Friday, April 29, 2011

Hidden Races: The Inhumans and the Eternals

Karen: I recently read a book about "hollow earth" beliefs -the idea that some folks have had that the Earth is actually hollow and that there are people living inside it -and the author listed a number of books and movies that utilized this concept, but no comics. The hidden land/race idea has permeated comics just as thoroughly as it has fantasy literature. The two examples I find the most interesting are the Inhumans and the Eternals.

Since Jack Kirby created or co-created both of these classic Marvel hidden races, it's not surprising tha
t they share many similarities. Besides being hidden races, of course, they are both off-shoots of humanity whose genetic destinies were altered by alien visitors: in the Inhumans' case, it was the Kree who did the deed, while the Celestials are responsible for the Eternals. Both have amazing powers, although the Inhumans have a greater variety of powers. Both also have sub-groups connected to them: the Inhumans at one time kept a slave race known as the Alpha Primitives (I believe that's been changed now), while the Eternals were eternally at war with the Deviants, an ugly, nasty group of genetic misfits.

Neither group has really been able to maintain their own series for long. It seems they function best as supporting characters, providing a little more color and depth to the Marvel Universe. While I enjoy both groups, I probably give the edge to the Inhumans, mainly because of their connection to early Marvel and the Fantastic Four. The Eternals, coming after Kirby's DC sojourn and his creation of the New Gods, seem more derivative. Does anyone have a preference on these two hidden races, or any thoughts they'd like to share?


Edo Bosnar said...

I'd give the Inhumans a slight edge as well - maybe just because I have fond memories of buying (quite cheaply) and then reading the entire mid-70s Inhumans series one summer (1980 or 81 I think). It's too bad no one was ever able to do a successful ongoing Inhumans series, though.
The Eternals was a fantastic idea on Kirby's part, even if somewhat derivative of his own New Gods, and obviously inspired by Daniken's theories (which I think are risable, but they are great fodder for SF stories...) However, I never liked the original series very much. Kirby seemed to lose steam rather quickly, both in terms of storytelling and art, and later writers (Thomas, Gruenwald, Gaiman) actually did a better job with these characters.

J.A. Morris said...

I agree,they work better as supporting characters who pop up from time-to-time in FF,Avengers,Thor,etc. I always thought Medusa was pretty cool,but that's about it. I don't think any other characters of either race is very interesting.

In the case of the Inhumans, it seems like every story boils down to another "Maximus THE MAD is a MADMAN! And he's CRAZY! And he's trying to overthrow Black Bolt...again...and again and again. And he's CRAZY!!(insert panel of a wide-eyed cackling Maxius here)

I love the look of Kirby's original Eternals series, but I've never read the whole thing. Kirby's dialogue of the era gets old fast. And they seem like mashups of Kirby's Asgardian and Fourth World characters.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Let me echo Edo here: The Inhumans just fit better with other Marvel characters and sparked several interesting stories even if they could never sustain their own series.

My understanding with the Eternals is that Kirby intended to keep them in their own self-contained universe and it was only later that guys like Roy Thomas integrated them into the Marvel Universe proper. That may explain why the Eternals were never as successful as the Inhumans. They weren't intended to be foils to Marvel characters in the first place.

Edo Bosnar said...

Inkstained makes a good point which to me explains why the Eternals will always be second-tier for me: Kirby meant for the Eternals to lie outside of regular Marvel continuity, because basically they were supposed to be the basis for the gods of Greek and other mythologies. Once they were worked into Marvel continuity (and don't get me wrong, I actually liked that run in Thor where this was done), they lost much of their weight, since in that continuity, the Greek, Norse and other gods actually exist, necessitating lengthy and complicated explanations, retcons, etc.

david_b said...

Hey, quick point here...:

"Lockjaw and Ben Grimm.." Need I say more??

Seriously, transporting places with your huge dog..?? It would be the best ever.

Inhumans, hands down..LOL.

Karen said...

Hey guys,
that's a good point about Kirby's original intention that the Eternals be outside of regular continuity. Once they were a part of the Marvel Universe, it did require a lot of explaining -which, of course, Roy excelled at! That reminds me, the whole Thor Celestials saga -worth a discussion? Personally I loved it, until Roy veered off into his version of Wagner's Rings cycle. But I thought Gruenwald and Macchio wrapped it up nicely.


Greg said...

I always liked the concept and enjoyed both the Inhumans and the Eternals, although I prefer the Inhumans if I have to pick. I liked their short- lived 70's series, and picked up a few Eternals here and there and liked the arc in Thor. Really liked the wrap up in Thor #300!

It will be interesting to see what Marvel does with this new "Inhumanity" event they have going. Personally I hate the idea- to me the Inhumans work best as a secret race, hiding out- the thought of having so- called Inhumans everywhere is as ridiculous to me as when we had zillions of mutants. Oh well they don't care what I think... :)

Karen said...

Greg, it's always neat when someone revisits one of these older posts! I think this whole "Inhumanity" thing Marvel is doing right now is directly related to the fact that they can't use mutants in the Marvel Studios films, so they are introducing more inhumans in comics, basically making them the way mutants were years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if we see "inhumans" showing up in the films at some point, basically serving the same role as mutants.

Greg said...

Karen, you're probably right. I at times forget that it's probably all about the movies now, and the Disney acquisition. Makes perfect sense.

I'm enjoying seeing older posts on fave storylines or issues. You and Doug are doing great stuff, its fun catching up!

Karen said...

Thanks Greg! Glad you're here and joining in on the fun!

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