[6 May 2010]
In this edition of his regular segment on the correspondence between comics and religion, Andy Smith examines that classic creation of industry great Jack Kirby, ‘The Eternals’.
With as much ideological diversity as our own planet may contain, the Marvel Universe has acknowledged thousands more religions since its inception. Even more so than acknowledging them, Marvel has even connected fictional religions to pre-existing ones.
Perhaps one of the more iconic Marvel religions is that of the Eternals. Devised by Jack Kirby, fresh off his New Gods creation and during an apparent religion kick in the ‘70s, the Eternals were a race born from the Celestials.
The Celestials, or “space gods” to those who acknowledge them, are a group of silent, armored beings who have an average height of a couple thousand feet. And, like any worthwhile Marvel deity, each Celestial has his or her own assigned color and an aesthetically-confusing yet nifty helmet during the group’s first appearance.
The whole Eternals thing was not initially supposed to be a part of Marvel’s mainstream Earth-616 canon. However, the group made their way into continuity during a Thor arc later in the decade.
Writers actually inserted the Eternals into the Marvel version of the Greek mythology. Olympia, one of the Eternals’ cities, was located near the portal from Earth to the home of the Olympians. The Eternals even had a stint representing the Greek gods to humans on Earth.
Marvel lore has a history of intersecting religions and deities, with a near shameless approach to taking a convoluted religiosphere and trying to make at least a little bit of sense out it.
This only works about half the time.
However, the Eternals still thrive in the Marvel Universe. A 2006 Neil Gaiman revival of the Eternals would feature a new take. As with other Marvel religions, the Eternals will continue to be altered and retconned for the duration of Earth-616’s existence.
When hundreds of writers with hundreds of takes attempt to bring their vision to an existing idea, it’s bound to take many different forms. Some would argue the same ideal for the religions of our own reality. With this in mind, it may be easier to cut the Marvel Universe a little slack.
You can currently find the Eternals in the pages of Fall of the Hulks: Alpha.