If the Marvel Comics universe has beings that are the equivalent to what we think of as “Gods,” then it is the immortal and ancient Celestials. Certainly, the Marvel Universe has a pantheon of deities, like the Asgardians and the Olympians. But they are more like highly advanced, long-lived aliens than gods the way we think of them. The Celestials, however, do fit that description. First appearing in Jack Kirby’s The Eternals, they have since become a key component to the framework of the Marvel universe. And now, for the MCU as well.
The Celestials first appear in The Eternals #2 in 1976. Their creator Jack Kirby described them as ancient, towering beings, whose experiments with early hominids resulted in the creation of both the Eternals and the Deviant races. After Marvel Comics canceled The Eternals, the Celestials popped up in books like Thor, Fantastic Four, and X-Factor. Through the decades, we have learned more about the origins of these cosmic entities.
The First Firmament and the Aspirants
The Celestials actually hail from the universe that existed prior to this one. So they are untold billions, if not trillions, of years old. The omnipotent intelligence that existed in this old universe was The First Firmament. Because it was the only intelligent life in this universe, the First Firmament created more. Both to keep it from overwhelming loneliness, but also, to have a legion of subordinates. Each of these beings is clad in head-to-toe armor, and appear to be bipeds. But we do not know what they look like under that armor, and they might not look like anything at all. Many believe they are just energy within these suits.
The First Firmament created two classes of beings. The monochrome beings were “Aspirants.” They were all extensions of the will of the First Firmament. But the multi-colored ones were far more rebellious. They wanted to create an evolving universe. One with the ultimate goal of producing a superior race that could create universes themselves. In a sense, they wanted to create children that would surpass their parents. This fundamental difference in philosophy led the multi-colored beings to go to war with the Aspirants. A war that ultimately led to a new universe, and in effect, a multiverse.
Creating a New Multiverse
Each known Celestial has a specific title and function. Areshim is known as “the Judge,” as it decided if a species lived or died. (And it is the one we see in the Eternals trailer). Other well-known Celestials include Devron the Experimenter, Eson the Searcher, Ashema the Listener, Nezarr the Calculator, and Ziran the Tester. From what anyone can tell, the Celestials are virtually indestructible. Even if they die, they are almost always born again. Each Celestial stands almost 2,000 feet high, at the very least. Some are much larger.
Now living within this new reality (which itself was its own sentient being, called Eternity), the former subordinates of The First Firmament truly elevated their status as the Celestials. For billions of years, they tampered with creation in the multiverse, nurturing life on newborn worlds. On Earth, they created the Eternals and Deviants. In fact, they are likely responsible for all superpowered people on Earth, be they mutant or augmented human. Many believe that Tiamut, the Dreaming Celestial, who slumbered under the Earth for millennia, caused mutants to emerge. Others believe it was the Progenitor, who died on Earth when the planet was still new, and whose DNA seeped into the primordial ooze.
The Celestial Hosts
The Celestials don’t just nurture life on these planets, they would return to judge their experiment on whether they are worthy of continued existence. This process would happen over millions of years. “Hosts” was the term used for these Celestial tribunals. And there is a First through Fourth Host, taking place hundreds of thousands of years apart. The First Host occurred during the stone age, with the Second Host taking place 21,000 years ago. This Host resulted in the sinking of the Deviant’s home country, forcing their civilization underground.
The Asgardians and Olympians tried to thwart the Third and Fourth Hosts, but the Celestials were simply too powerful even for the likes of Odin and Zeus. Luckily for mortals, the Celestials judged humanity as worthy of continued existence. If only barely. Earth was far from the only world where these judgments came down. They also tampered with the alien Skrulls, resulting in their shapeshifting power set. And judged them accordingly. Every world in which the Celestials helped to develop life had to undergo their judgment if they wished to continue. And in the Marvel comics at least, this story will continue on until the end of time.