Marvel Films’ latest theatrical release is Eternals, a movie based around a group of godlike immortal beings created by Jack Kirby that may or may not have been intended to be part of the Marvel Universe but are anyway these days, so it may be a moot point what the King of Comics intended. God knows Marvel always honored his wishes and all…
Anyway, of the cavalcade of Eternals Kirby created, there was one left in perpetual childhood, and that would be Sprite.
To begin, a quick recap on all things Eternal as originally put down by Kirby. Before the dawn of civilization, the Celestial Host came to Earth and decided to do some experimentation on the dominant species, namely humanity. Why? No one really knows. They don’t talk much as it is. As it is, the Celestials made three more or less distinct branches of humanity. One group was regular humans, though they had the potential to gain superpowers later. Then there was the Deviants, genetically unstable beings that the Celestials turn on because…well, the Celestials don’t talk much. Pay attention. And finally, there were the Eternals, nearly immortal, godlike beings there to protect regular humans, particularly from Deviants, until such time as either the Celestials returned to judge the results of their work or humans learned how to protect themselves from the Deviants or whatever. Eternals all had certain superpowers such as flight and superhuman strength, and the only way to permanently kill one was to destroy them on a molecular level. Every other form of death was generally temporary.
Enter Sprite, first seen in March of 1977’s Eternals #9. Sprite, like the other Eternals, didn’t age. However, he (and it was a he) was also in the body of a child. Many Eternals also have other, special powers unique to themselves, and in Sprite’s case, that meant illusion casting, various psychic powers, and molecular manipulation second only to Sersi as far as Eternals went. But, yeah, Sprite didn’t age, and despite being centuries if not millennia old, he still looked like a child and was largely treated like one, even if he did inspire fictional characters like Shakespeare’s Puck (as opposed to Alpha Flight’s Puck) or Peter Pan. Kirby seems to have introduced so many different Eternals at different points, and he was in that period when he was doing a lot of work with space gods (like the Fourth World stuff he made for DC), but Sprite in many ways is just one among many, intriguing mostly because of his appearance as a child among adults.
If anything, that led to one of Sprite’s most interesting moments: when he was the villain. Neil Gaiman did an Eternals mini-series that cast the Eternals as regular humans that had forgotten their immortal roots. Oddly enough, no one else did, and this was about the time of the Superhuman Registration Act, prompting a very confused look to cross Sersi’s face when her former Avengers teammate Iron Man reminded her to get registered when she thought she was just a regular old fashion designer with no special powers or skills. Sprite, it turned out, really wanted to live life as a normal child and had used his magical powers to basically make the Eternals mortals. They gradually remembered who they were, and while Sprite had found a lot of success as a child star on his own sitcom–Sprite does love attention–he was eventually found and punished by the Eternal Zuras, often the leader of the Eternals. Zuras essentially cornered Sprite in a train car, let the youth explain how he was tired of being the only Eternal who couldn’t grow up to the point he was the only male Eternal to never get a date with Sersi, and afterwards, Zuras quietly broke Sprite’s neck and left him for dead.
That death held for a while, but Eternals can be reborn. After a mass suicide by the Eternals’ discovery that, among other things, they are incapable of attacking the Celestials, Sprite came back in a female body (because that can happen) and went traveling and adventuring with Irakis. The new body seems to be slightly older than Sprite’s original form, but so far, Sprite seems to be portrayed as more devious than evil from what I can find out.
And that’s Sprite. Elements of this all made their way to the big screen where actress Lia McHugh played Sprite, and this time around, it does seem as if Sprite got a bit more understanding than anything else.
I mean, no one broke her neck in a train car for one. Will Sprite ever grow up? Who knows? My guess is probably not. I mean, this is comics, and those characters don’t age much anyway…