If Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done one crucial thing for the bigger picture plans of the franchise as a whole, it would be pushing the concept of Infinity Stones to the forefront. We may not have known it at the time, but the MacGuffin of Phase 1 – the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube – was one of these Infinity artifacts as well. In Phase 2 films Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy, there was no hiding what the driving plot device was: these all-powerful items are dangerous and everyone wants them.  But what are they really?

The Infinity Gems (“Stones” in the movies), or Soul Gems as they were originally dubbed when introduced in Marvel Comics in the ’70s, are six over-powered and indestructible artifacts, the most powerful in the Marvel universe. Each of the six has a unique property but together, they can be used to alter, destroy or recreate the entire universe. Together, they grant someone the power of a god.

In the comics, these are the six gems, differentiated by their color and attribute, offering abilities ranging from time-travel and bending the physical laws of the universe, to teleporting across the galaxy and controlling the souls of the living or dead:

  • Mind (Blue)
  • Power (Red)
  • Reality (Yellow)
  • Soul (Green)
  • Space (Purple)
  • Time (Orange)

Infinity Gems Color Scheme Infinity Stones In Marvel Movies: What They Are & Where They Are

In the movies and cartoons, these “gems” are referred to as “stones” and while we don’t know why Marvel Studios is changing the name slightly, they are also inexplicably changing the colors as Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige told us last year. Then again, not even the comics can keep them straight. Note the color and label differences in these two comic pages:

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Infinity Gems Avengers Comics colors 570x572 Infinity Stones In Marvel Movies: What They Are & Where They Are

The Tesseract, seemingly the blue Infinity Stone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the Space stone – as evidenced by its use in The Avengers as a portal to transport Loki in the film’s intro, and later, to allow the Chitauri alien invasion force to enter the skies above New York. All of the stones are seemingly infinitely powerful judging by how the Red Skull and HYDRA used the Tesseract to power their advanced weapons in Captain America: The First Avenger – and how Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) was able to draw knowledge out of his interactions with it.

There’s potentially another example of the Infinity Stones housing knowledge in the post-credits button of Captain America: The Winter Soldier where we meet Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) – a villain of The Avengers: Age of Ultron – and see him at a secret HYDRA base using Loki’s staff from The Avengers for some nefarious purposes, perhaps to learn about or create super powers in ordinary people and begin the “age of miracles” as von Strucker labels it. That staff might be housing the Mind Gem since Loki was able to use it to put Hawkeye, Selvig and others under his control. We know it’s tied to the power of the Tesseract from what Selvig says in The Avengers but it clearly has mind-altering abilities so it’s tied to that gem as well – somehow.

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Jane Foster and the Aether

Then came Thor: The Dark World and its all-powerful MacGuffin, The Aether. This red stone (not actually in the form of a stone) was thought by some to be the Power Stone – based on the destruction it created when used by Malekith – but it’s possible it’s actually the film franchise’s version of the Reality Stone given its ability to convert matter/dark matter. In the comics, the red stone is Power, but in the movie it’s seemingly Reality.

So that’s potentially three out of six gems if we’re counting Loki’s staff as one (Update: It is), and we just saw a another (the fourth) in Guardians of the Galaxy, where a purple Infinity Stone is something everyone’s chasing after hidden within the orb Peter Quill steals in the movie’s opening. Some characters want it for money, some want it to destroy a planet (Ronan), some want it for themselves (Thanos). In an interesting scene ripe with exposition, when audiences meet The Collector (Benicio Del Toro), we learn a little about the origins of the Infinity Stones and how they existed and were created at the outset of the universe (see: Big Bang Theory). This particular stone is purple, which represents Space in the comics – but in the film, as confirmed by GOTG writer and director James Gunn via Twitter, it’s the Power Stone.

Let’s recap.

Cosmic Cube Tesseract The Avengers Infinity Stones In Marvel Movies: What They Are & Where They Are

SPACE Infinity Stone (Tesseract)

Loki Staff Mind Stone The Avengers Infinity Stones In Marvel Movies: What They Are & Where They Are

MIND Infinity Stone (Loki’s Chitauri Scepter)

Red Aether in Thor The Dark World Infinity Stones In Marvel Movies: What They Are & Where They Are

REALITY Infinity Stone (Aether)

Guardians of the Galaxy Peter Quill Flying Orb Infinity Stones In Marvel Movies: What They Are & Where They Are

POWER Infinity Stone (Orb)

All we need now are the Soul and Time Infinity Stones (which will likely be yellow, orange or green) and once we have all six, Thanos will attempt to collect them all, and put them together in the Infinity Gauntlet, an item first introduced in Odin’s Vault in the original Thor and showcased at the Marvel booth at Comic-Con 2010.

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Infinity Gauntlet featured in ‘Thor’

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Thanos sporting the Infinity Gauntlet

When Thanos has the gauntlet and all six gems equipped, he eradicates half of the living things in the universe before the remaining heroes join forces. In the end of that famous crossover event in Marvel Comics, it’s actually Thanos’ adopted daughter Nebula (played by Karen Gillan in Guardians of the Galaxy) who takes the Infinity Gauntlet to repair all the damage done by Thanos.

With Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie on the way sometime in Phase 3 (we’re guessing July 2016) it’s possible that story can introduce the Soul Gem and the remaining Time Travel stone could be saved for a story involving time-travel, perhaps even James Gunn’s recently confirmed Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, since time travel plays a big part in the 2008-10 run of Guardians of the Galaxy comics by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – for which the films draw their inspiration from.

As for where the Infinity Stones (the ones we know about, anyway) are at this point in time by the end of Guardians:

  • Space Stone – In Odin’s Vault on Asgard
  • Mind Stone – Held by Baron von Strucker at a HYDRA base on Earth
  • Reality Stone – In The Collector’s Collection on Knowhere
  • Power Stone – In Nova Corps’ vault on Xandar

Expect these Stones to shift hands a few more times, and for Thanos to continue his quest to collect them all. It could be a long, long time away before we see the Infinity Gauntlet formed – but clearly the films are building towards that scenario. Share your thoughts on the Infinity Stones, Gauntlet, Thanos and how they’ve been introduced in the 10 Marvel Studios movie so far.

[Updated: Clarified reality gem theory and added some pages from Marvel Comics]

More: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Easter Eggs

Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6 2016, and unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on July 28 2017, November 3 2017, May 4 2018, July 6 2018, November 2 2018 and May 3 2019.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie and TV news!