The Marvel Universe’s cosmic hierarchy is vast and varied. And many of its most omnipotent and unknowable entities have already made it into the MCU, like the Watcher. But the latest Marvel entity to make into the films in Thor: Love and Thunder actually qualifies as being the Marvel Universe itself — Eternity.
Eternity is the living embodiment of all time and space that is the Marvel Universe. In fact, Marvel readers believe only the Living Tribunal is more powerful, perhaps because it stands in judgment over everything. But just what are Eternity’s comic book origins? Well, like most major Marvel Comics mythos, they go back to the 1960s.
Co-created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Eternity first appeared in Strange Tales #138 in 1965. He arrived first within a Doctor Strange storyline that was appropriately named “The Eternity Saga.” His depiction was as the anthropomorphic embodiment of all that is the universe. And he was always shown in silhouette wearing an ornate cape and headdress from the imagination of artist Steve Ditko.
Despite encompassing all reality, the truth was there were older entities in the Marvel Universe. Among them were the First Firmament and even the Celestials. Since the multiverse was always in a continuous cycle of death and rebirth, Eternity was always reborn along with it. As long as there was a universe that existed, so did Eternity.
Eternity was basically omnipotent and could manipulate reality to his own ends. This abstract entity could control space, time, and matter with a thought. Since it was the universe itself, it was also effectively immortal. (Having said that. it has been “killed” in the past, but was always reborn). Every universe within the Marvel multiverse has its own version of Eternity, which then made up a larger multiversal version of the entity. So kind of like Voltron, whose individual parts were just literally everything that exists.
Eternity had a female half, named Infinity. She was not so much a counterpart to Eternity, but an extension of him. Eternity created several children as well, all of which had names beginning with the letter E. These included Empathy, Eulogy, Expediency, Epiphany, Entropy, and Eon. (His child Epoch later killed and replaced Eon). Although each had unique attributes, they are in reality all just extensions of Eternity in some way.
He could also temporarily give a fraction of his power to lesser beings, allowing them to share in his cosmic awareness. Some mortal beings and gods have been able to house Eternity’s consciousness, although only for a brief time. Among those beings have been Doctor Strange, Thor, and the X-Men’s Storm. Although the exact hierarchy remains unknown, Eternity ruled over what they call the Cosmic Powers of the Universe.
Eternity’s first encounter with a human being was with Doctor Stephen Strange. But it certainly wasn’t his last. He manifested when Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four went on trial for allowing Galactus to live. Eternity also manifested in the various Secret Wars events, including the most recent 2015 event. After the end of Battleworld in that series, and the creation of the new Multiverse, Eternity was reborn for his eighth incarnation.
Eternity was also present for both the Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War sagas, as the powerful entity who totally opposed Thanos’ plan to reshape reality. In addition, Eternity’s powers were once stolen by the dread lord Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, but they eventually returned to him. During the JLA/Avengers crossover, Eternity met and fell in love with Kismet, who was the DC Universe’s counterpart to him.
In the MCU, they have hinted at Eternity’s existence before. There were murals in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie showing Eternity. Also, Ego the Living Planet showed Star-Lord Eternity’s more abstract form in Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2. There’s also a moment in Ant-Man where fans made out what looks like Eternity inside the Quantum Realm. But these were just hints and “blink and you miss them” style cameos.
It is in Thor: Love and Thunder where Eternity finally plays a vital role. In the film, Eternity was the being that could grant whoever accesses him whatever their heart desires. Although Eternity was that powerful, he doesn’t really serve the same function as a “wish granter” in the comics. However, the folks at Marvel Studios largely stuck to the iconic silhouette of Eternity when he made his proper MCU debut. With everything in the MCU right now seemingly barrelling towards Secret Wars, we would be shocked if Eternity doesn’t loom large of everything that will happen when all the worlds begin to collide. And even if we don’t see him anytime soon, he’ll always be there. Because Eternity literally is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.