The cosmic side of the Marvel Universe has been home to some of the most fascinating stories in comics, an equal dose of epic high fantasy and mind-boggling weirdness — from the Kree, to the Shi’ar, the shape changing Skrulls, and the world-infecting Phallanx. But nothing quite compares to the pantheon of Jack Kirby’s Eternals, which has finally been adapted into a film in 2021 by Academy Award-winning director Chloe Zhao.
The Eternals are the product of the Celestials, a race of ancient space beings that have seeded planets around the universe with their own incredible energies, creating a race of nearly immortal super-beings. Of these Eternals — at least following the comics continuity — the most notable is perhaps Thanos, the cosmic madman at the heart of the Infinity Saga. But lesser known is Thanos’ little brother Eros (also known as Starfox) a happier, more joyful Eternal than the purple world conquering despot.
Introduced by Thanos creator Jim Starlin in the pages of “Iron Man,” Eros has a long history in Marvel Comics, both as the more heroic sibling to Thanos and as a member of the Avengers. One of the lesser known Marvel heroes, he’s never had his own comic book series, and until recently tended to appear as a supporting character. With Eros making his MCU debut in “Eternals,” it’s time we take a closer look at the hero with the power to charm those around him. Who knows, after reading his story, you might just fall in love with him!
Eros, or “Starfox” as he was better known as a member of the Avengers, is Thanos’ long estranged brother. Growing up on the moon of Titan, Eros lived a rather decadent and carefree lifestyle. It wasn’t until his world-conquering sibling — Thanos, “The Mad Titan” himself — attacked their home-world and killed their mother that Eros/Starfox began to take stock of his life and become a hero.
From there, the two became bitter adversaries, and their relationship is a long and convoluted one, spanning nearly fifty years of comic book continuity involving time travel, alternate future versions of themselves, death, resurrection, and rebellion. Eros helped the Avengers stop Thanos in their first major battle with the purple power-mad menace (in the pages of “Captain Marvel” #31), finding among them a team of lifelong Earth friends, particularly the Kree warrior Mar-Vell.
Since that first encounter with the Avengers, Eros has been in conflict with his brother seemingly non-stop, never forgiving him for the death of their mother. He tried to use his charming powers to dissuade Thanos from exacting his nihilistic plans with the Infinity Gauntlet, and later used technology from Kang The Conquerer to stop a divergent parallel future version of his brother from destroying all of reality. It’s been a long and winding road for these two eternal brothers from Titan but, over thousands of years, the cosmic sibling rivalry has largely been a stalemate.
The early 1980s were a time of great upheaval for comics in general, with the kids who grew up reading superhero comics in the 60’s largely aging out of stories aimed at children. Some comics decided to make their stories more mature, and others used the opportunity to take their stories in new directions. Marvel did a little bit of both, and in the pages of “The Avengers,” the early 80s saw some major roster shakeups — including the addition of Monica Rambeau, then the second Captain Marvel, and She-Hulk to the super team.
One of those biggest shakeups however came in Avengers #231, when Iron Man calls up the team and tells them he’s quitting the group. It’s a turn of events that stuns everyone, especially as at this point, the team is an official arm of the U.S. government. Seeking replacements, the team encounters Eros and he gains a “provisional” membership as an Avengers trainee.
The Wasp however, has concerns over the provocative connotations that come with the name “Eros,” even mentioning that President Reagan himself has requested a codename for him. Noting his origin among the stars, and how “foxy” Eros is (it took Marvel writers for too long to drop the idea that Janet was boy-crazy), she offers up the moniker of “Starfox” which he accepts after a little coaxing from Captain America.
Ultron, the artificially intelligent robot hive mind and the creation of Hank Pym, has tried to conquer Earth more times than we can count. He’s come close on many occasions, but in the “Rage of Ultron” storyline from 2015, he finally succeeded at taking over a planet … just not Earth. Instead, the sinister evil robot Ultron set his sights on Eros’ home-world, Saturn’s moon Titan, as his target for planetary takeover.
After a confrontation with the Avengers, Ultron flees Earth, and heads for the moon of Titan where the Eternals reside. Intent on remaking the world in his own image, Ultron makes surprisingly quick work of the place. Overrun, the moon-world and the powerful Eternals fall to the robot’s supreme power, and “Planet Ultron” is born. Eros however, manages to escape and heads to Earth in search of aid in the form of his old friends, the Avengers. With their help, Eros is able to return to Titan — with Ultron’s creator Pym in tow — and take back the planet from the metal menace. Though the story is focused on Hank Pym and the evil android army of Ultron copies he inadvertently helped created, Eros sits at the center of it, on a mission to liberate his home-world and save his fellow Eternals from a global takeover — one that could have meant their extinction.
Like all Eternals, Eros’ physiology has been enhanced by the cosmic Celestials, and with those enhancements comes a wide variety of superhuman powers. This includes flight, super-strength, super speed, healing, and durability. Each Eternal also typically has one unique special ability that sets them apart from their brethren. Eros is no different, with an ability that helps give him his name. Blessed with the power to charm others, Eros can make the people around him susceptible to persuasion and suggestion.
His most bizarre powers, however, are his extra-ordinary psionic abilities to stimulate the pleasure centers in the brains of those around him. Eros has often used this power to cast a “spell” of sorts over people, creating a euphoric sense of delirium and pleasure, akin to an intense love potion. He can create powerful infatuations in others, whether it be with himself or other people, places and objects. It’s been said that these psionic powers are possessed by all Eternals in some form, and that Eros has trained to develop them in a special way that has given them their unique effect.
It’s also worth noting that he potentially and controversially may have used his psionic persuasion powers to sway romantic interests during his romantic encounters. This remains one of the reasons he is sometimes viewed as one of the most unusual, even downright uncomfortable, Marvel heroes.
With the powers Eros possesses to sway the minds of others, making them susceptible to his suggestion, he’s always made some fans a little uneasy. Something about his womanizing, combined with his ability to make others fall in love with him, has understandably never sat right among those readers. In later appearances, he denied that he used his powers on his romantic partners, claiming that his natural charms and good looks were enough.
But looking at his earlier stories, writers never shied away from the obvious connection between his powers of persuasion, his hedonistic sexual appetite, and his long list of romantic partners. Rather than hide from this controversial aspect of the character, Marvel took the bold step of confronting it head on, and in the pages of Dan Slott’s “She-Hulk” run from 2005, Eros was formally accused of using his powers to manipulate a woman into spending the night with him against her will.
Though he is eventually being shipped back to Titan to stand trial by his own people, it’s heavily implied that he may be guilty. His own defense attorney, Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk, gives him a beating after he plays coy at her questioning regarding his night with the accuser. It’s a story that caused quite a stir, but admirable for tackling a serious topic with a character that possesses problematic powers.
It’s hard to imagine that a superhero with the powers of flight, super speed, and titanic levels of super strength would be considered lame, much less within the roster of the Avengers. But over and over, Eros/Starfox has been named one of the lamest, strangest, or among the downright worst Avengers. He was even on the Mary Sue’s list of “Weird Marvel Characters Who Won’t Be In Movies.” If you’re wondering why, look no further than what you’ve read her so far: from his bizarre “charming” powers and his propensity to come across as a creepy sexual predator because of them. He’s an often forgotten member of the Avengers, who was active during an awkward transitionary stage for the team, so perhaps he never really connected with readers.
Making Eros a popular hero in the MCU may wind up being a challenging exercise for Marvel, with his explicit storylines, bizarre powers, and complex cosmic history. But given their track record, it’s hard to bet against them, and we’d be willing to wager they can pull it off.
Eros and his brother have always been rivals, with bitter feelings stretching back centuries. Thanos has not been shy about his hatred of Eros, willing to fight and torture his brother on more than one occasion. This includes the “Infinity Gauntlet” saga, where he removed Eros’ mouth, bound him to a throne, and forced him to watch helplessly as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were murdered in front of him.
But despite the animosity that has existed between them, there is family tradition put in place by Mentor, their father. Once every thousand years (or one Eternal year), Mentor insisted that the two siblings set aside their mutual disdain and meet as family. We saw one of these meetings in the pages of “Quasar” #59, with Thanos calling their annual get-together “The Truce.” At a neutral location the pair meet and exchange personal gifts, burying the hatched for this once in a millennium tradition, as a reminder that the same familial blood flows through their veins. Thankfully for Quasar, the charity he affords Eros on these occasions is extended to those who arrive with his brother’s blessing.
During their meeting in the issue, they are attacked, and Quasar tests Thanos’ promise not to harm him during The Truce when he defends the interlopers from Thanos’ wrath. It’s a promise that the mad Titan regretfully keeps, letting the invaders go without harm, proving to Eros that Thanos is indeed a man of his word.
The Avengers, the Eternals, the Kree — Eros has fought alongside some of the Marvel Universe’s heaviest hitters. As a member of the near-immortal race of cosmic powerhouses, he has connections in every corner of the galaxy — from the omniscient Living Tribunal to the time traveling Kang the Conqueror — so a team-up with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man might seem like an unlikely alliance. But that’s exactly the top billing readers got in April of 1984 in “Marvel Team-Up” #143: Spider-Man and Starfox.
The issue is every bit the anomaly you might expect, with the oddly paired heroes squaring off against the villainous Will Killer, in his one and only appearance in a Marvel comic book. It but opens with Spider-Man and Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) teaming up to stop a pair of scientists from transporting Earth’s population to another dimension. In the ensuing hijinks, Rambeau becomes trapped as pure energy, unable to take her solid human form, and then Eros arrives (yes, it’s pretty much that random).
To save Rambeau, Eros and Spidey travel to the other dimension and convince the residents there to shut down a generator that’s preventing Rambeau from reforming. To do this, they must defeat a pair of incredibly forgettable villains we’ve never seen since. It’s one of many one-off stories with unlikely hero pairings, but in truth that’s what made “Marvel Team-Up” so much fun.
Rick Jones has been many things: sidekick to the Hulk, the second Bucky, a Hulk-like monster known as A-Bomb, and even the inter-dimensional partner to the original Captain Marvel. But he was also a dimension-hopping, time traveling tyrant called Thanatos.
In “Captain Marvel” #27, Eros and Captain Marvel (son of original Captain Marvel Genis-Vell this time, not Monica Rambeau or Mar-Vell), encounter a villain called Thanatos, who has come back in time from a parallel reality. In that universe, Rick Jones, the Hulk’s ever-loyal human sidekick, decided to stay behind with the Kree and the Supreme Intelligence after the original Kree-Skrull War, and eventually came to harness The Destiny Force, a mysterious but near-limitless form of powerful energy. Possessing such awesome power twisted him into the villainous Thanatos, and with it he killed the Supreme Intelligence and went searching for more power.
Enter Eros and Genis-Vell, who encountered Thanatos on his mad jaunt through time from another universe. Wielding the Spear Of Destiny, the mythical sword that pierced the side of Jesus Christ (cosmic comics are trippy things), Thanatos gravely wounded Eros in his search for this universe’s Rick Jones. Vell was then forced to comply to save the dying Eros, but Vell and our universe’s Jones managed to topple Thanatos and restore our man Eros.
If you think that was confusing, check out Eros’ adventures in “Infinity Conflict.” You won’t be disappointed.
One description often given to Eros is “womanizer.” But that’s not quite accurate. It’s true that Eros was often seen cavorting with many beautiful ladies, with the not so subtle message that he was engaging in hedonistic pleasures with them in between panels, during most of his decades in comics. Perhaps, it was thanks solely to his good looks and charm as he claimed, or perhaps it was partly his superhuman ability to psionically stimulate a person’s pleasure center that had women of all types throwing themselves at him.
Over the years, though, Eros has begun to be seen with more than women. Some comics (including “Thanos” #1 in 2016) have depicted him in romantic situations alongside beautiful men too, and even a few non-gendered alien humanoids. It became clear that as more narrow minded social norms began to relax in the real world, so too did Marvel’s allowance for showing the full spectrum of the Eternal Eros’ lust. More recently, he has been implicitly described as pansexual or omnisexual by comic book critics, attracted to any and all genders, human and non-human alike. Because at his core, Eros is not a heterosexual being, but one who simply enjoys partaking in all the joys and pleasures the galaxy has to offer.
In the aftermath of the messy conclusion to Marvel’s “Infinity Wars” series that left Thanos dead, Eros attended his brother’s funeral and read his last will and testament in a story in the “Guardians Of The Galaxy” series. In the document, Thanos decreed that he would return, using the body of another to act as a vessel for his soul.
Determined to not let his would-be-conqueror brother be brought back to life, Eros gathered together a group of anti-heroes on a new mission: find the vessel that Thanos had planned to use, and destroy it. The team was a more sinister version of “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” comprised of Cosmic Ghost Rider, Gladiator of the Imperial Guard, Thanos’ granddaughter Nebula, and The Wraith. Unlike the more noble Guardians of the Galaxy, the Dark Guardians had a more malevolent mission: find and kill Gamora, who they believe is the target for Thanos’ terrifying dreams of resurrection, and the vessel he needs to enact his plan.
The storyline was yet another sprawling space epic with a parade of Marvel heavy hitters guest starring, with the likes of The Black Order, Lockjaw of The Inhumans, Hela (demi-god of the Asgardian underworld), the Kree and Sh’iar Empires all making notable appearances. “The Dark Guardians” were only assembled for one mission, but who knows — when Thanos next strikes, Eros could call them into action once again.