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Eternals has proven to be a big deal ever since it was announced back in 2018. Not only is it creatively one of the biggest swings the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken, since Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao is at the helm, but it's also introducing a whole host of new characters.
Among the already impressive roster of actors bringing the Eternals to life are two faces that should be familiar to millions of Game of Thrones fans, if not also to each other: Richard Madden and Kit Harington. The former GoT actors played once-heir to Winterfell and eventual Red Wedding victim Robb Stark, and his "know-nothing" bastard brother Jon Snow on the hit HBO series. And while they didn't get to share as many scenes together back then, it looks like the MCU will change that going forward, as their new characters, Ikaris and Dane Whitman, seem a lot more connected.
WHO IS IKARIS?
Ikaris (Madden) was created by legendary comic artist and writer Jack Kirby, making his debut in the first-ever issue of The Eternals in 1976. Within the comics, the Eternals are a race of incredibly super-powered (and immortal) aliens who created by the Celestials, god-like beings MCU fans first saw in Guardians of the Galaxy. Ikaris and the rest of the Eternals were sent to Earth to prevent the monstrous Deviants (also created by the Celestials) from meddling in the progress and development of humankind.
In the 7,000 years since Ikaris first arrived on Earth, various myths and legends have sprung up around him — including the Greek one about his (sort of) namesake. In the comics, the man now known as Ikaris fell in love and had a son, named Icarus, who he used to take with him when he flew around Greece. Because his son enjoyed flying so much, the man built his son a pair of mechanical wings. However, one day, when the man was fighting Deviants, his son went in search of him using his wings. But because Icarus didn't know how to use the wings, he eventually plummeted to his death and perished. The man named himself "Ikaris" in his honor.
As time goes on, Ikaris chooses to live in hiding, going by the alter ego "Ike Harris." He eventually finds works as a guide to archaeologist Dr. Daniel Damian and his daughter Margo, accompanying them on an expedition to what is secretly an old Eternal city in the Andes. However, when a Deviant attacks them in an attempt to destroy a beacon that will summon the Celestials and allow them to return to Earth, Ikaris is forced to reveal who he really is as he fights it off. He then awakens fellow Eternal, Ajak (Salma Hayek in the movie), for help, having had put themselves into hibernation after the Celestials last visit to the planet.
Ikaris' superpowers include flight and shooting cosmic beams from his eyes (and hands), as well as superhuman strength, durability, stamina, molecular regeneration, telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation. All of these are a result of the cosmic energy that flows through him, much like the other Eternals. However, it is important to note that only the first few abilities have been seen in trailers so far, so not all of them may have made it out of the pages of the comics. Still, it's why many fans refer to him as the MCU's version of Superman. He's clearly powerful enough to take on a whole Deviant by himself.
While it's not clear yet what the MCU's version Ikaris might have gotten up to in his time on Earth, we do know he's had a centuries-spanning romance with Sersi, a fellow Eternal, but that in the years since, they've split up.
WHO IS DANE WHITMAN?
Whitman (Harington) was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema, and made his first appearance in issue #47 of The Avengers in 1967. To say more about his comics history might potentially spoil the movie, but in the movie, Dane is one of the rare human characters audiences are introduced to, with this iteration now working as an employee of the Natural History Museum in present-day London.
"My character, while not being an Eternal, fits into the movie as the human element of the story," says Harington. "Dane, who is close friends with Sersi, represents all those things that she loves about the planet. He's meant to kind of stand for Earth and stand for humanity. So, within that, we get his quite dry sense of humor, his affection, the way he speaks and the way he moves and talks."
And much like in the comics, Dane appears to be close with Sersi (and have feelings for her) when the movie begins, though he is unaware that she's not fully human. But when he does find out she's one of the Eternals, he handles it quite calmly. "He lives in the Marvel Cinematic Universe," explains Harington. "He's experienced everything that's happened that we've seen over the course of the however last many years. He's aware of superheroes, the Avengers, he knows that whole world. So when he has suspicions about Sersi, they are grounded in some sort of reality."
He continues, "That was something I asked Chloe. I was like 'Wait a minute, how is he not more suspicious of this?' It's because he lives in a different world from us."
THE BLACK KNIGHT?
It's hard to talk about Dane without talking about who he is in the comics: The superhero known as the Black Knight. Actually, he's the third character to take on the role of the Black Knight and wield the legendary Ebony Blade.
The first person to bear that title (and carry that weapon) was Whitman's ancestor, Sir Percy of Scandia, who was alive when King Arthur was around. After Sir Percy's murder, the title was passed down through each generation until it reached Whitman's uncle, Nathan Garrett, who used his moniker as the Black Knight to become a supervillain. But when a battle with Iron Man leaves him fatally wounded, Nathan summons Dane and passes the title on to him, asking him to restore their family's honor and secure a more heroic legacy going forward.
However, Dane soon finds himself going up against the Avengers themselves, because they still mistakenly view the Black Knight as a villain, not having learned of Dane replacing his uncle. To prove himself to them, Dane infiltrates the Masters of Evil and successfully becomes a provisional member of the Avengers. He eventually encounters the spirit of Sir Percy in his ancestral home, thus gaining access to the Ebony Blade, which he uses to serve the Avengers further.
And while Dane doesn't really have any superpowers beyond being a good swordsman, he does eventually gain some kind of enhanced physical abilities when Ikaris has him mentally bond with Sersi, another Eternal (Gemma Chan in the film) that Dane has feelings for, after it's discovered she's affected by an incurable disease that only affects Eternals (Mahd W'yry) and causes them to become unstable. When their bond is eventually broken, Dane loses his new improved abilities.
So far, there's been no sign of the Ebony Blade in any of the trailers, so there's a good likelihood that Dane either receives the sword during the movie or even in one of the MCU's now standard post-credit scenes. However, that doesn't make his presence in the movie any less of a big deal — possible mental bonding with this version of Sersi aside.
The Black Knight isn't just an incredible swordsman, but he was once also a pretty prominent member of the Avengers in the '80s and '90s, even helping them go up against Kang the Conqueror. This is significant as not only does Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) play a "variant" of that character (otherwise dubbed "He Who Remains") in Loki, but he is set to return as Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. So this could signal follow up appearances in future MCU projects, including the second season of Loki and any possible Eternals sequel — or maybe even a solo TV show or movie.
That is, assuming the MCU version of Dane Whitman is the Black Knight. We'll find out soon.
The Eternals fly their way into theaters all over the country on Nov. 5, 2021.