Superhero Academy 101: Artifacts (The Infinity Gauntlet)
How Do You Accessorize with Omnipotence?
Avengers: Infinity War left moviegoers stunned with its climactic conclusion. I’m not going to blow the ending for anyone but to anyone who is looking to interpret it, it appears that half the population of the universe got an extreme case of dandruff.
Well, that’s what it looked like, anyway.
People were stunned. Regular people, that is. Comic book fans merely saw this as page 26 of issue #1 of The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series published in 1991. The funny thing is that the movie’s title refers to The Infinity War, which is the successor to The Infinity Gauntlet, which has practically nothing to do with the story. Stranger yet, fifty percent of the movie was loosely based on the two-part story The Thanos Quest which was a predecessor to The Infinity Gauntlet. All of these stories were written by Thanos creator, the legendary writer/illustrator Jim Starlin.
Starlin’s work within the Thanos mythos can hardly be exaggerated. Many have the opinion that Thanos, the mad Titan, is the poor man’s Darkseid (originally created by Jack Kirby). This is completely false. Thanos, the mad Titan, is the poor man’s Metron (also created by Jack Kirby) – only bulked up and ready to kick ass. All the elements are there – the points over the eyes and the miracle chair he uses to travel around the universe – are all part of Metron’s gig.
I’ve covered Thanos’s basic origins in my article, Marvel Villain: Thanos the Titan, and if you're looking for a primer on the character, I suggest you go there. For this article, all you really need to know is that Thanos is very old, very strong, very smart, very obsessed, very devious, and very much in love with the personification of Death.
She is the raison d’etre for everything he does. From getting the reality-altering cosmic cube to his hunt and acquisition of the Infinity Stones or Soul Gems.
It is those stones and the gauntlet that I want to discuss.
Adam Warlock and the Soul Gem
It’s very difficult to talk about Infinity Stones or soul gems – as they were originally named – without talking about Adam Warlock.
If you’re wondering who he is, he’s the guy in the cocoon at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy II when Ayesha said, “I shall name him ‘Adam’.”
Here is a ridiculously short synopsis of Adam Warlock.
Warlock, as he’s most often referred to as, was artificially created by earth scientists known as the Enclave, who named him “Him”. Him was really strong, durable, and could manipulate cosmic energy. Before he left Earth to explore the universe, he fought Thor, who opened a six-pack of whup-ass on Him.
This caused Him to weave a cocoon of sorts to recover. The cocoon drifted through space and was found by the High Evolutionary. The High Evolutionary re-named him “Warlock” and used him to fix his newly created planet “Counter-Earth” (in a near-Biblical Genesis origin story) to be his world savior. To help him in this goal, he gave Warlock a “soul jewel” which allows him to capture people’s souls.
Warlock wore the jewel on his brow and used it often. After he’d left Counter-Earth, he discovered that the soul gem had a vampiric-like tendency to want more souls. The more Warlock used the gem, the more souls it wanted.
In his travels, he encountered the Universal Church of Truth which was run by a being called the Magus. As it turns out, the Magus is an alternate future version of Warlock only more evolved as he’d gone back in time from the future and hibernated within a cocoon of his own making. He emerged from the cocoon stronger and more powerful than Warlock. In order to prevent himself from turning into the Magus, Warlock time traveled a few months into the future to take his own soul into the pocket dimension soul world.
The soul gem’s pocket dimension was a version of heaven for Warlock. He existed happily within the gem along with the souls he’d stolen throughout his adventures along with Pip the Troll and Gamora (from Guardians of the Galaxy).
He remained there until the events that led to the Infinity Gauntlet story.
The Soul Gems and Infinity Stones
I tried to skip a part of Warlock’s biography but I now realize that I can’t without talking about Thanos’s second campaign to destroy the universe.
Warlock, in his travels, learned of the five sister gems to his soul gem. Unfortunately, Thanos also learned of them. He gathered the other five and tried to use them in a device to destroy Earth’s sun - which, in turn, would wipe out all life in the solar system. Thanos had posed as an ally to Warlock because he reasoned the soul gem on Warlock's brow was dangerous and it was the safest way to keep the gem without risking his own soul.
When Warlock encountered his younger self, Thanos had just nearly beaten him to death and he was world-weary from mourning the friends Thanos killed. He gladly gave his younger self his soul and left his body to die.
Thanos was still working to kill the sun. In a battle with the Avengers, Captain Marvel, the Thing, Moondragon, and Spider-man, Thanos almost succeeded in his mission when, at the climax of the battle, Adam Warlock’s soul emerged from the gem, seething with cosmic power. Warlock transformed Thanos into stone – but he left one small bit of consciousness to torture him. Thanos, who worshipped Death, would now forever be denied it.
This wouldn’t be the end of either Thanos or Warlock.
What you should take away from this is that the stones, even without knowing more about them, were an incredible power source and would have been sufficient to destroy the sun.
When Death tapped Thanos to bring about the termination of half the souls of the universe to bring about universal balance, he looked into “The Infinity Well” and learns of the true nature of the soul gems. With that knowledge, he realized he’d used the gems wrong in the past. He tried using them as a hammer while their nature was more to be used like a scalpel.
He renamed them Infinity Gems.
The Soul Gem
While the MCU has made the gauntlet itself a power object capable of housing all of the gems, in the comics, the gauntlet is simply one of the gloves that Thanos regularly wore. The movies made a grand message about how no one could hold one in their hands for long and still live. Considering the amount of time Warlock had one above his eyes, and where Pip the Troll might have been keeping it, they’re pretty safe to handle.
The soul gem, worn by Adam Warlock and later worn by the Elder of the Universe, The Gardener, and eventually, by the cosmic entity, the Inbetweener, was a green gem typically worn on the user’s brow.
It has several attributes. As mentioned before, it has the ability to drain and keep the soul of any living being indefinitely. The soul is kept within a pocket dimension, where all of the souls in it, live in happiness and harmony. A side effect is that souls within the gem intimately understand anyone who is wielding the gem. This attribute eventually led Adam Warlock to the intimate knowledge on how to defeat Thanos in his quest to replace Eternity.
The soul gem also allows the wielder to manipulate the emotions of others. As Thanos put it, “With naught but a thought, I could transform a race of peaceful sentients into a horde of cannibals.”
It’s all about manipulation. In combination with the rest of the gems, it could fully resurrect anyone from the dead to full life.
The Mind Gem
Fans of the MCU would know the “yellow” mind gem from the first Avengers movie as the one in Loki’s scepter that he used to manipulate Clint Barton and Professor Selvig. Later on, it was worn on the Vision’s brow to help incorporate the Jarvis program with Ultron’s matrix to form his complete consciousness.
In the comic books, the gem was originally blue and could be used to control minds – but that’s not all. Wielders can read minds and literally know everything there is to know about anyone. Thanos could use it to know a person’s dreams and aspirations. Combined with the might of the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos touched every mind in the universe simultaneously.
In essence, it is the subconscious of the universe.
In the hands of someone like Moondragon, a telepathic hero, who had temporarily guarded the gem and was an accomplished telepath and telekinetic, the gem merely amplified her abilities. It grants a person practically unlimited psionic ability.
The Reality Gem
Thanos mused, “How can one explain the inconceivable? Few actual minds can grasp the myriad actualities possible. Heaven or Hell – mine to choose. Scientific laws are within my power to repeal. Facts lose their meaning because they no longer have to be. I dream and it will be.”
It’s an Aladdin's Lamp where you can wish for infinite wishes.
Anything – Anything that the wielder can dream up can be a reality.
The MCU shows this gem to be red. In the comics it started out as yellow.
Like the movie, the gem was held in the care of the Elder of the Universe, the Collector. Thanos upon hunting it gambled that a man who lived to collect one of everything within the universe would not have the necessary imagination to use this stone.
Ironically, when Adam Warlock gained the Infinity Gauntlet and divided the stones to different guardians, he gave this one to Thanos as he was certain that he would not use it again.
The Power Gem
There is practically no limit as to the amount of trouble this thing can cause.
Originally a red gem – which was the purple gem from the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, is one of raw power. It’s also the reason why Thanos could beat the hell out of the Hulk within the first five minutes of Avengers: Infinity War.
In relation to the Infinity Gauntlet, this is the battery that super-pumps all of the other gems to ridiculous proportions. It’s what lets Thanos change reality with just a whim instead of having to concentrate and focus on something to be real.
This gem was worn by the Elder of the Universe, The Champion. The Champion is a dull-witted muscle-bound idiot who managed to learn every fighting style ever made. He’s the bully at the playground on a cosmic level.
And he had the power gem on his forehead. This made him invincible. So much so that he destroyed a planet when he fought Thanos.
When the super-villainess, Titania fought the She-Hulk as part of her blood feud, she got her hands on the Power Gem and beat the snot out of Shulkie. That’s just the way it works. Wear it and kick ass.
You don’t need to be a Mensa candidate to use it. That’s why a brain damaged Drax the Destroyer could guard the Power Gem after he’d swallowed it. It makes you strong and invulnerable… period.
The Space Gem
Having this gem is never having to say you need to call a cab.
Want to go to Europe? Zap! You’re there.
Want to run really, really fast? Zap! You’re a speedster.
The Space Gem, originally purple and worn by the Elder of the Universe, the Runner, used it to make himself really fast. The Runner’s big thing is that he runs everywhere, even in space. He wore the Space Gem and found that many of the times he’d arrive someplace before he even realized he was running.
The Runner isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
The Space Gem, blue in the MCU, was encased in the blue tesseract cube and was originally the thing that sent the Red Skull into space when he held it in his bare hand (in Captain America: The First Avenger).
Adam Warlock left the gem to his friend, Pip the Troll, who used it as a device to transport people to wherever they wanted to go. Many readers thought he kept the gem in his butt for safekeeping, but he really kept it between his two toes.
The Time Gem
In the MCU, the green infinity stone kept by Doctor Strange in his Eye of Agamotto was orange in the comic books. This time gem allows users to not only speed up, slow down, and pause time, it allows its wearer to time travel into the past or distant future.
While the Reality Gem will grant its wearer the ability to change reality, the time gem will help them rewrite history.
The Gardener, Elder of the Universe, used the Time Gem after he’d lost the Soul Gem to help him grow such gardens of incredible beauty by speeding up and slowing down growing cycles – and once a flower had come to its bloom, he would freeze it at that state.
The Time Gem can also be used to age people or rejuvenate them. It’s a pocket fountain of youth.
All Six Gems Together and The Missing Seventh Gem – Ego
Within another universe is a white infinity stone. It is the Ego Gem.
The Ego Gem contains the cosmic consciousness of an entity named Nemesis. Some believe it is the original consciousness of the universe and it can only be realized with the other six gems.
When all six gems are working together and held by one person, that person is omnipotent and omniscient. For all sense and practicality, he is God. There is nothing he can’t do or change or be. The gems once used together and in combination with each other, complement each other. The power gem used with the reality gem and the time gem can control everything that ever was and whatever will be. The mind gem with the soul gem and the power gem can make instant slaves of anyone and everyone the user wishes.
That is why there is practically no way to stop a wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet once he has all of the gems.
The history of the gems go back to the origin of the universe and the legacy of the gems is still ongoing. They have been destroyed and they have been recreated. Their colors have changed and their forms have been changed as well from small refined ovals to raw uncut diamond forms.
At one point the all-powerful, Living Tribunal who actually makes the rules of the multiverse, had decreed that the gems would never be allowed to be used together again. That decision has been repealed.
There have been many conscious efforts to guard and manage the stones. Adam Warlock headed a team called The Infinity Watch where he assigned a guardian to each gem. He cared for the soul gem, where Drax guarded the power, Pip guarded space, Moondragon guarded mind, Gamora guarded time, and Thanos guarded reality.
After the Watch broke up, the stones were then guarded by the superhero Illuminati of Professor X, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt – each with one stone and responsible for hiding it.
In an effort for Marvel to sync up with the MCU, the current comic continuity has the Infinity Stones’ colors match that of the ones in the movies.
The Infinity Poll
Which Infinity Stone would you like to have control over?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Christopher Peruzzi