Who Is Adam Warlock and How Does the Cosmic Hero Fit Into the MCU?

Doctor Strange may have the word “strange” as part of his name, but almost no superhero in the Marvel Universe is truly as strange as Adam Warlock. But who is Adam Warlock, really? He’s an immensely powerful cosmic being and a longtime enemy of Thanos. Adam Warlock has even wielded all the Infinity Stones at once (called Infinity Gems in the comics). So he’s a major player. And on top of this, Marvel’s Adam Warlock finally made his MCU debut in a big, bad way in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But now that he has emerged from his alien cocoon, here are the most important things to know about Marvel’s cosmic messianic hero. Who is Adam Warlock? Let’s find out.

Adam Warlock’s Origin Story: Simply “Him”

The birth of Him, later called Adam Warlock. Adam Warlock leaves his birthing pod in Marvel's Fantastic Four #67.
Marvel Comics

Few Marvel Comics heroes have a stranger origin or a stranger series of adventures than Adam Warlock. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created him in the pages of Fantastic Four back in 1967. He had no name at first, only referred to as “Him.” Adam Warlock’s first stage of Marvel existence came when a villainous group of scientists bent on world domination, known as the Enclave, used all their scientific know-how to create the perfect artificial being.

The Enclave succeeded, making a perfectly built humanoid man with golden skin. The soon-to-be Adam Warlock emerged from his birthing pod with incredible strength, telepathy, and energy manipulation powers. But because of his telepathy, he could sense that his creators had nefarious plans for the world. Disgusted with them, he destroyed their laboratory and departed for the stars.

Becoming Adam Warlock in Marvel Comics

The first issue of Marvel Premiere in 1972, starring Adam Warlock.
Marvel Comics

After a brief tussle with Thor, “Him” encased himself into a healing cocoon. He emerged from this state when he met the being known as the High Evolutionary. During this time, the High Evolutionary had created a duplicate of Earth 616, which revolved around the sun in the opposite direction. This “Counter-Earth” didn’t have superhero protectors of its own, so the High Evolutionary entrusted “Him” with the Soul Gem. And thus, a new superhero was born.

Marvel's Adam Warlock fights evil on Counter-Earth.
Marvel Comics

Possession of the gem allowed him to capture the souls of living beings. The High Evolutionary gave him the name “Warlock,” and a group of kids gave him the first name “Adam.” And together, the High Evolutionary and the latter unexpected source birthed Adam Warlock. This huge revamp of the character was because of the creative team of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, who took the blank slate of “Him” and gave him his own comic series. And in interviews over the years, Thomas has admitted that inspiration for Marvel Comics’ Adam Warlock came from the (at the time) new musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. 

Adam Warlock vs. Thanos: Round One 

Adam Warlock faces off against Magus, his evil future self.
Marvel Comics

Eventually leaving Counter-Earth and the High Evolutionary behind, Adam Warlock travels into Marvel Comics’ cosmos. There, he crosses paths with the Universal Church of Truth, an intergalactic cult led by a madman called Magus. To stop Magus, Adam Warlock forges an alliance with the Mad Titan Thanos and his daughter Gamora. (You’ve probably heard of them). But then Adam Warlock learns the ugly truth. He himself is Magus but from the future—a version of himself driven mad by overuse of the Soul Gem. Adam Warlock beats Magus but then turns against Thanos when he discovers the other five Infinity Gems.

Adam Warlock defeats Thanos by turning him to stone. This does seem to indicate that Marvel’s Adam Warlock is stronger than Thanos in some ways… At least in Marvel Comics. After Warlock bests Thanos, his consciousness finds a new home in the Soulworld, which exists in the Soul Stone.

Adam Warlock’s History with Infinity Gauntlets, Infinity Wars, and the Infinity Watch

Adam Warlock, front and center leading Earth's heroes during the 1991 series The Infinity Gauntlet.
Marvel Comics

Thanos eventually finds a path toward resurrection and gathers all the Infinity Gems together. He plans to erase half of life in the universe. Sound familiar? That’s because The Infinity Gauntlet event series was the basis for the MCU’s “Infinity Saga.” (The “Infinity Saga” are the first 23 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) Although Adam Warlock was not present in the MCU version of events.

In the comics, Adam Warlock leaves the Soulworld along with Gamora, who was also trapped there, essentially resurrecting themselves. With Earth’s heroes in tow, they defeat Thanos, just like in the MCU. Instead of the gems being destroyed like in the MCU, however, Adam Warlock splits them up in the Marvel Comics’ version of the story. Adam Warlock gives one gem out to several different individuals while keeping the Soul Gem for himself. This group became known as The Infinity Watch.

To best host the Soul Gem, Adam Warlock purges himself of all emotion, becoming a creature of pure logic. He comes like Spock from Star Trek, only with gold skin like Data from The Next Generation. Additionally, like Spock and Data, Adam Warlock is also a logic-based character who falls on the side of good in Marvel Comics. So, unless, James Gunn throws a curveball our way, or Adam Warlock appears first as Magus, it seems unlikely he will join the MCU as a villain.

It is interesting to note that Warlock’s “good” and “bad” emotions go on to form their own beings, which Warlock later has to fight. Perhaps we may see these inter-Adam Warlock battles appear somewhere in the MCU.

Terrible Cosmic Abilities, Itty Bitty Living Space: Adam Warlock’s Powers

Adam Warlock wearing the Infinity Gauntlet.
Marvel Comics

Despite living for years within the world contained in the tiny Soul Gem, Adam Warlock retained all of his powers. And his powers are formidable, to say the least. Adam Warlock has superhuman strength, speed, and stamina, not to mention he can also manipulate cosmic power for energy projection. In addition, he can fly, and he can regenerate himself by encasing himself in cocoons similar to the one which birthed him.

Essentially immortal, with each Marvel Comics resurrection, Adam Warlock only gets stronger. But the perks don’t end there. He also has accessed “quantum magic,” which is good since his name is “Warlock,” after all. He can create force fields, travel faster than light, and even create wormholes in space. And not only does Adam Warlock have the power to resurrect himself, but he’s resurrected others in the past. Adam Warlock isn’t omnipotent on the level of the Celestials, but he’s in their ballpark.

Adam Warlock and Thanos: Brothers?

Thanos and Adam Warlock, eternal enemies and sometimes allies.
Marvel Comics

Adam Warlock, due to his connection to the Soul Gem, is Marvel’s Avatar of Life. Meanwhile, Thanos is the Avatar of Death. So, in a manner of speaking, they are spiritual siblings or different sides of the same coin. This leads fans to speculate about whether they are brothers. But are Adam Warlock and Thanos siblings? No, not exactly. But they have a unique bond. And that causes Adam Warlock and Thanos to be both enemy and ally.

Although they fought against each other many times, together they defeated Annihilus and other cosmic threats. And despite ruining Thanos’ plans with the Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock still trusted him with the Power Gem when he split up the rest of the remaining gems. We look forward to seeing what kind of relationship, if any, Adam Warlock will have with Thanos in the MCU.

So Why Hasn’t Adam Warlock Been in the MCU Until Now?

Adam Warlock with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Marvel Comics

Adam Warlock has appeared in animated form before, first in the animated film Planet Hulk and then in shows like Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Guardians of the Galaxy. But despite these appearances and his comic book history, Adam Warlock hasn’t surfaced in the MCU yet. Given Adam Warlock’s importance to the whole Infinity Gauntlet saga and all its various comic spinoffs, it’s not clear why he didn’t feature in the MCU’s Infinity Saga. The entire concept of the Infinity Stones comes from Adam Warlock comics, after all.

At the end of the day, only Kevin Feige knows for sure why Adam Warlock never appeared in the MCU’s Infinity Saga. It’s possible Marvel wanted the focus solely on the main Avengers team. Marvel teased the character in both Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy, where his cocoon was shown. But it was the post-credits tag to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that showed that Adam Warlock was finally coming into the MCU. Only this time, Adam Warlock is created by the alien Sovereign, not Earth scientists. Finally, Marvel announced they cast Will Poulter as the MCU’s Adam Warlock. The studio announced that Warlock would finally be join the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. 

Adam Warlock in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and His MCU Future

The High Evoloutionary discovers Him in space, transforming him into Adam Warlock.
Marvel Comics

The MCU reworked Adam Warlock’s origins, as we learned that the High Evolutionary actually created the Sovereign race, making him an indirect product of his expertise in genetics. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Adam Warlock was a newborn being of immense power, tasked with bringing Rocket back to his master. He mowed through the Guardians on Knowhere, showing off his true potential.

The MCU’s Adam Warlock eventually turns on the High Evolutionary and helps the Guardians of the Galaxy, even saving Star-Lord’s life. By the end of the film, he joins Rocket’s new Guardians team, heading towards a path of heroism. All of this is a truncated version of Adam Warlock’s comic book relationship with the High Evolutionary, in which Warlock served the High Evolutionary and ultimately left him behind. Only Adam Warlock’s Marvel Comics connection to the Infinity Stones is totally left out of his MCU counterpart.

Our first look at Will Poulter as Adam Warlock in the MCU
Marvel Studios

One thing is for sure. Whether it’s in a movie or as part of a Disney+ series, without a doubt, Adam Warlock will have a big role in the MCU going forward. As Gunn teases, “I wanted somebody who was youthful, and I wanted the person who had the dramatic chops and the comedic chops, not only for this movie but for what Marvel will use Adam Warlock for in the future… He could become this really important character.”

Originally published on November 8, 2021.

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