But there are two superheroes in Eternals who go beyond the pale of “unexpected” to full mind melt.
They don’t appear in the film, but they are mentioned by name, and it’s an absolutely outrageous bit of world-breaking. Writer-director Chloé Zhao went the extra mile, as if giving Richard Madden’s Ikaris eye lasers wasn’t enough.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Eternals.]
Batman and Superman???
Characters in Eternals namedrop not the biggest, but the two biggest DC Comics superheroes, Batman and Superman. This would imply that the Eternals are familiar with the fictional characters of Batman and Superman.
First, when meeting Karun, the human character is described as Kingo’s valet. “Like Alfred?” another character quips, meaning Alfred Pennyworth, loyal butler to Bruce Wayne. It’s not a cheeky joke for the audience, it’s simply a conversation.
As if that wasn’t enough, when Sersi and Ikaris arrive at Phastos’ house, they namedrop Superman in the same tone, comparing Ikaris’ powers of flight and laser vision to the Man of Steel.
If Eternals is serious about this, we are to assume that in a world where Captain America has been a bonafide superhero for decades, and folks like Iron Man, Thor, and Spider-Man have been zipping around since roughly 2008 ...
That world is also a world where DC Comics characters Batman and Superman — No, Alfred Pennyworth and Superman — hold cultural cachet?
It’s not impossible, I’m just mad about it
Marvel Comics has a long tradition of making references to the existence of superhero comics in a world full of superheroes. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby started occasionally writing themselves into the pages of Fantastic Four in 1963. Ever since then, it’s been a a little known fact of Marvel Comics canon that a version of the publisher Marvel Comics exists in the Marvel Comics Universe, where it prints legally licensed accounts of superhero adventures.
Marvel Comics has never been above making cheeky references to the distinguished competition (nor, to be fair, has DC). But the idea that Batman or Superman comics were on the newsstands of the Marvel Comics Universe alongside issues of Fantastic Four was never on the table.
Blockbuster movies don’t seem to be worried about this, and Eternals is not the first modern Marvel movie to make reference to DC Comics. That crown goes to 2018’s Venom, for a scene in which Anne Weying finds out that a certain frequency of sound can harm Eddie Brock’s alien parasite.
“What, so, sound is like his kryptonite?” she says, a word and concept originating in the Superman radio serial and appearing in comics for the first time 1949 — despite the fact that she could just as easily have said “Sound is like his Achilles heel?”
Eternals, you have to be careful about this kind of thing!
With the namedropping of Superman, I can buy the excuse that the makers of Eternals wanted to hang a lampshade on the fact that Ikaris’ power set is going to remind at least some viewers of Superman. By mentioning the Man of Steel, they’re holding a placating hand out to the audience, as if to say “Yeah, yeah, we know. But these are just his powers.”
But that certainly doesn’t explain the Batman reference. And it still opens up a giant can of worms. This is how we get orcs with restaurants. This is how we get fan theories about how Cars and Wall-E are in the same timeline.
This is how I miss a whole scene of Eternals while mouthing “what the fuck” over and over again behind my mask. This is how I get lost in the implications of Superman and Batman film franchises existing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and mentally spiral out. Did DC Comics incorporate the Snap into canon? What effect has the proven existence of alien life had on the blockbuster superhero movie scene? Has anyone ever said that Carol Danvers is “like a real life Wonder Woman?”
I don’t need this stress in my life, man.