Eternals and Worldbuilding

 

First off, I’m working hard on the next HLH. It’s >80% done.

I watched the Eternals. I hadn’t watched it when it came out because it got panned and didn’t seem very exciting. I mean…Eternals. I’m an old school Marvel (and DC and indie) comic fan. I know the Eternals. But they were a meh group in comic form.

The start was bland. Pretty terrible, actually. Maybe the first 30 minutes. But it actually picked up and did quite well. I would say the editing was horrible. Because the pacing was all over the place. The material was there, it was just all smashed together. And it didn’t help the bad guys were just pretty faceless. You can fight zombies (or other nameless bads) but then it has to be 99% focused on the survivors and how you got there. Because zombies aren’t interesting. Zombie is actually a synonym for dull, boring, asleep.

The fight scenes in Eternals were pretty amazing. It really felt like super powered people were using super powers. It’s hard getting that kind of weight and feel with blue screens and CGI this really nailed it.

So I think it was a fun movie. Watched for free on Disney plus and I don’t think I took any breaks. Or not many. Last 5 or so movies I saw, I would watch and hour, go do something, come back when I had to eat.

But I wanted to talk about world building because I had forgotten this. I had studied, actually studied, Marvel world building because it was fascinating to me as a writer. This is something no one ever talks about. And I doubt even Ditko, Kirby, and Stan Lee ever spoke about it. But they were making Earth. But it had superheroes. And sometimes mythological figures. And they had been writing hundreds of comics a year for decades and it was all over the place.

Eventually, superheroes start time traveling. or going to other Cosmoses or universes or realities. A lot of comics were being made. And then you start bumping into big questions: who made this, where’s it going, what comes next, why?

Again, you never hear anyone talk about this. But if they all go, okay, we’re going to have a Christian God and that’s all this. Even the religious folks who side with you are going to call you out for blasphemy. As Doctor Strange has a mission with Jesus and they all have shawarma afterwards. And 75% of your artists, writers, letterers, editors, etc will be against it. Same if you had Buddha or Allah or Shiva or whatever.

So you have all these characters who absolutely can know who, exactly, created the universe, and go chat with him/her/it/they.

So they created their own mythos. It was completed I think in the late 60s early 70s. I have some comics in that drawer over there where Doctor Strange meets Eternity. Which is a person. A person who literally is the container for reality. For everything. This guy Doctor Strange was the first character to meet him (1969) and he’d pop up throughout. The issues I have are when they really define him, about 1974.

And they had Death. And they had Galactus. And they had the Celestials. I’ve got a Thor comic, again over there, where Thor meets and fights some Celestials. And of course they beat the shit out of him. But the mythology was cool.

For the longest time, I felt Marvel were a cop-out. They didn’t want to pick a religion. They got Thor and Hercules and basically any god, demigod, demon, fairy, spirit, etc., ever mentioned in any religion or folktale. But they’re like, we’re not touching the live religions. We’re going to dance around it and say it was giant space robots–which is what they looked like. These guys And it’s funny, that’s from Thor. But after I kind of stopped reading and collecting. So the earlier versions were even crappier. And I was like, really? Space robots? (They aren’t robots but they always looked like it.)

But I’ve since come to appreciate what they were doing. How they made and integrated a whole series of mythologies without breaking it all. Without coming out and going, “Yup, Christian God created the universe. And He adheres to these principles XYZ. Oh, and Thor and Odin and Zeus are just some dudes that God created because he was drunk.” There’s just no way to win that. No one is going to be happy. Every semi-religious movie that comes out has been torn to shreds. You’d have to either refute the religion, where Tony Stark is coveting wives and breaking all sorts of commandments when you have an actual Jesus hanging around. And even if you have some great writers who are super religious, you’ve got to tell new stories. Every month. And you’re going to get it wrong. Or offend people. Or whatever. There’s just no payoff.

It’s a weird consequence of having superheroes in the real world. They can answer the big questions. Or at least get concrete clues. So if Kang the Conqueror, like in in the Loki tv series, went back to Jerusalem in the year…0-30 or whatever, and was like, “Oh, check that out. Jesus is just some guy who’s really good at card tricks.” Man, what a shitstorm that would be.

So fake it. Make your own religion. Make your own cosmos. They must have been thinking about this forever. Comics were throwaway. But then people stopped throwing them away. So they knew that ten years ago, you told a different creation story in a different comic. The world building that went into all this is huge. And it was a lot of talented people who were probably getting angry letters from parents saying they found their kids reading this and that. And, remember, this was after the Comics Code Authority. When they had actual Congressional hearings on comics and how they were subverting the youth. And some of those early comics greats lost their careers.

Anyway, the big point of this was how and why Marvel did the world building the way they did? Why did they have Eternity and these psychedelic weirdness? And it wasn’t because they were hip cats dropping acid and writing stories, they were trying to tie together decades of comics from various publishers (that had been bought out and consolidated) and not piss off any religions. Yeah, there’s a lot of stories to write in the Bible or Koran or Torah or Sutras or Eddas or Illiad. But none of them have Marvel characters (or only a few). And adhering to any one set will inevitably piss off at least half the world.

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