Art by Alex Garner
An Eternal born with the Deviant Syndrome, Thanos was born with the gruesome appearance that would later appear in the nightmares of those that fear his name. He has gray and cragged skin covering a hulking physique. His childhood on his homeworld of Titan was depressive and tormented. He was mocked and ostracized for his gruesome visage. He quickly developed a fixation with death and augmentations to increase his already considerable power. As an adult, he committed his first great atrocity; he committed genocide upon his own people through a bombardment of nuclear devices. This is when he truly became Thanos, the Mad Titan and Avatar of Death.
This great monument to massacre attracted Lady Death, the physical incarnation of all that is no longer living. He fell in love with Death, and he decided to prove this affection by increasing his capabilities further. He pledged to kill more in her honor. He became a conqueror to accomplish this.
His first target was the neighboring planet, Earth. Having enlisted an army to his service, he launched an assault on the planet and seized a Cosmic Cube held by A.I.M. His conquest was challenged by the Avengers aided by Captain Mar-Vell. The Avengers turned back his fleet, but Thanos used the Cosmic Cube to become a god. However, he cast aside the Cube, believing it no longer necessary. Mar-Vell destroyed the Cube, and this reverted Thanos back to his previous state and launched him far from Earth. His lieutenants rescued him, but Lady Death found him wanting and abandoned him.
Thanos next set his site on the six Infinity Gems (at the time known as Soul Gems). He managed to gain the first five without much conflict, but the final one, ironically the Soul Gem itself, was possessed by the cosmic hero, Adam Warlock. This being had an opposing side known as Magus, whom was the head of a widespread religion and, Thanos knew, could pose a noteworthy threat to him. Having already obtained the Time Gem, he decided to travel back in time to sabotage the creation of the Magus.
This scheme involved the adopting and raising of the orphaned Gamora, turning her into an assassin. He also befriended Adam Warlock and warned him of the creation of the Magus. This halted the being’s creation, and Thanos was able to drain Warlock’s Soul Gem of its power and put it within a recreation of the artifact. He then set his plan in motion to blink out the stars themselves. Gamora turned on Thanos, and the Titan killed his adoptive daughter. He then killed Pip the Troll, a friend and ally to Adam Warlock. The cosmic hero then went to Earth and warned the Avengers and Captain Mar-Vell of the impending threat. Mar-Vell was able to destroy the device through which Thanos was able to control the Infinity Gems, and Warlock was killed in battle with the Mad Titan, his soul being locked inside the Soul Gem. Thanos next battled the Avengers and captured them. Spider-Man and the Thing of the Fantastic Four were able to save the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Spider-Man was able to free Adam Warlock from the Soul Gem, and Warlock turned Thanos into stone. Thanos was not dead, however, and the Titan was condemned to a state between life and death.
When Kree hero and protector of Earth, Captain Mar-Vell, succumbed to cancer due to a battle with Nitro the Exploding Man, it was his old rival Thanos that welcomed him to the realm of death to rest for eternity.
Death took pity on her former lover and freed him from this stone, and Thanos chose to not draw attention to himself until he was ready to conquer again. This opportunity came when he learned of the full capacity of the Infinity Gems (at this point he began calling them such) and acquired all six of them once more from six Elders of the Universe: the Gardener, the Runner, the Grandmaster, the Champion, the In-Betweener, and the Collector.
He next forged the Infinity Gauntlet, a glove capable of harnessing the immense cosmic energies of the Infinity Gems.
The Silver Surfer witnessed Thanos’ new god-like powers and escaped to Earth to warn its heroes of the apocalyptic threat at hand. Thanos, as a show of power and sign of commitment to Death, wiped out half of all life in the universe in a blink. The heroes of Earth as well as newly revived incarnations of Adam Warlock, Gamora, and Pip assembled to meet this threat. The Celestials and Elders saw this and feared what he could do next, and a coalition of beings of great power came to challenge them. Galactus, the Stranger, Love, Hate, Epoch, Chaos, and Order went to battle Thanos. The Mad Titan was able to vanquish all these foes, but Nebula, a former servant and relative of Thanos, wrested the Gauntlet away from him. She reversed his previous actions, and the Elders of the Universe as well as the heroes of Earth reentered the fight. Adam Warlock obtained the Gauntlet next and ended the fight.
After the conflict ended, Adam Warlock had sensed that Thanos was beginning to doubt his own actions and motivations. Believing the Titan capable of change, he made him a part of the Infinity Watch, a new alliance dedicated to protecting the Infinity Gems. Thanos was trusted with the Reality Gem.
Thanos, as a part of the Infinity Watch, learned that someone had incapacitated Eternity, the physical incarnation of time. With the aid of Adam Warlock, he learned that this act was perpetrated by the returned Magus, whom had obtained five Cosmic Cubes. Warlock took the fight to Magus, using the Infinity Gauntlet. Magus gained control of the Gauntlet, but Thanos had sabotaged him with a fake of the Reality Gem. Through this, Thanos and Warlock were able to bring him down.
Adam Warlock is a being of balance, and, where Magus represents unbound evil, a new aspect, the Goddess, represents unbound good. In a means of creating a perfect universe, she threatened all that is. Thanos and Adam Warlock knew that she must be defeated, and they united Earth’s heroes as well as Mephisto to stop her. They were able to destroy the Egg, the item which contained the five Cosmic Cubes which she was using to reshape the universe. Thanos was given credit for the feat, an act that earned him trust from the heroes of Earth.
Thanos was also instrumental in stopping a rampaging Thor where other heroes and Asgardians failed.
Thanos next targeted the archive of universal knowledge, the Oracle. He assembled a small group of Earth’s rogues to aid him in the task and abandoned them after achieving his goal. Becoming increasingly bored with his role in the Infinity Watch and resorting to his old tendencies, Thanos massacred an entire army of mercenaries and inquired the Oracle for an opponent that could match his strength. He entered a battle with Tyrant, the first herald of Galactus and won upon Tyrant’s retreat.
He next was informed by the Silver Surfer that Death was looking to court the Sentinel of the Spaceways. This insulted Thanos who promptly beat him to death with his surfboard. She still would not take him back, and Thanos resuscitated the Surfer in defiance. Angered, Death granted Thanos immortality, so that he would never be able to be with her.
Thanos was later trapped within a pocket dimension. He had a failed ploy involving the Plunderer, the brother of Ka-Zar, but this led him to still being trapped within the dimension. He also had a plan to make the Hulk his new body, but this was stopped by Nate Grey aka X-Man.
Later escaping, as he inevitably would, he began a search for an entity called the Designate. This venture would team him up with the beast called Mangog and lead him to conflict with Thor and Odin. He was almost able to initiate Ragnarok itself until the Designate cast him into hellfire and defeated him.
His next action was freeing Marlo Jones, wife of Rick Jones and companion of Captain Marvel Genis-Vell, ironically with the aid of Thor.
He next explained to Adam Warlock and Gamora that duplicates of himself known as the Thanosi had been unleashed and were uncontrollable even by himself. Apparently, his most recent exploits had been perpetrated by the Thanosi.
Thanos next became a subordinate of the extradimensional conqueror, Annihilus, essentially, as he would later explain to hero Moondragon, for the fun of it. Annihilus had initiated a massive takeover of the galaxy, and was showing signs of succeeding. When Nova and Drax the Destroyer showed up as part of a resistance movement against the creature, Thanos decided to aid them. However, Drax, a being designed to kill Thanos, couldn’t resist the chance to kill him. He put his hand in his chest and ripped out the Titan’s heart.
He was later resurrected by Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy when an invasion from an alternate universe occurred. This alternate universe, dubbed the Cancerverse, was one in which Captain Mar-Vell performed an unholy ritual to banish Death when he was diagnosed with cancer. Consequentially, the universe was overpopulated and spilling out into our own. The Guardians needed his aid to bring Death back to the denizens of the Cancerverse. After killing Drax in a rage, he went into the Cancerverse as the Death’s Avatar and killed this Mar-Vell, reintroducing Death and collapsing the Cancerverse. Nova and Star-Lord, seeing this as an opportunity to remove Thanos from their universe forever, teamed up with a reconstituted Drax and tried to hold Thanos in the collapsing universe. Star-Lord and Drax were expelled by Nova, but Nova remained and died. All this was for nothing, however, as Thanos reentered our universe.
Thanos returned and attempted to conquer Earth with another Cosmic Cube. The Avengers and Guardians met him in conflict and managed to destroy the Cube which he used. The Elders of the Universe promptly defeated Thanos and condemned him to punishment.
There is a Deadpool story here that involves Thanos that I could talk about, but I won’t, because it’s inane.
When the Avengers left Earth to stop the destruction of their galaxy at the hand of the Builders, Thanos took the opportunity to invade Earth once again with an army and his elite Black Order. He had been on a rampage throughout the galaxy in search of his offspring, and he had one upon Earth with an Inhuman woman. The Illuminati attempted to slow his advance, and, eventually, the Avengers returned to meet Thanos. He defeated them handily, and he found his son, Thane. Thane, with ability to create living death, trapped Thanos within this state of living death and a block of amber. The Illuminati secretly stored away the body of Thanos.
Namor, after leaving the Illuminati, started a new alliance, dubbed the Cabal. He freed Thanos and Black Order members Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glade and invited them to join his Cabal united in fighting the Incursions that had been causing the destruction of entire universes. The Cabal handled these incursions with the detonation of colliding Earths. They invaded and laid waste to Wakanda to establish their headquarters. They also had a tendency to commit genocide on the other Earth’s population. This last detail Namor had qualms with, and he betrayed the Cabal to the Illuminati, leaving them upon a colliding Earth. Black Panther, still hating Namor for the destruction of his country, stabbed him and left him to the dying Earth. They found a means of going to the Ultimates Earth and joined up with this Earth’s Reed Richards, the Maker.
With the Final Incursion between Earth 616 (our Earth) and Earth 1610 (the Ultimates Earth) approaching, the Cabal entered a suspended animation aboard a “life raft” and awoke on Battleworld, a planet created and ruled by the God-King Doctor Doom. They instigated an uprising against this ruler along with some survivors of the previous Earth. Thanos coaxed a giant incarnation of the Thing, whom was the infrastructure of a wall separating Doom’s capital city from the Deadlands, desolate landscape inhabited by Ultron drones and the Marvel Zombies, to rebel against Doom. Thanos himself challenged Doom and was promptly killed by his god-like powers.
When Doom was defeated and the multiverse was reconstructed, Thanos was reformed outside of Infinity itself. He fell in love with the nothingness outside all that is. The Ultimates, a team of Earth’s heroes dedicated to tackling the big threats in the universe, escaped Infinity to get a view of it. They were brought back in by Galactus the Lifebringer through a rift. Thanos was able to drift back in through the rift and decided he would bring this nothingness to the universe.
He began a new search for the Cosmic Cubes, and this led him back to Earth, where Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S was attempting to construct their own Cosmic Cube. He attacked the facility and was met by the Ultimates, A-Force, and War Machine. They were warned of his invasion by the new Inhuman, Ulysses, whom has precognitive abilities. Thanos killed War Machine during the fight and was finally brought down.
He was incarcerated by the Ultimates at their headquarters, the Triskellion. While the Ultimates have begun to fall to strife, the Mad Titan telepathically contacted a fellow inmate, the Anti-Man, an antimatter being with nigh-infinite power. He convinces the Anti-Man to break out of his cell, which shuts down power to the Triskellion. Thanos is now free once more and has a world with heroes fighting one another to rampage upon.
Marvel has announced a new solo series for Thanos that is scheduled to be released later this year. I will most assuredly read it and review it here, as I absolutely love Thanos.
Thanos is a maniacal warlord who also has great wit and intelligence. His motivations are constantly shifting and realigning. He is not immune to the weathering effects of time, and he has been blessed with good writers whom have given the Mad Titan a fascinating story arc over the years. He is a nihilistic warmonger, but she also has her soft spots. He is in love with his Lady Death, and he possesses some level of respect for his greatest rivals, such as Adam Warlock and Captain Mar-Vell.
He is also deliciously sinister and arrogant. He is capable of performing great speeches dedicated to his love of death. His reputation precedes him, even from the perspective of the reader. When he shows up, you, as the reader, know that big and bad things are about to go down. People are going to die, planets are going to be ravaged, and things are going to be exciting.
He is a monstrous being with destructive wrath and big emotions, and this is what makes Thanos my third favorite Marvel Villain of all time.