Photo: Marvel Comics
This week, we got a question from a fan wondering about the Marvel universe:
Dear Marvelous Movies,
In the Marvel movies I keep hearing about these items called the infinity stones. But I counted the stones and I’m pretty sure there are only 6 of them. Even if I missed a few, 6 is still a much smaller number than infinity. Why are they called the infinity stones if there are only 6 of them?
Ashton of Titan, Russia
Well, Ashton, you’re in luck! We here at Marvelous Movies are experts in comics lore, and we were able to look back in the archives and find an answer for you. Fair warning: the world of comics can seem overwhelming to some fans who only know the movies, but we’ll do our best to help you navigate through!
When the Infinity Stones (or “Infinity Gems” in the comics) first came on the scene, there were in fact infinity of them! The stones were created in The Eternals vol. 1 # 20 (1978), when the Celestials collectively had a sneezing fit, causing countless stones of great cosmic power to be spewed throughout the galaxy. Each of the stones varied slightly in color and ability, and soon they began to be found and used by various characters throughout the Marvel universe.
Of course, as we all know, Thanos tried to collect all of the infinity stones and gain ultimate cosmic power because he was in love with a skeleton. This saga and its consequences were told in the early ’90s across several titles and crossover events, including Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, Infinity Crusade, Infinite Crisis, Nissan Infiniti, and of course Infinity Scarf, in which Thanos got tired of gloves and decided to contain the stones in a more stylish fashion for fall. Still, the sheer quantity of the stones made it impossible for Thanos to collect them all, as he eventually realized in Web of Thanos #69.
The writers, too, soon realized that having literally infinity stones in the Marvel universe was way too complicated. It got to the point where almost every Marvel character had found one or more stones. They were even more prevalent and easy to find lying around than kryptonite is in Smallville! Most supervillains tried to use their stones to wipe out their enemies. Deadpool used his to create an endless supply of tacos, and J. Jonah Jameson just tried to wipe out his competing newspapers, along with half of all good haircuts in the world. Other than clone sagas and Rob Liefeld, the presence of so many magic stones is the biggest reason why the ’90s were such a weird time for comics.
So in the 2000s, the writers decided to significantly reduce the number of stones, and they found a few different ways to solve this problem. Some of the powerful stones were destroyed by hobbits throwing them into a volcano (Lord of the Rings #55). Some were retconned out of existence when Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil (Amazing Spider-Man #545), because retcons are always an easy way to clean things up. But the rest of the stones were mostly wiped out in House of M #9 when the Scarlet Witch used her magic to declare, “No more infinity stones.” This explains why, in the 2018 movie Avengers: Infinity War, Scarlet Witch is able to destroy the mind stone with her powers.
Still, the writers felt something more was needed, so they briefly introduced a character named Stanos–a mysterious cosmic being who seemed to have creative control over the entire Marvel universe! It’s unclear where Stanos came from, or even where the writers drew their inspiration from, but he was thought by some to be Thanos’s grandfather or progenitor. Stanos used his amazing cosmic powers to rewrite reality in Infinity #Infinity, altering the number of the stones, and then promptly disappeared from the comics with the words “‘Nuff said.”
After this, when the stones resurfaced in Avengers vol. 4 #42, there were only six of them left–but the name “infinity stones” had still stuck. Each stone had a different color and power, and each was possessed by a different character at the time. These were as follows:
- The power stone (purple) was still in Thanos’s possession, the main source of his great power.
- The red stone (reality) went to the Scarlet Witch, as her powers let her alter reality.
- The yellow stone (mind) went to the Vision, because…um…well, his cape is yellow.
- The blue stone (space) went to Nightcrawler, because he was blue and could already teleport through space.
- The orange stone (soul) went to the Thing, because he’s orange and really has a big heart under that tough exterior.
- The green stone (time) went to the Hulk, implying that he may secretly have the ability to time travel! We’re not certain why he never uses this power, but we’re still holding out for Marvel to address this in a Quantum Hulk series.
And there you have it, Ashton–the superior saga of the infinity stones! Aren’t comics great?
Until next time, keep sending in your Marvel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org!