There were many breakout stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2017, but perhaps the greatest of them all was The Grandmaster, Jeff Goldblum’s character in Thor: Ragnarok. Along with Benecio Del Toro’s The Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy, The Grandmaster is one of the Elders of the Marvel Universe, a group of uber-old and uber-powerful characters who can trace their origins back to the earliest days of Marvel’s fictional comic book multiverse. In general, if readers encounter the Elders of the Universe while reading a Marvel comic, they know some serious cosmic happenings are about to go down.
With a few exceptions, Marvel’s Elders of the Universe all carry official titles that act as one-word descriptors of their purpose in life. The Collector lives to collect things, The Grandmaster enjoys organizing large competitions, and The Runner, well, runs. However, this doesn’t mean that the Elders are boring, one-note characters. Each of them has a rich comic book background that has seen them take center stage for some of the biggest events in Marvel history.
One of the most unique members of The Elders of the Universe is Ego the Living Planet, who MCU fans first encountered anthropomorphized as Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Unlike in film continuity, the Ego from Marvel Comics is not Star-Lord’s father, and spends most of his time in gigantic planet form. Although Ego has been heroic on occasion, he is usually malevolent, and generally acts as a literal planet-sized threat to Marvel’s most powerful cosmic heroes in battle. Originally, Ego was a member of a dying race named Egros and was transformed into a living planet by The Stranger, another member of the Elders.
All of the Elders of the Universe are obviously quite old, but The Stranger may be the eldest of all. His origins are suitably blurry, but he claims to be the result of the combined strength and intelligence of a race of billions that saw their planet turn into a sun in the earliest days of the universe. Thus, The Stranger has more power than any of the other Elders, and he has proven it by taken on his brethren single-handedly on multiple occasions.
He’s described as being as powerful as “a moderately nourished Galactus,” to put things in perspective. The motivations of The Stranger are often mysterious, but he has often challenged the heroes on Earth through various machinations in order to “test” their mettle.
The Champion of the Universe, also known by his original name of Tryco Slatterus, is easily the most visually ridiculous of the Elders, with his bulging muscles and trademark red mohawk. The Champion’s mission in life is also quite ridiculous, as he essentially travels the universe threatening to destroy planets unless one of the local inhabitants can beat him in a glorified wrestling match. On his first visit to Earth, The Champion easily beats many of the planet’s heaviest hitters, but ultimately left Earth alone because he was impressed with The Thing’s tenacity.
While many of The Elders of the Universe find themselves in frequent conflict with the heroes and villains of the Marvel world, The Gardener has a predictably more peaceful reputation. Ord Zyonz, as he was originally known, has a passion for cultivating horticulture throughout the universe, and he specializes in restoring life to barren planets. Although The Gardener has used his powers of vegetative manipulation to battle heroes as powerful as the Hulk, he mostly minds his own business, tending to the plant life of the universe unless his fellow Elders needs his help.