Benicio del Toro has appeared as the Collector, AKA Taneleer Tivan, in multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe films, but his onscreen persona differs significantly from the one cultivated in the comics over the past several decades. In the comics, the Collector has a rich backstory that explains - among other things - why he likes to find and collect unique items and individuals. He also plays a role in some of the Marvel Universe's most important events; however, because his MCU characterization differs so sharply from the printed version, many fans don't know much about him.
Even if you're familiar with the Collector's comic book appearances, your knowledge of the character is probably limited. After all, with the sheer number of appearances he's made and the amount of time he's been around, there's a lot to miss - and a lot to learn. This list serves as a guide to the colorful history of the Collector, as brought to life on the page.
He's Part Of A Group Of Supervillains Called The Elders Of The Universe
The Collector belongs to an elite group known as the Elders of the Universe. Each Elder is the sole surviving member of an ancient race, and all are immensely powerful and immortal. The Elders don't often associate with each other. When they do, they're usually up to no good - at least in the eyes of the people they "use" in their various schemes.
In addition to the Collector, the list of Elders includes the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarok), Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, though in the film he's a Celestial), the Gardener, the Judicator, and even an obscure character who goes by the name Father Time.
Like All Elders, He's Immortal
There's a benefit to being the very last of your race in the Marvel Universe, but only for a select few. For the Elders of the Universe, that benefit is immortality, and it's not because they discovered an elixir that kept them alive in perpetuity. In fact, it's because of a bet.
The Grandmaster tricked Death into entering a Contest of Champions involving many of Earth's mightiest heroes. He lost the contest deliberately, but in so doing, he usurped control of Death's realm. That didn't please her in the least; she swore that no Elder of the Universe would ever be allowed entry into her realm. This effectively made the Elders immortal, which, of course, was the Grandmaster's plan all along.
He Was Eaten By Galactus
Galactus is one of the most powerful beings in the universe thanks to his possession of the Power Cosmic, but that didn't stop the Collector and the rest of the Elders of the Universe from plotting against him. When the Elders decided to try and slay the World Devourer, their goal was to recreate the universe in their image with the power they would receive. Things didn't go according to plan.
The Silver Surfer stepped in and thwarted the attempt to end his former master; as a result, the Elders wound up inside the belly of the beast. This was a bit of a problem, given Death's decree that the Elders could not perish. The solution? Galactus developed a bout of cosmic indigestion. Eventually Master Order and Lord Chaos came by and helped Galactus get rid of the problem, which restored him to full strength.
He Has The Gift/Curse Of Prophecy
One of the Collector's many powers is the gift - or curse - of prophecy. Because he is able to perceive future events, he has managed to engineer his long life toward certain goals. When he learned that a great threat would one day rise up in the form of Thanos, he decided to focus his collection on items and people who could challenge the Mad Titan.
He has used his prophetic gift numerous times during his billions of years in existence, but he can't necessarily see the specific outcome of every event. However, it's useful as an overall doom detector for events that may come to pass at some point in the future.