Nothing against the casting choice, but who thought bringing fucking Starfox to the MCU was a good idea?!
— Kalinara (@kalinara) October 19, 2021
If you have already seen Eternals and are what the deal is with that character played by Harry Styles. If so, you might have asked your comic reading friends all about him. You might have then got a response like the one in that Tweet above.
Eros, also known as Starfox, is a character with a rather problematic history in the comics. While his inclusion into the MCU is too be expected due to his connection to certain MCU characters already adapted to the big screen, the way the character has been presented in the books makes him a risky choice to make the leap to the movies.
Eros first appeared in 1972’s Iron Man #55 and was created by Jim Starlin with help from Mike Friedrich. That issue is also the first appearance of Thanos and that is not a coincidence. In comic book continuity, Eros is the brother of Thanos and both characters are also Eternals who live on Saturn’s Moon, Titan. That issue also introduced their father, Alars, a.k.a. Mentor, but there is no word on whether or not he will also be making the leap into the films as well.
For most of his early appearances , Eros served one of four purposes. One, he was a fount of exposition for the other characters and by proxy the audience. Two, he was a hostage that the hero, more often than not the male Captain Marvel, had to rescue. Three, he was an ally that helped another hero, more often than not the male Captain Marvel, fight their enemies. Four, he was there to take up space in the background of a panel or two. The closest to characterization was the panel you see on the left, also written by Starlin, taken from Eros’ second appearance in Captain Marvel #27. His entire story–man of love, man of adventure, mistaken for the Greek god of the same name, brother of Thanos–all in one panel.
Eros didn’t really get much in the way of character development until his appearance in 1976’s Warlock #12, a book he barely appeared in.
The issue, written by Starlin, focused on Warlock’s traveling companion, Pip the Troll. Pip comes across a courtesan named Heater Delight. Heater promises Pip “unbelievable pleasure” if he frees her from her servitude. His attempts to do so puts him in conflict with her owner, Pro-Boscis the Procurer. Their fight is watched by a figure in the shadows, a man who regrets not being able to participate in the fight himself. Pip eventually triumphs only to find that Heater Delight is now free to join up with her true love, you guessed it, Eros.
And thusly, Eros received the foundation that the rest of his characterization would be built upon–a sort of an asshat that women find inexplicably attractive.
Eros would return to the background for the next seven years. He got his “big break” in 1983’s Avengers #230, written by Roger Stern. In that issue, he was seen coming to Earth in search of adventure. He seeks out the Avengers, former allies of his friend Captain Marvel, knowing that adventure follows the team wherever they go. Knowing him from previous encounters, they make him a provisional member of the team and give him the code name “Starfox”. He becomes a full member two issues later.
This is the most exposure the character had received in his over a decade of existence. Stern built his characterization of Starfox off of his appearance in Warlock #12. To start, he was simply portrayed as a flirt, throwing pointed complements at the females in the cast. However, that soon moved on to portraying him as a what people would call a decade later a “player.” He is shown trying to pick up a female doctor at the scene of a mysterious force field that was engulfing Manhattan. A few issues later, a romantic rendezvous in a park with a different woman is interrupted when he remembers he must have a training session with Captain America. Then there’s his dalliance with She-Hulk.
In Avengers #234, the team has a small bit of down time. Starfox was going to check out the “local sights.” She-Hulk offers to show him “things you wouldn’t believe.” When we next see the pair, She-Hulk waking up, nude, in her room in the Avengers Mansion. She is so happy that she is singing. Out of her bathroom comes Starfox, who has just used her shower. This is a close comics to showing the two characters had sex that the Comics Code Authority would allow in 1983.
But Starfox’s Lothario-like ways wasn’t the only update to his characterization. In Avengers #241, it was revealed that Starfox had the ability to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, being able to manipulate his target to do whatever he wanted.
The savvy among might have had an idea. A man who has women falling at his feet added to that man having the power of pleasure based mind control might add up to “Starfox, the Roofie That Walks Like a Man!” You would not be alone in that assessment. Writer Dan Slott had the same thought.
Slott was the writer on the 2005 She-Hulk series. The premise of the series was that She-Hulk, who in her civilian identity, Jennifer Walters, was an attorney, was hired by a law firm that specializes in superhuman cases. In that series sixth issue, she is hired by Starfox to represent him in a sexual assault case. A married woman accused Starfox of using his emotion manipulating powers on her to force her to have sex with him.
The story, which was published four years after Marvel moved away from using the Comics Code Authority, makes it far more clearer that She-Hulk and Starfox did indeed bump uglies that night in 1983. However, viewed in the light of what Starfox was accused of by that woman, She-Hulk begins to wonder if Starfox manipulated her too. When she confronts him in issue seven, he is evasive and doesn’t give her a straight answer. Her questioning causes him to decide to flee Earth, only to be stopped by an enraged She-Hulk. The issue ends with Starfox’s father, Mentor, teleporting him back to Titan to avoid Earthly prosecution.
It seems like Marvel got a case of cold feet about turning one of their superheroes into a serial rapist, because when the series returned to the storyline in issue #12, Slott went out of his way to establish that Starfox did not use his powers on She-Hulk to get her in bed, and any other use of his powers on people were done involuntarily due to Thanos messing with Starfox’s mind.
But most fans either don’t remember that denouement or choose to ignore it. All they remember is the sexual assault storyline. And the mainstream media have also picked up on that storyline too. This could prove problematic for Marvel Studios.
When Eros first appeared, the world was at the height of the sexual revolution, and a polyamorous character wouldn’t seem out of place. When Eros became Starfox in the early 1980s, sitcoms and comedy films were rotten with characters whose main goal was to hook up with women. But we are now in the era of #metoo and Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. A skirt-chasing character does not have the same appeal, especially one who uses his superpower to get women into bed. We can see a whole lot more reactions like the Tweet above.
Now, I know this is a lot of baggage to put on a character who has only appeared on screen for few moments in a mid-credit scene. We do not know how Marvel Studios will use Eros/Starfox in the future. We do not know how he will be portrayed in future appearances (Although Harry Styles, the…um…actor playing Eros has a similar affect on women in real life as Starfox did in the comics, so, take that as you will). But if Marvel Studios doesn’t play this new character very carefully, they might be facing more trouble than they ever had before.