Kieron Gillen discusses reinventing Eros of the Eternals, and what the hell the name "Starfox" actually means
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)
The Eternals are one of three teams at the heart of the current AXE: Judgment Day event, along with the Avengers and X-Men. And in AXE: Judgment Day #3, the most recent installment of the AXE limited series, cult classic Marvel hero Eros/Starfox made his big return after last being seen apparently dying a few years ago.
But that big return is just paving the way for Eros to take the spotlight in his own AXE: Starfox one-shot, on sale October 5, in which AXE: Judgment Day writer Kieron Gillen and artist Daniele Di Nicuolo attempt to reconcile the often embattled character’s history with both the Avengers and Eternals.
What’s so troubling about Eros? Well, the way his powers have sometimes been depicted has been kinda creepy, with accusations of having used his ability to manipulate the emotions of others to take advantage of people.
Gillen aims to put a new sheen on Eros and his abilities, recontextualizing how they fit in with the larger themes of the Eternals, and reinventing what his Avengers identity of Starfox means to the character – right down to a whole new costume, designed by Valerio Schiti.
Newsarama: Kieron, Eros returned at the end of AXE: Judgement Day #3. He apparently died in his last appearance, so how did we get here from there?
Kieron Gillen: I’m going to say this, and I swear, it’s not just that I’m working for Tom Brevoort for the first time and he’s somehow indoctrinated me into his credo via a series of Clockwork Orange-esque torture.
Read and find out!
More specifically, I’ll gesture at the Starfox special, which basically does to Eros what the Eternals: Thanos Rises did for his big purple bro, in terms of really delineating what his deal with the Eternals is.
Nrama: Eros’ powers have had some troubling implications in the past, but his return in AXE #3 leans right into his emotion manipulation abilities. How much do you plan to address Eros’ past and the ramifications of his powers as AXE rolls on, into his solo one-shot?
Gillen: This is a tricky one to talk about, for multiple reasons. Partially because I don’t like to critique others’ work and partially because this is an ongoing story, and Starfox’s actions are part of it.
I think comic writers, as a whole, failed Eros. We’ve written people whose powers can only kill, and go out of the way to make excuses for them. We see a character whose power set circled pleasure, and to lean into rather than away from the creepiness speaks to the sex-phobic nature of our society. Why couldn’t we have thought of Eros in a different way, and tried to create a positive inspirational figure who argues in favor of life and pleasure instead of death and grimness? Often we didn’t. We should have tried more.
I’m trying to show alternate ways to think of Eros and his powers, which rethink them into something less sledgehammer as “pheromones” (which doesn’t really fit into the conception of Eternals as written). I’m trying to make it less about enforcing a state and more about inspiration and empathy and actually embodying love. The superhero equivalent of being the life and soul of the party, of being the person you need, right there, right then. The one-off is kind of a walking tour of this. Just a different way of looking at Eros.
(The time in the Exclusion definitely gives us a chance for Eros to have rethought himself a bunch too, of course.)
And by doing that – and showing his actions when possible abuses of power are floated – is how I really address the past. Because a lot of the stuff has been addressed before, and it doesn’t make it go away. It actually just reiterates it. People just keep on posting whatever panels they choose. All you can do is make your best pitch for who this person is and hope people like it.
Nrama: Valerio Schiti gave Eros a whole new look. What do you think of the new style Valerio developed? And what’s it like to see Daniele Di Nicuolo’s take on Eros in the one-shot and working with him on the story overall?
Gillen: I think it’s killer. I yelped. Honestly, it feels like the modern take on what was already there in Eros, but more so. I’ve been surprised people think it’s radical. Of course Eros looks like this, right?
And you should see his other look…
Daniele takes that and really does dynamic action hero takes on it. It’s really fluid and pops, and the “fox” element comes in how he moves. There’s a whole extended action sequence where he’s fighting someone much more static, and you can absolutely see him as this romantic adventurer. It’s great stuff.
Nrama: Eros is in a particularly interesting place in the AXE conflict because he has a longer history with the Avengers than he does with his Eternal cousins. If the chips come down to Avengers vs. Eternals, will he be Eros of the Eternals, or Starfox of the Avengers?
Gillen: A really good question, and unfortunately not one I can answer. As you say, that’s one of the interesting things in terms of bringing him aboard, and seeing how he navigates all these relationships.
I’ll say this: above all, Eros is on the side of life.
Nrama: Speaking of which, you’re using the name Starfox, Eros’ Avengers codename which was given to him somewhat arbitrarily by the Wasp. That name has been used less over recent years. What’s driving the return to that codename? And sub-question, in your opinion, what does the name Starfox actually mean?
Gillen: I do play some games with this – especially in the Starfox special. My working title for that was Starfox vs Eros.
In a real way, for me, the meaning of Starfox is “a name that isn’t Eros.” If he’s Eros, he’s tied to Thanos, his family history, and a whole world of hell. As Starfox, he can be free of all that.
The boring answer for “why Starfox?” as the title is Marvel chose it. Maybe it’s slightly more commercial? I don’t know. I don’t have the fancy graphs that Marvel has. I am but a poor and confused writer.
Nrama: The Eternals of Titan and other settlements have played a bigger role in your recent Eternals run with Esad Ribic. Will Eros/Starfox be sticking around in their affairs after AXE? Yes, that’s also our subtle way of asking if you’ll be sticking with the Eternals in any way after this big event?
Gillen: A good question. Let’s hope there’s an Earth there afterward for him to stick around on.
In terms of staying? I suspect not, but you never know. I think AXE is the climax of the Eternal work I’ve been doing – there are certainly a few things I’d like to have written, and maybe will down the line, but I think I’ll have done the majority of the work I needed to do on them. They’ll be in a really interesting place, and I kinda would like to see what someone else would do with the status quo I leave them.
Nrama: Eros now has a face attached to him in the MCU, and it’s Harry Styles’ face. What effect, if any, did this have on the approach to bring him back, and his look, characterization, and motivations in the future?
Gillen: Oh, I’ve no idea whatsoever what they’ll do in the MCU with him, so no influence at all in terms of specifics.
Nrama: Big question: What makes this the right moment to reinvigorate Eros/Starfox as a character? What are you hoping to bring to the character that he hasn’t had in previous incarnations?
Gillen: I mean, there’s the implicit answer from above – he’s in the MCU, so probably a good time to get him back in the comics, right? No shame in that. If folks are intrigued by the teaser, I’d like them to be able to grab a shiny new comic with the character in it.
The real answer is having done all that work with Thanos to connect him with the Earth Eternals, I need to do the same with Eros, or the job’s unfinished. I’ve positioned A’Lars and Sui-san on Titan trying to give birth to “true” Eternals as one of the core parts of the Eternals’ mythology, something which ended a civil war. After Thanos Rises I had a lot of folks asking me about where Eros fitted in.
If I am stepping away from Eternals, clearly that’s something one needs to do. It’s a key part of the meta-mythology I’ve tried to build from all of this. Eros is important, as much as he really finds that irritating, and I can’t wait for folks to see that part of him.
Learn the whole story of the troubled history of Eros/Starfox.
I’ve been Newsarama’s resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I’ve also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)