The following post contains minor spoilers for Eternals.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
Marvel fans waiting for Eternals to debut in theaters next month have become fixated on a recent featurette for the film that introduces audiences to the various characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest super team. The group’s powerhouse, for example, is Ikaris, played by Richard Madden. In a clip included in the featurette, a small boy says of Ikaris “That’s Superman! With a cape! And he was shooting laser beams out of his eyes!” To which Ikaris replies, “I don’t wear a cape.”
While that might seem like a tiny throwaway joke, it’s not to hardcore comic book fans because it is a direct and overt reference to DC Comics’ Superman in a Marvel movie. And based on Ikaris’ snarky reaction, it seems pretty clear that everyone in this scene knows who Superman is — which mean Superman has to exist, in some form, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The reference to the Man of Steel was Eternals director Chloe Zhao’s idea. (Although Marvel’s Kevin Feige had to sign off on it.) She told Variety that the winking reference to DC was a deliberate way to get the audience thinking about how different cultures throughout history have had their own mythical gods like Superman and Ikaris. As she explained:
We’re playing on a genre that draws so much from mythology, and Superman, for example, was created in the comics and also by these brilliant filmmakers along the way — they’re modern reinterpretations of a mythical characters that exist in different cultures. Ikaris is our interpretation of it. It doesn’t mean we can’t pay tribute to the really iconic version that we’ve all grown to love and has influenced us.
That doesn’t mean you’ll see Superman flying through the background of the next Avengers. (A movie version of the outstanding JLA/Avengers crossover series of the early 2000s is probably the true final frontier of comic book movies that will just never be crossed.) In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as in our own world, Superman is a fictional character, enjoyed by kids in comics, toys, cartoons, and movies. Which does beg the question: If Superman exists as a pop culture figure in the MCU, were any of the heroes of Marvel inspired to fight crime (or wear a gaudy Spandex costume) by the Man of Steel? It’s a fun question to think about.
Superman isn’t the only DC character who gets a shoutout in the film, either. In another scene, Gilgamesh calls Kingo’s valet “Alfred,” as in Batman’s faithful butler. Also you can’t see him, but the Invisible Kid from DC’s Legion of Super Heroes is in every single scene in Eternals. You can”t see him, but he’s there. Trust me.
Eternals opens in theaters on November 5.
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