(Editor’s Note: This article includes Avengers: Endgame spoilers, speculation, and tall tales. Read on at your own risk!)
By the end of Avengers: Endgame, some of the most popular characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are finished avenging for good. Thankfully, there are plenty of other Marvel superheroes ready to take their place. Those include the Eternals, who are coming to the big screen in a movie starring Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani, with Chloe Zhao serving as director.
Never heard of the Eternals? You’re not alone. Like the Guardians of the Galaxy before them, Marvel’s pantheon of super-gods aren’t exactly household names — yet. But there’s a reason we spent almost an entire podcast talking about them. Here’s everything you need to know about Ikaris, Sersi, and the other Eternals before they become the next big thing in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
The Eternals were created in 1976 by Jack Kirby, the Marvel Comics legend who co-created Captain America, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Thor, the X-Men, Iron Man, and plenty of others. At the time, Kirby had just returned to Marvel after a five-year stint at DC Comics, where he created the DC universe’s cosmic big bad, the Thanos-esque Darkseid, and the rest of the New Gods. For the Eternals, Kirby was working in a similar mindset, so buckle up — this one gets pretty wild.
As revealed in the first issue of The Eternals, a race of powerful, space-faring giants called the Celestials visited Earth and decided to monkey around with our planet’s natural evolutionary process. During their experiments, they created three races: the Deviants, a race of war-hungry monsters fixated on destruction, human beings, and the Eternals. Unlike regular humans, the Eternals were extremely powerful with special abilities, and were intended to function as Earth’s protectors.
As human civilization grew and evolved, the Deviants and the Eternals waged war for control of the planet, and that’s where The Eternals’ big hook comes in: Throughout the centuries, the Eternals’ adventures became the basis for many of humanity’s religions. Basically, all of those Greek and Roman (and Incan, and Hindu, etc.) gods that you learned about in school? Those were the Eternals. The old stories just got some of the details wrong, including their names: Ikaris became Icarus, The Odyssey villain Circe is actually Sersi, and so on. The same holds true for the Deviants, who inspired legends about demons and devils.
Kirby’s original Eternals saga (which, sadly, he didn’t get to finish) begins when the Celestials return to Earth to determine whether or not the human race deserves to survive, which brings the Eternals and the Deviants out into the open.
In 2006, American Gods creator Neil Gaiman and artist John Romita Jr. revamped the Eternals in a seven-issue miniseries in which the former gods have had their memories wiped and now live like regular humans. Ikaris must restore his fellow Eternals’ minds and bring them together to fight the Deviants, who are similarly marshaling their forces. It’s a much more grounded and character-driven take on the material, making it the most likely jumping-off point for the film.
If any of this sounds familiar, that’s probably because Marvel has already snuck a few Eternals references into its movies. Benicio Del Toro’s Marvel Cinematic Universe character, the Collector, lives inside a severed Celestial head. Star-Lord’s father Ego, who appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, is also a Celestial. In the comics, Thanos is a rogue Eternal too, although that happened via a retcon and it’s not clear if the movies will stick to that origin story.
The Eternals’ default hero is Ikaris, an honorable and extremely powerful hero who has played a pivotal role in human history. For example, according to the comics it was Ikaris who led Noah’s ark to safety after the Celestials flooded Earth as part of an event known as the Great Cataclysm, although everyone on board mistook Ikaris for a bird (in Marvel Comics continuity, Noah was also an Eternal named Utnapishtim). Oddly enough, Ikaris is actually the father of Greek mythology’s Icarus — Ikaris took his son’s name as a tribute after the boy flew too close to the sun, burning out the flying device that kept him aloft.
Ikaris has all kinds of superpowers, which make him a formidable foe for the Deviants. Flight seems to be his main deal, but like other Eternals, he’s also immortal, has super-strength and super-speed, and possesses low-level psychic abilities. He can also shoot “cosmic energy” from his eyes and hands and can create shields out of thin air.
On Earth, Ikaris goes by the name Ike Harris. If The Eternals film has a male lead, it’ll probably be Ikaris, although Jolie is such a big name that it’s hard to imagine she won’t be headlining the whole thing.
The Eternals‘ most prominent female character is Sersi, which means she’s probably the character that Angelina Jolie is playing, although we don’t know that for sure. Unlike other Eternals, who settled on a remote mountaintop, Sersi decided to settle among humans, using her matter-shifting and illusion-casting abilities to establish a reputation as a powerful witch. As demonstrated in The Odyssey, Sersi particularly likes turning people into animals.
Sersi is also, according to the comics, the one who filled Pandora’s cursed box and taught Merlin magic. She’s a skilled dancer and athlete, and she’s fought alongside both Captain America and Thor through the years, thanks to some time-travel shenanigans. In Gaiman’s Eternals mini-series, Sersi embarks on a career as a party planner for the rich and powerful, a job that she keeps even after she remembers her true nature. She’s strong-willed, a little mischievous, and appreciates the finer things in life. In other words, she’s a perfect fit for the woman who played Maleficent. If Jolie really is playing Sersi, it’s excellent casting.
In addition to Ikaris and Sersi, there are tons of other Eternals that Marvel can put into action. Makkari (i.e. Mercury) has super-speed. Thena isn’t actually Athena — Marvel comics already has one of those running around — but she was often mistaken for the goddess, and Athens was built in her honor. Zuras, the Eternals’ one-time leader, is basically Zeus, while Thanos’ brother Eros (who also goes by Starfox) can make people fall madly in love with him. Yes, it’s as problematic as it sounds.
When three Eternals get together, they can combine Voltron-style to form an ultra-powerful entity called the Uni-Mind. The more Eternals who lend their abilities to Uni-Mind, the more formidable it becomes. The Eternals also suffer from some third-party mental conditioning: In more recent Marvel comics, the Eternals discovered that they’ll protect Celestials at any cost, even if they don’t think it’s the right thing to do.
Basically, The Eternals contains enough characters and fun, wacky ideas to be an X-Men-sized franchise for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (apart from the X-Men franchise the MCU recently acquired) if the studio wants it to be.
So what if they’re not the most famous characters on Marvel’s roster? Back in 2008, Iron Man was a B-player, too, and things worked out just fine for him.
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