He is one of the most powerful and feared characters in the Marvel Universe. He has been featured in comics, animated series and has made cameos in multiple Marvel Cinematic films. He will be the primary villain of Avengers: Infinity War portrayed by actor Josh Brolin. He is the leader of the Cull Obsidian, he is the wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet and he is the unrequited lover of Death. He is called the Mad Titan, but the galaxy knows him by another name: Thanos. But for those who want to know more about the character in preparation for Infinity War debuting in theaters on April 27th, 2017, here’s 10 facts about Gamora’s adoptive father that may help you understand and appreciate the character enough to wonder what kind of changes his actions will bring to the MCU in the near future.
- Co-creator Jim Starlin created Thanos during a college psychology course.
According to Starlin, “ I went to college between doing U.S. military service and getting work in comics, and there was a psych class and I came up with Thanos. So I came up to Marvel and editor Roy Thomas asked if I wanted to do an issue of Iron Man. I felt that this may be my only chance ever to do a character, not having the confidence that my career was going to last anything longer than a few weeks.” Originally Thanos was a thinner character but Thomas encouraged him to size up the character compared to Starlin’s original sketches, something that Starlin continued to do as the character continued to appear in Marvel.
- Thanos was inspired by Jack Kirby’s The New Gods but not the Dark God you’re thinking of.
According to Starlin “Jack Kirby had done the New Gods, which I thought was terrific. He was over at DC Comics at the time. I came up with some things that were inspired by that. You’d think that Thanos was inspired by Darkseid, but that was not the case when I showed up. In my first Thanos drawings, if he looked like anybody, it was Metron. I had all these different gods and things I wanted to do, which became Thanos and the Titans. Roy took one look at the guy in the Metron-like chair and said “Beef him up! If you’re going to steal one of the New Gods, at least rip off Darkseid, the really good one!”
- Despite a rocky start, Thanos was a originally a pacifist.
Born to Mentor and Sui-San of the Eternals, Thanos carries the Deviants gene which causes random physical or cosmetic mutations. When his mother first saw him, she was so startled by his appearance that she almost killed him. According to Thanos Rising #1, Thanos was a pacifist during his childhood and only played with his brother Eros, who would become the hero Starfox, and pets. It wasn’t until his adolescence that he became a nihilist who worshipped and fell in love with the physical embodiment of death whom he called Mistress Death.
- In his early attempts to impress Death, he would destroy his planet and unintentionally create two Marvel heroes in the process.
Eager to impress Mistress Death, the adult Thanos left his home planet Titan and returned with an army of mercenaries and began a nuclear-powered assault that killed millions of his race including his mother. Unsatisfied with his efforts, he then traveled to Earth in search of the Cosmic Cube. Upon his arrival, his ship destroyed a nearby car and a family who witnessed his approach. Somehow the father and his daughter survived the explosion. The father Arthur Douglas’ spirit was preserved and given a new form and identity as Drax the Destroyer, a character Jim Starlin originally created along with Thanos in his college years, and his daughter Heather was found by Thanos’ father Mentor and was raised to become the heroine known as Moondragon. Both characters would battle Thanos repeatedly in the years to come.
- The Infinity Gauntlet was not the first time Earth’s heroes fought Thanos
During a temporary alliance with Adam Warlock against his evil future counterpart Magus, Thanos is introduced to the Infinity Gems and creates a plan to combine reserved energy from Warlock’s Soul Gem and the other Infinity Gems to create a weapon with enough power to destroy a star, specifically Earth’s sun. When Adam learned of this plan to gain Mistress Death’s attention, he summons the Avengers and Captain Marvel to stop Thanos which fails when the Mad Titan not only defeats and captures the heroes but also kills Adam. The Earth heroes are eventually freed and during the final battle in Marvel Two-In-One Annual Vol 1 #2, the Soul Gem releases Adam Warlock’s spirit and turns Thanos into stone.
- Mistress Death brought him back as a balance but then refused to speak to him when it fails.
In Thanos Quest, it was revealed that Mistress Death sensed a great imbalance in the universe with a steady shift in life rather than death and this disproportion was the reason Thanos was restored to life in Silver Surfer #4 (1990). Shortly after, Thanos would gather up the Infinity Gems and attempt to talk to Death on her level. The irony now was in achieving his new status, Thanos had become superior to Death and as a result, Death would not speak to him which had to be relayed to Thanos through one of her minions. The events of The Infinity Gauntlet (1990) was nothing more than proof of Thanos’ love for Death yet she says nothing as he destroys much of the known Marvel universe in her name.
- Squirrel Girl defeated Thanos all on her own
He may have defeated most of the Marvel Universe at one time, but he was no match for Squirrel Girl and her girl-squirrel Tippy-Toe. Over the years, Squirrel Girl has come across a few of Marvel’s villain powerhouses and managed to come out on top. In GLX: Christmas Special #1 (2006), this silly Holiday anthology about the Great Lakes Avengers ends one of their segments with Squirrel Girl coming across a downed spaceship. Thanos emerges holding a new weapon dubbed the Pyramatrix stating that once it’s charged with all the lifeforce of Earth, he’ll be ready to take over the universe. Not if Squirrel Girl has anything to say about it! The pure ridiculousness of the moment is cemented afterwards when Uatu the Watcher appears to congratulate them both and assure them that that wasn’t a clone or a robot but actually Thanos himself.
- Thanos and Death had a “child” named The Rot
In Avengers: Celestial Quest #5, it is revealed that when Thanos died, all of his collective energy merged with Death and somehow they created an entity together. The entity dubbed “ the Rot” was a moving void of nothingness that grew the more it consumed. The Rot began to follow all living things as if it was “alive” and eventually the Avengers and special allies were encased inside it with Thanos and his minions. Both Thanos and Mistress Death learned of the true origins of their child and they decided to work together, and their united plan managed to destroy the Rot and restore its victims.
- Avengers Infinity War will be the first appearance of Thanos’ posse: The Black Order
Introduced in Marvel Comics Event Infinity (2013), the members of the Black Order (also known as the Cull Obsidian which means midnight slaughter) appeared individually in New Avengers Vol. 3 #8 and their first full and known appearance was in Infinity #1. During this event where Thanos takes advantage of the Avengers being temporarily off planet to invade Earth, the Black Order is introduced as powerful and ruthless aliens who work for the Mad Titan. They are Black Dwarf, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, and Supergiant. They invade alien worlds and demand tribute of adult youth between the ages of 16-22 on Thanos’ behalf. When they arrived on Earth, they searched for the Infinity Gems, defeating and manipulating members of the clandestine Illuminati. They later appeared on the Inhuman city Attilan where they demand tribute from Blackbolt and the Inhumans. It is revealed this invasion and tribute are smokescreens for Thanos’ true search for his son Thane. The Black Order has been featured in three separation incarnations and appeared in the Avengers Assemble cartoon. The Black Order will make their big screen debut in Avengers: Infinity War as Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw and Black Dwarf renamed Cull Obsidian. The directors Joe and Anthony Russo altered their abilities and changed their origin to be children of Thanos instead of assorted aliens in Thanos’ inner circle.
- Josh Brolin based his original characterization of Thanos on Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now
When actor Josh Brolin accepted the role of Thanos in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), he stated that he based his characterization of Thanos on Marlon Brando’s role of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1978). This is amusing considering Coppola’s opinion of Marvel movies. When Francis Ford Coppola saw Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) , whose director Joss Whedon said Coppola’s film The Godfather: Part II (1974) was the primary basis and inspiration for the film, he declared his retirement from filmmaking permanently. He heavily criticized the film along with Marvel and the current studio system for turning moviemaking into a factory of manufacturing films for the sake of huge profits instead of artistic quality and values that defined the profession in the past.
Well there you go. If you’re interested, go to your local comic book shop and ask for recommendations or even check bookstores like Barnes and Noble. They’ll most likely have related storylines portrayed prominently for any new readers crazy enough to try and romance Death. While we countdown to Avengers: Infinity War, here’s a clip of Josh Brolin on Conan discussing his feelings on playing Thanos.
- Avengers Infinity War will be the first appearance of Thanos’ posse: The Black Order