Welcome again to Wait, Who’s That? A series that I’ve completely fabricated as a way to nerd out and slowly convert everyone I know into a fellow comic book fanatic. With the upcoming release of Avengers Infinity War, I thought this would be a perfect time to bust out the old Johnathan Hickman run on New Avengers and tell you about a very significant player in the Marvel Universe: Thanos.
Thanos is the big bad for not only Infinity War, but he’s also been pulling the strings from behind the scene’s since 2012 when the original Avengers movie came out. However, if you haven’t been paying close attention, or staying for every damn post-credit scene Marvel gives us, you might have no idea who the big purple guy is. Now, let’s get hella nerdy and dive into Marvel’s Mad Titan.
Based off Jack Kirby’s New Gods (most notably Metron and Darkseid), Thanos was created in 1973 by comic legend Jim Starlin. Starlin initially came up with the idea of the character when he was studying psychology between tours in the military. Starlin wasn’t getting much time one the writers side of comics, so when Marvel asked him if he wanted to do an issue of Iron Man, he used that opportunity to introduce his newest creation.
So, Who Is He?
Thanos was born to the race of Eternals living on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. While the Eternals are human-like in form, Thanos’ massive size, unique features, and purple skin come from the Deviant Syndrome, which basically makes him an X-Man/God from space. The mutation gives him super strength, along with telekinetic and telepathic abilities, and can also absorb and shoot cosmic energy. Thanos is able to hold his own in battle with Odin and Galactus, which, for the uninitiated, is a really big deal.
Thanos killed his mother, along with 17 others, the first murder’s in the planet’s history, in hopes of finding where his genetic mutation came from. Also, his father was neglectful during his childhood, and has tried to outright murder him on many occasions. So you could say his origin is somewhat troubling.
After returning to Titan (he ran away because, you know, he killed 18 people…) he tried to restart things with an old flame. She wanted proof that she was the only woman he loved, and demanded he kill all of his children from other women, you know, your standard Pre-Nup. After he did this, his paramour revealed herself to be the personification of Death itself.
Thanos was driven mad by this revelation, and he and Death laid waste to Titan. The two conquered the entire planet. After this, Thanos wanted to impress Death all the more, which began the characters most significant arc, his hunt for the Infinity Gauntlet and the Infinity Gems.
Infinity Gauntlet & Infinity Gems
The Infinity Gauntlet is, well its basically a big golden glove. However, when the gauntlet is complete with the six Infinity Gems, that glove makes it’s wearer one of the most powerful beings in the universe. There are six infinity gems, each of which gives power and mastery over a different aspect of the universe. The six are: Power, Soul, Mind, Reality, Time, and Space. I’d go into what each of them does, but based on those titles, you can probably figure it out.
In The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin, Thanos has obtained all six Infinity Gems and plans to wipe out half of all life from the universe to impress Death. The Silver Surfer hears about this, and goes to earth to warn the Avengers. However, all of this is done mostly in vain, as eventually Thanos does kill half of all life in the universe with a literal snap of his fingers. I won’t go into too much detail, as this is likely what the upcoming Avengers movie is drawing heavy inspiration from, and I don’t want to inadvertently spoil anything. But oh boy do a lot of people die.
The Black Order
The other comic run that seems to have a lot of inspiration is Johnathan Hickman’s Avengers run. Hickman wrote Avengers from 2012-2016, and it’s one of the most daring runs in comics history. In it, Thanos is again questing for the Infinity Gems to impress death, same old same old. However, this time he’s not alone. Assisting him is the Black Order, Thanos’ personal henchmen, each of which pack a very different yet equally devastating punch.
Black Dwarf is a super strong giant with impenetrable skin. He’s the heavy of the group, and basically Thanos’ pet Hulk. Corvus Glaive is the right hand of Thanos and the brother of Black Dwarf. He has a blade that can cut through anything while also making it’s wielder immortal. Proxima Midnight is Corvus Glaive’s wife, and an expert hand-to-hand combatant. She also has a spear that can fire beams of energy that never miss their target.
My favorite of the group is the Ebony Maw. He’s an alien with no super powers and no special weapons. He’s simply a master manipulator and will often drive his enemies to kill themselves. In the movie, you see him speaking to Dr. Strange while some very magical looking spears impale him. Fun stuff.
Honestly from there, it’s just been more of the same with Thanos. Every few years, when comic sales start to take a dip, Marvel will run a new series that threatens Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet to try and give things a boost. Recently, Marvel announced that Thanos was dying, but that just turned out to be an inter-dimensional romp where Thanos eventually kills a bunch of people.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe So Far
Thanos first appeared way back in the first Avengers movie in 2012. During a post-credit scene, an advisor tells him that Loki’s invasion of earth (which Thanos was behind) had failed. In a fun nod to the comics, the advisor tells him that to continue to pursue earth would be “to court death.” Thanos simply turns and smiles, and every nerd like me went home to re-read the Infinity Gauntlet.
Thanos went on to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy sending Ronan the Accuser to get the Power Stone, and another post credit scene after Avengers: Age of Ultron. Finally, his ship, Sanctuary II appears at the end of Thor Ragnarok. Judging by the look of the trailers, I don’t think that’s gonna go well for New Asgard.
The Infinity Gems (called Infinity Stones in the movies) have served at the MacGuffin for tons of MCU movies. The Tesseract in both Captain America and The Avengers contains the Space Stone. It was taken to a vault on Asgard, but Thor Ragnarok hints that Loki might have stolen it.
The Aether from Thor: The Dark World is confirmed to be the Reality Stone, and the Warriors Three deliver it to the Collector in a post-credits scene. Loki’s scepter from The Avengers contained the Mind Stone, and it was put into Vision’s forehead in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where is still currently resides. Vision is probably gonna die.
The Time Stone is contained in the Eye of Agamoto and was used to trap Dormammu in a time loop in Doctor Strange (It’s that sentence that makes me realize just how nerdy I am, and how deep cuts these Marvel movies are.) The Eye of Agamoto is currently hanging around Doctor Strange’s neck. The Orb from Guardians of the Galaxy contained the Power Stone, and currently the Nova Corps has is in *safe* keeping on Xandar, even though Thanos seem’s to have it already in all the trailers. So goodbye Nova Corps I guess…
The only Infinity Stone that we haven’t seen yet is the Soul Stone. However, many believe that it resides in Wakanda, at the center of the vibranium meteor that hit earth, thus giving the Heart-Shaped Herb it’s ability to give people superpowers and commune with the dead (soul stone, commune with the dead, get it?) However, This is just speculation, and it might not even show up until the untitled fourth Avengers movie.
And that brings us to the present day. Marvel has done something truly incredible, weaving together ten years and 19 movies to one point. Hopefully Thanos takes a lesson from Killmonger (not Maleketh), and proves to be one of the more imposing villains we’ve ever seen on screen.