Who is THANOS?

Published on May 10th, 2012

Who is THANOS and What Makes Him so Interesting?

By now, most, if not all of you who are reading this have seen a little movie called Avengers…and out of respect for those who haven’t seen it yet, I’m giving you fair warning, because spoilers are coming.

Yes. Spoilers. The next paragraph is full of them. Leave this page while you still can! See the movie, then come back here.

Okay. So, if you’ve seen Avengers, and stayed through the credits, there’s a hidden scene. The scene features ‘The Other’ and another figure that rises from his throne, turns to the camera and smiles. That was the Marvel movie universe’s introduction to the mad Titan known as Thanos.

Thanos is the lover of Death, more accurately, a suitor of the Marvel Universe’s personification of Death. Created by Jim Starlin, Thanos first appeared in the pages of Iron Man. The character ultimately gained notoriety as a villain to Captain Mar-Vell, Adam Warlock, and the Silver Surfer.

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The Mad Titan’s ambitions often took him to quests involving items of great power, like the Cosmic Cube (seen in the Avengers film as the Tesseract) and the Infinity Gems. Thanos was always successful, and when he claimed the Infinity Gems, he murdered half of the galaxy’s population with a snap of his finger. What makes the character really interesting is the reasoning for what he’s done.

He did it for love.

thanos_death1Yes, love. Thanos was born different from the other Eternals on Titan. He looked different, and since he didn’t look like everyone else, he was ostracized and maligned by the others. He grew distant from everyone else, and eventually had an encounter with Mistress Death.

This changed everything. He saw a kinship to her, and now, he sought to please her, and he began by creating the first weapons on Titan. His initial attack had dozens of casualties, including his own mother. This was but one of many attacks that Thanos had mounted against life in the universe.

His most memorable appearance was in the Infinity Gauntlet mini-series, where he uses the Infinity Gauntlet to murder half the universe. This is followed by a brutal battle with the surviving super-heroes of the cosmos, and a host of cosmic beings. All of them fell before his might, and the only reason the universe got to continue on was because of a very human trait that he exhibited.

Even HE thinks himself unworthy of the power he has wielded. His subconscious was filled with self- doubt, making himself his own worst enemy.

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In the aftermath of the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos had become somewhat of an anti-hero, occasionally aiding the good guys in stories like Infinity War and Infinity Crusade. His altruism comes more from a place of curiosity than an outright desire to do good, though he has proven on many occasions that he is one to honor his side of the bargain as well.

We tend to like the Marvel characters because of their character flaws that ground them and make them relatable. If you strip down Thanos to his core, he’s basically the man who has everything, plagued by self-doubt and spurned by the object of his affection.

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Now, who hasn’t experienced that?

As far as threats go, there’s almost nobody more menacing than Thanos…but if you pay enough attention to him, his characterization, you’ll find that he’s not just some one-note villain who’s obsessed with Death. He’s a lot more complicated than that, and it’s why the Titan has always been one of my favorite characters.

Anyone interested in reading up on this character can look to these books:

  • Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos
  • The Infinity Gauntlet
  • The Infinity War
  • The Infinity Crusade
  • Infinity Abyss
  • Marvel: The End
  • Thanos vol. 1: Epiphany
  • Thanos vol. 2: Samaritan
  • Annihilation vol. 1-3
  • The Thanos Imperative

Pat Loika
PatLoika@ComicImpact.com