The Inhumans are a pulps -style Ancient And Superior Hidden Civilisation. But with more Kirby in it.
They have been a significant feature in the Marvel Comics universe since 1965.
This article is the second in a series. Said series goes :
- Inhumans part #1 – Secret origins in space. Start there !
- Inhumans part #2 – Ancient history. This here article.
- Inhumans part #3 – Silver and bronze.
Far prehistory of the Inhumans
The Inhumans went on to form a culture and technology for their small population.
- Several panels can be interpreted as them speaking the Kree language.
- There’s a statement that there once were multiple tribes, but they coalesced.
- They quickly reached space-sci-fi tech levels. Such as anti-gravity aircrafts.
Though Humans of 25K years ago are often drawn as cavemen in the comics, it was the late Stone Age (upper Palaeolithic). Settlements were already a thing, as was working with vegetal fibres.
(Inhumanity #1 states that some subjects were Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis. AFAIK that isn’t chronologically feasible with the “25-to-20K years ago” date.
One of the advantages of the “40-to-50K years ago” hypothetical is that it makes it possible for Neanderthals to have been around.)
Inhuman history books record conflicts with Humans, who were jealous of the Inhumans. It wouldn’t be surprising if the truth were markedly less one-sided.
The genes genie
It seems that Inhumans were still very much like Humans back then. They did not yet use the Terrigen crystals to mutate themselves.
The likely explanation (though it’s not *quite* spelled out) :
- Many generations of organised breeding were necessary before the Inhumans could safely undergo Terrigenesis. This hypothesis also helps explain other discrepancies, and is well-supported by the material.
- The Kree knew this. It was always meant as a very long-term project.
- Terrigen Crystals were only introduced to the Inhumans once there were subjects with the proper DNA to face Terrigenesis. *Possibly* by surviving Kree scientists, but this is a long shot.
Furthermore, the Inhumans selectively bred for many generations to reinforce their median strength, endurance, fitness, etc.. This may have been a delay of its own – to reach a stage where people were physically tough enough to endure Terrigenesis.
Know, o prince
The early Inhumans appear to have had a relationship with Ancient Atlantis. They would later name their capital in its honour.
Ancient Atlantis was another highly advanced civilisation, though this one was Human.
While it wasn’t large, the Atlantean Empire was bigger than the likely Inhuman population. It might, conceivably, have served as their protector – like with the Rugoth. And the Inhumans might, conceivably, have helped with Atlantean technological progress.
Early accounts show that Inhumans had an interest in zoological preservation and re-creation. Their high-tech safaris captured Pleistocene animals, and they seemingly recreated dinosaurs for study. Or maybe just for decoration.
(The Pleistocene megafauna goes extinct fairly late – circa 10,000 BC, as we shift to the Holocene. So the Inhumans co-existed with cool beasties such as smilodons, megatheriums, cave bears, mammoths, etc. for millennia.)
I can do idea associations all night, folks.
The Great Refuge
Millennia after the Kree kickstarted the Inhumans, the Great Cataclysm struck Earth. It wrought immense destruction and sunk continents, including Ancient Atlantis.
The post-Cataclysm recovery era was a barbaric time. Its most famous contemporary was Conan of Cimmeria.
Under the leadership of King Myran, the Inhumans went looking for a refuge. Possibly because they had lost their Atlantean benefactors.
The Great Refuge was a small island in the Northern Atlantic. There they founded the gleaming city of Attilan, where almost all Inhumans lived.
(Scenes in Inhumanity depict Attilan atop a mountain with huge cliffs, on land. It is thus possible that the island was the second Great Refuge, and not the first as commonly thought.
If the early millennia of Inhuman history were indeed erased from the records, there might be a connection.)
(Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #47 clearly shows that the Great Refuge is among a “remote mountain range in the High Andes”. This sort of continuity wobble wasn’t uncommon in early Marvel work. It’s best treated as a mistake in the narration.)
Welcome to the pleasure dome
Attilan had special protections. Such as the ever-lovin’ giant dome (a tech which had proved its worth in Atlantis, Mu, etc.), and a tightly monitored atmosphere within.
Two early denizens of Attilans were exiled for unknown reasons. They died, but their boy Tuk survived.
Tuk would have many reproductively successful offsprings. This injected a significant amount of ancient Inhuman DNA into good ol’ homo sapiens sapiens genetics.
For instance, the 2019 History of the Marvel Universe picks distant Inhuman ancestry as the most likely source for Toro (Thomas Raymond) having gained Torch-like powers during experiments.
Diaspora (part 1)
Officially, there were otherwise few Inhuman/Human interactions. The main exception were stray European vessels stumbling upon Attilan.
In actuality, significant groups of Inhumans left the Great Refuge. Then eventually joined Human communities, which helps explain the frequency of Inhuman heritage among Humans.
- The Inhuman Karnak suspected that these defections were the result of Inhumans rejecting their instrumentalization by the Kree experiments in xenogenetics. He saw these departures as spread over millennia.
- Inhuman King Black Bolt once described this diaspora as a single crisis, with four tribes parting ways. But he could easily have been using the children’s version of history.
At least five Inhuman communities did not end up joining Humans.
- The hidden city of Orollan, founded by the House of Lor. Its cliff-face troglodyte buildings are in the Eternal Chasm, in Greenland.
- The hidden city of Utollan, in the Chimanimani Mountains of Mozambique.
- The ancient mob/corporation Ennilux, headquartered in Venice. Ennilux allegedly had an important shadow role throughout Human history.
- The Enclave, a small isolationist community in Tibet opposed to Terrigenesis.
- An unspecified community which somehow stockpiled Terrigen Crystals. It was destroyed by a volcanic eruption about 1700 years ago. This may mean the Krakatoa eruption .
Diaspora (part 2)
At least one small community, in what is now rural Northern Minnesota, heavily interbred with Humans. They rejected Terrigenesis, and may have sought to have so little Inhuman DNA they could no longer be mutated.
Though this tiny town remained aware of its origins, they kept their secret for more than 10,000 years.
The sheer scale of Human/Inhuman interbreeding was reputedly only known to the Inhuman King. Even Queen Medusa stated that she did not know. But heh, grain of salt.
At least one Inhuman community built itself a spaceship and left Earth. Its best known descendant is Thane, son of Thanos.
Known sites that used to house the Inhuman diaspora but are now abandoned are found in :
- The Taklimakan Desert, in Northwest China.
- The Pamir Mountains – perhaps the part in Tajikistan.
- The Atlantic Forest, in Brazil.
- The Carlsberg Ridge, at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
- The Pangnirtung Fjord, in Nunavut.
- The Twelve Apostles giant limestone stacks, in Australia.
(I’m assuming here that there’s a layout mistake in New Avengers Vol. 3 #10, with the panels for the Atlantic Forest and the Carlsberg Ridge having swapped captions.)
Diaspora (part 3)
Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #45-46 conveys a sense that many superhumans throughout the pre-Marvel-Age world were actually Inhumans who had fled the Great Refuge.
All these implications faded away during the 1960s. Perhaps there were simply too many Marvel “secret species” vying for such a role. Eternals, Olympians, Asgardians, mutants, Deviants, sundry aliens, etc. etc..
(Mutants also did the “ooh, we are hated by Humans because we are different” thing better than Inhumans did, robbing them of that hook.)
For mysterious/monstrous creatures, the go-to hypothesis in the Official Handbooks from Marvel has been an isolated Deviant, rather than Inhumans. Which we also tend to use on WORG, for coherence’s sake.
Thus, the 2010s use of Inhuman heritage as a major source of super-powers arcs back to the early 1960s.
Diaspora (part 4)
Inhuman Royal Crystalia Amaquelin once states (All-New Inhumans Vol. 1 #1) that Inhuman genes are widespread because Kree experiments on early Humans took place worldwide.
This doesn’t align well with the rest of the data. And Crystal was speaking in an official role, so it makes good sense that she would present a sanitized version. One where Inhumans always were a big happy family and the Kree are the bads.
But it could be correct. Earth has unique properties when it comes to Celestial genetic engineering – beyond even those of other successful inspecies. So perhaps the Kree did run secondary, large-scale projects on Earth à la Progenitors.
There are also endless possibilities for confusion. Perhaps the Kree researchers did large-scale genetic assays , which early Inhumans confused with experiments. In such an hypothesis, Celestial genetic alterations would have been attributed to Kree researchers who were just measuring them.
It seems that Inhumans truly started using the Terrigen Crystals once in Attilan. It was done under the guidance of a King and/or genius geneticist named Randac. Who supposedly discovered the Terrigen Crystals in caves under Attilan.
(Very early on it’s spelled “terrogen”, presumably as a variant over the word “teratogenic ”. The earliest stories also speak of rays rather than of mists.)
There’s a mess of contradictory accounts about that. Our proposed No-Prize Hypothesis :
- Randac is a mythologised figure. A bit like King Arthur or the Yellow Emperor. There was an actual Randac person, but what History tells of him is embellished and conflated with the achievements of others.
- Most of the deeds attributed to Randac might have been performed by clandestine survivors of Kree science teams, then their descendants. To check how close their precious subjects were to withstanding Terrigenesis.
- (Some of Ronan the Accuser’s exclamations give the impression that “randac” means “lord” in Kree).
- Official Inhuman texts pretend that the Kree never were involved. And that Inhumans figured everything out on their own and are totally the best.
(This No-Prize Hypothesis is chiefly inspired by Hickmann’s Fantastic Four #577, where the “five species” thing is revealed. It also uses the fact that, during a time travel foray, Randac prefers to describe himself as a simple scientist rather than as the mythological father figure of his species).
Genetics, genetics and more genetics
Randac, or “Randac”, exposed himself to mists extracted from Terrigen crystals. He acquired superhuman powers.
He went on to form the Genetics Council. This was a sort of Supreme Court, which also had extensive eugenical powers. They were even more authoritarian about who should reproduce with whom, to aggressively increase the percentage of Terrigenesis-compatible Inhumans.
Early on, Terrigenesis was available to volunteers. But ghastly alterations were common. Which likely meant losing the genetic potential of one Inhuman.
More selective breeding, and better genetic screening, were deemed necessary before Terrigenesis could be commonly used.
A Kree Sentry robot monitoring Earth then reportedly informed the Inhumans that they had been created by the Kree. It described them as the result of “a casual experiment”.
This incident seems difficult to reconcile with the lethal termination of the project, thousands of years before, by the Supreme Intelligence.
In our hypothesis where some Kree researchers survived in hiding, the Sentry might be a made-up Inhuman story to downplay their involvement. Same hypothesis as with Randac above, really.
One account states that Randac wanted to take chances with Terrigenesis so that the Inhumans could stand up to the Kree once they were discovered. This too would align well with the notion that at least part of Randac’s deeds were actually performed by descendants of the survivors of Kree science teams.
The Gral crisis
About 75% of the population mutated into non-humanoids, with dire psychological and logistical consequences.
Reportedly, one Auron (or “Auran”) then overthrew Gral. He helped the population cope with their mostly non-consensual mutations. Eugenics planning also intensified.
One suspects that the King Gral story is apocryphal . When Inhuman Queen Medusa evoked a similar incident (with multiple generations being necessary to get back on the desired genetic rails), she instead stated that it was a result of Randac’s opening Terrigenesis to volunteers too soon.
“King Gral” may thus be but a fictional sin-eater to keep the sainted Randac figure spotless.
Like crystal, we break easy
In the meanwhile, what little Terrigen Crystal existed was locked under Attilan, within a sealed cavern.
Salt water heated to a specific temperature ran over it, making it produce Terrigen Mist. The Inhumans collected and stored the Mist, which was the actual catalyst for Terrigenesis.
Though there’s a pair of ceremonial guards, the access to the cavern is sacred and taboo. Even by the XXth Century, it was used but infrequently.
(Son of M #2 state “a dozen persons per century”. But that seems too low, given how many Inhumans are visibly mutated).
As time passed, the tightly controlled atmosphere, food and drink within Attilan made it harder to leave. By the XXth Century, atmospheric and food chain pollution made the Human world toxic for most Attilaners.
Eugenics just ain’t the same without slavery and racism
Circa 2000 BC, Inhuman geneticist Avadar allegedly created a new species, the Alpha Primitives.
These were essentially Morlocks. That is, the perfect evolution of rank-and-file workers from the point of view of a Victorian captain of industry. Alpha Primitives are superhumanly strong and tireless, with low IQ and imagination. All seem to be identical clones.
They are sexless but andromorphic . They also were meant to be unable to develop a culture. At any point, there’s about 500 of them in Attilan.
These made-to-order proles handled much of the essential labour in the city. Sanitation, manufacture, agriculture, maintenance and cleaning, etc.. Their entire lives were spent either working or sleeping.
The slave engine
This version of history — and it may not surprise you at this point — seems to be in good part a pile of taurine faeces.
At least some of Alpha Primitives are actually altered Humans. They are genetically rewritten using an enormous Kree machine, the Slave Engine. The Engine generates Xerogen gas, which reverts modern Humans to a more primitive mutated form.
To oversimplify, it’s a reversed form of Terrigen mists.
The Slave Engine was meant as a doomsday weapon, if Humanity were to attack Inhumanity en masse.
(The Slave Engine is that large because it is integrated with a spaceship. It can also blanket the Earth “a dozen times over”. This may mean that it’s a Kree weapon meant to be used on any planet, but which once on Earth was programmed to release a gas that specifically affects Humans.)
(“Xerogenesis” might be a reference to the Shaver Mystery mythos, with its Deros and Teros and stuff.)
Send in the clones
Still, the cloning thing seems to be partially correct :
- There’s a span of decades (1960-2010, to simplify) where the Inhumans no longer had access to the Engine. That Alpha population was sustained through cloning during this span seems reasonable.
- There likely were other spans where cloning existing Alpha was simpler than running Humans through Xerogenesis.
The very first Alpha Primitives might have been the result of a defensive use. But I wouldn’t be amazed if the “Humans hated us and kept attacking us” narrative was simply cover for early rounds of enslavement.
Furthermore, the notion that Alpha Primitives can’t form a culture is obviously wrong. They can invent stories, rituals, traditions, etc..
It’s just that it’s difficult since they work all the time, are expected to be silent, are barred from learning to read, and so on.
A side note
Attilan as depicted during the 1960s and 1970s evokes the United States’ image that existed when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were boys.
- It is a literal shining city on a hill.
- It is very much isolationist.
- It was built and maintained through slavery. Its beneficiaries regarded the slaves as subhuman and with a mixture of contempt, delusion and paranoia.
- It was very much into eugenics. The late XIXth and early XXth US had a strong movement to breed a better Nordic/Anglo-Saxon race, prevent miscegenation, enforce heterosexuality, stamp out physical defects, promote athletic physiognomies, breed out persons whose cranial shape wasn’t just right, and other familiar things.
- It had a marked tendency to leave out some parts of its history as taught to citizens, and mythologise others.
These parallels were chiefly used — unsubtly — in the Marvel storylines about the Alpha Primitives. The main one was the Omega storyline.
(Back when the Inhumans appeared, eugenics were widely understood to be bad and associated with the Nazis. As were the likes of phrenology or scientific racism. It would be decades before neo-Nazis would gain traction in rehabilitating these concepts.)
Over time, a stable offshoot of winged Inhumans emerged from attempts at Terrigenesis. A superstructure, the Aerie, was built for them above Attilan. Perched atop an immense and slender pylon, it allowed them to live as flying avians.
But the winged ones fell into arrogance and grievances. They thought themselves superior to their wingless brethren.
Circa 1,000 or 500 BC, it all went down the toilet. The leader of the winged Inhumans, Kyrius, declared war against Attilan. He also purged his people, murdering those whose wings weren’t bird-like and white-feathered.
King Nestor of the Inhumans had the pylon sundered. The Aerie, floating in the air thanks to its anti-gravity engines, was left adrift.
Lacking agriculture, the winged Inhumans raided Humans underneath to steal cattle and produce. This may be the origin of some myths about harpies and the like.
Of a feather
These Inhumans formed their own Ancient And Superior Hidden Civilisation. This one was called the Bird People. They occasionally denied being Inhumans.
But their story would end in misery.
The most famous Bird Person is actually a Human who was found, all Tarzan-like, by the Bird People. He would adopt the name Red Raven.
The Bird People may have been the last diaspora to leave Attilan. They lived high above the clouds, and eventually assembled their own arable lands as a sort of sky island. Thus, they weren’t as exposed to pollution from the wider world.
Inhuman after all
After the Bird People’s exile, there were few known interactions between Inhumanity and Humanity.
Most incidents were small scale. A typical example would be renegade mind controller Tral. He raised a horde of mindless slaves in China during the 1300s, but was defeated by Adam Destine and two of his sons.
The increase in aerial and maritime traffic would eventually make it too hard for Attilan to remain hidden. But such increases only started being relevant during the XXth Century.
Source of Character: Marvel Comics.
Helper(s): Lockjaw, Darci.
Writeup completed on the 25th of October, 2020.