When it comes to comics, sometimes characters exist for no real purpose.
This happens a lot, actually. Writers might come up with some random idea and put it to paper in order to fill panels or pages, but in regards to driving the story forward, these ideas really don’t serve the grander narrative purpose in any way.
However, because these are comics, these ideas have the unique opportunity to endure beyond the input of a single creative team and evolve in the hands of a future contributor. There are few examples of this more perfect, ultimately, than the Elders of the Universe.
The group is credited with being introduced in Avengers (V1) #28 in 1966, but this was really only the first appearance of one of the Collector whom, at no point during the story, in no way indicates that he has been alive for billions of years nor that he is part of any grouping of beings from similar backgrounds. Instead, he pretty much just wanted to add the Wasp to his collection, coming off as more of a creeper. After Collector, the Grandmaster, Possessor, Contemplator, and Gardener all appeared in short order over the next 12 years. None of these characters seemed to have anything in common with the exception of names that ended with ‘r’ (and indicated that they were into doing something or another).
It wasn’t until Avengers (V1, still) #174, in 1978, where the Collector, having been beaten by Hawkeye (seriously) reveals that he’s super-ancient, had cosmic power and is connected with the Grandmaster as an ‘Elder.’ After finally having some definition from an appearance in West Coast Avengers Annual (V1) #2 and having been referenced in the Official Handbooks to the Marvel Universe, the Elders of the Universe finally show up, in 1987, more than two decades after the first appearance of the Collector, as a group in the first arc from the 3rd Volume of Silver Surfer.
The plots of the Elders would cause the Surfer problems for years and are, by far, the best tales of these strange, ancient, cosmic obsessive-compulsives. The stories of the Elders kind of peter out before the 1990s end, but a bunch more weirdos are added, as they do. All in all, the group ends up consisting of about 16 beings of immense power and spectacular lack of use.
With the Collector having made his appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy and Grandmaster set to show up in the upcoming Thor: Ragnorok, I’ll be doing some stuff focussing on the various Elders, in the future, especially since I have the urge to spotlight the amazing art from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Reduxe Edition. This week’s art by the fantastically-talented Tariq Hassan and the link to the site is below. I’ll be having some fun with this, noting various resources and references alongside my world famous opinionated clap-trap.
It ties in perfectly with all this series as the OHotMURE is all about repurposing those things that people think are useless to make something amazing.
Because that’s what comics are all about: recycling the ideas that other people would have thrown away.