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Marvel Villain: Thanos the Titan

Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.

Thanos the Titan

Thanos the Titan

Death's Biggest Fan

"Who was that at the end?" A man asked me and my geek friends after the Avengers Movie.

The man was wearing a large Captain America T-shirt and considered himself a comic book fan.

"It's Thanos," I say to him. "The Avengers are in deep trouble now."

But I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Who is this character that can cause a comic book fan to blanch at merely the suggestion of his involvement in a movie, let alone a comic book story? I mean, we know about Galactus... and he's really, really, bad. How bad could Thanos be?"

I wasn't shocked to find out that many people don't know who Thanos is. Many people think he's a new villain to the Marvel Universe—he's not. Writers who use Thanos in a storyline have essentially pressed the big red button you're never supposed to press, activating a nuclear strike. You don't use him unless you want to be taken seriously.

All you really need to know about Thanos is that he's about as bad as you can get. I'm going to go into a brief history of the character, but what you should know about Thanos is that he is a villain who has committed himself to one thing and one thing only: Death. Not his own death and not just killing for killings sake. Thanos has fallen in love with the personification of death. The line at the end of the Avengers about "courting death" is the literal truth.

Thanos loves Death... literally.

Thanos holding the Cosmic Cube (Tasseract) with Death to the right.

Thanos holding the Cosmic Cube (Tasseract) with Death to the right.

Who Is Thanos?

Back in 1973, comic book writer/artist Jim Starlin was taking a psychology class and dreamed up a new character: Thanos. He got the idea from the two aspects of love and hate between Eros and Thanatos. Initially, he based it on the Jack Kirby creation of Darkseid. When he drew the character, however, he included the eyebrow covers and the character actually looked more like Metron. Roy Thomas at Marvel suggested that he "beef him up" a bit.

Thanos made his premier in Iron Man #55 where he started with his arch nemesis Drax the Destroyer.

Thanos is the son of the Titan eternal, Mentor. Mentor was originally Alars, who was the intellectual brother of Zuras, leader of all of the Eternals on Earth. After Kronos, the father of Zuras and Alars, was brought to virtual Godhood through a cosmic accident, Zuras exiled Alars. Alars explored the galaxy and settled onto Titan, the hollow moon of Saturn, and built a new civilization with his mate Sui San.

The two had two sons: Eros, who was fair, and Thanos, who was born with a Deviant gene and looked different from all of the Titans. Thanos became alone and distant and eventually developed a philosophy of nihilism and death. Thanos grew in size and strength. He was eventually exiled from Titan for creating a weapon in a society of peace.

After he'd left, his reputation grew in infamy and notoriety. When he returned to Titan hundreds of years later, he killed thousands, including his own mother. He gained the personification of Death's notice.

Mentor knew his son was dangerous and petitioned Kronos to intervene. Kronos used his power to create two things. He used some of his might to create an indestructible being made from the earth with an earth man's soul. This being was called Drax the Destroyer. Drax was given one other thing: a single driving desire to kill Thanos.

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Kronos also appointed a being called Eon to wait for Captain Marvel and give him the tools he needed to defeat Thanos. Meanwhile, it was Thanos' plan to destroy the solar system as a gift to his love, Death. He needed a powerful weapon to do this. He'd heard of the Cosmic Cube (The Tesseract in the Avengers Movie) and would use its reality-altering powers to give him the might he needed to wipe out the solar system. The location of the cube was trapped in the mind of Captain Marvel's alter ego, Rick Jones.

Thanos was successfully able to use the cosmic cube to make himself God. However, before he could use the cube to wipe out all life in the solar system, he was defeated by Captain Marvel, as he was still drawing power from the cube and could not sustain godhood without the energy of worshippers.

Thanos and Godhood

Godhood AcquiredGodhood Lost

Gains the cosmic cube

Abandons cube and captain marvel undoes everything

Gathers soul gems and makes a device

Adam Warlock turns Thanos into stone

Creates the infinity gauntlet

Loses the gauntlet after he merges with Eternity to Nebula

Thanos and Adam Warlock (versus the Magus)

Thanos and Adam Warlock (versus the Magus)

Thanos vs. Adam Warlock

Thanos was abandoned by Death.

Now, he was desperate to win her favor again. In this scheme, he was going to give Death all the souls of a galaxy. In this, he was going to take all of the soul gems and power an annihilation device to destroy the stars from Earth's sun.

He forms an alliance with the hero known as Adam Warlock. While Thanos is able to acquire several of the other soul gems, he wisely keeps away from Warlock's as his is the only one with almost vampiric tendencies to absorb souls. Before Thanos can double-cross Warlock, Pip the Troll (Warlock's sidekick) learns of his plan. Thanos finds Pip and with just a fraction of his power lobotomizes him.

Here is where we see Thanos' true feats of physical strength as he was able to fend off Thor and The Thing SIMULTANEOUSLY.

During the battle, Thanos kills Warlock and Warlock's soul is taken into the soul gem through a time paradox where Warlocks past self takes the soul of his future self.

Thanos is close to defeating all of the heroes who have stood against him. At this point, it is through the intervention of Lord Order and Master Chaos that temporarily bring Warlock's soul forth.

Warlock, now seething with cosmic energy, turns Thanos into stone with just enough life left in him to forever be denied Death.

Thanos Returns - The Infinity Gauntlet

Thanos Returns - The Infinity Gauntlet

Thanos Returns: The Infinity Gauntlet

From a publication standpoint, Thanos gets turned into stone in 1977, makes a cameo appearance in 1982 in The Death of Captain Marvel, and then he pretty much stays dead... until.

Death has had ENOUGH.

There is an imbalance in the universe - too many people are living. Death decides that this needs to be fixed. She resurrects her best thrall, Thanos to fix this problem. Thanos' goal? Remove half the life from the universe.

For most beings, this would be a logistical nightmare. However, Thanos' time out has been well spent. He realizes that he used the soul gems incorrectly last time. This time instead of using them like a sledgehammer, he'd use them like a scalpel.

Renaming the gems from soul gems to infinity gems - as only one of the gems has soul properties, he realizes that once one person can gather all six, he can become God. The six gems will help Thanos master the aspects of time, space, power, mind, soul, and reality.

He goes about to acquire them in a quest to swindle the Elders of the Universe (with the Inbetweener). Thanos collects all of the gems and with a snap of his fingers half the life in the universe... disappears.

Why Is Thanos Dangerous?

Thanos has become all-powerful twice. Both times, he was thwarted by some subconscious belief that he was not worthy of the power and left a way to be defeated.

His four principal opponents have been Drax the Destroyer, Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, and the Silver Surfer. And each time Thanos has a scheme, any and all of these heroes have been physically defeated by the Mad Titan with only Captain Marvel escaping death at his hands.

Since his return from Death, Thanos has waged campaigns and with each he always gains a small victory. As he's realized that he has gained omnipotence too quickly all of these times, Thanos has realized that the only way he will feel worthy of that power is to actually do it the hard way. Each victory he's had, has been decisive.

Thanos has had centuries to build his body and mind. His body has been enhanced with cybernetics. His strength is incredible. And when he does work with others he has the charisma to command vast armies who will worship his might as a God.

The thing about Thanos to keep in mind is that not only is he a physically powerful opponent, he is an intelligent planning schemer who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

And his goal is the death of everything.

© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi


Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on June 13, 2012:

While "The Infinity Gauntlet" is a great storyline and illustrates Thanos' craftiness and scheming to get to his goal of ultimate power, my favorite is still his run through against Captain Marvel when Thanos had the cosmic cube. That was when Thanos was more like a warlord.

I think he's really one of the most dangerous bad guys because he's brain and braun - and his goal is always death in large numbers.

Mage on June 13, 2012:

"We did get a glimpse of the Infinity Gauntlet in the movie Thor"...what part?

I am a big fan of Thanos and have several of his comics. I was really taken aback when they showed his profile at the end of Avengers and said out loud.. " WOW i cannot believe it". Several guys sitting by me asked who that was. I told them but they did not know.

Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on May 06, 2012:

"A reject Apocalypse"... You are more patient than I.

When you can become God TWICE, Apocalypse is a downgrade.

Here's the analogy - Thanos is to Apocalypse as Godzilla is to an alligator.

Lamar Johns from Pennsylvania on May 06, 2012:

I've found that many of those self-proclaimed Marvel comic fans are very same people that don't know who many of these important characters are. After the credits a stranger turned to me and said "who's that guy supoosed to be, a reject Apocalypse?"

I instantly said "wow" outloud before explaining to him (in a polite manner) who Thanos is and why he is such a big deal. I was waiting for him to appear somewhere down the line. We did get a glimpse of the Infinity Gauntlet in the movie Thor, so I was wondering if Thanos would actually be involved.

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