The Elders of the Universe are a fictional group of supervillains appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The Collector was the first Elder to appear, and featured in Avengers #28 (May 1966), but the idea that he was a member of a group known as the Elders was not introduced until Avengers #174 (August 1978). The character was created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema.
The Elders of the Universe are the last survivors of otherwise extinct races and are known for their personal obsessions, such as collecting, gaming, and fighting, which are pursued fanatically. While the characters are not truly cosmic entities, all have achieved some cosmic level of power and knowledge. The first encounter with the heroes of Earth occurs when the Collector came to Earth seeking to expand his collection. Later, the Grandmaster created the supervillain team the Squadron Sinister as pawns to battle the champions of the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror, the superhero team the Avengers.
Although thwarted, the Grandmaster and his fellow Elders take an interest in Earth, and the Collector has two separate encounters with the Avengers, the second ending with his murder by the entity Korvac. The Grandmaster also tricks the entity Death into playing a contest—again involving many of Earth's heroes—that he deliberately loses to resurrect the Collector. The Grandmaster usurps control of Death's realm, and after a battle between the Avengers and the Grandmaster's champions—the Legion of the Unliving—is tricked by the Avengers. An angered Death then prevents the Elders from ever entering her realm, which effectively makes them immortal and is the Grandmaster's true goal.
The Elder known as the Champion of the Universe has a brief encounter with many of Earth's strongest heroes. After defeating Colossus, Sasquatch, Wonder Man, Hulk, and Thor in hand-to-hand combat by knockout or disqualifying them for violations, he faces Benjamin Grimm of the Fantastic Four. Eventually realizing that the outmatched Grimm will never submit under any circumstances, the Champion concedes the match and offers Grimm his respect.
A group of eleven Elders later join forces and meet on Ego the Living Planet (who is also regarded as an Elder) in an effort to kill the cosmic entity Galactus, which would cause the concepts Eternity and Death to become unbalanced and end the universe. The Elders believe since they are now immortal they would be the only beings in the universe to survive and would be supreme beings in the new universe. The plan, however, is thwarted by Galactus' Heralds the Silver Surfer and Nova. Galactus captures and consumes five of the Elders (Champion, Collector, Gardener, Grandmaster and Runner) but three other Elders (Astronomer, Possessor and Trader) are sucked into a black hole and pass through it into a mystical universe. Two Elders avoid the wrath of Galactus and his hunger, The Contemplater and the Obliterator. Both meet with each other being seemingly the last known surviving Elders and plot their revenge against the universe.
Despite this setback, the eight Elders continue their plot against Galactus. While the five Elders within Galactus inflict a fatal case of "cosmic indigestion" upon him, the three Elders in the mystical realm conspire with the cosmic entity the In-Betweener to restore him in exchange for him returning them to their home reality and his promise to kill Galactus. Using the Silver Surfer, Mister Fantastic, and the Invisible Woman (whom Galactus had sent in search of the Infinity Gems), the In-Betweener is restored and he brings the Elders back to their own reality. Once there, the In-Betweener attempts to kill Galactus but discovers that he cannot do so. When he announces his intention to hurl Galactus into the black hole instead, the three Elders, who wanted to rescue their brother Elders from within Galactus, threaten him with the other five Infinity Gems to stop him. The In-Betweener responds by summoning Death and forcing her to negate them despite her vow. As a result, the Astronomer, the Trader and the Possessor and his Runestaff are apparently disintegrated. The ship carrying Galactus is then thrown into the black hole and passes through to the mystical realm where the In-Betweeners's creators, Master Order and Lord Chaos, force the five Elders within Galactus to exit his body, restoring the world-devourer. During the subsequent battle between Galactus and the In-Betweener, the quintet are eventually persuaded to help Galactus defeat his foe. Moments later, the five Elders use their Infinity Gems to instantaneously travel very far away from Galactus and his vengeance.
Another Elder, the Contemplator, allies with the space-pirate Captain Reptyl against the Silver Surfer, but is betrayed and apparently killed. The Contemplator is revealed to have survived—as a disembodied head—and goes on to attempt to rule the Kree Empire, but is seemingly destroyed by the peace-loving alien Cotati.
The five Elders that were previously consumed by Galactus (Champion, Collector, Gardener, Grandmaster, and Runner) are targeted by the Titan Thanos because they possess the Infinity Gems. The character humiliates each in turn (the Gardener is murdered) and captures the Gems. The Elder the Runner has an encounter with the hero Quasar during which the time being Eon reveals that there are a "thousand or so" Elders. Quasar also later confronts the Obliterator, the Possessor, and previously unknown Elders the Explorer, the Judicator and the Caregiver. It is also revealed that the Contemplator killed by Reptyl was in fact a Skrull, and not the true Contemplator.
The Grandmaster reappears and creates a new version of the Squadron Sinister. Courtesy of a phenomenon known as the Wellspring of Power—an interdimensional source of superhuman abilities—the Grandmaster increases the Squadron Sinister's powers and they battle the superhero team the New Thunderbolts. The Grandmaster is defeated by Baron Zemo, and the Squadron Sinister scatter and escape. Champion has an encounter with the heroine She-Hulk and aids her foe Titania by giving her the Power Gem, currently in his possession.
The Astronomer, Champion, Grandmaster, Judicator, and Runner traveled to the planet Godthab Omega, and witnessed the arrival of the Annihilation Wave.
After Battleworld is destroyed at the conclusion of Secret Wars, the Elders examine the planet's remains, and find them to be teeming with Power Primordial in the form of an "Iso-Sphere". Their inability to come to a mutually beneficial agreement regarding ownership of the Iso-Sphere prompts the Elders into holding a winner takes all Contest of Champions which all but the Grandmaster and Collector are eventually eliminated from.
Each Elder of the Universe possesses a fraction of what is referred to as the Power Primordial, remnants of the primordial energies of the Big Bang that still permeate the universe. The Power Primordial can be used to produce a wide range of effects, including augmentation of physical attributes (strength, durability, speed), molecular restructuring, creation of force fields, teleportation and numerous other abilities.Cort Zo Tinnus / The Trader
En Dwi Gast / The Grandmaster
Gilpetperdon / The Runner
Kamo Tharnn / The Possessor
Maht Pacle / The Obliterator
Ord Zyonz / The Gardener
Rubanna Lagenris Quormo / The Caregiver
Seginn Gallio / The Astronomer - First appeared in Silver Surfer (Vol.3) #4. Dedicated to chronicling the slow evolution of the stars and galaxies themselves, he long ago lost interest in living beings.
Taneleer Tivan / The Collector
Tath Ki / The Contemplator
Tryco Slatterus / The Champion of the Universe
Zamanathan Rambunazeth / The Explorer
Gustav Mean The Architect
Roderick Mean The Judicator
Ego the Living Planet
The Elders of the Universe are mentioned by the Dark Surfer, who claims to have killed them, in The Super Hero Squad Show episode "When Strikes the Surfer."
One of the Elders, The Collector, features in the Thor: The Dark World mid-credits scene, and appears in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Another of the Elders, The Grandmaster, will appear in the film Thor: Ragnarok.
Another elder named Ego is set to appear in the film "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"