Adam Warlock has a cult following among Marvel Comics readers, but he has never been an A-list superhero in comics or pop culture at large. However, that may be about to change. Warlock is tied to some of the most important properties and characters in the comics and movies of Marvel, and is starting to pop up in some surprising places. He is undoubtedly an underrated character as fans of Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin would be sure to tell you. So who is Adam Warlock? Why should you care? And what makes us think he’s about to be a big deal?
Here’s your beginner’s guide to Adam Warlock.
Adam Warlock was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in their legendary run of Fantastic Four in 1967. He was created by a group of scientists to become the perfect human being, referred to simply as Him. He turns against the creators and was quickly left behind by Kirby and Lee after a brief encounter with Thor, another title co-created by the pair.
It was about five years after his initial appearance that the character was overhauled and given a more substantial origin by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents. It’s here they transformed Adam Warlock into a feature of the space-driven Marvel universe. From there he has been reinvented and (literally) reborn through the comics of many other Marvel greats, including Jim Starlin.
Adam Warlock has an incredibly complicated history, but it can be distilled into a few key elements. Rather than provide a thesis paper on his many twists and turns, we’re here to provide only the thesis:
Early in his existence, Warlock was given the Soul Gem as he traveled the cosmos. It allows him to capture individual souls, which continue to live on within the gem, and provides him with one-sixth of the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet. Warlock soon found himself allied with Gamora, Pip the Troll, and Thanos in a battle with the mysterious Magus. Warlock eventually discovers that Magus is his future self and opts to destroy himself before he can become the villain. Thanos inevitably turns on Warlock and locks him and his allies within the Soul Gem.
It is at this point that Warlock discovers his ability to regenerate using a cocoon. He plays a central role, along with Gamora, Pip, and the Silver Surfer in defeating Thanos during the very first Infinity Gauntlet. Warlock’s subsequent adventures have all featured these key elements in new iterations. He is locked in battle with both the conqueror Thanos and his future self Magus. He works with important galactic Marvel figures, helping them to repel invasions and stop wars. He dies and is born again, often taking the appearance of a cosmic messiah. Adam Warlock’s history is cyclical, but the features of his cycle form some of the most important stories at Marvel Comics.
Adam Warlock’s complex history might have proven a barrier to entry for some creators and readers over the years, but it shouldn’t distract too much from what is an incredibly cool concept. When you remove the deluge of characters and planets he is mixed up with along the way, the essence of Warlock remains intriguing and challenging. He is supposedly the perfect being, a genetic creation without flaw and with optimal opportunity. It’s a dangerous idea that veers close to eugenics, but that can also push audiences to consider what it means to be perfect given the right story.
Adam’s initial creation leaves him as a fully formed person with no ideas or beliefs. This is where he becomes a fascinating character in his own right. He has almost limitless potential, but lacks guidance. In some ways, Adam Warlock is Superman without a childhood or the Kents to guide him. That blank slate also offers a lot of directions in which to explore philosophical concepts and the idea of true neutrality.
Warlock is ultimately a superhero though, and that’s what brings these disparate themes together into one incredible package. His perfection is challenged by his inability to make decisions and failures, showing that a genetically perfect being is not truly possible. His potential is only realized after he encounters and learns from deeply flawed characters, like many of the current Guardians of the Galaxy. Adam Warlock challenges the very notion of perfection and instead comes to celebrate the diversity of imperfect life. That’s the sort of big idea worth exploring in superhero comics and movies.
Last summer, the MCU existence of Adam Warlock was alluded to within Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The Sovereign race encountered at the start of the film feature Warlock’s trademark golden skin and are obsessed with the perfection of their race. In one of the post-credits sequences of the film, Ayesha states that she has used Peter Quill’s DNA to create something new before revealing a cocoon. It’s a clear indication that Adam Warlock has been created from this new combination of Sovereign and Celestial races. Whether he will feature in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 or appear as early as Avengers: Infinity War to help confront Thanos remains to be seen. (Though both have been basically denied in the past.) It’s all but certain that Warlock will play a role in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe though.
Adam Warlock is also returning to Marvel Comics in a big way this week as well. Part of the build to the publisher’s next big event featuring the Infinity Stones begins in the pages of Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1. The holder of the Soul Gem has returned with the same team behind the most recent Guardians of the Galaxy series providing the story. His appearance is bound to pave the way to Marvel Comics’ notable future plans.
Whether you’re a fan of Marvel’s movies, the comics, or (best of all) both, it’s inevitable that you will be seeing Adam Warlock very soon. There’s no better time to check out his best stories and get caught up on a bizarre character who may become an A-list superhero.