The Inhumans: A Primer on Marvel’s Next Possible Cosmic Franchise

By August 12, 2014
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At this point, it’s pretty safe to say that Disney and Marvel Studios are enjoying quite a bit of success with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn’s addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe helped provide a great deal of fun and grandeur to an entirely new and unexplored element of that shared narrative world by starting us off on Earth before leaving and never going back. While the canvas on which Guardians played was appropriately massive and world-spanning, when it comes to the further reaches of space within the Marvel Comics Universe, it barely scratched the surface.

Today, via a rumor from Collider, Marvel may have already chosen their next cosmic, space-faring franchise in the form of one of the many brainchildren of the legendary comics king himself, Jack Kirby. A group of characters that feel related to the proven concept of the X-Men, while also taking those notions and throwing them into a much bigger area of play. If the rumors are true, the next cosmic Marvel franchise we will see on the big screen is none other than the Inhumans.

Who are the Inhumans?

Black Bolt making his presence felt against the Fantastic Four.

Black Bolt making his presence felt against the Fantastic Four.

The Inhumans are a group of characters that were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, with their first official appearance taking place in 1965’s Fantastic Four #45. Interestingly, though, their most important location, their home city of Attilan, was actually first mentioned 24 years earlier, in a story centering on Tuk the Caveboy that was written and drawn by Kirby in 1941’s Captain America Comics #1, which was also the first appearance of Marvel’s Star-Spangled Avenger. While the roots of the Inhumans likely took place in that brilliant flourish known as the mind of Jack Kirby, their first appearance in that Fantastic Four issue established them as a race of cosmic mutants, with roots in both the stars and in the Earth.

The story goes like this: millions of Earth-years ago, two alien races known as the Kree (to which Guardians villain Ronan the Accuser belongs) and the Skrulls became locked in a devastating interplanetary war. Around this time, the Kree established a base near the planet we now know as Uranus, due to its strategic position directly between the two warring empires. While they had been intensely working on new ways to defeat their enemies at this station, the nearby planet Earth caught the attention of the Kree, as it became clear through their work that the universe-creating beings known as the Celestials (also created by Kirby) had invested genetic potential in this primitive form of life that would later become the human race. The Kree were intrigued, to say the least, and abducted the primitive homo sapiens from the surface and began…tinkering.

Black Bolt is one of the few Marvel characters that can take on the Hulk single-handedly.

Black Bolt is one of the few Marvel characters that can take on the Hulk single-handedly.

The goals in doing so was strategic in addition to showing an attempt to save their race. Over the past few millennia, the Kree had grown stagnant from an evolutionary perspective, and it was hoped that the creation of a new race bred with Kree elements would help them surpass that. The experimentation also hoped to yield powerful new soldiers in the war against the Skrulls, and strike a decisive blow against their enemies. The experiments were successful, but heeding an old prophecy describing genetic experiments leading to the destruction of the Kree’s “Supreme Intelligence,” the experiments were abandoned. The race they created, however, would go on to thrive in their own society as the Inhumans.

The thriving of the Inhumans was entirely based on both their seclusion from humanity on the island of Attilan in the Atlantic Ocean, and their genetic gifts which allowed them to create advanced technology eons beyond primitive humans. Fateful experiments with a mysterious element known as Terrigen crystals yielded the substance known as Terrigen Mist, which acts as a natural mutagen when combined with Inhuman biology. This created powers and abilities in members of the Inhuman race that were exposed to the Mist, but also caused genetic damage and physical deformities to develop in many of the exposed. This led to a long and rigid selective breeding program in the species in order to try and minimize the effects of the mutations which had caused them problems.

The Royal Family

After his birth, it quickly became clear what the young Black Bolt was capable of.

After his birth, it quickly became clear what the young Black Bolt was capable of.

Within the Marvel Universe, the term “Inhumans” has more often than not been used to describe the Inhuman Royal Family, which have been the major players in the comic book adventures of the people, as well as the most likely team that would be featured in an upcoming film. The family in its most representative form usually consists of the following characters:

  • Black Bolt – Ruler of the Inhumans, Blackagar Boltagon was exposed to the Terrigen Mist while he was still an embryo, and when he was born to two preeminent Inhumans, quickly demonstrated an ability to manipulate electrons. This ability is directly linked to the speech center of his brain, causing his voice to potentially be one of the most destructive weapons in the universe. If he speaks in a normal conversational tone, it’s quite possible that a mere sentence could level an entire city. As a result, Black Bolt has undergone extensive physical and mental conditioning in an effort to control his voice, and prevent him from uttering a sound, even while he’s unconcsious. If need be, though, yelling at his enemies would surely bring death to them all. Black Bolt has been an effective and capable leader of his people, and has directly opposed some of the most devastating forces in the Marvel Universe, including the Hulk, all on his own.
  • Medusa – Queen of the Inhumans, Medusa was born into the ruling class of the society and was also exposed to the Terrigen Mists at an early age. Bred to be queen from birth, she led an opposition to a workers’ uprising on Attilan when her vehicle was damaged and she crashed on an island in the Mediterranean. She was found by the Fantastic Four villain the Wizard, who was trying to assemble an evil doppelganger of Marvel’s First Family, and found Medusa to be a perfect fit in the role of the Invisible Woman. It wasn’t long before another member of the Royal Family, her cousin Gorgon, found her and returned her to her betrothed: Black Bolt.  Her most distinguishing feature is her hair, stronger than steel with every single strand able to be completely controlled by Medusa, who can grow, retract, and move it around much like an arm or a leg. She can even maintain telekinetic control of her hair if some of it manages to be cut off, which isn’t very often.
  • Medusa using her hair against the Fantastic Four.

    Medusa using her hair against the Fantastic Four.

    Karnak – Another cousin of Black Bolt, Karnak’s ability granted through the Terrigen Mist is his innate sense to perceive stress points, weaknesses, and fracture planes in any objects or people that are near him. If he strikes these points, he can destroy objects made of seemingly invincible or unbreakable substances or completely paralyze enemies with far greater strength and physical stature than his own. The mental discipline he has attained with this ability is virtually effortless, and Karnak can maintain this hyper awareness of a being or object’s weakness over long periods of time. In short, he’s one of the Inhumans’ most powerful weapons.

  • Gorgon – The somewhat typical muscle of the Inhumans, Gorgon’s major augmented abilities granted by the Terrigen Mists are in his legs: they are extremely powerful. When he was exposed to the Mists as a teenager, he gained an immense amount of strength, but it came at a price: his feet had transformed into hooves. Even so, and perhaps as a result, his legs became the strongest part of an already immensely strong form, with his lower extremities able to create highly destructive seismic waves. As an adult, Gorgon is the personal bodyguard to Black Bolt, in addition to being responsible for the training of young Inhumans first exposed to the Terrigen Mists, so that they can acclimate to their new abilities and learn to control them.
  • Triton – The brother of Karnak, Triton was exposed to the Mist as an infant, which physically altered his appearance by turning his skin green, and giving him extreme strength as well as the ability to breathe underwater. It reinforced his body, allowing him to withstand the pressures and temperatures of the deep, but also made it so that he cannot live naturally in a non-aquatic environment. In order to leave a specialized living space on Attilan, he needs to be equipped with a specially designed breathing apparatus.
  • Lockjaw loves the Thing. The Thing doesn't really love Lockjaw.

    Lockjaw loves the Thing. The Thing doesn’t really love Lockjaw.

    Crystal – Crystal’s exposure to the Mist as an infant granted her elemental control of the environment. She can manipulate air, water, earth, and fire at will, making her a powerful offensive and defensive force of the Royal Family. Crystal has also been one of the Inhumans that has seen a lot of interaction with other parts of the Marvel Universe. She’s been romantically linked to Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. Perhaps more interesting in terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she has been married to Quicksilver (who will be appearing in Avengers: Age of Ultron), as well as Ronan the Accuser himself. If explored in a film, it may be very interesting to see where her allegiances will lie.

  • Lockjaw – The official escort of the Royal Family, Lockjaw looks like a giant bulldog. He has the ability to teleport himself or any nearby object (including people) to anywhere he wants them to go, including between planets, and can even open trans-dimensional portals. Energy barriers that seem impenetrable to others don’t really seem to be an issue for him to traverse, and he even has the ability to pick up traces or remains of energy and track it across dimensional space, kind of like…well, a dog picking up a scent. In short, Lockjaw is awesome.

So, that’s the Inhumans! There are a lot of characters (some of which we couldn’t get into today), but many of them have really interesting stories to tell. What do you think? Should the Marvel Cinematic Universe push forward and allow the Inhumans to join their ranks? Sound off below!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.