The Eternals: Who are The Immortal Defenders?

A Tale Eternally Told

Ajak: “We have watched and guided. We have helped them progress and seen them accomplish wonders. Throughout the years, we have never interfered. Until now.”

Eternals (2021)

A new day dawns on a prehistoric city. Creatures of every description roam the streets, accompanied by human slaves. A grotesque creature frowns as an elderly slave collapses. He raises a whip to punish the slave, but an energy beam severs his hand. The creature realizes the ancient enemies are attacking and screams.

A scarlet blur rushes through the creatures’ ranks, disarming their guards faster than a blink. Two warriors cut through entire legions. A child enraptures dozens of creatures in illusions while hundreds tremble as an intimidating man makes their greatest fears come to life. A blue-clad man soars through the sky, lasers shooting from his eyes and incinerating the creatures. They flee the city as The Eternals stand triumphant.

The Eternals are one of Marvel’s lesser known species. They were created long ago and have protected Earth since caveman times. So who are they? How did they get their powers? What is their connection to one of Marvel’s biggest villains? Let’s find out.

Celestials, Eternals, and Deviants, Oh My!: The Eternals’ Backstory

Ikaris:What if I told you that you lost your memory, but were half-a-million years old and had powers you never dreamed of?

The Eternals Vol. 3 #1

The Eternals debuted in The Eternals #1 in 1976. They were created by Jack Kirby, who wanted to redo his unfinished series The New Gods after returning to Marvel from a stint at DC Comics. The series was originally supposed to be called either The Celestials or The Return of The Gods before the higher-ups named it and the team The Eternals

In the ancient past, a race of aliens called The Celestials visited Earth and experimented on the natives. Their interference created two subspecies of humans: a race of grotesque mutants called The Deviants and a much smaller group of superhumans called The Eternals. The Celestials left after passing down three laws to The Eternals: “protect The Celestials, protect The Machine (Earth), and correct excess deviation.”

The Eternals lived separately from humans while The Deviants bred and spread, eventually conquering the world and enslaving humanity. The Eternals ended their isolation to stop The Deviants. While powerful, they were outnumbered and summoned The Celestials for help, resulting in a genocide that nearly exterminated The Deviants.

With The Deviants seemingly gone for good, The Eternals began wandering the world. On many occasions they taught humans science and culture, leading to them being worshiped as gods. As eons passed, The Eternals secluded themselves once more.

Eternal Recurrence: The Eternals History

Zuras:Blast this century of world wars, mini-wars, and guerilla wars! Are we now to revive a cosmic war?!

The Eternals Vol.1 #5

The Eternals began reintegrating into human society during World War II. The dawning age of superheroes intrigued them, as did the nascent Mutant race and fellow uplifted humans, The Inhumans. Some Eternals became heroes themselves, while others became celebrities, spies, or simple wanderers.

An Eternal called Sprite betrayed the team by erasing their memories and stripping their powers. Sprite wanted to experience life as a normal human after millennia as a child. The Eternals were scattered across the Earth. Most didn’t remember their past.

A series of coincidences brought several Eternals into contact with each other, restoring their powers and some of their memories. The core team eventually reunited to fight off a Deviant army before setting out to find the rest of their kind and restore their memories.

Immortal Combat: The Eternal’s Powers

Makkari:So you’re telling me a hundred people took on millions? That’s not a fight, that’s a massacre.”
Ikaris:It becomes a fight when the hundred can’t be killed.

The Eternals Vol. 3 #1

The Eternals are long-lived, very durable, and possess healing factors. They have learned countless disciplines of science and combat over their lives. Each has unique powers. Deviants and Eternals interbreeding with humans set the stage for Mutants and other assorted superbeings.

When an Eternal dies, they don’t stay dead long. The Celestials gave them a “Reactivation Chamber” that resurrects them. It can also be used to alter their appearances, which they generally do every few millennia. What? No, that part certainly wasn’t added to make some Eternals look more like the actors who will play them in the 2021 movie. That’s silly.

Meet The Eternals

Sersi

Played by: Gemma Chan
Inspired by: Circe (Greek Mythology)

Margo:Circe of the legends! You’re that Circe!
Sersi:The Greek storytellers could never spell my name right! However, I did turn those boors into pigs.”

The Eternals Vol. 1 #4

Sersi doesn’t seem threatening compared to some of the more overt Eternals, but she’s arguably their most powerful member.

Sersi has the ability to weave illusions and manipulate matter. While any Eternal can learn the second ability, Sersi has mastered it to the point where even Eternals mentor Zuras is afraid of her. When Sersi gets going, it is hard to tell where her illusions end and the actual transformations begin.

Sersi was one of the first Eternals to become a superhero. Her hedonistic ways gave Sersi a bad reputation, but her heroic nature counters that. She joined The Avengers and has had multiple flings with her teammate, The Black Knight (Kit Harrington in 2021’s Eternals.)

Ikaris

Played by: Richard Madden
Inspired by: Icarus (Greek Mythology), Superman (DC Comics)

Ikaris:Then the time of subtlety is past. Eternals, follow me! The game is death!

Eternals vol.2 #11

Superman is one of DC’s most popular characters, so it’s only natural that Marvel would have a few characters who rip him off- er, I mean emulate him. For the Eternals, that is Ikaris, the team’s field leader.

He has superhuman strength, durability, flight, psychic powers, and the ability to fire cosmic energy from his eyes. Unlike his inspiration, Ikaris loves fighting and is merciless if not held back.

Ikaris often disguises himself as mild-mannered Ike Harris to mingle with humans. He revealed The Eternals to humanity when he fell in love with a woman named Margo and brought both her and her scientist father to their home base. 

Kingo

Played by: Kumail Nanjiani
Inspired by: N/A

Kingo:You’re about to meet the greatest warriors this world has never known.”

Eternals (2021)

Who needs fancy-schmancy superpowers? Sometimes all you need is a decent suit of armor and a blade in your hands. But Kingo doesn’t mind using his powers as well.

Kingo has spent most of his life in Japan. He developed an affinity for the Samurai lifestyle and spent centuries honing his techniques. In the modern era, he became a movie star so that he could make samurai movies. The 2021 film will swap this out for India and Bollywood movies.

Sprite

Played by: Lia McHugh
Inspired by: Peter Pan, Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Sprite:It wasn’t just illusion I was screwing with. This was reality. And by the time I was finished, I’d changed things. There weren’t any Eternals. Just a hundred more dumb mayflies wandering around the world.

The Eternals Vol. 3 #5

I keep telling people not to underestimate the Fair Folk, but they always do. It doesn’t matter if they look harmless, Sprite is one conniving bastard.

Sprite is unique among The Eternals because they are the only one whose body never matured. They got sick of being a child for millennia and schemed to become a human. By tapping into the power of one of the Celestials, Sprite transformed all of the Eternals into humans. Sprite was killed for their betrayal, but recently resurrected, and is now in a female body.

Sprite is a skilled illusionist, who is hampered by an immature body. No one takes the young-looking Eternal seriously, allowing them to fly under the radar and become a major threat.

Phastos

Played by: Brian Tyree Henry
Inspired by: Hephaestus (Greek Mythology)

Phastos:I’m just destroying The Eternals. I’m not destroying Earth.

The Eternals Vol. 5 #5

The MCU has broken a lot of ground in the superhero movie genre. Eternals adds another first with the first openly gay MCU hero, Phastos.

Phastos is a skilled blacksmith who is confused with the Greek god Hephaestus. He designed most of the Eternals’ weapons and tools, aided by his technopathic abilities.

Phastos recently rebelled against the team because he learned that the Reactivation Chamber can only resurrect Eternals by killing a random human to provide the “spark.” He has sworn to eradicate every Eternal to protect the innocent humans, even if that risks destroying the planet.

Makkari

Played by: Lauren Ridlof
Inspired by: Mercury (Roman Mythology)

Makkari:If I have to cease existing to save the humans, save the Eternals, save you, I will not hesitate to do it.

Eternals Vol.4 #1

Phastos isn’t the only groundbreaking Eternals member. The Walking Dead’s Lauren Ridlof  will play the MCU’s first deaf superhero: Makkari.

Makkari sacrificed almost all of her Eternal powers to enhance her speed. She can run at light speed for extended periods of time, but is weakened while doing so.

Makkari was the main character of the arc where The Eternals became human. Her journey to awaken the rest of their kind turned Makkari into a messianic figure. This change was solidified when they became the prophet of Tiamut, the Dreaming Celestial.

Druig

Played by: Barry Keoghan
Inspired by: Loki (Norse Mythology)

Druig:Now, I understand you have an ally among The Eternals who has been assisting you. I find this deeply offensive. You needed a traitor and you didn’t just come straight to me?

Eternals Vol. 5 #4

Not all of The Eternals are good. Sprite is a precocious little brat, but Druig is actually evil.

The self-styled Lord of Nightmares can read minds and uncover a victim’s deepest fears to manipulate them. Druig can also conjure fire and thinks nothing of incinerating those in his way.

Druig is treacherous and will throw anyone under a bus for his own benefit or just because he felt like it. He eventually used his powers to conquer the fictional country of Vorozheika, manipulating the other Eternals into agreeing not to interfere.

The Forgotten One

Played by: Don Lee
Based on: The Epic of Gilgamesh (Babylonian Mythology), Others

Gilgamesh:I don’t feel part of this world anymore, Herak. I am forgotten. I don’t know what use I am.
Hercules:You’re a hero, Gil. And the world will always need those.”
Gilgamesh:Not our kind, Herak. We don’t have capes, or rocket boots, or… web-shooter things.”
Hercules:Maybe. But we’ve got experience, Gil. More than most. More than any. I’m gonna get you back in the game, Gil. You can help me make some new myths.”

Hercules Vol. 4 #1

The Eternals are pretty danged old. You know they’re gonna forget some things over the ages. The Forgotten One is the only one to forget his own name.

The Forgotten One refused to stay isolated from humanity and roamed the world, aiding those who needed help. He claims to have been Gilgamesh, Samson, Beowulf, and others you might recognize from our list of the Top 5 Mythological Superheroes.

The Forgotten One’s constant interference in mortal affairs makes him unpopular with the Eternals. Many pantheons and ancient heroes are conflicted because his deeds are confused with theirs and vice versa. He has continued to fight for others despite eons of hate from his contemporaries. He has many names, but only one title fits The Forgotten One: Hero.

Ajak

Played by: Salma Hayek
Inspired by: Quetzalcoatl (Aztec Mythology)

Ajak:I am Ajak. I am He Who Speaks to Celestials. I am your friend.”

Eternals Vol. 3 #4

Operating independently is a vital skill, but it’s always nice to have someone who can contact the boss when needed. Luckily, the Eternals have Ajak for that.

Ajak is The Eternals’ second in command, the liaison between the team and The Celestials, whom they worship. Ajak was one of the only Eternals to remember who they were after Sprite’s betrayal and manipulated their friends to awaken them.

Thena

Played by: Angelina Jolie
Inspired by: Athena

Thena:Our mission is to unite all our species to deal peacefully with the Space-Gods.

The Eternals Vol 1 #6

The Eternals sometimes look down on humans as being inferior compared to their genetically-enhanced superiority. Thena is one of the few who is always on humanity’s side.

Thena is the daughter of the Eternal leader Zuras, essentially making her their princess. She is an expert warrior, with only Ikaris and The Forgotten One able to challenge her for the title of best fighter. 

While trapped in human form, Thena got married and had a son named Joey. This caused her a lot of anguish after turning back into an Eternal and realizing she would outlive him. Nevertheless, Thena chose to stay with her son, even threatening her own father when he told her to give him up.

Thanos

Played by: Josh Brolin
Inspired by: Darkseid and Metron (DC Comics: New Gods)

Kingo:Death to He Whom Death Loathes! Murder for the murderer!
Thanos:Murderer. Do not insult me. “Murder” is but a note. I am the greatest composer who has ever been.

The Eternals Vol. 5 #4

The Eternals are obscure, but there is one who everyone knows. The villain of the Infinity Saga. Thanos: the Mad Titan, is an Eternal.

Thanos was born to an Eternal couple living on the moons of Titan. He was born with a genetic defect that made him look like a Deviant, causing his mother to try killing him on sight. As a teenager, he murdered a bully and saw the personification of Death. Thanos fell in love with her, leading him to become a galactic tyrant and serial killer to see her again.

If you want to know more about Thanos, why not check out his backstory?

Didya Get All That?

Earth’s Eternal Guardians.

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