The history of Captain Marvel's Skrulls and how Secret Invasion could come to the MCU

Let's look at the shapeshifting aliens that have plagued Marvel Comics heroes since 1962 and consider how the Marvel Cinematic Universe could have its own Secret Invasion.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Sean Keane
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Skrulls have arrived in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they've been in the comics for decades.

Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

"So, Skrulls are the bad guys... "

The shapeshifting Skrulls engage in some serious deception in Captain Marvel, and Nick Fury (a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson) calls out the alien race as the bad guys pretty early on. But you might wondering what their deal is after watching the 21st Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.

We already have a guide to the Carol Danvers' history, so let's take a look at the comic book history of this shapeshifting alien race.

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The Skrulls first appeared in Fantastic Four No. 2.

Marvel Comics

Fantastic Four

Created by late comic legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Skrulls first showed up in 1962's Fantastic Four No. 2. Preparing for an invasion of Earth, they believe the Fantastic Four stand in their way, so four scouts impersonate the hero team and try to turn the public against them.

The Fantastic Four thwarts the effort and the Skrulls scout team ends up transforming into cows. Then Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards hypnotizes them into believing they're real cows and leaves them to live out their lives in a field -- nullifying the threat in the weirdest way.

Marvel Comics of the '60s take some gloriously strange turns (Did anyone drink Skrull-cow milk?!) -- perhaps the MCU will reference this some fine day.

The Skrulls strike back by sending Kl'rt, better known as Super Skrull, after the team in 1963's Fantastic Four No. 18. In addition to his regular Skrull abilities, he has all of the Fantastic Four's powers -- Mr. Fantastic's stretching abilities, Invisible Woman's manipulation of light waves (aka invisibility), the Thing's strength and Human Torch's flame -- making him a major threat.

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Moo. The Skrull-cows got revenge in the Avengers' Kree-Skrull War storyline.


Kree-Skrull War

This 1976 storyline is found in Avengers No. 89 to No. 97 and written by Roy Thomas (who would succeed Stan Lee as Marvel's editor-in-chief), with art by Sal Buscema Neal Adams and John Buscema.

It sees the first Captain Marvel (a Kree named Mar-Vell, who appears in the movie) arriving on Earth, resulting in the planet and the Avengers getting caught up in an intergalactic conflict between the Skrulls and the Kree.

The Skrulls use their shape-shifting abilities to sow fear of the Kree in Earth's populace, and both the scouts who turned into cows and Super Skrull play roles in the event. Ronan the Accuser -- the extremist Kree seen in the first Guardians of the Galaxy and the photos from Captain Marvel -- also tries to devolve Earth to a prehistoric time so it can be used as a base in the war against the Skrulls.

In 1975's Avengers No. 133, we learn the Kree actually started the war millions of years prior when the Skrulls came to their home planet and sought a relationship with its dominant race. The Kree shared the world with another race, the Cotati, but slaughtered them and the Skrull visitors when the Skrulls decided that the Cotati would be better partners.

Secret Invasion


Secret Invasion sees Marvel's heroes taking on Skrull infiltrators.

Marvel Comics

This 2008 event, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Leinil Yu, revealed that the Skrulls had infiltrated Earth over a long period by kidnapping and replacing its heroes. Their leader, Queen Veranke, had taken the place of Spider-Woman (who'd been an Avenger for years at that point) ahead of a straight-up invasion by an attack force.

A number of new Super-Skrulls display the powers of various heroes and villains during this conflict. They're beaten after Mr. Fantastic (who else?) builds a device that can detect the aliens. Veranke is killed and the Skrull population is left greatly diminished.

For a while now, there have been rumors that Secret Invasion will become a part of Avengers: Endgame or Phase 4 of the MCU.


Could it still happen in the MCU?

The Skrulls we met in Captain Marvel were ultimately revealed to be refugees from the planet Skrullos, which was destroyed after the Skrulls refused to accept Kree rule, and not nearly as villainous as the Kree wanted everyone to believe.

However, that was a pretty small group and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige told Entertainment Tonight that we might encounter some less pleasant ones in a later movie. (Disclosure: CNET and Entertainment Tonight are both owned by CBS).

"One of the things we wanted to do in this movie is, you know, don't judge a book by its cover and tap into people's preconceived notions of the pointy-eared green aliens being evil and subverting that," he said.

"But I do think to continue fleshing them out and making them these three dimensional actual beings, the Skrulls, you would encounter good ones and bad ones."

All it'd take to kick off an MCU Secret Invasion is for an aggressive leader like Vernake to start leading the remaining Skrulls. Since 23 years pass between Captain Marvel and the events of Infinity War, Skrull sleeper agents could easily have been embedded into Earth's populace in the interim.

So the Secret Invasion might already have begun.

Also, "Skrullos" is a fun word to say out loud -- try it!

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Ben Mendelsohn plays lead Skrull Talos in Captain Marvel, but he's quite different to his comic counterpart.

That version of character, who first appeared in 1994's Incredible Hulk #418, lacks the Skrull ability to shapeshift due to birth detect. As a tradeoff, he has superhuman strength and endurance, to such a level that he can take on the Hulk.

However, the MCU's Talos can shapeshift and Mendelsohn gave us a hint about the dynamic we'd see in the movie last September.

"We gotta deal with the Kree. The Kree are punks," Mendelsohn told Entertainment Weekly. "And the Skrulls, I mean, we're just misunderstood. At the end of the day, the Skrull is really misunderstood. Look, I don't want to curse in print or anywhere else, but if I could, I would about the Kree."

The movie revealed that Talos was trying to reunite with his family and find a new home for the surviving members of his race.

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Rights issues

Fans thought Skrulls couldn't be used in the MCU because Fox holds the cinematic rights to the Fantastic Four and that's where they originated.

In 2017, however, since-fired Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn revealed on Twitter that the race could be used by both Marvel and Fox -- only specific Skrulls like Super-Skrull were strictly considered Fox properties.

Of course, Disney's $71.3 billion merger with Fox may see more Skrulls entering the MCU sometime soon. Perhaps Mr. Fantastic will even get to defeat them on the silver screen.

This piece was originally published on Sept. 10; it has since shapeshifted to reflect the movie's release.

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