Conspiracy theorists love to speculate about the Illuminati that secretly controls the world, but there’s no ambiguity about the existence of the Marvel Comics Illuminati - who have actually controlled the Marvel Universe for decades from behind the scenes. The members of the Marvel Illuminati include a lot of big names - Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic, and more - but their actions somehow managed to be kept hidden from readers and their fellow superheroes alike, until the hubris of their actions resulted in the entire multiverse crashing down around them.
The history of the Marvel Illuminati goes back as far as the Kree-Skrull War, and their impact continues to be felt well into the modern era of Marvel Comics - and, perhaps soon, into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. One thing remains certain, however, and that’s that if the real-life Illuminati is anywhere near as incompetent as the comic book version, conspiracy theorists should have nothing to worry about!
Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Doctor Strange, Professor X, Black Bolt, And Namor Made A Secret Genius Club
Though it would not be depicted on-page until several years after it happened in New Avengers: Illuminati, at some point in the distant past of the Marvel Universe, Tony Stark called a meeting of Earth’s greatest geniuses. Invitees included Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Doctor Stephen Strange, Professor Charles Xavier, Black Bolt of the Inhumans, and Namor the Submariner.
Each of the attendees represented was seen as the greatest mind from their segment of the superhero community, and Iron Man wanted them to put their heads together behind the scenes and hold regular clandestine meetings to share information and strategize. Thus, the Illuminati was born.
The Group Formed On The Heels Of The Kree-Skrull War, And Its Purpose Was To Stop Such Threats Before They Happened
The formation of the Marvel Illuminati came hot on the heels of the Kree-Skrull War, a cosmic conflict that had been raging for millennia before Earth’s Mightiest Heroes got involved. The entire event nearly ended with the demise of the planet, and Tony Stark wanted to ensure that humanity was never again caught unawares by such an obvious threat.
Stark soon figured out that each of his Illuminati invitees had some indication of what was going on in space, but no one had a complete picture. He reasoned that by joining forces and pooling their knowledge, the Illuminati could identify and put a stop to other potential global issues before they became actual problems. Their secret genius club was thus founded on the principal of proactive and preventative justice.
Black Panther Turned Down The Invite, And Told Them They Were Doomed To Failure
One attendee at the inaugural meeting of the Illuminati turned down membership - T’Challa, the King of Wakanda better known as the Black Panther. Not only did T’Challa refuse to join, he shared some harsh words with the rest of Marvel’s best and brightest before departing, letting them know exactly why he thought they were doomed to failure:
You just decided all by yourselves that you are the Earth’s protectors. And that you, and only you, not your teammates or family, are trustworthy enough to include in the process…
What happens when you disagree? When one of those Earth-changing moments finds you all at odds with each other, here in a secret meeting? What happens then?
Walk away now.
His words would prove frighteningly prescient, even if this wasn’t the end of T’Challa’s association with the group.
The Illuminati Travelled To The Skrull Homeworld And Accidentally Caused ‘Secret Invasion’
After a brief sojourn to deal with the mutant island known as Krakoa, the Illuminati decided to travel to the Skrull homeworld of Tarnax IV as their first official mission together. There, they hoped to sufficiently threaten the Skrull Empire - who had just suffered a harsh defeat in the Kree-Skrull War - so that they never again considered attacking Earth. Unfortunately, their trip had the exact opposite effect.
Upon arriving on Tarnax IV, the members of the Illuminati were almost immediately captured and subjected to scientific experimentation and analysis. Though Tony Stark was eventually able to free himself and his teammates, the Skrulls gleaned plenty of useful information from the team first - including the genetic and technological data they would one day use to launch their Secret Invasion of Earth.
All in all, the mission was an utter failure.