Elizabeth Debicki makes her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in James Gunn’s spacefaring sequel Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. She portrays Ayesha – the gold-clad, genetically engineered leader of the easily-offended Sovereign race – with a stern air, allowing a strong performance to shine through despite the makeup she’s caked in.
Prior to this, Ayesha was a name that only hardcore Marvel Comics fans would recognize. Len Wein, David Kraft and Herb Trimpe created the character in 1977, and she went on to appear in a number of huge cosmic stories, but nowadays Ayesha is miles away from household name status.
It’s worth revisiting those old comics, though, because the original story of Ayesha is a brilliantly odd one. There’s much more to her than Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 suggests. Perhaps some of this comic book detail will make into the movies someday; but for now your best bet to learn more about Ayesha is to look back into her history.
To save you some effort, we’ve sought out some of the most interesting info nuggets from Ayesha’s forty years of existence, and compiled them into a reader-friendly list format. You’re welcome. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Ayesha…
15. She Used To Be A Man
A group of evil scientists called The Enclave had already tried once to create a super-powerful being that they could control. The longhaired lothario Adam Warlock was their first attempt, but his noncompliance with their plans sent The Enclave back to the drawing board.
Their second attempt – which was made using Warlock’s DNA – was released from its incubation pod early, emerging as a grey and muscular male. It was named Paragon, and it declared itself “a paragon of all mankind: the future and the destiny of all humanity!”
His first appearance came in the Incredible Hulk Annual #6, where he fought the eponymous big green rage monster and the sorcerer supreme himself, Doctor Strange. Paragon defeated them both and blew up The Enclave’s base, before getting back in its pod to finish growing.
14. She Goes By Many Names
Paragon, whose name was chosen by The Enclave, was the initial version of this character. Multiple changes would follow, cementing this character as Marvel’s cosmic equivalent of Snoop Dogg (in terms of constant name-changing and absolutely nothing else).
After fighting its creators and getting back in its birthing pod, the being emerged some time later, fully finished and now a golden woman. It renamed itself as Her. The reason for this is simple: she chose the name because she’s a female replicant of Adam Warlock, who is often referred to simply as Him.
Some time later, Her decided to change her name to Kismet (the Arabic word for fate). She chose this name after claiming she was fated to be drawn into combat again and again. Conflict was her kismet.
The Enclave later reappeared, and enslaved their female creation under a new name: Ayesha. The exact reasons why they chose this name remain unclear, but it’s certainly more normal than her other monikers.
13. Her Origins Have Changed For The MCU
Fans of Ayesha/Her/Paragon/Kismet’s comic book origins might’ve been a bit confused by the character’s role in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. She’s introduced as the leader of The Sovereign, a genetically engineered perfect race who are very easily offended. There’s no mention of The Enclave creating her as a female copy of Adam Warlock.
There are also zero signs in the movie that the filmic Ayesha has the same abilities as her comic book counterpart. Within the pages of the comics, she can control cosmic energies and use them to project force blasts. She also has the powers of flight, super strength and telepathy (to an extent).
Essentially, writer-director James Gunn seems to have lifted the idea of a golden woman named Ayesha who is linked to genetic tampering, and left out everything else from the comics. This might generate a bit of anger from hardcore fans, but the majority of cinema-goers won’t know any different.
12. Doctor Strange Tried To Manipulate Her Mind
While Benedict Cumberbatch was nowhere to be seen in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (and the timelines wouldn’t really line up anyway), Doctor Strange was involved in the comic book version of Ayesha’s origins. The Enclave, when first creating Paragon, manipulated Stephen Strange into helping with the project.
The evil scientists got Strange to perform surgery on the neural structure of Paragon, in the hope that his meddling would make their creation more compliant than their previous effort, Adam Warlock. When Strange’s work was done, The Enclave, as a test, instructed Paragon to kill Earth’s sorcerer supreme.
However, Paragon had already worked out was going on. It morphed into a glowing black form, overpowered the neural controls and destroyed The Enclave’s base. Doctor Strange escaped with help from The Hulk, and Paragon, as aforementioned, got back into its cocoon/pod thing.
11. She Was Born In A Skimpy Swimsuit, Because Comic Books
Dockworkers in New York City eventually fished out Paragon’s cocoon. Naturally, they were unsure what to make of it. And things got even weirder for them when it hatched, and a golden woman in red swimsuit emerged. This is a classic example of comic book artists giving a female character an absolutely ridiculous costume, for no reason other than titillation.
It’s also an example of a wonderfully lazy comic book writing trope: characters being born with their costumes on, so nobody needs to bother coming up with an explanation as to why they’d choose to dress like that. Why would a cosmically-charged super-being would opt to dress up in scantily clad swimwear? There’s no need to answer that question if she’s just born in it!
Thankfully, this attire didn’t make it into the big screen adaptation of the character. Elizabeth Debicki’s wears golden armour to match her skin colour, and the idea of Ayesha being a cosmic hero/swimwear model was thrown out with pretty much everything else.
10. She Uses Cosmic Cocoons To Heal Injuries
In the comics, Ayesha has a lot of abilities, but being impervious to injury isn’t one of them. She can be hurt and damaged, but she has a way to deal with it. She can generate a cocoon (like the pod she was birthed from) to heal her ailments and nurse her back to health.
The movie version of Ayesha does explain that her people are made using genetics and pods, marking one of the few comparisons between the comics version of events and the film one. It’s unclear if The Sovereign can use these cocoon-like pods to heal injuries as Ayesha can in the comics, but it’s made very obvious that they are genetically engineered and grown in pods.
Vol. 2 does not establish who started this society, or how. Could there be an MCU version of The Enclave that masterminded the creation of the snooty and shiny Sovereign race? Fans will have to wait and see.
9. She Wanted To Mate With Adam Warlock
When she emerged from her cocoon in New York, Ayesha (who was going by the name Her at the time) began trying to locate Adam Warlock (aka Him). She was under the impression that the two should mate. This is the reason she decided to take a female form in the first place.
She interrupted a date between Ben Grimm (aka The Thing from the Fantastic Four) and supporting character Alicia Masters, the latter of whom had met Adam Warlock before. Alicia agreed to help Her track down Him. But what they found was not good news.
Her’s plan to create some beautiful babies with Him very quickly hit a major roadblock: it turns out that Adam Warlock had died at the hands of Thanos before Ayesha was even born. Bad timing, eh?
8. She Reanimated Him As A Soulless Husk
Affairs of the heart are rarely easy, as Ayesha found out when she attempted to resurrect Adam Warlock following his death at the hands of Thanos. She succeeded in using her cosmic abilities to resuscitate his body, but Adam’s soul (which had been absorbed by the Soul Gem) couldn’t be brought back.
She’d tried to make the ultimate Big Romantic Gesture, and bring the man of her dreams back from the great beyond for some interstellar nookie, but she only succeeded in creating a soulless husk out of his corpse. We’ve all been there, sister.
A weeping Ayesha returned Adam to his grave. Then, some time later, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope: Adam was properly brought back to life with his soul intact. But when he finally met his perfect genetic mate, he rebuffed her advances. Sheesh, talk about playing hard to get. Ayesha really couldn’t catch a break with this guy.
7. She Held A Competition To Find A Mate
Reeling from Adam Warlock’s rebuff, Ayesha set about finding an alternative mate. She really did have a one track mind at this point, as you can probably tell. She came up with a curious way to find a partner: by holding a competition between some of the most powerful men on Earth.
She selected Quasar, Hercules, Wonder Man, Hyperion, Doc Samson, and Forgotten One for her test. She attached a reproductive pod to the neck of each of them, to see how they would react to the idea of having a baby with her. Fights broke out, and eventually the Avengers intervened and destroyed the pods.
Quasar – aka Wendell Vaughn, a superhero that can teleport and manipulate energy – didn’t destroy his pod. He was concerned about its contents. This landed him the affections of Ayesha.
6. The Winner, Quasar, Convinced Her There’s More To Life Than Making Babies
It was Quasar that taught Ayesha (who still going by the name Her at this point) that there’s more to life than finding the perfect mate. He pointed out that her desire to procreate existed solely because her creators had intended it. It wasn’t an independent thought.
Beginning to question her entire purpose in life, Ayesha removed the reproductive pod from Quasar and paused her quest to make babies. She decided to shadow Quasar for a while, observing his humanity and mucking in with a few superhero battles. It’s around this time that she realised the only constant in her life is fighting, and changed her name to Kismet.
This name change was particularly significant. By choosing no longer to define herself as Her, she was distancing herself from the belief that she only exists to partner up with Him, aka Adam Warlock. Of course, none of this has much to do with Ayesha’s role in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, but hey ho.
5. She Once Merged Energies With The Silver Surfer, And Got Close With Ben Grimm
Ayesha has also crossed paths with characters from the Fantastic Four stable in some interesting ways. As mentioned earlier, she met Ben Grimm early on in her existence. The Thing helped Her to track down Adam Warlock’s burial site, and offered her solace when the resurrection attempt didn’t work out. Ayesha was moved by this showing of compassion, and fled in fear of these unfamiliar emotions.
Later on, Ayesha propositioned the Silver Surfer to be her mate. (She did a lot of that.) He said rather bluntly that he didn’t have time for it with his busy galaxy-saving schedule to think about. The pair did end up getting kind of close, though, but not in a sexy way.
This happened after Ayesha accidentally destroyed an energy matrix called the Khataylis, which was a force for good in the galaxy. The Silver Surfer helped her undo the damage and create a new world, by combing his cosmic energies with hers, merging them together to create a hugely powerful surge of energy.
4. In One Continuity, She’s The Mother Of Mar-Vell
Although she never got her wish of mating with Adam Warlock in the main continuity, the parallel universe/dystopian future of the Earth X and Universe X comics from 1999 and 2001 (which were written by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross) allowed Ayesha’s dreams to finally come true.
This ‘what if?’ story imagines a dark future where all of mankind gains superpowers and everything goes to hell. To try and put things right, a new version of the Kree superhero Mar-Vell is made by combining the genes of Adam Warlock and Ayesha (she was going by the name Kismet at the time) with a little help from Ben Grimm’s girlfriend Alicia (who had gained the power to create life).
This timeline wasn’t exactly a cheery one for Kismet, though. She was kidnapped and held prisoner for three years by people that didn’t wish for Earth to return to its old ways. But at least she finally got to mate with Adam!
3. She’s The Mom Of An Original Guardian, Too
In another version of the future, Ayesha had a different son: Starhawk, aka Stakar Ogord, one of the original Guardians Of The Galaxy. The father of this child was Quasar (the chap that won the contest to be Ayesha’s mate, but ultimately told her there was more to life than finding the perfect baby-making partner).
Because things never go very well for Ayesha in any version of the timeline, Stakar was kidnapped as a baby and raised by total strangers. He developed superpowers of his own and, via some time travel jiggery-pokery, influenced the formation of two different Guardians Of The Galaxy teams.
Ayesha finally met Stakar properly when he was a fully grown adult. They teamed up to hunt down Era, the villain that kidnapped Stakar as an infant. Presumably, the MCU version of Starhawk played by Sylvester Stallone is no relation to Elizabeth Debicki version of Ayesha. Both of them are very far removed from their comic book counterparts, it would seem.
2. She’s Not Actually A Villain, Despite What Vol. 2 Suggests
It’s worth pointing out that Ayesha isn’t really a villain. Although she’s presented as one in certain segments of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, she’s mostly a force for good in the comics, when she isn’t too busy chatting people up and trying to find a baby daddy.
Alongside Quasar, she fought Binary (an evil Carol Danvers, aka Ms Marvel) and the alien baddies the Super-Skrulls, as well as helping to defend Earth from a Kree invasion. She also saved an alien world from being devoured by Galactus at one point.
Along with pretty much every other powered person going, she also fought against Thanos when The Mad Titan attempted to destroy all of existence. If they wanted to, the filmmakers behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe could use Thanos and Infinity War to make The Sovereign race and the Guardians become friends. It’ll take all hands on deck to win that fight.
1. She’s Held The Mantle Of Captain Marvel
And finally, a very fun fact to finish things off: in Alan Davis and Mark Farmer’s 2007 comics series, Fantastic Four: The End, fans got a glimpse of a version of Ayesha who’d taken over the mantle of one of the most iconic female superheroes of all time, Captain Marvel.
In this parallel world that depicted a potential endgame for Marvel’s first family, Ayesha was briefly seen in the Captain Marvel costume, fighting with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers against a cabal of iconic villains led by Doctor Doom.
Unfortunately, that’s all fans saw of this version of Captain Marvel. No explanations were offered regarding the fates of the previous heroes to hold the mantle, or how it ended up being Ayesha that pulled on the iconic red and blue threads and kept the brand alive.
The chances of Elizabeth Debicki taking over from Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in the film world are surely next to nil. But still, the idea is a very cool one. If Ayesha finds a way to come back for another film or two, at some point, it would pretty sweet to see her on the other side of the good/evil divide…