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When We First Met – The Tale of the Infinity Gems

Every week we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic book lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!’” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today we take a look at the history of the infinity gems.

The soul gem was first introduced in Marvel Premiere #1, when Roy Thomas and Gil Kane first gave us Warlock. The High Evolutionary just gives it to him…

The jewel is not named, though, until Warlock had his two issues of Marvel Premiere and then two more issues of his own solo title. In the third issue, now written by Mike Friedrich (taking over from Thomas), Friedrich first refers to it as a “soul-jewel”…

The next issue is the first one to refer to it as a “gem”…

When Jim Starlin took the character nearly two years later in Strange Tales #178, Starlin referred to the gem as a “soul gem”…

After Warlock #15 had the soul gem note that it was one of six gems, Bill Mantlo, John Byrne and Dave Hunt did an issue of Marvel Team-Up (#55) where we first actually see other soul gems…

The Gardener makes his intro…

Soon after, Starlin used the soul gems in the pages of Warlock’s classic last (initial) storyline, the two-parter in Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (with Joe Rubinstein as his co-artist). Here, from Avengers Annual #7…

Here are the Avengers destroying Thanos’ gem..

Fast forward to the return of Thanos in the early 1990s by Starlin. Here, in Thanos Quest (the prelude to the Infinity Gauntlet, with art by Ron Lim and John Beatty), Thanos goes to collect the soul gems…

After getting the Champion’s soul gem, Thanos notes that calling them ALL “soul gems” is probably inaccurate, since only the first gem really has to do with the soul. So he decided to give them a new name…

And they’ve been the infinity gems ever since. Most notably in the Infinity Gauntlet…

30 Comments

Great sleuthing!!! It’s awesome to see all of these pages :D

Gil Kane was so awesome. They need to do a full-color omnibus of his work.

I don’t have the issues in front of me, but before Marvel Team-Up #55 in Starlin’s run of Strange Tales/Warlock, the Soul Gem is talking to Warlock and identifies itself as “one of six”.

When he’s draping his cape, check out Warlock’s horrible abdomen muscle-boob!

Also wonder if there was significance in referring to Earth as a green gem in that initial encounter with The Gardener.

“Marvel Team-Up (#55) where we first learn of MULTIPLE soul gems…”

No, that would be in the earlier Warlock #15, when Warlock’s Soul Gem declares “I am one of the six..”

“I don’t have the issues in front of me, but before Marvel Team-Up #55 in Starlin’s run of Strange Tales/Warlock, the Soul Gem is talking to Warlock and identifies itself as “one of six”.”

You’re correct – it’s in Warlock #15.

I’d forgotten how cool the Elders of the Universe are. The Gardener and Collector are nicely portrayed in these pages.

I know everyone likes to forget about it, but during the Avengers/Ultraforce crossover it was revealed there was a seventh infinity gem. When combined with the other six gems it created some big-bad cosmic entity.

@Rob, Thanks. I’m still bitter that we didn’t get a steady stream of Starlin’s Warlock after #15 because it teased so much great stuff. The Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 were great but rushed and a year later.

It’s also worth noting that the Stranger gets involved with the Champions in their book (#12-13) after Marvel Team-Up #55.

@POWRSURG, yes, The Ego Gem. Which was the only other gem to talk and reformed with the others into Nemesis which claimed to be the first being who split itself into the gems and the universe.

nice always wondered where the infinity gems got their start and surprised to learn that not only were they at first all called soul gems but thanos made earlier plays for them.

Love those Starlin Warlock comics! I always loved the ending in Avengers Annual 7 for the fact that it tied up Adam Walock’s strange “suicide” storyline. Then in the 90s when he used it to springboard his run on Silver Surfer, he took it to a whole other level!

No one could do cosmic like Marvel.

Thanks guys, I forgot Warlock #15! I edited it in.

didn’t rune have the infinity gauntlet at one time.the malibu character

[...] Comic Book Resources, an in-depth look at the Marvel Universe origins of the Soul (later Infinity) gems.  An excellent [...]

Is there some explanation about the gems origins? How they were created or came to be?

Chaim Mattis Keller

July 11, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Wasn’t there a bit between the Warlock “death” and the “Thanos Quest” where the Elders of the Universe used the soul/infinity gems to try to kill Galactus? I believe that was in the Silver Surfer’s series. That’s how the Elders ended up having the Gems, from whence Thanos then obtained them.

Estevao, the origin is that the gems are the remains of the being who created the universe.

Another Soul Gem appeared in Captain Marvel #45 (1976)…that’s the one that Thanos finds in the “cavern on Deneb IV”.

No mention of the ultraverse gem?

Wasn’t there a bit between the Warlock “death” and the “Thanos Quest” where the Elders of the Universe used the soul/infinity gems to try to kill Galactus? I believe that was in the Silver Surfer’s series. That’s how the Elders ended up having the Gems, from whence Thanos then obtained them.

Yes, but they were still called the soul gems then.

Don’t have the issues in front of me, but IIRC it’s in Thanos Quest #1 that Thanos decides they can’t be called Soul Gems. It’s right after he takes the Champion’s gem, and realizes that it doesn’t have any effect on the soul at all… just sheer, unbridled power… and that calling them all “soul gems” was inaccurate. That’s why the renaming didn’t just happen “abruptly”.

Thanks, Diego! Good call. I adjusted the piece accordingly.

Travis Pelkie

July 12, 2012 at 2:01 am

Otis Redding had several soul gems, didn’t he?

Thank you, I’ll be here all night!

I think it’s a good idea to just forget the Ultraverse story…

Nice work! Infinity Gauntlet is still my favorite Marvel cosmic saga of all time!

Here’s what I’ve always wondered…

Who was the Moorcock fan, Thomas or Starlin? Because the idea of the soul gem almost HAD to come from the Hawkmoon books.

I like that when Thanos rechristened the gems everyone went along with the name change. Even though Thanos may not be the nicest guy in the universe he did have a point about the name so I guess they had to give him credit on that one.

Sigh, Starlin’s Warlock stuff was sooo awesome. And the endless Infinity Gems series were soooo horrible. It hurts me.
Has Marvel reprinted the original Warlock-as-Jesus series?

I know I’m commenting far too late on this, but I’m reading all the Warlock stories, and found that his gem is first referred to as a ‘soul-jewel’ in Power of Warlock #2 page 8 (by Roy Thomas), rather than #3 (by Friedman).

Probably no one cares, but… yeah, perfectionist.

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