The Eternals are a fictional race of superhumans in the Marvel Comics universe. They are an offshoot of humanity created on Earth by the alien Celestials, and wage war against their counterparts, the Deviants. The Eternals were created by Jack Kirby and made their first appearance in The Eternals #1 (July 1976).
In 1970, Kirby left Marvel Comics to work on DC Comics, where he began the saga of the New Gods, an epic story involving mythological and science fiction concepts, and planned to have a definite ending. However, the saga was left incomplete after the cancellation of the titles involved. Kirby began The Eternals when he returned to Marvel. The Eternals' saga was thematically similar to the New Gods', but the series was eventually cancelled as well without resolving many of its plots, particularly The Celestials' judgment over humanity (see Character History below.)
Writers Roy Thomas and Mark Gruenwald brought The Eternals into official Marvel%20UNIVERSE%20'>Marvel UNIVERSE continuity in a long storyline in the Thor comic book series that climaxed in Thor #300, resolving those lingering plotlines.
Since then, The Eternals (and the mythology connected to them) have appeared or been mentioned in numerous Marvel comics. In particular, the Celestial's experiment on humanity has been used to explain how certain humans can develop super-Powers. The gods of Titan (created by Jim Starlin) were later retconned as being Eternals as well.
The Eternals themselves have been featured on several limited series and specials, but have not had an ongoing series since the first (see Eternal Titles below.)
When the Celestials visited Earth one million years ago and performed genetic experiments on early proto-humanity, they created two divergent races: the long-lived Eternals, and the genetically unstable and monstrously grotesque Deviants. These experiments also lead to the capacity for superpowered mutations in humans. They also performed this experiment on other planets (such as the Kree and Skrull homeworlds) with similar results.
Despite looking human, Eternals are much more long-lived (but were not originally fully immortal) and that kept them from having much contact with their human cousins. Eternals have a low birth rate; they can interbreed with humans but the result is always a normal human. Despite this, the Eternals have in general protected the human race, especially from the Deviants, with whom they've always had an enmity. The Eternals also developed advanced technology.
Long ago, a Civil War broke out amongst the Eternals over whether to conquer the other races, with one faction led by Kronos and the other by his warlike brother, Uranos. Kronos' side prevailed, and Uranos and his defeated faction left Earth and journeyed to Uranus where they built a colony. Some of Uranos' group soon tried to return to Earth to re-kindle the war, but they were attacked by a passing Kree ship and forced to land on Saturn's moon Titan. There they built another colony. (Experiments performed by Kree scientists on a captured Eternal lead them to go to Earth and perform their own genetics experiments on a group of humans, thus creating the Inhumans.)
One day, Kronos' experiments in cosmic energy caused a catastrophic release of energy throughout the Eternals' city, Titanos, destroying it, activating latent genes in the Eternals and disintegrating the scientist's body. The Eternals now found they could channel large quantities of cosmic energy themselves, granting them near-godlike power. The accident left Kronos in an immaterial state, so a new leader had to be chosen. For the first time, the Eternals merged into a single being, the Uni-Mind, to decide which of Kronos' sons, Zuras or Alars should be the new leader. Zuras was chosen, and Alars chose to leave Earth to avoid causing another Civil War, and journeyed to Titan. There he found that a war (allegedly caused by the Dragon of the Moon) had erupted on Titan and wiped out all but one member, a woman named Sui-San. Alars fell in love with her, and in time they repopulated Titan. Due to the mix of activated genes from Alars and unactivated ones from Sui-San, these new Titanian Eternals are not as powerful or immortal as Terran Eternals, but are more powerful and longer-lived than the earlier pre-Civil War Titanian Eternals.
While Zuras ruled, three new Eternal cities were built. The first was Olympia, located in the mountains of Greece, near the main portal between the Earth dimension and the Olympians' home dimension, which lead many ancient Greeks to confuse some of the godlike Eternals with members of the Olympian pantheon. Eventually, an agreement was reached with the gods where some Eternals, such as Thena, would impersonate the Olympians before their worshippers. The other two Eternal cities were Polaria (located in Siberia) and Oceana (in the Pacific).
18,000 years ago, the Celestials returned to Earth. The Deviants attacked them, but the Celestial's counterattacked, resulting in the sinking of Mu and Atlantis, and much worldwide havoc. The Eternals helped rescue many humans. An Eternal named Valkin, was also entrusted by the Celestials with an artifact of great power for safekeeping.
1000 years ago, the Asgardian god Thor encountered some Eternals, but the encounter was erased from his mind, to prevent him learning about the Celestials, who were about to return to Earth. An Eternal named Ajak became the Celestial's spokesperson, and put himself to sleep when the Celestials left, to wait for their return 1000 years later to judge humanity.
During the early 20th century, a human scientist made contact with the Uranian Eternals and was taken to live with them along with his young son, who would later became the (first) Marvel Boy. The Uranians were eventually killed by Deathurge. After mankind split the atom, some Eternals joined with some humans and Deviants to form the Damocles Foundation to decide what to do about it. Some Eternals, such as Makkari, were also active as superheroes, or living amongst humans, keeping their true nature hidden. The Eternals also helped to move the Inhumans' city to the Himalayas to keep it hidden.
At some point, Thanos of the Eternals of Titan nearly destroyed their colony, but they rebuilt it, and would help Earth's heroes to oppose him on several occasions.
When the Celestials returned to judge the worthiness of their creations a few years ago, the Eternals found themselves clashing with the Deviants again, and decided to publicly reveal their existence to humanity. Zuras feared what would happen if the Celestials judged unfavorably. They encountered Thor again, and were attacked by Thor's father Odin and the Olympian gods, who tried to prevent their interfering with the gods' plans to attack the Celestials. Eventually, the Eternals decided to help the gods and formed a Uni-Mind to assist the Destroyer's assault on the Celestials. They were forced to dissolve back into Eternals by the Celestials, and the shock of the attack killed Zuras. Before his spirit fully left the material plane, he instructed his daughter Thena to take his people to explore space. Most of the Eternals did so in the form of a Uni-Mind, but a handful -- those most heavily involved in Earthly affairs -- remained behind on Earth. Since then, the Eternals have helped Earth's heroes, particularly the Avengers, against several menaces. They also discovered the existence of the Titanian Eternals.
Recently, the Eternals have begun reappearing on Earth. Most seem to have no memory of their own history and abilities except Ikaris, and no records of their previous appearances remain. The cause of this has yet to be disclosed, but if his story is true, the Eternal known as Sprite seems to be the cause of the collective Eternals' amnesia, as well as their distorted perceptions of history (possibly a retcon: early stories portrayed most of the current generation of Eternals -- such as Ikaris and Thena -- as being "only" several tens of thousands of years old; if Sprite is telling the truth about altering the Eternals' perceptions and memories, they are actually each closer to a million years old). The story is ongoing.
Powers and abilities
Due to the cosmic energy that suffuses an Eternal's body and the nigh-unbreakable mental hold they hold over their bodily processes, the Eternals of Earth are effectively immortal. They live for millennia, do not fatigue from physical exertion, are immune to disease and poison, and unaffected by environmental extremes of cold, heat. Most cannot be injured by conventional weaponry, and even if they are, an Eternal can rapidly regenerate any damage. The only way to permanently kill an Eternal is to inflict enough damage to spread a significant portion of their body over a wide area.
In the 2006 Eternals limited series, it is stated that even this is insufficient to destroy an Eternal. As long as Earth endures and "The Machine" keeps running, any destroyed Eternal will eventually return.
All Eternals are also superhumanly strong. The limits of their strength can be increased as a result of years of focusing some of their energy towards that purpose.
This same cosmic energy can be channeled for a number of superhuman abilities. All Eternals can:
Project damaging blasts and/or blinding flashes of energy from their eyes and hands.
Fly (and levitate others.)
Teleport vast distances, though doing so leaves most Eternals momentarily fatigued or dazed.
Transmute objects, altering both their shape and composition. This ability is very taxing to most Eternals.
Some Eternals choose to focus on a particular power in order to increased their effectiveness with it.Sersi, for example, has developed the power of transmutation farther than any other Eternal. Additionally, some Eternals choose to focus their cosmic energies into other, non-standard abilities. Ikaris, for example, channels cosmic energy to greatly enhance his senses, while the Interloper uses his to generate fear in others, and Makkari uses his cosmic energies for superspeed.
First Generation Eternal (those born before the fall of Titanos): Arlok, Astron, Daina, Kronos/Chronos/Chronus, Master Elo, Oceanus, Uranos.
Second Generation Eternal (those alive at the time of Chronus' experiment): Alars, Arnaa, Cybele, Forgotten One/Gilgamesh, Helios, Perse, Rakar, Tulayn, Valkin, Virako, Zuras.
Third Generation Eternal (those born after Chronos' experiment but before the Second Host): Aginar, Ajak, Arex, Atlo, Domo, Ikaris, Interloper, Mara, Phastos, Sigmar, Thena, Veron, Zarin.
Fourth Generation Eternal (those born after the coming of the Second Host, 20,000 years ago): Argos, Ceyote, Chi Demon, the Delphan brothers, Druig, Khoryphos, Makkari, Psykos, Sersi, Kingo Sunen, El Vampiro.
Fifth Generation Eternal (those born after the coming of the Third Host, 3,000 years ago): Aurelle, Sprite, Titanis.
Erich von Däniken's book Chariots of the Gods, a debunked 1972 non-fiction best-seller, postulated that ancient aliens gave knowledge to early humans, and were worshipped as gods.
The Hurricane and Mercury, two characters of Timely Comics, the 1940s predecessor of Marvel, were retconned as being guises of the Eternal Makkari.
Thematically, the Eternals were similar to another Kirby creation, the New Gods - another group of ancient godlike beings in epic stuggle with their opposites, with humanity caught in between.
As seen in Eternals by Jack Kirby, the Eternals were, at first, not intended to be part of the normal Marvel canon. In issue #15, when the Eternals must fight a robot Hulk imbued with cosmic Powers, a press conference held by New York police sparks questions of whether or not "Doctor Doom and Thor are fighting too?" One reporter responds "These comic fans think all of Marvel's characters are running amok!" As the years went on, however, the Eternals entered the current Earth-616 continuity.
Eternals #1-19 (July 1976 - Jan. 1978) Written and penciled by Jack Kirby
Eternals Annual #1 (1977) - Written and penciled by Jack Kirby; occurs after The Eternals #12
Eternals #1-12 (limited series; Oct. 1985 - Sept. 1986)
Eternals: The Herod Factor (March 1991)
The New Eternals: Apocalypse Now (also known as Eternals: The New Breed) #1 (Feb. 2000)
The Eternal #1-6 (limited series; Aug. 2003 - Jan. 2004)
Eternals #1-7 (limited series; Jun. 2006 - Feb. 2007) - Written by Neil Gaiman
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