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Here's what you should know about Marvel's Sprite

Marvel has definitively proven that they can turn even the most obscure characters into box office gold. Just look at Guardians of the Galaxy: Before James Gunn's film rocketed the team to mainstream popularity, Star-Lord, Groot, Gamora, and the rest of the team were essentially nobodies in the world of comics. The MCU's next attempt at the same trick comes with Eternals. Starring such luminaries as Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, and Kit Harrington, the film promises to bring even more cosmic shenanigans into the MCU. The instigator of many of those shenanigans is bound to be Sprite, an Eternal with a unique set of skills and a wild history on the page.

In preparation for Eternals, we're taking a look at the youthful Sprite. What we can expect from the trickster in this film, based on his comic adventures? Mayhem, mischief, and maybe a bit of reality alteration — and that's just for starters.

Sprite's first appearance

The Eternals first appeared in their own comic series back in 1976. A cosmic race of extremely powerful beings, the Eternals were created by the Celestials, a group of massive, nigh-divine entities who travel the universe, tinkering with sentient life. The Eternals have been on Earth for thousands of years — some have even entered humanity's legends and fables, due to their tremendous powers. 

Sprite stands out from the rest of the Eternals because of his appearance. Most of the Eternals are tall and beautiful adults — Sprite, on the other hand, resembles a young boy. This is a major point of contention between Sprite and his Eternal siblings: Despite looking like a child, he is thousands of years old. To be fair to the other Eternals, they can't help but treat him like a child much of the time, as he insists upon acting like one.

Sprite is a central character of Neil Gaiman's run of The Eternals in the mid-2000s. Judging by some of the information that has come out about Eternals' casting, it appears the MCU version of the character may be taking some cues from Gaiman's run.

The power of the Eternals

Saving that a character in the MCU is "powerful" can mean a lot of things. Do we mean Hawkeye powerful, or do we mean the-literal-god-of-thunder powerful? The answer lies a lot closer to the latter in the case of the Eternals.

The Eternals specialize in different areas, but they all boast a baseline set of powers that pretty much make them gods. They are essentially immune to damage, aging, and disease. They can also be resurrected if they are somehow killed. They have the power to manipulate things on a molecular level, meaning the sky's the limit for many of their abilities. As if that's not enough, they can fly, teleport, lift thousands of pounds, blast energy from their hands and eyes, and levitate objects as they see fit.

Essentially, any one of the Eternals would be a formidable force, even for a group like the Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy. When they're all together and working towards the same goal, there is little in the universe that can stand in their way. However, they don't always see eye to eye — and therein lies their group weakness.

The eternal child

Sprite boasts all the baked-in powers of the Eternals, from energy manipulation to virtual immortality. Like so many of his kin, he has chosen to  develop particular areas of skill: Powers of illusion and molecular manipulation are his domain. Though all Eternals have these powers to some degree, Sprite is an undisputed master, second only to Sersi in the area of matter manipulation. But simply saying that Sprite's talents lie in creating illusions doesn't do real justice to his powers: Sprite's illusions are so powerful and so convincing that he changes reality as his target knows it. The visions he creates are utterly indistinguishable from the real thing, affecting all five senses. His powers are also every bit as effective on his own kind, and can even affect memory.

Unlike the other Eternals, Sprite's biggest flaw comes from the fact that he is an eternal child, trapped roughly at 11 years old. He is often left out or ignored by the others of his race, making him prone to pouting and lashing out. He often uses his illusory powers to take revenge when he is treated unfairly — and really, can you blame him? You try being stuck as your tween self forever.

Sprite on the screen

Sprite's first live-action appearance will arrive in Eternals, but the character has actually already shown up in a Marvel film — albeit not an MCU one. The Eternals appear in the animated movie Marvel Knights: Eternals, where Sprite is voiced by Sam Vincent. Vincent is a prolific voice actor who you've probably heard in lots of things, including My Little Pony and The Dragon Prince.

That said, most people are interested in the MCU version of the character. 2021's Eternals will see Sprite played by Lia McHugh. Interestingly, Eternals' Sprite will be a young girl in the world of the MCU — though, given the Eternals' penchant for manipulating molecular structures, the idea of gender being a bit more fluid for them makes a lot of sense. If we do a little detective work based off of the casting notes, McHugh will be playing a snappy version of Sprite who is "wise beyond her years." This character is named Piper in the casting notes, likely to keep movie details under wraps, but perhaps that'll be an alias Sprite uses among humanity.

Sprite will be in good hands with McHugh: She's already shown impressive acting chops in films like The Lodge and on the television series American Woman.

Literary ties

If the concept of Sprite as an eternally youthful prankster sounds familiar, it should. Past writers for The Eternals have actually played with that idea, canonically making Sprite the inspiration for a number of wildly powerful literary characters.

The first name you think of when you think "eternal child" is probably Peter Pan. Peter Pan's creator, J.M. Barrie, actually appears early on in Neil Gaiman's run on The Eternals: Sprite actually appears in front of the writer in the year 1901, providing him with the inspiration he needs for the boy who never grows up. It's fitting that Sprite is swapping genders in the MCU version of Eternals, as productions of Peter Pan, especially those on the stage, have traditionally featured a woman in the starring role, to capture Pan's boyish appearance and voice.

Another famous character that Sprite inspired in Marvel continuity is Puck, the fairy trickster of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sprite appears to Shakespeare just as he does to Barrie, inspiring the bard to write one of his most famous characters.

Rewriting reality and becoming a child star

Sprite has often been a bit of a secondary character when it comes to the Eternals, but he has had one very impressive run where he gets to be the star of the show — literally. This distinction arrives very early on in Neil Gaiman's run on the comic, when Sprite essentially rewrites reality using the combined power of the Eternals and a being called the Dreaming Celestial.

Having grown tired of eternal childhood, Sprite uses his amplified powers to make all the Eternals human. He himself becomes a human kid named Colin, starring in the wildly popular television series, It's Just So Sprite. Eventually, the latent power of the other Eternals starts jogging their memories, and Sprite tries to lure them together to essentially repeat the same trick. It fails, and the Eternals are able to recover their abilities and return reality to normal.

Supporting the Superhuman Registration Act

Captain America: Civil War brings one of Marvel Comics' most explosive storylines to the big screen. Certain details are changed to make it fit the movies better, but the idea remains: Heroes picking sides over whether or not the government should have a say in their activities. 

In the comics, Sprite actually plays a large role in these proceedings, albeit from the sidelines. Sprite is a vocal proponent of the Superhuman Registration Act, advocating for any individual with powers to register with the government and make their alter-ego common knowledge. This might not sound like a big deal, but this happens during the time that Sprite is operating as Colin, the child actor with a massive audience. Granted, Sprite is likely only in favor of the SRA because it would allow him to better keep an eye on things, vis-a-vis his reality manipulation.

Invited his own execution

Eternals can actually be killed, though it takes an enormous effort to do so. Reviving them, however, only takes a trip to the Reactivation Chamber. Thus, the Eternals almost always come back after their mortal engagements ... except, apparently, Sprite.

Eventually, Sprite's manipulation of reality, as chronicled in the Neil Gaiman run, is revealed. Sprite attempts to outrun his punishment, but there's no stopping Eternal justice. Zuras, one of the oldest and most powerful Eternals, catches up with him eventually. Sprite isn't terribly apologetic over what he's done — he got what he wanted, after all. Quietly, he allows Zuras to snap his mortal neck.

Knowing comics, Sprite will eventually hit the Reactivation Chamber to cause more mischief. Until then, however, we'll have to settle for Sprite in the MCU, because there's been no sign of the trickster since this particular demise. Thus, the fans must wait ... something Sprite, forever a child, has gotten very good at.