Join The Illuminerdi as we explore Neil Gaiman’s work with these characters in the source material and analyze the ten Eternals starring in Chloe Zhao’s upcoming film.
The Eternals were created by Jack Kirby in the 1970’s, originally headlining an ongoing series that would run for 19 issues before cancellation. These tales were initially siloed off from the rest of the Marvel Universe, operating more or less independently. Eventually, Roy Thomas and Mark Gruenwald would bring these heroes into the larger Marvel universe in a Thor comic.
They remained a part of the Marvel universe for quite some time, making guest appearances, even receiving a new 12-issue limited series in the 1980s. Eternals Vol. 2 was written by Peter B. Gillis and penciled by Sal Buscema. The comic book super team would swindle in popularity and appearances throughout the 1990’s, effectively disappearing from the Marvel universe in the early 2000s.
THE ROAD TO THE FILM WAS PAVED BY KIRBY, GAIMAN AND ZHAO
In 2007, legendary storyteller Neil Gaiman would bring The Eternals back into the limelight, and the larger Marvel Universe. Eternals Vol. 3 was a 7-issue limited series featuring art from John Romita Jr. Outside of Kirby’s original work with The Eternals, Vol. 3 may have had the most impact on Chloe Zhao’s feature film. The logistical challenge that Gaiman faced in creating this story was the matter of explaining why the Eternals had been missing for so long, and why the Marvel universe had seemingly forgotten about them.
To explain this, Gaiman’s story pivoted on Sprite’s betrayal of the Eternals. Sick of being the only Eternal stuck as a child forever, Sprite tricked Ajak and Zuras, the Prime Eternal, into forming an Uni-mind. With the power of the Uni-mind and the “Dreaming Celestial”, Sprite rewrote reality so that the Eternals were human beings, that he might age.
Unfortunately for the immortal child, The Eternals regained their powers, and Zuras broke Sprite’s neck as penance for his deceit. Lia McHugh plays Sprite in the feature film, and I absolutely do not trust her character. Perhaps Zhao will flip the script or save Sprite’s betrayal for a sequel, regardless, I am keeping my eyes on the MCU’s newest “young” star.
CAN SPRITE BE TRUSTED?
The trailer for Eternals shows a world where the colorful cast of immortal, superpowered beings have lived apart on earth, amongst mankind for centuries. In the source material, The team generally keeps to their own on Olympia. True, they have fought in many mortal wars, and there are exceptions like Gilgamesh (Don Lee), AKA The Forgotten One, who was notorious for his prideful adventures throughout the world of man.
In spite of that, the reality is that The Eternals suburban lives (based off of the trailers) fall more in line with Gaiman’s stories, where they were literally turned into humans for a time, than they do any other Eternals writer’s work. This adds further doubt to the trustworthiness of Sprite, and speaks to which comic runs Zhao looked to most when creating the MCU version of the super team.
ETERNALS: GETTING TO KNOW THE TEAM
Makkari is the team’s speedster, played by Lauren Ridloff. Bryan Tyree Henry plays Phastos, the technical expert. Angelina Jolie Plays Thena, a warrior who has a long, complicated history with the Deviant Kro. Salma Hayek plays Ajak, who serves as a sort of team leader in the upcoming film.
Barry Keoghan plays Druig, an Eternal who is an even bigger traitor than Sprite. He has served as an antagonist to the rest of the team on more than one occasion. Kumail Nanjiani plays Kingo, an Eternal who is an expert combatant with an affinity for the performing arts.
Richard Madden plays Ikaris, a soldier, lover, and in the comics, the real father of the Icarus of Greek myth. Finally, Gemma Chan stars as Sersi, an Eternal with transmutation powers and a deep love of humanity.
The upcoming Marvel release has to juggle a lot, including Deviants, Celestials, and Dane Whitman on top of the Eternals described above. A film this jam-packed has to feature a very strong script to avoid coming across as overstuffed. With such a dense story to tell, it’s a blessing that Chloe Zhao had phenomenal stories from creators like Jack Kirby and Neil Gaiman to build off of.
Eternals opens in theaters on November 5, 2021. Are you excited for the new release? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media!