Being an elder of a community is a time-honored tradition. It is a respected role throughout religions and cultures. A long life, full of experiences, has given these individuals an understanding of the world and its workings, and the responsibility of imparting that wisdom upon younger generations. But the Elders of the Universe are a seriously different story.
With the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s first trailer, speculation of the roles the Elders of the Universe will play is taking off. Not much is known about the Elders of the Universe within the MCU, but we have unknowingly been introduced to one. Taneleer Tivan, or The Collector (Benicio Del Toro), is actually one of the Elders. He was a featured character in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, and other post credit Marvel scenes.
There are many Elders of the Universe. They play multiple roles throughout Marvel Comics, both individually and as a group. This article will prepare you for anything and everything you need to know about these Elders, and the roles they may play in the current and upcoming phases of the MCU. Here are the 15 Things You Need To Know About The Elders Of The Universe.
15 The Elders Of The Universe’s Conception and Introduction
The concept of the Elders of the Universe did not come about until roughly twelve years after the appearance of its first member, The Collector. The Collector was introduced to the Marvel Universe in Avengers #28 in May of 1966. The character was created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema. The concept of the Elders of the Universe as a group was not introduced until Avengers #174, in August, 1978.
The Gardener, who is known for his affinity as a botanist, was the last Elder to be introduced before the concept of the Elders of the Universe was created. Prior to this, these individuals were simply considered cosmic beings. It was not until the Korvac Saga that the connection between each of these cosmic beings was made. In this saga, Korvac discovers Galactus’ space station, and uses its information to transform himself into a god-like being. A few members of the Elders team up in order to defeat Korvac, establishing an unknown connection between these powerful individuals, and the Elders of the Universe were "born." Since then, the Elders of the Universe have played major roles in the Marvel Universe, often plaguing our superheroes.
14 They Are The First Species of The Universe
In the beginning there was nothing. An empty void. Then the Big Bang occurred, and as a result of the cataclysmic event, the Universe came into existence. After eons of barren space, galaxies were eventually formed. In those galaxies, intelligent races began to appear. These were the first sentient organisms to be formed within the universe. As the millennia passed, these civilizations expanded throughout their respective galaxies. However, these forerunners of life were the first to face the inevitable fate of all living things, extinction. Time will always have her due.
Something peculiar took place, though. One individual from each of these first species to roam the universe was able to withstand the extinction of their race, and the destruction of their respective galaxies. These individuals discovered the gift of immortality. They traveled the universe for billions of years, and hence became known to the cosmos as the Elders of the Universe. Though the Elders of the Universe were not inherently cosmic entities, they have all achieved some form of cosmic power or knowledge.
13 They Found Immortality Through Relentless Pursuits
The Elders of the Universe have been able to evade death for eons, and are known for their personal obsessions. In a case of cosmic irony, it is believed that their all-encompassing, individual pursuits are what keep the Elders immortal. If an Elder were to give up on his or her obsession, that Elder would surrender his or her will to live. Such a choice would inevitably lead to death. An example of such a choice occurred with The Collector’s wife, Matani, who, after living for billions of years, became disinterested in her pastime and consequently perished.
The powers the Elders of the Universe were able to harness is that of the "Power Primordial." The Power Primordial are original energies of the universe, and these powers manifest themselves through the passions of each individual Elder. The manifestation of these powers is subject to the obsession or passion each Elder has taken. For instance, The Gardener wields his power over plants, while The Contemplator amassed immense psionic powers.
12 The Grandmaster
En Dwi Gast, more commonly known as The Grandmaster, is arguably one of the most well-known of the Elders of the Universe. The Grandmaster focused his existence on playing games for his own amusement. In order to attain the level of mastery he required to retain his immortality, The Grandmaster traveled the Universe studying different civilizations’ games, and played them endlessly until he mastered them. This Elder’s pursuits may seem harmless, but The Grandmaster is not interested in defeating you in a simple game of Settlers of Catan. No, his stakes are always much higher.
With the ability to travel through space, time, and dimensions, the Grandmaster journeyed to Earth, and staged a contest with the Scarlet Centurion. The Grandmaster used the Squadron Supreme as pawns in his game to do battle against the Scarlet Centurion’s pawns, Institute of Evil. Many superheroes died in this contest. The Grandmaster then traveled to the time period of Kang the Conqueror (a temporal version of the Scarlet Centurion), and challenged Kang to a game. The stakes of this game were severe-- should Kang lose, the Grandmaster would destroy Earth. Thankfully Kang’s forces triumphed.
Furthermore, the Grandmaster once held in his possession the Mind Infinity Gem, but lost it to Thanos in a contest of personal combat. The role of The Grandmaster will be played by Jeff Goldblum in the upcoming film, Thor: Ragnarok, and, needles to say, we are all very excited to see his portrayal of the greatest gamer in the Universe.
11 The Gardener
Ord Zyonz goes by the Gardener in most circles these days, and like all of the other Elders his origins are lost. The pursuit that maintains his immortality, though, is rather straightforward: he gardens. He’s got the most effective and efficient green thumb in all the Universe. This passion of his might be the most inspiring pursuit of any Elder. The sole purpose of his existence is to sow the seeds of beauty, tend to his plants, and enjoy peace-- though peace is not always the case.
The Gardener once battled the Stranger alongside Adam Warlock and Spider-Man. Using a Soul-Gem of his own, he subdued the Stranger and, once Adam had died, took his Soul-Gem for his own use. As it turned out, though, this Soul-Gem was the Infinity Gem of Time. This Infinity Gem allowed The Gardener to grow the most magnificent gardens in the Universe by capturing each plant’s blossom at its most perfect moment and freezing it in time. Thanos, being unable to see the forest through the trees, took the Infinity Gem from The Gardener, and "killed" The Gardener in the process.
10 The Champion of the Universe
There’s not much more depth to this character than his name suggests. The Champion, whose full name is Tryco Slatterus, focuses his pursuit on being the mightiest warrior in all the Universe. He boasts incredible strength, speed, endurance, and agility. To train, The Champion traveled the universe,taking millennia to master every style and form of fighting in existence. To test his abilities, The Champion will travel to a new world and challenge each race’s mightiest warriors to combat to prove his worth. He often wins, but for an Elder of UFC he loses more than he probably should.
The Champion of the Universe traveled to Earth in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7, and challenged Earth's mightiest heroes. In his battle against Thor, he deemed Thor disqualified for using his hammer, Mjolnir, even though he was permitted to use it. He refused to test his might against The Hulk, as The Champion did not wan to “soil his hands on a mindless beast.” He viewed Doc Samson as lacking the necessary skills to do battle, and disqualified him. Of all the matches with Earth’s superheroes, the Thing was able to put up something of a fight. Given all the disqualifications, it would seem that The Champion of the Universe is more of a Champion of Technicalities. Regardless, his ability to throw down on a cosmic scale is no doubt legendary.
9 The Contemplator
Tath Ki, aka The Contemplator, has focused his existence on meditation, and the development of his mind and spirit. This metaphysical pursuit has allowed him to achieve absolute harmony with the Universe, and a near-complete understanding of its mysteries. The Contemplator believes that it is the cosmos that dictates his every action, and that he acts as a servant to her will. It's clearly a one-sided relationship.
The Contemplator, also nicknamed “Mister Buda”, made his debut in 1976 in Jack Kirby’s Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles. In this issue, which was released in conjunction with the celebration of the US Bicentennial, the Contemplator takes Captain America on a voyage through U.S. history to discover exactly what made America so great. As it turned out, that "special something" was the average American’s determination to hunker down and get stuff done.
Tath Ki is one of the few good/neutral Elders of the Universe, and has intervened to aid humanity against the many dangers and foes of the Universe. He supported the superheroes of Earth during the Infinity War crisis, and against the Beyonder. It is not known if the Contemplator will make an appearance in the upcoming Marvel films, but he certainly seems like a worthy ally of Doctor Strange.
8 The Runner
The Runner, or Gilpetperdon, could very well have the best name in the Marvel Universe. Gilpetperdon has focused his existence on the pursuit of exploration and total freedom, so, naturally, he runs… very fast. His personal goal is to be the first living entity to see all the Universe. However, this goal as the side-effect of making him a completely useless ally.
In one occurrence, Gilpetperdon discovered that a star would supernova in just one decade, consequently destroying all nearby planets, and informed the young super-heroine, Moondragon. She then suggested that the Runner should use his unparalleled speed to travel to all the nearby, inhabited planets of the star to warn them. Unfortunately, Gilpetperdon explained to her that the responsibility of informing these civilizations of their impending doom would interfere with his freedom, which is intrinsically linked to his immortality. He could die if he were to carry out that task. So Gilpetperdon jetted from that predicament.
In what appears to be a common theme among the Elders of the Universe, The Runner once held in his possession the Space Infinity Gem. It allowed him to travel throughout the cosmos instantly, but he was unaware that this gem was the source of his speed. The Runner is undoubtedly incredibly fast, but not nearly as fast as the Infinity Gem made him travel. Once again, Thanos took the Infinity Gem from Gilpetperdon, and reduced his age to that of an infant using the Time Infinity Gem he took from The Gardener.
7 The Elders Are Not The 'Good Guys'
Over billions of years, the Elders have witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, the natural destruction of galaxies, and the myriad of wonders throughout the cosmos. This kind of existence, though, was no doubt numbing. On the majority occasions the Elders play the role as either villain or ambivalent bystander.
We’ve seen many examples of this throughout the ages. In one tale, the Grandmaster makes a wager with Death in order to resurrect the Collector, who had been murdered by the entity known as Korvac. In this contest with Death, a host of Earth’s superheroes are abducted and forced to battle each other to determine the victor. The Grandmaster deliberately loses this contest, and his “brother” the Collector is resurrected, but Death reveals that The Grandmaster must take his place in Death. The Grandmaster agreed, died, then revealed his true plan, which was to usurp Death and take control over her dominion.
The Grandmaster continued his contest, and forced the Avengers to participate in a competition with the Legion of the Unliving. All the Avengers, but Hawkeye and Captain America, were killed in this contest. But Hawkeye managed to trick Grandmaster, and in his distracted state Death overpowered Grandmaster, and banished him and all other Elders from her dominion forever. This was revealed to all be a part of the Grandmaster’s grand plan, seemingly written by M. Night Shyamalan, and he secured pure immortality for himself and his brother Elders.
6 Ego The Living Planet
Created by Stan Lee himself in 1966, Ego The Living Planet is a unique Elder of the Universe, as he is a sentient, conscious planet flying through the cosmos. His arrival to the Marvel Universe subsequently established "space age mythology." During a confrontation with Thor, Ego explained to him that he lived in the Dark Galaxy, and was the result of a scientist who merged with a planet when its sun went nova.
Once a planet, Ego found that the amount of energy needed for survival was indescribable, and he began to consume everything in his path, from space ships to other planets. This caught the attention of Thor, who battled him into submission. Ego, humiliated by his defeat, vowed to never leave the Dark Galaxy, and abandoned his galactic conquest.
Ego is a hyper-intelligent being, and, as is evident from his defeat by Thor, can be quite emotional if thwarted. He has complete control over himself to a molecular level and can manipulate his surface into a massive, humanoid face when needed in order to communicate with powerful beings. This living planet has massive tunnels which are akin to arteries, and a gigantic brain-like organ at the core of his planet. He has antibodies that will destroy any intruders, and can shape himself into inhospitable worlds to avoid detection. Ego also has psychic powers, and read Thor’s mind in their first encounter. Ego the Living Planet is certainly a monumental foe when he wants to be.
5 The Elders Held Gladiator-esque Competitions
The Grandmaster and the Collector discovered the remnants of Battleworld, and that it was rich in a substance known as Iso-8. Iso-8 is a material that was a byproduct of the creation of the universe, and an even more potent version of the energy familiar to the Elders of the Universe; the Power Primordial. The Collector and Grandmaster fought for possession of the Iso-8, and, more specifically, the Iso-Sphere, which contained the most powerful and concentrated form of Iso-8. The Battlerealm was chosen as the arena for the Elders’ competition.
The two Elders took superheroes from Battleworld and other realities, and forced them to fight to the death on their behalf. One of the competitors, Maestro, took control of the Power Primordial the Elders were fighting for, and reeked havoc on the games. Using the Power Primordial, Maestro summoned remnants of the Avengers and Thunderbolts to deal with the remaining Contest of Champions’ competitors. Maestro was subsequently ousted by Outlaw, who wished for the Contest of Champions to end for good, and banished the two Elders from Battlerealm. The Iso-Sphere was broken, and a contingent of competitors remained on Battleworld to guard the Iso-8 from falling into the wrong hands. This contingent became known as the Civil Warriors.
4 The Elders Battled Thanos
Thanos is the big bad wolf who stole the Elders’ most prized possessions, their Infinity Gems, and created the Infinity Gauntlet. Before this, though, Thanos had in his control the stolen Cosmic Cube, an item that controls both matter and energy at the will of its possessor.
In Avengers Assemble Vol. 2 #7, Thanos uses his Cosmic Cube to summon the astral versions of the most powerful entities in the cosmos, including some members of the Elder of the Universe. Once summoned, The Collector desired the Cube for himself, and wished to broker a trade with Thanos. Thanos, growing tired of this pedantic back and forth, used the Cosmic Cube and seemingly wiped the other entities from existence. The Cube, however, was not powerful enough to kill them, and instead transported the Elders to the Cancerverse.
The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy joined the fray, and the Elders made a deal with the heroes allowing the use of a powerful device from the Collector's collection. Using this device, and working as a team (teamwork makes the dream work!), this temporary super group is able to destroy the Cosmic Cube, leaving Thanos to become the prisoner of the Elders of the Universe.
3 Deadpool And The Contemplator Are Colleagues
The Contemplator focused his entire existence on understanding the universe and developing his psionic abilities. That is what made his relationship with the crazy Deadpool all the more interesting. In Prelude to Deadpool Corps #5 we learn how this relationship began and flourished.
In this event, an entity known as Awareness was traveling the multiverse absorbing the consciousness of everything in its path. This was obviously a major calamity for the one Elder of the Universe whose existence hinges on the exploration of consciousness. As such, the Contemplator rallied his “brothers” to try and defeat Awareness, but the Elders were unsuccessful. The Contemplator no doubt contemplated his situation, and devised a plan to combat Awareness by recruiting Deadpool and creating the Deadpool Corps.
Awareness had no affect on the Deadpool Corps, and could not absorb their consciousness, claiming that their thoughts were not their own. Headpool was able to discover the location of Awareness’ true form, and Lady Deadpool impaled their foe, despite his pleas for mercy. Such is life when you recruit a team of heroes fit for straightjackets.
2 There Is Only One Older Being In The Cosmos – Galactus
There is actually one non-cosmic entity than the Elders-- Galactus. And he has served as a thorn in the Elders’ side for eons.
Galactus was the sole survivor of a universe that existed prior to the creation of our current universe. He was once a humanoid named Galan, and a member of a civilization that was believed to have been the most advanced in that universe. Galan was charged with finding a way to save his home planet, Taa, from the impending collapse and destruction of his universe. He found no refuge for his people, but he was spared by the Sentience of the Universe. The known current Universe was born, and from it sprung Galactus.
Since then, Galactus has spent billions of years traversing the Universe consuming everything in his path in order to sustain his life force. He is not evil or malicious, though. He is considered a neutral demi-god that is a natural evolution of the Universe. Throughout the eons, he has battled the Elders of the Universe on multiple occasions, often ending in stalemate, but sometimes in his defeat.
1 The Elders Battled Galactus With Infinity Gems
As mentioned previously, the Elders are not heroes. Their battle against Galactus puts the icing on that cake. The Grandmaster devised a plan with eleven other Elders of the Universe to kill Galactus. Though this may seem honorable, the intention behind their plan was far from it.
Should the Elders of the Universe succeed in killing Galactus, they would cause Eternity and Death to become unbalanced, consequently ending the universe. Out of the ashes of this universe, another would be born, and the Elders would be born anew as cosmic entities, similar to Galactus. This plan is well and good, unless you’re among the trillions and trillions of individuals in the universe who happen to not be Elders.
The Elders, equipped with five of the six Infinity Gems, and harnessing the energy of 6 planets, begin their assault on Galactus. They successfully trap Galactus by taking his energy away, and, in a siege-like endeavor, begin to starve him to death. Galactus’ herald, Nova, comes in to free his master and creates a black hole in the process, sending Astronomer, Possessor, and Trader through the black hole. Galactus then devours the remaining Elders-- Collector, Grandmaster, Runner, Gardener, and Champion, but they are not killed as Death would not have them. They escaped this cosmic prison, but, as their attempt to kill Galactus had failed, the Elders of the Universe fled to the very edges of the universe to avoid his wrath.
That's the crash course; the starter kit giving you everything you need to know about the Elders in preparation for upcoming Marvel films. Did we miss anything, or care to add anything? Please let us know in the comments below!