If you’re anything like us, then your excitement for upcoming Marvel content has reached an absolute fever pitch. Loki debuts in a matter of hours, the Eternals trailer was recently released, and we just received word that Namor is coming to the MCU in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, played by Latino actor Tenoch Huerta. This last bit of news is interesting because, along with previously released casting calls, it implies that the origins of Namor and Atlantis will be connected the ancient civilization of the Mayans.
While this is something most fans were not expecting, it does seem to line up with some of the things we saw in the Eternals trailer, as well as some surprising connections to real-world civilizations. In this article, I want to review how the upcoming Eternals and Black Panther movies may be tapping into these cultural legends, and how it could make for a fantastic and fresh look at a new corner of the MCU!
Babylon, The Origin of Man
In the Eternals trailer, we saw several shots of the characters visiting mankind at the dawn of civilization. We get a couple glimpses of their appearance in Babylon/Ancient Sumeria, which is universally agreed upon by religious scholars and historians alike to be the birthplace of mankind. It is here where we humans built our first cities, formed our first languages, and invented our first inventions. But what’s interesting is that when we look at the legends and religions of these cultures, they don’t take credit for these achievements on their own. Instead, they chalk it up to special knowledge given to them by the gods.
In their texts and hieroglyphics, the ancient Sumerians note that they received all of their knowledge and technology from their pantheon of gods known as the Anunnaki. This has led to a slew of modern conspiracies about ancient aliens and was arguably something that heavily inspired Jack Kirby as he wrote the original Eternals comic in 1976. Based on the shots from the trailer, it looks like the movie may see its characters working with humankind in Babylon first, and then branching out to other cultures such as the Egyptians, Indians, Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans. Every one of these cultures share strikingly similar legends of generous gods, which makes them ripe for exploration within the context of the MCU. But with the rumors of Atlantis being connected to the Mayans, I want to look at Central America specifically, and how its cultural legends might factor into the plot of the upcoming films.
Mayans and Aztecs
The Eternals trailer also showed us a brief shot of Spanish conquistadors during what looks to be the conquest of Central America. What’s intriguing is that the Mayans and Aztecs of this region share a similar legend…that a group of gods came over the sea and brought them knowledge and technology. The Aztecs called the leader of this group Quetzalcoatl, the Mayans called him Kukulkan, and the Incas called him Viracocha, but all are essentially the same figure. All of the legends say that these gods sailed from across the sea in a strange boat that moved without paddles, and most say that they left in the same way, typically with the promise of return. Historians think that this legend is actually what allowed Cortez to conquer the Aztec capital so easily because the Aztecs actually believed that he was their god Quetzalcoatl returning to them from across the ocean.
I believe this concept sets up the Eternals perfectly. One character that specifically comes to mind is Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry, who is said to be the inventor of the group. His official character description describes him in the following way:
Phastos is blessed with the power of invention. He is able to create whatever he can imagine provided that he has enough raw materials at his disposal. Over the centuries, Phastos has helped nudge humanity forward technologically while always keeping his brilliance hidden in the shadows.
This sounds an awful lot like the technology-giving god of Central American legend. Phastos could easily be taking on this role of the god of invention, starting in Babylon and then making his way across the ocean to Central America alongside the other Eternals. Set photos confirm that the film will feature a temple that looks strikingly similar to Jack Kirby’s Tomb of the Space Gods from the comics, but as of right now we are still unsure whether this will be in the Andes Mountains (As it was in the comics), or somewhere further north in the Mayan or Aztec region. Either way, it’s very clear that the Eternals will be visiting Central America and interacting with these cultures in some form or another.
— ETERNALS (@Eternalsupdate) September 30, 2019
But What About Atlantis
As you already know, there are many real-world myths and legends surrounding the lost civilization of Atlantis, the most famous being the description of its collapse by the Greek philosopher Plato. In his work, Plato details how the city was lost during a great cataclysm and perished under the rising waves of the sea. But what’s surprising is that nearly every civilization on the planet agrees with the legend of a catastrophic worldwide flood, including all the cultures we’ve already mentioned and about 800 others. But since the rumors for the Black Panther sequel seem to anchor Atlantis to the Mayan culture, I’d like to highlight their legends on the subject.
The Mayans divided the Earth’s history into several great cycles, called “Suns” each of which ends with a massive extinction-level event. They believed that the Earth had gone through four such cycles, the first of which ended in a cataclysmic flood. Along with this, they believed that a certain portion of mankind was saved from this disaster by being turned into fish. So what does this have to do with the origin of Atlantis in the MCU? Everything.
In the comics, there were 4 Celestial Hosts in which the Celestials came down to Earth and passed judgment on the major races that they had created. It was in the 2nd Host that Atlantis sank, along with the Deviant city of Lemuria. Part of Atlantis survived beneath the ocean’s waves, however, and its residents were eventually given a genetic mutation that allowed them to breathe underwater….creating homo mermanus…the first mutants. These 4 Hosts from the comics sound remarkably similar to the 4 Cycles of the Mayan calendar, along with their belief that a group of humankind survived the flood cataclysm by being “turned into fishes.”
With these films, directors Chloe Zhao and Ryan Coogler have the opportunity to not only explore the hidden origins of the MCU, but also showcase many real-world cultures that have been under-represented in modern film. Babylon, Egypt, India, Aztecs, Incas, Mayans… we’re about to see a whole other side of the world that we’ve never seen before in the MCU. If the love, care, and great detail they gave to creating the world of Wakanda is any example, then I expect we are in for a treat…