With the recent news that Marvel Studios is developing The Eternals as the next major entry into the MCU, as well as the focus on The Celestials in Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’s new Avengers series, the selection of this year’s longbox excavation and research project was pretty easy. I’d long been fascinated by Jack Kirby’s concept of the three branches of humanity (adding Deviants and Eternals to our own lineage) ever since I pored through Mark Gruenwald’s Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe in the 80’s.
I’d had a working knowledge of the group, and of course followed Sersi during her tenure with the Avengers, as my inner teenage fanboy followed me off to college, but until now I’d never pieced together the formation of The Eternals, and hadn’t appreciated the extent to which Kirby’s vision had evolved in the decades since their inception.
The latest in our series of Four Color Primers unravels the origins and development of The Eternals, with a special emphasis on Sersi, historically the most interesting and active of this band of demigods. The aim with these posts has always been to function as a character survey (hopefully less convoluted than your average Wikipedia article, albeit almost always more verbose) that puts a primary consideration on the historical progression of concepts and stories passing from one creative team to the next, rather than a strict fictional biography. This is especially pertinent for The Eternals, whose original conception places their origin a million years in the past, a timeline that has seen refinement and elaboration from numerous writers and artists since Kirby first introduced us to the group in 1976.
Along the way, expect reading recommendations (in collected print format, as often as possible) so that you, too, can gain a firsthand appreciation for the source material that has been inspiring the recent pop culture explosion of four-color superheroic fantasy.
In that eponymous inaugural series, we learn that the Eternals came to life when titanic space-faring beings called the Celestials visited our planet eons ago and, as god-like cosmic entities are wont to do, experimented on our evolutionary ancestors. Using pre-human hominids, this “first host” of Celestials manipulated the genetic stock of our forebears in order to create three distinct branches of life: we humans, the beautiful and seemingly immortal Eternals, and the hideously unstable race of Deviants.
To fully appreciate the inspiration for Jack Kirby’s Eternals, however, we need to first go back several decades, before The King’s groundbreaking work at Marvel and the launch of their 1960’s superhero revolution. Jack and ancient aliens have had an impressively long (and, as conspiracy theorists have suggested, eerily involved) history together.