Marvel's Eternals Revealed Celestials Created Mutants in a Surprising Place

Today, we look at the surprising back-up feature that established that the Celestials were responsible for the X-Gene that led to Marvel's mutants on Earth.

This is "Foundationed Deep," a feature where we look at particular odd/strange/interesting instances of retroactively connecting different comic book characters (for instance, Uncanny X-Men #268 retroactively established that Wolverine knew both Captain America and the Black Widow from World War II).

A regular refrain I have been repeating in the last month's worth of Eternals articles is about the very creation of the Eternals by Jack Kirby, but while I keep repeating it, it really is so important that I need to keep repeating it, as it is central to almost every one of these discussions. And that is the fact that Jack Kirby Eternals comic book series, which launched in early 1976 (soon after Jack Kirby returned to Marvel after briefly leaving to go to DC, where he launched the Fourth World along with a number of other series) was specifically intended to be its own continuity and NOT part of the Marvel Universe. In that series, the Celestials were returning to Earth after millennia earlier visiting the planet, when they altered humanity into three groups, the heroic, god-like Eternals, the evil, demon-like Deviants and, well, you know, humanity.

This page from Eternals #1 (by Kirby and John Verpoorten) was such a brilliantly concise description of the setup of the series that this one page has been more or less "reprinted" in multiple comic book series, as no comic book artist has really found an easier way of explaining this visually...

So now that the Celestials were returning, the Eternals had to reveal themselves. In the opening issue, a famous archaeologist and his daughter, Margo, discovered all of this during a dig at a temple in the Andes when their cameraman revealed himself to secretly be the Eternal known as Ikaris and that their dig had discovered a cosmic beacon designed to call the Celestials back to Earth. The Deviants wanted to stop the Celestials returning and when that failed, they planned to attack the Celestials when they got here, even if it meant killing all of humanity. The Eternals, naturally, wanted a different result and were willing to fight for it.

It's important to keep repeating this because it explains just how confusing it has been to integrate the Celestials into the Marvel Universe when their creation were inherently designed to NOT be part of the Marvel Universe!

RELATED: Eternals: How One MCU Hero Almost Doomed the X-Men (and Earth)


While it was Roy Thomas who initially introduced the Eternals into the greater Marvel Universe a couple of years n the pages of Thor after Jack Kirby stopped working for Marvel again (Thomas revealed that Thor's memories of the Eternals had been wiped out by the Eternals so that he would not interfere with them and the Celestials), it was Mark Gruenwald, the master of Marvel continuity, who decided to really get into the down and dirty specifics of how the history of the Eternals now intermixed with the history of the Marvel Universe.

Gruenwald, you see, was the editor of Marvel's alternate history comic book series, What If...? at the start of the 1980s. The book was a bi-monthly series that was extra-sized. Gruenwald was already looking for stories to pad out the comic when it dawned on him to use back-ups in What If...? to detail the back story of the Marvel Universe and in 1980's What If...? #23, Gruenwald started a string of stories on the Celestials and the Eternals. The main story was about the Hulk becoming a barbarian...

but the back-up story (by Gruenwald, Ron Wilson and Chic Stone) showed the Celestials' first visit to Earth...

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Once on Earth, we see that the Celestial known as Ziran the Tester created the Deviants on Earth...

Then Nezzar the Calculator created the Eternals...

and finally, Oneg the Prober just left the apes alone to evolve into humanity, but he added a special gene...

That gene was always presumed to be the X-Gene, but later stories, like Peter Sanderson and Mark Bagley's back-up in X-Men Annual #13, confirmed that that gene was the X-Gene (although even there, the term was rarely referred to as the "X-Gene")...

Interestingly, years later, we learned in the opening arc of Jason Aaron's Avengers that a Celestial had come to Earth before all of this and died, poisoned by the villainous Dark Celestial Horde, with his blood sort of merging into the Earth and later forming the early days of humanity (as the apes that the later Celestials messed around with) and it was his poisoned blood that gave humanity to ability for Oneg to give them that gene that later led to mutants...

It was all part of a plan to make humanity become a specific defense against the Horde, with the hope that humanity would develop into a force that could destroy the Dark Celestials.

This back story is precisely why some people were thinking that the recent Eternals movie was going to be used to introduce mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since the Celestials DID create the X-Gene in the Marvel Universe. However, it also highlights just how far afield that things came for the Celestials from their initial introduction in the pages of Kirby's Eternals. There, they were who they said they were, while now, every other story seems to introduce a secret aspect of the Celestials, much of which (like the Jason Aaron story) contradict earlier stories, especially the Jack Kirby stuff. These are not BAD stories, but it is just interesting to see how far the characters have shifted from their original usage over the years.

If anyone else has a suggestion for a Foundationed Deep (retroactive connections between characters), feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]

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About The Author
Brian Cronin (15129 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over a dozen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at, the Los Angeles Times,, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you'd like to see featured at [email protected]!

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