Who Are The Elders of the Universe?
They’ve Got Time on their Hands
The Marvel Universe's ancient beings that have been around since their big bang – and even before it. There are beings so old they’ve not only seen the extinction of their own species, they've seen the rise and fall of countless alien civilizations.
I want to talk about Marvel’s Elders of the Universe.
Strike that, I don’t want to talk about them. The reason being there's no group of galactic-level self-centered a-holes as annoying as these jerks. It’s not that they’re evil, either. They’re just really, REALLY annoying. Really. I’m not kidding.
It's practically the same story for every single one of these guys. Someone discovers he's immortal and grew bored. Then he got a hobby to pass the time.
And that’s what they did. They got a hobby. And, after a dozen millennia went by, that hobby grew into an all-consuming obsession. That obsession grew to define them. As a matter of fact, the Elders of the Universe don’t even really go by their names. They're named after what they do.
None of them have real origins. They’ve just been around and they don't die because they’re powered by the power primordial.
There are several Elders and not all of them have been introduced. What you really need to know is 1) that they’ve been around for billions of years, 2) they’re very hard to kill and 3) they’re not beyond resurrection.
Another reason why I feel I must talk about them is since the Marvel Universe has become so popular, I know dozens of my friends will ask me who some of these guys are when they pop up in the next movie. We’ve seen one of them already in The Guardians of the Galaxy, Taneleer Tivan – The Collector. And, from what I understand, Jeff Goldblum has been signed to play the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok due out in 2017.
So, let me tell you about these self-absorbed jerks.
When mortals meet me, they call me...the Grandmaster! When we part, they call me...sorrow!— The Grandmaster
Ever meet that jackass soccer-dad at the kids’ intramural game who’s just a bit too into it. If you have, then congratulations, you’ve basically met the Grandmaster.
En Dwi Gast goes by the handle of The Grandmaster. All you really need to know is that he’s in it for the game. He’s a gamester – just like those Star Trek guys on Triskelion. He likes to gamble and when he absolutely has to, he’ll compete.
The Grandmaster is a calculating strategist who also enjoys a good game of chess. As a matter of fact, he’s studied games throughout the universe for billions and billions of years. His mind is such that it is attuned to how games are played.
He lives for amusement.
The thing about the Grandmaster that is really scary is how powerful he is. He holds the power of life, death, and resurrection (provided the death took place less than two days prior). Well, resurrection for most people. If you’re one of the more complex cosmic entities, you might be beyond his power to bring back from the veil. Of all of the Elders, he’s the most powerful.
Another thing about the Grandmaster is he won’t welch on a bet. When he had challenged Death the stakes were to bring his fellow Elder, The Collector, back from the grave. It wasn’t until he'd won that he discovered he'd have to replace his Elder’s life for with another’s. Rather than break the rules of the game, he sacrificed his own.
He came back.
The Grandmaster has been responsible for more epic battles between heroes and incredibly powerful villains for nothing more than a wager than almost anyone else. The game may kill many of the players but for the Grandmaster, it is the winning of the game - regardless of the price.
At one point, he possessed the “Mind” Infinity Gem and lost it to Thanos in a game of personal combat.
Taneleer Tivan is a hoarder. A pack rat. He’s got possession issues.
When you break it down to its simplest meaning, the Collector is a hoarder because he wants something only for the sake of having it. If it's rare enough, it will turn up in his museum. FYI, the Collector’s museum spans several planets. Unfortunately, people are part of the exhibits.
This is a stamp collection out of control.
The Collector looks like a little old man; he’s not. He’s an incredibly powerful alien who can alter his shape, size, and appearance. Plus, remember, he can’t die.
The thing you need to know about the Collector is that once he’s set his mind on possessing something, he’ll go to any length to get it. Aside from his formidable physical powers and immortality, he has an incredible arsenal that includes interdimensional traps, flying carpets, robots, guns, and stun beams.
He once possessed the “reality” gem but failed to understand how to make it work. He traded it to Thanos thinking it was worthless for the infant body of his fellow Elder, the Runner.
The Champion of the Universe
This guy… THIS GUY!!! UGH!!
Anyone who has ever been bullied, anyone who’s met that belligerent jerk full of self-inflated pomposity, anyone who has been at a bar and met the big a-hole drunk that wants to take on all newcomers has met The Champion of the Universe.
Tryco Slatterus has dedicated his entire existence to fighting and combat. He's mastered millions of fighting styles and has concentrated all of his power primordial into his physical body. This guy hits harder than the Hulk and wants you to know that there’s plenty more where that came from. He stands about 9’2” and weighs over 2,000 lbs.
What the Champion does is land on an inhabited world and challenge their champion to combat – just because. And he’s not shy about taking on many people at a time. He just gets off on it. Know anyone like that?
The Champion was beating the hell out of Earth heroes like the Thing, Beta Ray Bill, Drax the Destroyer, and the Silver Surfer well before he got his hands on the “power” infinity gem. After he got his hands on the power gem, he couldn’t be defeated, and the last time he used it (unconsciously) he accidentally destroyed a planet. Thanos tricked him out of the gem while he was gathering them for his Infinity Gauntlet.
The good news is that the Champion can and has been defeated in combat. One of the last times he fought the She-Hulk, she beat the snot out of him after training extensively as Jennifer Walters and watching her strength grow exponentially when she transformed into her alter ego.
You’ll never guess what old “Speedy Gonzales” here does.
The Runner, aka Gilpetperdon, concentrated all of his power primordial into the discipline of running. He has built himself to be the fastest being alive. Ironically, the only being that has ever out raced him is a being built in homage of Barry Allen (DC’s Flash – aka for Marvel as “Buried Alien”).
Like all Elders, he can’t die and he doesn’t age in the traditional sense. Although, Thanos using the “time” infinity gem, aged him to extreme old age and then rejuvenated him to infancy minutes later in a trade with the Collector for the “reality” gem.
The Runner, himself, was in possession of the “space” infinity gem. Like the Champion, he was using its properties subconsciously, allowing him to teleport to places when he thought he’d gotten there using his natural fantastic speed. Once again, Thanos took the gem from him for his Infinity Gauntlet.
Make no mistake, the Runner is fast, really fast, he has hit speeds that exceed warp speed and is faster than every known speedster, save the Eternal known as Makkari.
All Ord Zyonz ever wanted was peace, quiet, and the time to tend his garden.
He didn’t cause trouble. Essentially, he’s the old guy who likes to tend a garden and get it to grow really nice flowers and plants. That’s his power; he grows plants. He tried to stay out of most people’s way and had a wonderful garden located in the Blue Area of the moon (where the Inhumans live). After Adam Warlock died, he took possession of his “soul” gem and used it to calm the Hulk and give Bruce Banner control of his alter ego.
At one point he lost the “soul” gem and gained the “time” infinity gem in its place. With the time gem he could grow botanical gardens surpassing any in the universe by growing the them and then freezing them in time at their perfect bloom. With some amount of regret, Thanos took the time gem from him.
As a point of trivia, the Gardener was once eaten by Galactus and had given him indigestion. Given that the Gardener can’t die, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him yet.
Tath Ki is a philosopher. He thinks… a lot.
Also known as Mister Buda, the Contemplator likes to meditate, contemplate, philosophize, do astral projection, and develop his mind/spirit with the ultimate goal of figuring out the universe. Luckily, he’s got the time to do it.
The Contemplator is one of the most powerful telepaths in the universe after using the power primordial to develop his mind to the nth degree. He can contact individual minds across vast galaxies in interstellar space and across different dimensions. His mental development has included precognition, psychokinesis, telekinesis, levitation, and mental domination of others. When he enters a deep meditative state he can become cosmically aware much like the Kree Captain Mar-Vell.
In the past, he has intervened to help humanity against many of the dangers of the universe and assisted the heroes of Earth in the Infinity War and against the Beyonder.
Like the other Elders, he’s immune to aging and does not require food, water, air, or anything other than the power primordial to survive.
Kamo Tharn became a nut job.
It wasn’t entirely his fault. He wanted a mystical object called a “Runestaff” which would help him gain all the knowledge and power he wished to possess. This is what happens to bibliomaniacs when they spend too much time in a library, studying. Only the Possessor went too far by killing the Runestaff’s former owner to get it. The problem was that from the moment he got the Runestaff, it drew in all of the library planet's inhabitants and blinded him in the process.
The good news is that as an Elder of the Universe he's able to use his psychic senses to see through other people's eyes. The bad news is he's nuttier than a freaking fruitcake. Imagine having the lives and personalities of an inhabited planet inside your head. It would make you quite insane.
Fortunately, Thor managed to get a hold of the Runestaff and freed all the souls trapped within the Possessor's head to restore his sanity.
One of the reasons that the Elders don’t die is that Death won’t have them. In an effort to kill Galactus, the entity known as The Inbetweener convinced Death to go back on that deal for the Possessor, The Astronomer, and the Trader. When Death made her decision, the three Elders (and the Runestaff) were disintegrated.
This guy lived to make a trade.
Cort Zo Tinnus is a big fan of the “art of the deal”. What he tries to do is make a deal with someone (anyone), get the better of them, and at the same time convince the other party that they made off with a bargain.
In other words, he's a cosmic salesman who really, really loves his job.
Essentially, he’s Donald Drumpf on steroids and has better hair.
The Trader, along with the Possessor and the Astronomer were disintegrated as consequences to a plot to destroy Galactus by Death, herself. It is unknown whether the Trader will ever return this world. It is not unheard of for an Elder to be resurrected.
No, he won’t give you your Aquarius predictions. This is Seginn Gallio, aka The ASTRONomer.
After discovering he was immortal, the Astronomer lost interest with living people and dedicated himself to how the universe evolves. So, he’s really into heavenly bodies and how they interact with each other.
No, that wasn’t a joke.
This led him to concoct a dastardly plan along with the Grandmaster to give them literal immortality. It would keep them out of Death’s realm. For the most part, the plan worked until he, the Trader, and the Possessor stepped so far out of line that the Inbetweener convinced Death to make an exception for those three idiots.
All the healing, none of the compassion.
Rubanna Lagenris Quormo aka The Caregiver decided to focus her energies on healing and she’s really good at it. When you have a major cosmic infant entity that needs burping, you call The Caregiver.
Like all the Elders she has an immortal life span… yadda, yadda, yadda, and can’t die.
Her story is quite aggravating, especially if you’re Quasar. Quasar, the current protector of the universe (a good gig when you can get it), was investigating the embryo sac known as Origin. While he was checking this out he ran into The Caregiver who was tapped on the shoulder by The Contemplator to look after this developing cosmic lifeform.
Origin was damaged and The Caregiver was using her vast powers to heal the damage after it was ruptured. During a battle with the Elders known as the Obliterator and the Possessor, Quasar lost his ability to survive in the vacuum of space. In order to save Quasar’s life, she shunted him through the Origin sac and saved his life (also restoring his powers).
Learning of The Caregiver’s powers, he attempted to get her to heal his mother’s cancer. She refused, stating that his mother wasn’t of cosmic significance. In other words, it wasn’t worth her time.
God, I hate this guy.
No, I really, really hate this guy. It’s one thing to be a galactic sized a-hole like the Champion of the Universe. You can on some level respect the Champion because he studied hard and learned a thousand ways to kick your butt. You can also get behind the Collector on some level and understand that your collection of DVDs is a bit out of control.
No, not this guy, though. He just likes hunting and killing things… for fun.
You see, even before he found out that he wasn’t aging like the other people in his tribe and civilization he was busy hunting, hurting, and killing things because it made him feel good to do things like rip the wings off of flies and shoot puppies with a BB gun.
Then he discovers he’s immortal. And to celebrate, he goes out and kills a truckload of people because of course he would. He hasn’t even really dedicated himself to killing people. This is who he is. He kills, not because it’s a hobby, it’s because it gets him off.
The good news is that Thunderstrike, Quasar, and the Silver Surfer love kicking this guy’s butt any time they see him and do their level best to put him someplace where he can’t hurt anything.
I’m not sure about this one.
This Elder is dedicated to justice. She looks to punish the Elders when they get out of line. What exactly can she do to them? It’s one thing to look at crime on a mundane level and send someone to jail to learn their lessons, but do Elders ever really learn?
Her origin isn’t important. She comes at the behest of justice. When the Contemplator was doing things that were out of character, she found out that it was someone impersonating him and she made sure the fake was punished for those crimes. She’s by the book and letter of the law – whatever that means in an infinite universe. She plays diplomat and bureaucrat.
I put her at middle management for the Elder class and a bad writing idea.
Zamanathan Rambunazeth likes to travel.
This Elder had the right idea. If you find out you’re immortal and you have access to space travel, see the universe. There is no better way to kill time. Space is infinite and you can certainly find the time to chart uncharted space.
The Explorer was last involved in the entire Origin issue with Quasar. He was one of the Elders that was trying to make a case with the Judicator to possess the cosmic fetus. He helped him with the Caregiver after he was exposed to the Ultimate Nullifier.
The Explorer is rarely seen in any story because he’s constantly on the move and traveling.
His creation has some good roots as he is the product of Jack Kirby’s imagination.
Types of Immortals
Who they are
Immortals powered by the power primordial
Long lived beings whose orgin has been lost in legend
Beings experimented on by the Celestials
Humans experimented on by the Kree
Mystical immortal beings bent on evil
There are two other Elders listed within that group.
One is The Architect. I couldn’t find anything concrete on this elder in all of my resources. All I know is that he exists. I can only assume that his obsession is building things and that somewhere there’s a planet with his creations that no one’s allowed to live in.
The other Elder is Father Time. He manipulates time. He’s also immortal. Honestly, there really isn’t a lot of backstory to most of these Elders. They’ve been around forever. They can’t die. And to alleviate their boredom they get a hobby that eventually becomes an obsession. They just have access to this ambient power that they can manipulate any way they can. For them, it just takes discipline.
Ego, The Living Planet, has been associated with the Elders as well – though it’s not really something that’s been powered by the eternal power primordial. Ego is just one of those presences that the Marvel Universe heroes just have to deal with every so often. Like a planet, it can be millions of years old and sustain itself by whatever radiation is ambient within the universe. Unlike a planet, it’s completely self-aware and quite insane.
What would you do if you were eternally youthful and immortal?
When I was in college, a friend of mine introduced me to The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I didn’t read it because “vampires are sooo cool”; I read it because I was fascinated with the concept of immortality. What drew me to the books was the question of what happens to people when they outlive everyone.
It’s one thing to be the last survivor of your nuclear family. You can survive outliving your brothers, sisters, and parents. Then it’s a question of outliving your children, and then your grandchildren.
When you couple this with the concept of eternal youth, what happens then? Fans of the short-lived show New Amsterdam saw its protagonist survive his family, his wife, his children, his lovers. Things that he created with his hands had become collectible antiques. After a while, the loneliness and pain of watching your loved ones that you see grow old from infancy and die must become unbearable.
Imagine surviving your own species and planet.
Fans of the BBC comedy Red Dwarf watch Dave Lister as he’s put in a time stasis that lasts for over three million years. In that time, the entirety of mankind has become extinct. He is the last of his kind. The question you need to ask is: What happens to an immortal once everyone is gone?
That’s the story of the Elders of the Universe. Their biggest problem is their own existence. They just keep living and they have a basic need to make their existence meaningful. Somewhere in the back of each of the Elders' minds is the desire to be the best (fill in the blank) in the universe.
That’s what drives them. It is the eternal question to avoid boredom by keeping to their mission. When the Champion of the Universe decided to become the best fighter in existence, you can bet that he diverted much of the energies that sustain him into developing his body to be the perfect fighting machine. Then he went and learned every possible way of fighting that he could. When he thought he was good enough, he started fighting.
Why does he do it? What good is it to be the best if you can’t prove it? It is his mission that makes him the giant a-hole that he is.
It’s the same thing with the Collector. Something in the back of his mind needs to know that no one can say to him, “My collection is better than yours.” His raison d'être is so he can say, “No, it isn’t. Let me show you.”
What drives you in your life? Do you have a personal mission statement? Are you determined to be the best (fill in the blank) there has ever been? Or do you have smaller goals like making it to tomorrow? Some would say that one mission determines the success of the other.
© 2016 Christopher Peruzzi