Marvel's Inhumans TV series is here, and it's set to tell the story of the royal family of the Terrigen-enhanced folks that we first saw in live-action on Agents of SHIELD. But even the characters on that show apparently haven't been privy to what's been happening up on the moon this whole time.
Inhumans features a variety of superpowered characters and their giant, teleporting dog, Lockjaw. And he is the only one we care about currently, because look at that face. Sadly, this series has a bunch of scenes sadly lacking in Lockjaw, and we're occasionally stuck with characters we don't want to take to the park or, possibly, ride like one of those huge wolves in anime classic Princess Mononoke. So we might as well read up on them, apparently.
Inhumans king Black Bolt has ruled the augmented society since their first appearance in the pages of Fantastic Four over 50 years ago. He stays silent most of the time due to his almost uncontrollable supervoice, which is so powerful that in the 2010 Old Man Logan story, he uses it to instantly cripple a Venom-infected Tyrannosaurus Rex with a single word: "Stop." Due to the nature of his powers, it didn't matter what he said, but that was still pretty badass.
And if that factoid has you more interested in this character than Inhumans does, here are 15 (other) things you didn't know about Black Bolt.
15 He gained his powers in the womb
Typically, Inhumans chosen to receive powers get them from the mists of Terrigen crystals. The rite comes after an extensive screening process, which includes genetic testing to avoid unstable or chaotic mutations. It’s kind of like the system for selecting hosts for the symbionts of Star Trek’s Trill; they take a lot of care to ensure that the change benefits the recipient, and weed out the crazies.
Black Bolt didn’t go through that sort of “audition,” however. His parents, leading genetic scientists, gave him his powers before he was even born. And in doing so, they created one of the most powerful Inhumans ever.
They also made one of the worst childhoods ever, because giving incredibly destructive screams to an infant is just not a good idea.
14 He had to live in a sound-proof room until he was 19
Until Black Bolt learned to control his powers, his parents separated him from society in a quarantine area. You can’t just have an infant with electron powers running around all willy-nilly; their first fit could kill everyone.
Black Bolt received his first suit during his two decades of training. The costume isn’t just fashionable … if “skin-tight suit with wings” is your idea of style, anyway. (Looking at you, Spider-Man.) But it’s also functional, working to keep some of his abilities under control, because of that whole everyone-will-otherwise-die problem.
Somehow, spending his formative years in isolation with the knowledge that everyone in his society feared his awesome, destructive powers didn’t turn Black Bolt into a supervillain. We can think of several comic book characters who went bad over less.
13 He is the master of electrons
It’s easy to see Black Bolt screaming into action and assume that his voice is his only major “thing,” but that’s really just a side effect of his foundational skill: harnessing electrons.
Remember that the character premiered in a Fantastic Four book in the ‘60s, which means that the writers were happy to come up with things that sound like science but make little actual sense. Plus they wanted a guy who could stand up to The Thing in a fight, so this is what they settled on.
All of Black Bolt’s fighting prowess comes from his body’s ability to harness electricity from the air and channel it through his body to enhance his strength, speed, and agility. We don’t know how that works, either, but it does, and he can run really fast because of it.
12 The tuning fork on his head isn't decorative
That's not just a fashion accessory on Black Bolt’s dome. But if it were, we’d just like to point out how adorable it is that he coordinated with his giant dog. As it is, that’s just a happy accident.
The fork actually helps Bolt draw those electrons from which he derives his superpowers out of the environment and into his body. That sounds like it might get a little bit like something out of a movie by body-horror-obsessed director David Cronenberg, but the device is attached to his mask and not, like … attached. And that’s good news for both our stomachs and Black Bolt’s head, because we’re not sure how he’d get the mask off if he had to work around that thing.
Anyway, the device is more of a lightning rod than a tuning fork, but we know what it looks like.
11 His powers are linked into the speech centers of his brain
Bolt’s backstory tells us that his brain contains an “organic mechanism” that lets him synthesize electrons for his power boosts and mind-manipulation powers (depending on the needs of the plot). And as a bonus, it’s in the speech center, which ostensibly is why he can speak so loudly that he can knock a symbiote off of a T-Rex.
But again, this just sounds like weird, comic book science, since we’d assume that the relevant apparatus would be located in his vocal cords. You know, where your voice comes from.
We’re not comic book scientists, however, so we’ll just let it go. If you start picking apart the mechanics of super screaming, your head will explode once you try to figure out the actual physics of the Fantastic Four.
10 He communicates via sign language and telepathy
Because Black Bolt can’t talk to his subjects without either murdering them or driving them totally insane (more on that second one later), he faces a bit of a hurdle when it comes to actually leading his people.
It’s not a huge issue, however, since the TV version communicates using sign language, and the comic book one has another option based on his plot-satisfyingly vague abilities.
Whatever the thing is in his brain, it allows Bolt to speak telepathically with members of his own bloodline. So typically, he just issues orders and requests via brain power to his wife, Queen Medusa, and she passes them along. Lacking both of those options, however, we assume he could always just write a note.
And if you didn’t notice something strange in that last paragraph, we have bad news for you because:
9 He is married to his own cousin
Queen Medusa, in addition to being the other monarch of the Inhumans, has her own amazing power in the form of prehensile hair. And that’s probably just a magnitude of ridiculous less than harnessing native electrons through a couple of tines attached to your head.
She also serves as Black Bolt’s “voice,” receiving his edicts via the telepathic connection the king has with all members of his family tree. That’s right: the reason this works is because they are blood relatives. But hey, we know how royal families work; this isn’t that weird. And they’re second cousins, so it could be way worse.
But when you’re watching Inhumans, and Anson Mount and Serinda Swan do romantic-type things, just try not to remember that one of their character’s grandmothers is the other’s aunt.
8 He has an almost unbeatable finishing move called the Master Blow
One of the Inhuman King’s trademark maneuvers — other than speaking — is the “Master Blow,” in which he concentrates all of the electrons he’s stored up into his fist so that he can unleash the mightiest of punches. He can do this exactly once per fight. Usually, however, once is enough, provided he lands it and the other person isn’t The Thing or Hulk.
In fact, Black Bolt brings this move out during his debut in Fantastic Four issue 46, which has him going up against Ben Grimm himself. Thing hears Bolt’s underling suggest the move and is in the middle of calling it “corny” when his opponent socks him in the chest with the awesome power of an arm bursting with electrons.
The Master Blow doesn’t manage to lay The Thing out, but neither he nor Bolt are in any condition to continue fighting.
7 He is resistant to mental attacks
Black Bolt’s main adversary is his crazy brother, Maximus (Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon plays him on the TV series). It’s kind of Bolt’s fault that this happened, but the guy was kind of rotten even before the king left his protective bubble room.
Maximus’ ability is mind control, which is exactly the sort of thing you’d want a sociopath to have. But it doesn’t work very well on Black Bolt. The reason, we suspect, is probably “electrons,” but we think it might also have something to do with that weird thing in his speech center that processes them.
Regardless, when Maximus tries to will his brother into submission in a particular issue, the king seems neither impressed nor particularly inclined to submit. It was probably the second worst day of Maximus' life.
6 His voice drove his own brother insane
The worst day, arguably, is the one that took the villain’s sanity in the first place.
Black Bolt was just a few days out of his childhood quarantine when he discovered that Maximus was working with the Kree (who created the Inhumans in the first place) to overthrow the kingdom. He caught the end of a meeting, after which the Kree agent tried to fly off. Bolt used his voice for the first time - intentionally, anyway - and caused the ship to crash into the main government building, killing almost the entire parliament and accomplishing by accident what his brother had been trying to do in the first place.
Unfortunately, Maximus didn’t get a chance to enjoy his incidental victory, because the sonic attack also rattled his brain like Yahtzee dice in a cup. The incident also made Black Bolt king, which was just an extra downer for him.
5 He's a member of the Illuminati
Marvel’s super-secret group, the Illuminati, is a council of the smartest and most powerful figures in the comic book universe. They meet occasionally to make important decisions without anyone else knowing, like how many ancient, Masonic symbols they can sneak onto currency without anyone noticing.
That’s not actually true (or is it?), but the original lineup was Namor, Black Bolt, Professor X, Iron Man, Reed Richards, and Doctor Strange. They formed at Tony Stark’s behest because he believed that if they’d met up sooner, they could have pooled their knowledge and stopped the massive Kree-Skrull War before it had started.
This was also the group that decided that Hulk was too dangerous to keep on Earth, so they ended up exiling him and setting up the Planet Hulk storyline. This led, of course, to the World War Hulk arc, in which the antihero returns and punches approximately everyone.
4 He can fly
We’re probably thinking the same thing you are right now: why bother flying if your best friend is a giant, teleporting bulldog? Well, if you can, why not?
It probably comes as no surprise that the secret to Black Bolt’s powers of levitation involves electrons. The answer is always electrons. But it’s actually more complicated than that, because comic books.
The actual mechanism for the Silent King’s flight is that the mysterious particles that the thing in his brain create can process electricity into “anti-gravitrons,” which might as well be called “float beams” since that’s what they do. But as we’ve already established, Black Bolt can only hold a certain number of electrons at once, since he exhausts them with the Master Blow, so his flight has limits.
He can “only” travel up to 500 miles per hour for 6 hours, which gives him a range of 3,000 miles without touching the ground. That’s about 10 times as far as you can get from a single charge in a Tesla, though, so we’ll take it.
3 His powers can set off (distant) volcanoes
One Inhumans storyline has Ronan the Accuser forcing Black Bolt to assassinate Empress Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire out of revenge for what her people did to the Kree. It doesn’t go as planned, because the target throws a force field around Black Bolt that renders his shouting powers useless.
Ronan insists, however, by remotely torturing Bolt until he’ll have no choice but to yell; this will kill way more people than just the target, but Ronan’s not super concerned about that because he hates everyone at this point.
Black Bolt manages to resist, but the power has to go somewhere. Instead of crying out, however, he cries down. He sends the energy into the planet, where it emerges on the other side and sets off volcanoes. It’s like screaming into a pillow, only instead of a pillow, it’s the planet, and then the Indian Ocean explodes.
2 He moved the Inhuman capital to the moon
If the Inhumans are an offshoot of ancient Homo sapiens that the Kree artificially engineered into the Terrigen-sensitive species they are now (and they are those things), you’re probably wondering why their capital is on the moon in the new TV series.
It used to be on Earth, of course, but Black Bolt moved it. With his voice, obviously.
The Inhumans’ kingdom, Atillan, was located in the Himalayas when the Fantastic Four first discovered it, but even that wasn’t its original home. The Inhumans had already moved it to keep it secret, and in Fantastic Four 240, they realize that it’s time to pack up again. It turns out that even that remote, mountain air has become too polluted for them to tolerate, so Reed Richards comes up with the perfect new home: the moon.
That’s a big move, but it works out thanks to everyone having just the right scientific know-how and abilities. It also helps that they find a pocket of atmosphere waiting for them on the lunar surface so that they don’t all immediately die.
1 'Black Bolt' is his real name (kind of)
You know, you meet a guy named Black Bolt, and you think it’s just a cool, superhero name. And it makes sense: He wears black, and he shoots bolts. But surely, you think, that isn’t his real name. What do people call him when he isn’t Black Bolting?
If you’re worried that it’s something boring like Clive or John, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that neither of those is on whatever serves as a birth certificate in Inhuman society. The bad news is that “Black Bolt” is a shortened version of his real name, which is … Blackagar Boltagon.
We don’t even know what to do with that. It’s like someone fell asleep on their keyboard twice. And we don’t feel better for knowing, but it is what it is. We could have gone our whole lives knowing that “Black Bolt” is an Inhuman form of “Jimmy,” and we would have been fine.
He’s a cool character, but we’re going to stick with the short version.
Do you know of any other interesting facts about the Inhuman king? Let us know in the comments.