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Did you catch those two references to the DC Universe in Eternals? They're pretty hard to miss, especially since Batman and Superman are some of the last characters you expect to be mentioned within the context of a Marvel Studios film.
Bruce Wayne and Alfred are broached by Gilgamesh (Don Lee) when he first meets Kingo's trusted valet, Karun (Harish Patel). The Man of Steel, on the other hand, gets brought up by Phastos' young son, Jack (Esai Daniel Cross), who recognizes Ikaris (Richard Madden) from a recent battle against a Deviant that made its way to television. Recently catching up with SYFY WIRE over Zoom, two of the movie's writers — Kaz and Ryan Firpo — revealed that the nods to the competing superhero mythos were added by director Chloé Zhao during her rewrites of the screenplay with fellow scribe, Patrick Burleigh.
"I really appreciate it because I think they really wanted to ground the story in our world. And so, whether or not they’re referencing the comics or movies of Superman — or literally Superman himself — I guess that’s to be determined," Ryan said. "But I appreciated that little touch of creating this world where there might be DC movies that the characters [are] watching, but obviously not Marvel movies, too, because they’re living in the world. So, it’s kind of a fun little meta layer that I really appreciated."
Since the titular race of immortal beings did have a huge impact on human history (be it through generational folklore or scientific progress), one could argue that their legendary exploits of fighting the Deviants throughout the millennia helped inspire DC Comics in the Marvel Universe. Perhaps the Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster of this reality drew upon the folkloric tales of Ikaris while creating a character who could fly and shoot laser beams from his eyes.
"Any movie that you’re doing, thousands of people touch the story. And I think if you’re really paying attention, there’s a Star Wars reference pretty clearly in the movie. A lot of this is just winking at [members of] the audience who are paying attention, but also asking those questions," Kaz explained. "These are characters that are like us — they are out there and they love the things that we love. I think it’s both a way of creating relatability, but also creating those fun questions of, ‘Did Gilgamesh hang out with Bruce Wayne? Is that a thing? Can we expect the Gilgamesh/Bruce Wayne crossover?’ It’s all about asking fun questions. So yeah, we loved to have these situations where you could ask those thngs."
Speaking with ComicBook.com, Zhao discussed her rationale behind the inclusion of the DC references.
"In many different cultures, there's a form of Superman," the filmmaker said, essentially affirming our argument above. "The people that created Superman, and the brilliant filmmakers that have brought Superman to the screen in their movies, are basically — in my opinion — doing a modern interpretation of that mythology. And Ikaris is our interpretation of that mythology. It doesn't mean we can't pay tribute and have a good time with these iconic ones that we all love so much. Who doesn't love Superman and Batman? Clearly, our Eternals like them, so..."
Eternals is now playing in theaters everywhere.