Comic geeks noticed something when they went out to watch Avengers: Infinity War last weekend. Well, first they noticed it was pretty much a direct adaptation of Jim Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet. The heavies of mega-villain Thanos, on the other hand, were slightly altered.
The Black Order were first conjured into being by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Jerome Opeña for the appropriately titled Infinity crossover event in 2013. Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight and the breakout Ebony Maw made it to the big screen relatively unchanged, but two of the Mad Titan’s disciples weren’t so lucky.
The Most Luminous
Supergiant was left out altogether. This otherworldly lady was so bad-ass, she used her enormous mental powers to blast the crap out of Dr. Strange by mind-controlling Black Bolt and his devastating voice. “Supergiant” is actually a classification of stars, as pointed out by Marvel Comics editor Tom Brevoort when he first introduced readers to the Black Order.
“Supergiant, as a term, refers to a particular grade of star that is of colossal size and colossal heat and colossal mass,” Brevoort told CBR.
Size and mass, yes, as the word implies (cut with a bit of irony that the namesake character is one of the smallest of Thanos’ lieutenants). Supergiants are some of the most luminous features in the universe, thanks to masses that are at least 10 times that of our Sun, making them as much as a thousand times as big and a million times as bright. Stars on the lower end of that mass range will become red supergiants, fusing helium and other heavier elements as they run out of the original hydrogen. Stars greater than 40 times the mass of our Sun burn more quickly and become blue supergiants.
The color of a star is usually indicative of its temperature — red supergiants are cooler than blue ones. Both kinds are too massive to collapse into dwarf stars, so after a short 10-50 million years (as opposed to the Sun’s expected lifespan of 10 billion years), supergiants ultimately end their lives as supernovas.
Don’t Call Him Tiny
Avengers: Infinity War‘s Cull Obsidian was originally named Black Dwarf, and he’s about the exact opposite of Supergiant. All brawn yet remarkably calm, he’s a big bruiser with a small name. The kind of star called a black dwarf is just as dissimilar from a supergiant. In fact, rather than burning out very quickly, black dwarfs are thought to take so long to form (longer than the current age of the universe), none have ever been observed — it’s a totally theoretical thing at the moment.
Brevoort described Black Dwarf as being a dense powerhouse, hitting hard because “he’s just so massive.”
Stars actually become white dwarfs (the known, observed pre-cursor to an ultimate black dwarf) when they’re not very massive, less than 10 times the mass of the Sun. Stars this small can’t fuse the heavier elements that supergiants can, so after they “puff off” their atmospheres in the red giant stage, they collapse down to a (yes) very dense sphere of what’s called “electron-degenerate matter,” about the size of the Earth.
White dwarfs are initially very hot, due to all that pressure, but as they’ve stopped the fusion process, they will eventually radiate all their energy and “redden” over time before, so we think, becoming black dwarfs. That should be the ultimate fate of our own Sun — if the universe is still around after the quadrillion years it’ll take to get there.