The Eternals are coming. The
newest squad in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were unveiled at Comic-Con in San Diego this weekend, and they run deep. With an A-list cast (Angelina Jolie! Richard Madden! Salma Hayek!) led by director Chloé Zhao, the Eternals will probably be household names in no time.
Even if you haven’t heard of the Eternals before, you’ve probably still heard of them: creator Jack Kirby actually drew inspiration from
Greek and Roman mythology when assembling this team of immortal superheroes. The running gag is that the Eternals inspired human mythology and religion over tens of thousands of years — the god Mercury is actually the Eternal Makkari, and so forth — but humans are simply not that great at documenting history. Like the gods themselves, the Eternals are beautiful and almost infinitely powerful.
Admittedly, it does get more confusing when you consider that Greek gods and mythological figures do actually canonically exist in Marvel comics (to keep it simple, they’re generally called the Olympians, and even clashed with the Eternals once or twice). But here’s where the MCU comes in: to offer fans a tidier version of the Eternals story, and to turn yet another obscure and slightly confusing comic property into an inevitable cultural sensation.
If you, understandably, can’t wait for the film to hit theaters next November, here’s a quick guide to the stars of
The Eternals to tide you over until then.
Photo: Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/Wireimage.
Kit Harington Plays Black Knight/Dane Whitman
Harington isn’t playing an Eternal, but his character,
Dane Whitman (aka Black Knight)
romantically linked to one of the actual Eternals
: Sersi (Gemma Chan). After gaining his family’s castle, Whitman inherits a mystical sword and learns his uncle had quite the villainous past. During his first outing as the Black Knight, he’s mistaken for his uncle and attacked by the Avengers. They eventually realize their mistake and offer him a membership after he helps them overcome the Masters of Evil. He ends up joining MI-13.
Photo: Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic.
Angelina Jolie Plays Thena
, the warrior daughter of the Eternal Zuras. You might have guessed it, but there are deliberately strong parallels to Athena and Zeus — Thena’s origin story actually begins when she changes her birth name, Azura, so that she and her father could serve as Athena and Zeus’ human representatives on Earth. Along with being a formidable warrior (with your standard super strength, among other abilities; it’s not clear which powers exactly she will have in
), Thena is a noted scholar, having studied under both Eternal and human teachers across millennia.
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.
Salma Hayek Plays Ajak
In a clever bit of gender-bent casting, Hayek is playing
, the leader of the Eternals. In the comics, Ajak spent much of his time in Central America and became a deity to indigenous populations in the region: the Aztecs thought he was Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, and the Incas worshiped him as the lord of flight, Tecumotzin. During ancient Greek times, Ajak was also confused for Ajax, a hero of the Trojan War. At Comic-Con, Hayek introduced her character as a “strong woman,” adding that there are “a lot of mother instincts in this Eternal, who is not supposed to have kids.”
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.
Richard Madden Plays Ikaris
Game of Thrones
. His character actually has a personal relationship to the Icarus of legend: in the comics, Ikaris was the father of Icarus, who was born to a human mother. Icarus died in the comics as in did in his myth — by devising a winged flight suit, flying too close to the sun, and falling to his tragic death — and in mourning, Ikaris took his son’s name to honor his memory.
Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.
Brian Tyree Henry Plays Phastos
Not much is known about Phastos, who will be portrayed by Henry. Phastos is known for his intelligence and is often confused for the Greek god Hephaestus. He reportedly has the pedigree to back it up; according to Nerdist, the character
built most of the Eternals’ devices
. As many fans have pointed out, this is not Henry’s first foray into the world of Marvel — he voiced Jefferson Davis, the father of Spider-Man Miles Morales, in 2018’s Oscar award-winning
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Photo: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images.
Kumail Nanjiani Plays Kingo Nanjiani is playing Kingo, who is described as a samurai and master swordsman who parlayed his skills into a successful career as a film star and producer. No details have been released regarding how The Eternals will adapt Kingo from the comics, but Nanjiani is bound to bring some always welcome comic relief to the film. “[Marvel movies] have action, drama, romance, comedy — they have everything. So I’m just excited to be able to do all of that,” Nanjiani said at Comic-Con.
Photo: Araya Diaz/WireImage.
Lauren Ridloff Plays Makkari
Ridloff is making MCU history as the franchise’s first-ever deaf superhero — and in yet another departure from the comics, Ridloff, a woman of color, plays the Eternal Makkari, who is originally portrayed as a white man. Makkari has superhuman speed and a history of meddling with human affairs, from the Trojan War to the reign of Vlad the Impaler to the Battle of the Alamo. He’s also a
skilled engineer and scholar
, according to Polygon.
Photo: Dominique Charriau/WireImage.
Don Lee Plays Gilgamesh
Lee, one of South Korea’s most popular actors, is playing Gilgamesh, named after the legendary hero and Mesopotamian king (it is unclear whether he actually is the Gilgamesh of lore). After years in exile, he also was dubbed
“The Forgotten One”
and became the physically strongest of the Eternals. “I can’t wait to show you the power of Gilgamesh,” Lee said at Comic-Con. When asked whether Gilgamesh or the Incredible Hulk would win in a fight, he (of course) said Gilgamesh, but not after quipping, “Is Mark Ruffalo here?”
Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images/IMDb.
Gemma Chan Plays Sersi
Chan joins as Sersi, the daughter of Helios and Perse who stood out from her fellow Eternals by interacting with humans. As the Celestials returned to Earth, Sersi joined in but wasn't a fan of combat. She instead
became a famous entertainer in New York
, where she hosted parties for stars, superheroes, and influential people. That led her to the Avengers, where she pursued Captain America and, later, the Black Knight. She was eventually driven insane by Proctor, an alternate-reality Black Knight, and after overcoming him, she returned to New York, occasionally helping the Avengers.
Barry Keoghan Plays Druig
Keoghan plays Druig, an Eternal who is Ikaris’ cousin and the son of Valkin. Druig is not just immortal — he
specializes in manipulating reality
, is super-strong, can fly and teleport, has telepathic abilities, and can project energy — usually flames — from his hands and eyes. Druig consistently sought power with no regard for others, but was always thwarted by Ikaris. In modern times, Druig serves as a KGB agent and had a penchant for torturing people. He planned to slay Ziran the Tester with a weapon the Celestials had used to destroy one of their own, but Ikaris disintegrated Druig before he could fire it.