Marvel's ETERNALS: The Journey To The Screen - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Marvel's ETERNALS: The Journey To The Screen

In which we trace the history of the Eternals and development of the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe Eternals movie.

The twenty-fifth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the second film of Phase Four, Eternals is scheduled for release on November 6th, 2020. We're going to begin 50 years prior to that in 1970, when 53 year old Jack Kirby left Marvel Comics to work at DC Comics, where he began the saga of the New Gods, an epic story involving mythological and science fiction concepts.

The New Gods were natives of the twin planets of New Genesis and Apokolips. New Genesis being an idyllic planet filled with unspoiled forests, mountains, and rivers and ruled by the benevolent Highfather, while Apokolips is a nightmarish, polluted and ruined dystopia filled with machinery and fire pits and is ruled by the tyrannical Darkseid. The two planets were once part of the same world, a planet called Urgrund (German for "primeval ground"), but it was split apart millennia ago after the death of the Old Gods during Ragnarök.

Kirby had planned to have a definite ending for his New Gods saga. However, it was left incomplete after the cancellation of the titles in late 1972.

After his return to Marvel, Kirby began working on The Eternals, which debuted in July 1976. The Eternals' saga, which was thematically similar to the New Gods, began five million years ago, when the Celestials visited Earth and performed genetic experiments on early proto-humanity. These experiments created two divergent races: the long-lived Eternals, and the genetically unstable and monstrously grotesque Deviants.

Despite looking human, Eternals are much longer-lived and that kept them from having much contact with their human cousins. Eternals have a low birth rate; they can interbreed with humans but the result is always a normal human. The Eternals developed advance technology and, in general, protected the human race, especially from the Deviants, with whom they've always had an enmity.

Eventually, a civil war broke out amongst the Eternals over whether to conquer the other races, with one faction led by Kronos and the other by his warlike brother, Uranos. Kronos's side prevailed, and Uranos and his defeated faction left Earth and journeyed to Uranus where they built a colony.

Like the New Gods saga, the series was also eventually canceled without resolving many of its plots. Although writers Roy Thomas and Mark Gruenwald used the Eternals in a Thor storyline that climaxed in Thor #301, resolving many of the lingering plotlines.

It wouldn't be the last time the Eternals would appear in the pages of Marvel Comics though. Subsequent to the Thor storyline, the Eternals (and the mythology connected to them) continued to appear or occasionally be mentioned in numerous Marvel titles. Then a 12-issue miniseries was published in 1985 by writer Peter B. Gillis and penciler Sal Buscema was published, which rebooted events. In 2000, a one-shot comic called New Eternals: Apocalypse Now #1 feature an older conflict between the Eternals and X-Men villain Apocalypse. In 2003, writer Chuck Austen and artist Kev Walker rebooted the franchise for Marvel's mature readers-focused MAX imprint. Then, in 2006, Neil Gaiman, with artist John Romita, Jr., created a miniseries which helped bring the Eternals' role in the modern Marvel Universe up-to-date.

Back-tracking a bit, one of the Eternals who you should be very familiar with is Thanos. The character had actually first appeared in The Invincible Iron Man #55 (February 1973), in a story by Jim Starlin that was co-scripted by Mike Friedrich.

Jack Kirby was still working at DC Comics during that time, but Starlin later admitted that, when it came to the storyline and, specifically, Thanos's look, Kirby was quite an influence.
"Kirby had done the New Gods, which I thought was terrific. He was over at DC at the time. I came up with some things that were inspired by that. You'd think that Thanos was inspired by Darkseid, but that was not the case when I showed up. In my first Thanos drawings, if he looked like anybody, it was Metron. I had all these different gods and things I wanted to do, which became Thanos and the Titans. Roy took one look at the guy in the Metron-like chair and said: "Beef him up! If you're going to steal one of the New Gods, at least rip off Darkseid, the really good one!"

Years after Kirby's Eternals debuted, Thanos origin was retconned. Born on Saturn's moon Titan as the son of Eternals A'lars and Sui-San, Thanos was the brother of Eros of Titan. Thanos carries the Deviants gene, and as such, shares the physical appearance of the Eternals' cousin race.

Thanos appeared on and off for the next decade, with the character revived for a multiple story arc beginning in Silver Surfer vol. 3, #34 (Feb. 1990), while simultaneously appearing in The Thanos Quest #1–2 (Sept.–Oct. 1990) and The Infinity Gauntlet #1–6 (July–Dec. 1991). The latter being the inspiration behind the MCU's Infinity Saga.

So, with Neil Gaiman bringing the comic book into the modern Marvel Universe, the MCU successfully introducing an Eternal in the form of Thanos, and also introducing the Celestials (like Ego, in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2), it wasn't the biggest surprise when, in April 2018, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige stated that the studio was looking at developing a film based on the comic book series the Eternals.
"[The Eternals] is one of many many many things that we are actively beginning to have creative discussions about to see if we believe in them enough to put them on a slate."
The discussions were clearly fruitful as the same month it was revealed the film would be released as part of Marvel's Phase Four. A month later, Marvel tasked Matthew and Ryan Firpo to write the script, with their outline said to be including a love story between the characters Sersi and Ikaris.

Sersi has the power to manipulate molecules and atoms. Daughter of Helios and Perse, Sersi is the only Eternal who is a fifth-level adept at matter manipulation. She became famous in Greek Mythology through her encounter with Odysseus, prefers to live among humans and likes to throw parties. In the comics she once became an Avenger after Captain America asked her to transmute him so that he could go undercover as a teenager.

A Polar Eternal, son of Virako and Tulayn, father of Icarus (that one), it is not known what Ikaris' birth-name was but he adopted the name "Ikaris" after his son, the Icarus of legend, was killed. Ikaris became Prime Eternal after challenging Thena. Under the alias of "Sovereign", he introduced the Eternals to the world as a team of super-heroes called the "New Breed".

Whether both of those characters or any of their backstory or personality traits make it into the finished film remains to be seen.

By late-September 2018 Marvel had hired Chloé Zhao to direct The Eternals, with a 2020 release date scheduled. Feige went on to state that Marvel considered The Eternals to be a "perfect transition" into its next phase of films, as it allowed the studio to cast a diverse group of actors to portray the various Eternals. In February 2019, Feige reiterated that Marvel was interested in the characters due to...
"Jack Kirby's immense, amazing epic with Eternals that spans tens of thousands of years. [...Marvel] want to create more ensemble films from the start, like Guardians of the Galaxy, rather than building up to an ensemble crossover [as they had with The Avengers], and introduce characters that the majority of the world has never heard of."
Angelina Jolie joined the cast in March 2019, reportedly as Sersi but now know to be playing Thena.

In the source material, Thena is the daughter of Zuras and Cybele. She was originally named Azura, but Zuras changed it to seal the bond with the Olympian gods. Often mistaken for Athena, Athens was built for her. She had twin children in an affair with Kro and hid them, but became re-involved with her children after Dr. Daniel Damian tried to kill them. She has sought sanctuary with Heroes for Hire and the High Evolutionary. She also has a fully human son named Joey Eliot (who is neither the former American football quarterback or the lead singer of British rock band Def Leppard! But really, how awesome would it be if the latter was retconned as Thena's daughter?).

As well as Jolie, the cast includes Richard Madden (as Ikaris), Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Lia McHugh, Don Lee and Salma Hayek. As Feige previously stated, the film intentionally features a diverse cast, with Ridloff portraying the first deaf superhero in the MCU.

In July 2019, at the San Diego Comic Con, the title was revealed as, simply, Eternals, and the same month principal photography finally got underway at Pinewood Studios, England. It's been a long journey to the screen for the Eternals, but this is where we leave the story for now. We will pick it up in our upcoming article, Marvel's Eternals: Everything We Know So Far.

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