II #6 (Dec. 1985)
- Silver Surfer vol. 3, #31 (Dec. 1989)
- Quasar #26 (Sep. 1991)
- Marvel vs. DC #3
- DC vs. Marvel #4
- Warlock and the Infinity Watch #1 (Feb. 1992)
- Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Hardcover Vol. 6
- She-Hulk vol. 2, #12 (Nov. 2006)
- New Avengers vol. 3 #8 (July 2013)
- New Avengers vol. 3 #30 (April 2015)
- Thanos: The Infinity Finale (April 2016)
- Ultimates 2 #2
- Ultimates 2 #100
- Thanos Annual #1 (2014)
- Thanos: The Infinity Revelation #1 (August 2014)
- New Avengers Vol.3 #30
- Silver Surfer Vol.3 #31 (Dec. 1989)
- Ultimates Vol.2 #100 (Feb. 2017)
- Krupa, Daniel (May 2, 2017). "13 Coolest Doctor Strange Easter Eggs, References, and Trivia". IGN. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- Dumaraog, Ana (July 20, 2019). "Thanos Originally Confronted by The Living Tribunal in Avengers: Endgame". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on July 21, 2019. Retrieved October 14, 2019.