When a comic book property as obscure as The Eternals gets adapted into a blockbuster film, it’s only natural that the general audience has a few basic questions, such as “Who are the Eternals?” “Who are the Deviants?” “How many Eternals are there?” and, perhaps most importantly, “What does it all have to do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large?”
Fortunately, the Eternals’ decades of published history in the pages of Marvel Comics offer up at least some of the answers.
The Eternals - officially known as Homo immortalis - are an evolutionary offshoot of humanity created by the Celestials more than a million years ago. Thanks to the Celestials’ genetic engineering and wondrous technology, each Eternal possesses a suite of generic superhuman abilities - strength, speed, durability, intelligence, telekinesis, teleportation, flight - in addition to specific superpowers unique to each individual’s tastes. In keeping with their name, Eternals are also extremely long-lived and, should they ever perish, they’re automatically reborn thanks to a Celestial system known only as the Machine.
They’ve served many roles throughout the millennia, acting as gods, demi-gods, superheroes, political leaders, and folk figures. Officially, their purpose is to cultivate humanity for the purposes of the Celestials - though they didn’t know that at first, and their entire race briefly went mad when they found out. Still, they remain a benevolent force, and over the years, a handful of Eternals have managed to stand out from the nigh-immortal crowd, making as much of an impact on the Marvel Universe as any of the A-listers to come before them.
Who Is He? Ikaris has traditionally been the most public-facing and traditionally heroic of the Eternals. When the ancient world flooded, he led the remainder of humanity to safety on an ark. His original name is unknown, as at some point he adopted the name of his late son - the Icarus of Greek myth, who perished trying to simulate his father’s flying ability.
His Powers: One of the most powerful Eternals ever born, Ikaris is far stronger, tougher, and faster than the average Eternal, and ranks among the upper echelons of any individual ability. He can fly at supersonic speeds and channel cosmic energy into a number of direct applications, most frequently as red-hot beams projected from his eyes.
Role In The Eternals: Ikaris is the type to lead by example. Of all the Eternals, he has taken the most direct role in guiding and protecting humanity, and is thus the most superheroic of the bunch, leading to frequent comparisons between him and the Man of Steel at the Distinguished Competition. Eventually, the Eternals’ Uni-Mind decreed him an official Guardian of Humanity.
Impact On The Marvel Universe: Not usually one for team associations outside of his fellow Eternals, Ikaris has nevertheless popped up whenever help is needed. He helped build Attilan for the Inhumans, battled legions of Deviants in New York, and helped stop Thanos’s first big power-grab. Ikaris has teamed up with Iron Man and the West Coast Avengers, battled the Red Hulk, and eventually helped all Eternals regain their memories after they had been tampered with.
Who Is She? Alternatively known as “Circe,” Sersi shows up across all of ancient human history as an influential sorceress and insatiable lover. She transmogrified Odysseus, watched Nero burn Rome, matched wits with Attila the Hun, fought alongside Viking Thor, and even palled around with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Her Powers: Sersi can transmute any one substance or item into pretty much any other substance or item she can imagine, mastering this ability to a higher degree than any Eternal has ever mastered any ability. She is also an exceptionally powerful illusionist, and one of the Eternals’ strongest telepaths.
Role In The Eternals: Despite the tricky nature of her powers, Sersi is perhaps the most reasonable and humane of the Eternals, often attempting to convince the others to find more peaceful solutions to their problems. She’s proven herself incredibly heroic when called upon, but usually prefers to enjoy her immortal life to the fullest, and encourages the other Eternals to do so, as well. Despite other dalliances, she has loved Makkari for centuries.
Impact On The Marvel Universe: Sersi has always been the Eternal most willing to mix it up with humanity, which led to her becoming a long-time member of the Avengers. She fought alongside them in Operation: Galactic Storm among other cosmic conflicts, and she got involved in a fairly heated love triangle with the Black Knight and Crystal of the Inhumans. When the seemingly permanent demise of Makkari threatened the collapse of the universe, Sersi transmuted her own body into a duplicate of his and allowed his consciousness to take over, sacrificing herself to save everyone else - though she’d eventually be restored.
Sprite Pranked Their Way Into Changing Marvel History
Who Are They? Unlike most Eternals, Sprite is forever stuck in the body of a child, despite a mind that is thousands of years old. Occasionally reborn with a different gender expression, Sprite’s tricky nature and frequent pranking of humans has inspired countless folk characters over the years, from the Shakespearean Puck to Peter Pan.
Their Powers: Sprite can fly at extremely high speeds, but their primary skill set is illusion, in which they rank higher than any other Eternal ever born. Sprite can generate illusions that fool all five senses, and even alter the memories of others.
Role In The Eternals: Long-discounted as the kid of the group, Sprite was constantly underappreciated and coddled, which eventually led to a serious build-up of resentment. At one point, Sprite attempted to use the powers of the Dreaming Celestial to rewrite their Eternal programming and free themselves from their perpetual youth, and ended up erasing every Eternals’ memories in the process.
Impact On The Marvel Universe: Sprite’s memory-messing led to the entire Marvel Universe forgetting about the Eternals for a while, but that was rectified and Sprite was put into a cosmic time-out. When they were restored to life, they sought redemption and found it by making a horrific discovery: that each time an Eternal was reborn, a human being lost their life to compensate. This revelation led the Eternals to seek out a different path, free from the Celestials’ Machine - perhaps the single most impactful decision made in their million years of existence.
Druig’s Name Is All Over The Worst Of The Marvel History Books
Who Is He? Known as the Lord of Flames and Nightmares, Druig is definitely the bad boy of the Eternals - even if he’s not an outright villain. Hailing from the Eternal city of Polaria in Siberia, Druig has long schemed and manipulated his fellow Eternals in a quest for greater power and influence. He marched with Genghis Khan, tortured for the KGB, and was even briefly the prime minister of Vorozheika.
His Powers: Druig isn’t the best illusionist, telepath, or transmuter of the Eternals, but he ranks highly in all three skill sets. In particular, he excels at using his telepathy to suss out and manipulate the fears of those around him, and he’s even been able to use it to temporarily take control of another individual.
Role In The Eternals: Druig is often the subject of suspicion amongst Eternals, and not without reason. Though he usually avoids direct conflict and acts through others, Druig has at times taken mental control of his fellow Eternals. He has a particular rivalry with Ikaris, his more popular cousin, and the two have come to blows before, with Ikaris once incinerating Druig entirely, requiring his resurrection.
Impact On The Marvel Universe: Druig had his largest impact on the Marvel Universe when he unleashed the Deviant Dromedan on the world, a beast that Thor had to defeat. This incident resulted in the demise of Ikaris’s father, Virako. Druig once created an army of brainwashed Eternals and led them into battle against the X-Men in San Francisco, but Ikaris defeated him again - and Druig has played relatively nice ever since.