Thanos is coming. It’s time that you get to know who he really is.
Thanos: A Look at His Life from the Original Marvel Comics
If you’re a fan of and have been keeping up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ve most likely taken notice of the mysterious big, blue, hulky character named Thanos. He’s been present in a couple of really short scenes and also the end credits of several Marvel films.
However, in May of 2018, he’ll be upgraded from merely a specter in these films to the big bad of the third installment of the Avengers, i.e. Infinity War. From the looks of it, it would seem that this film is more about him that any other particular Avengers character who is slated to show up.
But who is this Thanos, where is he from, and just why is he so powerful. Also, what are some clues as to how his story may play out in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe films? For that, we have to take a look at his appearance in the original sources of the Marvel Universe itself, the comic books, some of which date back over 40-50 years ago.
First Appearance of Thanos
We first meet Thanos in February of 1973 in the comic book Iron Man, #55. In this issue, Drax the Destroyer has been apprehended by Thanos and is apparently being held captive in an underground base somewhere in the desert. Though he’s never met him, Drax knows of Iron Man and telepathically sends a message to him requesting help. The message does reach Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man and as he gets ready to help, he is assaulted by two of Thanos’ thugs known as the Blood Brothers. They take him to the base where Drax is being held, but the ever-clever Iron Man is able to escape their clutches, only to be confronted by Thanos.
The Blood Brothers yet again take hold of our hero, but this time Mentor, the benevolent ruler of Titan and also Thanos’ father, sends a blast of energy through space and to Thanos’ desert base. This hits Iron Man’s unibeam which causes an explosion and frees both Iron Man and Drax. The two heroes then best the Blood Brothers and get ready to take on Thanos, only to discover that they have been deceived by a robot likeness of him. The robot also contains a self-destructing booby trap which explodes and destroys the base completely. Fortunately though, our dynamic duo escapes the blast after which Iron Man tells Drax that they probably won’t be seeing Thanos for quite some time. Drax however is not convinced.
What we learn of Thanos
Now this issue is actually one of the most important in the history of Marvel Comics. Not only does it contain the first appearance of Thanos, but also of Drax, Mentor, Kronos, Eros and the as the super computer known as I.S.A.A.C. Though his actual appearance in the issue is short, we learn a great deal about Thanos’ origins from Drax, who recites his story to Iron Man.
Thanos it turns out is originally from Titan, one of moons of the planet Saturn. Underneath Titan is the world of the Titanians, part of a group of celestial beings known in the Marvel Universe as Eternals. The Titianians live in this sort of subterranean Shangri-la – a place of beauty, knowledge and peace. They‘re ruled by a benevolent and wise ruler named Mentor who has two sons, Eros and Thanos. Now this story has evolved with more details over time, but from this issue we learn that Thanos tried to usurp power from Mentor and created weapons, something that was strictly forbidden in Titanian society.
For this, he was banished from Titan. Thanos then went around the galaxy and gathered a group of evil henchmen and goons to do his bidding, and eventually returned back to Titan to take over the moon. Seeing that he was outnumbered, Mentor requested aid from the godlike entity known as Kronos, who created Drax the Destroyer to take out Thanos. In fact, this was/is Drax’s only real purpose for existence.
Later comics would extrapolate on this origins story, especially the 2013 series “Thanos Rising.” We’ll get more into that during another video.
The Cosmic Cube (Captain Marvel 26-33)The next great period of Thanos’ life occurs in the issues of Captain Marvel #26 – 33 in 1973. In this story arc, Thanos is on Earth in the pursuit of an object of immense power known as the Cosmic Cube. By his side is a silent, mysterious cloaked figure. Over the course of the story, we learn that this is Mistress or Lady Death, who Thanos has become totally infatuated with.
Essentially, Thanos is searching the universe for these objects of unimagined power, such as the Cube and later the Infinity Stones, to make his job of eradicating all sentient life much easier. Why is he doing this? For the sole reason of impressing Mistress Death. I guess it makes sense. After all, death is kind of her thing.
To stop Thanos from doing this are Captain Marvell and the Thing from Fantastic Four. They’re able to defeat all of Thanos’ evil allies, but fail to defeat Thanos himself. The same goes for Drax the Destroyer, who also makes an appearance. Captain Marvel then teams up with the Avengers to confront Thanos yet again.
Thanos succeeds in finding the Cosmic Cube and uses it to merge with the universe to being a sort of deity. Literally anything that he thinks of, he can do. In the end though, Captain Marvel with aid from Thanos’ nemesis, Drax the Destroyer, along with Mantis, are able to defeat the Mad Titan.
Captain Marvel destroys the cosmic cube, eliminating the source of Thanos’ nearly omnipotent power. Thanos is also presumed to have died with its destruction, though as we’ll see shortly, this was not actually the case. Lady Death also proves that it takes more than planetary genocide to woo her, as once Thanos is defeated, she mocks him with a maniac laugh and disappears into the cosmos. Looks like all that Thanos did to try to please her was for nothing.
What’s great about this series is that we get to observe firsthand some of the Mad Titan’s defining characteristics that he’ll become known for in future comic book episodes, such as his love for omnipotent power, ability to commit mass murder without a second thought, his guile, unique intelligence, and of course, his love of – no, obsession – with Lady Death.
What we also see in this series is the type of relationship that he will continue to have with Lady Death every time that they appear together. It is always a one-way conversation between the two – I say one-way because she never responds to anything he says. He tries to give her his love, but she always teases him with her silence and ultimately rejects him, again and again.
Thanos also makes it clear to the reader what the true intentions for all of his actions are. As he states in Captain Marvel #31,
“there will be those who wonder why Thanos ever set out on such a glorious campaign as this! They will never understand why! Some will say it was for power, greed, the wish to command all! They will be wrong! … None will know that it was done for a deeper reason…done for that which, being more alone than any creature in this galaxy, value more than life! Love!”
Yes, mighty and nearly omnipotent Thanos, the brutal conqueror of worlds, suffers from loneliness just like anyone else.
Also with the appearance of the Cosmic Cube, we see Thanos’ fondness for objects that can create near god-like omnipotence. This same desire will be seen later on with the Infinity Gems, a.k.a. as the Infinity Stones.
Avengers Annual #7
The next comic book where we get to know significantly more about Thanos is the Avengers Annual #7, published in 1977. We learn from Adam Warlock, someone who will become even more menacing to the Titan that Drax the Destoryer, that Thanos indeed did survive. Lady Death by this time had also abandoned Thanos for being defeated by Captain Marvel and the Avengers during their last encounter. If Thanos had a heart, it was now surely broken. Thus, he vowed to not only attempt to reconquer all that he had lost, but also win back the affection, if there ever was any, of Lady Death. He searches through ancient galactic libraries and scrolls until he finds information about six special gems of immense power. Thanos believes that the combined power of these gems, called Soul Gems, is much greater than that of the Cosmic Cube which he lost.
Thanos launches a grand plan to extinguish all of the stars in the universe, but is defeated by the combined powers of Adam Warlock, Captain Marvel the Avengers but probably even more significantly, his overblown ego. Yes, Thanos is one arrogant mofo and despite his extreme intelligence and strategic planning skills, he makes foolish and impulsive decisions due to his ego constantly needing praise and recognition.
Anyway, in the story Thanos eventually kills Adam Warlock – actually Adam Warlock is spiritually confined to the Soul Gem in a state of peace. However, Warlock’s spirit calls from what appears to be within the stone to transform Thanos into a statue of granite. Thus now, Thanos is believed to be truly dead.
The next major Marvel story arc involving the big bad blueman deals with the now famous Infinity Gauntlet. However, before he can unleash the power of the gauntlet, he has to obtain the Infinity Stones.
It turns out that Lady Death may not have been as cruel to Thanos as we were led to believe because she brings him back to life. She can do this because the realm of death is her domain, meaning she can technically release one from death’s grasp. She does this though with the expectation that Thanos will also deliver for her. In return, Thanos is tasked with balancing the universe in terms of life. You see, Lady Death believes that there is an imbalance because there are currently more sentient beings alive now than have ever died, and so balance has to be restored by wiping out half of the universe’s sentient population. Thanos is only too keen to carry out such a task for his one true love.
But is it love? Thanos may think so. Lady Death is like that hot girl in high school who let’s all the guys carry her books and spend money on her. She basically gets what she needs from all to easy to please beta males, stringing them along as they hope that they’ll rewarded by her affection, but in the end she moves on without ever putting out, at least with them. Such I feel is the relationship between Thanos and Mistress Death.
The series Thanos Quest depicts how the mad by clever Titan went about acquiring the cosmic stones of ultimate power. This is not an easy task. It should be noted that many, if not all of the current holders of the gems in the comic books, including the In-Betweener, the Gardener, and the Grandmaster, are not only seemingly more powerful than Thanos, but also immortal. So how does Thanos manage to definitively take the gems away from them? By being Thanos.
During the quest, we see how Thanos uses his intellect combined with his cunning to take the six gems away from their current holders. In fact, in many cases, Thanos seems like he is the underdog up against the elite entities of the universe. The conflicts of power and wits between Thanos and his adversaries seem so one-sided that you almost start rooting for the Mad Titan. Of course, your opinion of him may change once you realize what he plans to do with those gems. In the end, Thanos not only takes away the gems, but effectively neutralizes his opponents in the process so that they may no longer be a future threat to him.
Now we come to the most famous Thanos and possibly Marvel epic of all, the Infinitely Gauntlet saga. With the Infinity Stones firmly secured within the Gauntlet, Thanos becomes the ultimate power in the universe. If there is anything comparable to a living ancient Greek or Mesopotamian god, it is now Thanos. And yet, the almighty Titan has a weakness which you probably can guess: his love for Lady Death. Well, that and also his extreme arrogance.
Despite his power, Lady Death turns her to back to Thanos and his love. Thanos, with some advice from the Lucifer-like Mephisto, makes good on a promise that he had made wipe out half of the sentient life in the Universe. With the Infinity Gauntlet in hand and a flick of his fingers, he does just this. Gone are many of the Marvel Superheroes that we’ve come to know and love.
Led by Adam Warlock and Dr. Strange, the surviving heroes attempt to defeat Thanos and save the universe from near certain destruction, only to themselves be beaten by the Mad Titan, one by one. In fact, in every case, it’s not even a contest. They don’t stand a chance. Thanos simply toys with them and at whim picks whichever way he chooses to defeat his foes.
Of course, the fact that the universe ultimately still exists and that our faves from the comic books come back means that Thanos ultimately is defeated. Not by brute force, but by more psychological means, again due to the inherent weakness of his big ego and impulsive thinking. We’ll cover this other details of the story in a special video on the Infinity War.
The Infinity Gauntlet series though is what transformed Thanos into the universal and recognizable superstar that he is today. Such fame is most likely responsible for bringing him to the big screen in several Marvel Cinematic universe films as well as the highly-anticipated Avengers Infinity War movies.
Of course, that’s not all. There is a lot more Thanos out there and due to his growing popularity and recognition, there’s also no doubt more to come. It’s hard to put bit from every Thanos comic book story into one short video, but hopefully what we’ve covered thus far gives you some good foundational information on the character. In the near future, I’ll have more videos on some pretty cool Thanos stories including the Infinity Watch, his rivalry with Deadpool, the Black Order and how recent Marvel comics and movies are transforming him into a household name. Stay tuned, subscribe and see you next time!
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