Comic Book / The Eternals

The Eternals was a Marvel comic book series originally created by Jack Kirby. Premiering in 1976, it was the story of a race of nigh-immortal humanoids created by the giant Celestials to defend humanity against the monstrous Deviants. The original series ran for 19 issues (and one annual) before being cancelled with several of its plotlines unresolved.

The idea was revisited in a 12-issue miniseries by Paul Gillis in 1985, but it failed to inspire an ongoing series, and then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter was so dissatisfied with Gillis' scripts that he brought in Walt Simonson to write the last four issues.

In 2003, Chuck Austen (yes, that Chuck Austen) and Kev Walker attempted a re-imagining of the concept for Marvel's MAX line called The Eternal. In this version, the Eternals are slaves deployed by the Celestials to forcibly evolve lesser creatures so that they can be exploited for labor... until their leader falls in love and decides to rebel against the Celestials' orders. The less said about that miniseries, the better.

The original idea was then picked up by Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr. for a seven-issue miniseries in 2006. In this miniseries, the Eternals have all been tricked into believing that they're just regular humans, but need to start remembering who they were after the Deviants plot to revive a Celestial who has been buried on Earth, and who plots to destroy the planet if awoken. This led to a short-lived ongoing by Charles and Daniel Knauf and Daniel Acuna.

This series contains examples of:

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    The original series 
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Celestials are an entire race of ancient astronauts.
  • Humongous Mecha: Most humans assume the Celestials to be giant robots. It's somewhat more complicated than that, however, as their suits of armor are only a single aspect of their being.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Celestials are pretty damned far beyond the comprehension of most creatures.
    The 1985 mini-series 
    The Eternal 
  • Downer Ending: In order to prevent humanity from being punished for his actions, Ikaedan uses the Apple to make himself stupid so that the Celestials will decide that he's no longer a threat to them.
  • In-Name-Only: While ostensibly based on Jack Kirby's work, The Eternal had very little in common with the previous series, besides having races called Celestials, Eternals, and Deviants.
  • Neural Implanting: The Eternals in this version have a device called the Apple which allows them to give their slaves rudimentary intelligence.

    The Neil Gaiman miniseries 
  • Abusive Precursors: The Deviants were this, enslaving humanity before first the Eternals, then the Celestials, cut them down to size.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: In order to converse with Makkari, the Dreaming Celestial takes the form of Sersi... except that she has the Celestial's face, which creeps Makkari out.
  • Artistic License Biology: Mark Curry calls Ikaris on this before the latter has his full memories back, poking holes in his story about the Eternals and the Celestials, pointing out how the Eternals have basically won the evolutionary lottery and should, if they existed, be Earth's dominant species. The reason they aren't is that's not what they were designed for.
  • A God I Am Not: Zuras tells Tony that the Eternals were humanity's gods, but when Tony retorts that he's met gods and the Eternals don't fit the bill, Zuras laughs and basically says, 'yeah, you're right', suggesting that what he originally meant was that humanity worshipped them as gods, though the Eternals don't consider themselves to be such (though it is suggested that they weren't shy of using it to achieve their own aims).
  • Badass: All the Eternals, but particularly Ikaris.
  • Badass Pacifist: Makkari, following his being made the prophet of the Dreaming Celestial.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Druig fits this like a glove.
  • Blessed with Suck: Sprite got eternal life... trapped in the body of an eleven-year-old boy. It got old really quickly.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: When Makkari asks the Dreaming Celestial what it did to get buried on Earth, it responds that trying to explain Celestial mores to a mere Eternal would be like trying to explain the Holy Trinity to a blade of grass.
  • Complete Immortality: leaving aside the fact that they're Nigh Invulnerable to begin with, even being blasted to electrons doesn't really faze an Eternal - they'll just be regenerated in their city of Olympia. This is something that Ajak was relying on.
  • Creepy Child: Sprite is an ancient sociopath who still has the appearance of a pre-teen boy.
  • Eye Beams: one of Ikaris' party tricks.
  • Fantastic Racism: claimed by the Deviants to have been directed against them by the Eternals, and considering the Eternals somewhat high handed attitude, they may not be entirely wrong. Druig, for example, comments that he enjoys killing Deviants. They also tend to be a little aloof towards humans, though Thena does love her son and Zuras' warning seems to be more one against getting too attached since, from their point of view, he'll die very shortly afterwards. Sprite is derisive about humans, comparing them to mayflies and calling them transients, but quite likes the idea of being one since it means he'll actually get to grow up.
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: Grace Darling apparently came from the 1820s, but somehow got "time-frozen" at age 17 and ended up in the 21st century.
  • Flying Brick: Fairly standard for Eternals, but Ikaris is the one who happens to be best at it, with flight being specifically mentioned as his gift.
  • Flying Firepower: Again, standard for Eternals, but, again, Ikaris is best at it.
  • Healing Factor: Again, standard for Eternals.
  • Identity Amnesia: When the series opens, all the Eternals on Earth, with the exception of Ikaris, have been placed under a powerful illusion that causes them to forget that they are Eternals, and even he's a bit fuzzy on the subject. Ajak however, retains all of his memories. Puzzlingly, Sersi seems to retain her amnesia for quite some time afterwards.
  • Immortality Immorality: Druig. Sprite.
  • Lawful Stupid: Throughout the miniseries, Tony Stark tries to force the Eternals to register under the SHRA, though he eventually drops this idea and comes to an accord with Zuras. Hank Pym, however, plays this to the hilt. Also, Grace Darling nearly loses her chance at a superhero license because she decides to intervene when the Vorozheikan embassy is under attack, despite signing a contract saying that she would not engage in superheroics.
    • Zuras himself has elements of this, refusing to go back on his word to Druig even though he knows perfectly well that Druig is setting himself up as a dictator in Vorozheikia. In a later series this eventually leads to Ikaris disavowing his allegiance to Zuras specifically to go after Druig.
  • Nigh Invulnerable: it's impossible to permanently kill an Eternal. It's also very difficult to hurt them in the first place.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: After Druig rediscovers his ability to cause fear in mortals (by reading and inspiring their worst nightmares), he wastes no time in abusing it.
  • Physical God: all of the Eternals, to the point where they are frequently compared to gods in both this series and later series' - in both cases, it's made very clear that they're not gods but that it's kind of understandable why people would think that they were.
  • Primary-Color Champion: Ikaris.
  • Really Gets Around: Sersi. According to Sprite, she slept with every adult male Eternal, all sixty of them.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Eternals predate anatomically modern humans (who first appeared 250,000 years ago) by 750,000 years at the very least.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Zuras and, surprisingly, Civil War era Tony Stark after he realises that it's pointless to try and convince the Eternals to register.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Druig again.
  • Ruritania: Vorozheika, a supposed former Soviet Republic. It's also where Druig has been living and working ever since having his mind wiped.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: When the Vorozheikan embassy comes under attack, Grace Darling chooses to jump into the fray to try and help protect the civilians, even though she's not yet registered under the Super Registration Act.
  • Super Speed: Makkari's particular talent, running at speeds fast enough to induce doppler shift, which would require relativistic speeds, i.e. close to the speed of light. As it turns out, that's exactly what the Dreaming Celestial created him for.
  • Take That: The miniseries delivers a pretty pointed middle finger to Civil War, with Tony Stark being portrayed as a Lawful Stupid boob more interested in convincing the Eternals to register than helping them deal with the Deviants' plot to revive the Celestial (though he does pretty quickly realise that trying to make the Eternals register is pointless) and Zuras, when asked to take sides, asking Tony if he saw two children fighting over who could play in some waste ground, would he pick sides?
  • Time Abyss: older Eternals, like Zuras, are about a million years old.
  • Those Two Guys: Morjak and Gelt, the two Deviants sent to resurrect the Dreaming Celestial.
  • Token Evil Team Mate: Druig.
  • Trauma Button: One of Druig's powers is the ability to find people's deepest, darkest fears and exploit them.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Sprite specifically compares humans to mayflies.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Sprite was responsible for robbing the Eternals of their powers, as he grew tired of being stuck as an eleven-year-old for millennia.