“Let the heavens run red with blood, but in the end as always Thanos stands triumphant.” — Silver Surfer, Vol. 3, #26
“I now hold omnipotence. What should I do with such almighty power? The answer to that is actually quite simple: Anything I want. Anything. I am incapable of error. Any result that displeases me I can simply reverse. There is nothing I need to worry on, for I am Thanos. And Thanos is supreme. Supreme.” — Thanos
The Marvel Cinematic Universe recently unleashed the big villain that they’ve been building up to for what feels like 20 different movies. Thanos, also known as the Mad Titan, is an enemy that all of the Avengers working together can barely fight against. But even before his portrayal on the big screen, Thanos had a long and rich history in the world of comic books. For anyone wondering what Thanos’ powers have been, how he’s evolved over the years, and what kind of role he’s played in stories, read these facts to find out more about the Mad Titan.
42. In the Beginning…
Thanos as a character was originally created by Jim Starlin while he was in college taking psychology courses. Starlin actually conceived of both Thanos and Drax the Destroyer (one of the Guardians of the Galaxy) during this time period. Starlin has pointed out that he was influenced by the character Darkseid for how Thanos would look.
41. An Enemy We Can Love
Believe it or not, Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy has a much different origin story in the comics rather than what the movies claim. Drax the Destroyer started out as a real estate agent named Arthur Douglas. One day, Thanos was passing over Earth in a spaceship when he was noticed by Douglas and his family as they drove through the desert. Thanos wanted to keep his identity a secret, so he destroyed the car.
40. That No-Good Son of Mine!
Despite destroying the car, Thanos did have a witness to his actions: his own father, Mentor. Mentor was disgusted with his son’s actions, called upon the help of his own father, Kronos, and together, they took Arthur Douglas’s consciousness, put it into a new humanoid body, and gave him super powers with which to defeat Thanos.
39. Born a Mutant
Thanos’ backstory starts on Titan, Saturn’s moon. The Eternals lived on Titan, and Thanos was one of the last children born to the original settlers of Titan. However, Thanos was born malformed.
38. Heavyweight Contender
According to the comics, Thanos stands at 6 feet, 7 inches tall, and weighs no less than 985 pounds. That’s pretty intimidating, even if he wasn’t purple with red eyes.
37. Did They Play a Game of Chess Too?
Believe it or not, Thanos has actually met Death and fallen in love with it! Death appeared before Thanos in a female form, which only added to Thanos’ obsession with death. He set out to prove himself worthy of Death’s love in return, seeking omnipotence. Rather different from being worried about overpopulation, but hey, why not.
36. So… Death Turned Him Good?
Thanos allowed this love of Death to dictate his actions, even if they go against everything he stood for. In one comic, Thanos is drawn into a conflict with an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who uses the Heart of the Universe to wipe out most of Earth’s heroes in order to become all-powerful. Thanos not only undoes the damage that the pharaoh caused, but he also makes the universe slightly better with the Heart’s power. This earns him a kiss from Lady Death, and she even speaks to him for the first time. Thanos then vows to never go conquering again.
35. I Can Be Your Worst Enemy!
Thanos has all the powers of his superhuman race, the Eternals, but his powers have been enhanced over the years thanks to scientific enhancements that he sought out, as well as powers that were granted to him by Death. All of this means that Thanos has incredible physical prowess over most entities—but it doesn’t end there. Thanos is telekinetic and is capable of teleportation, he is immortal, and practically indestructible!
34. Standing in the Spotlight
In The Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos actually has the most screen time. He appears in about half an hour of the film, which is more than any of the various heroes who are trying to defeat him. To be fair, we’d certainly hope he gets decent screen time after all the buildup that he’s gotten.
33. Every Villain Needs Henchmen
Serving Thanos is a team of superpowered aliens that form the Cull Obsidian, also known as the Black Order. The original members of the Cull Obsidian are Black Dwarf, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, and Supergiant.
32. Hello, Old Foe…
One of Thanos’ biggest enemies was the superhero known as Adam Warlock. In the comics, Warlock was originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but he was revived and redeveloped by Jim Starlin, Thanos’ creator. Warlock leads the charge against Thanos when he tries to collect the Infinity Stones, rallying the Avengers, Captain Marvel, and Moondragon to defeat him. Maybe he’ll show up at some point in the movies too?
Thanos made his first appearance in the Marvel comics in 1973. He was introduced in Iron Man #55 as an “intergalactic tyrant with an unbridled lust for power and omnipotence.” As of 2018, Thanos is 45 years old!
30. Thanks Joss!
Apparently, we have Joss Whedon to thank for Thanos being used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It was Whedon’s idea to introduce the idea of a villain-behind-the-villain in the Avengers films. Safe to say it was a great idea on the producers’ part to bring Whedon on board.
29. The Horror…
Josh Brolin based his performance of Thanos, particularly when he appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, on the isolated and haunting figure of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, as played by Marlon Brando. Not a bad choice for an acting inspiration.
28. Foster Father
The movies managed to get Gamora’s origin story mostly correct from the comics. Thanos adopted Gamora with the purpose of raising her as his personal lieutenant. Thanos even rescued her from a genocide carried out against her people, of which she was the only survivor. Honestly that backstory has quite a bit of emotional complexity.
27. Merry Christmas, Mad Titan
To make it even more emotionally complex, Thanos made sure to give Gamora a happy childhood in order to make her more than just a mindless, heartless killer. Thanos picked a day in the year to serve as Gamora’s birthday, and they made sure to celebrate it. He even taught her about the Earth holiday known as Christmas and held a truce every year to celebrate it with Gamora and the rest of his estranged family! Safe to say that’s the most awkward family reunion we can think of.
26. And Ryan Reynolds Wept
According to Josh Brolin, he actually preferred to play Thanos rather than Cable in Deadpool 2. He explained that the role of Thanos had a lot more preparation and character development built into him, which made it more interesting to portray. No doubt Deadpool will be inconsolable when he finds out.
25. He Wasn’t Always Like This…
You wouldn’t think it, but apparently Thanos spent his childhood practicing pacifism. However, he was a melancholic, nihilistic loner who only played with pets and his own brother, Eros.
24. Brotherly Hate
Speaking of Thanos’ brother, Eros went in the opposite direction of Thanos. Eros starts out being very laid-back and adventurous, becoming a ladies’ man while Thanos devoted himself to Death. It wasn’t until Thanos embarked on world conquering that Eros realized that things were getting serious. He eventually became the superhero known as Starfox. Sadly, there’s no record of him recruiting a toad, a falcon, and a hare as his wingmen during his adventure.
23. Interesting Choices…
It’s been rumored that Ken Watanabe, Alan Rickman, and Hugh Laurie were all approached to play Thanos before Josh Brolin was cast. When we think of a death-obsessed melancholic conqueror who is strong enough to destroy the Hulk in battle, we don’t necessarily think of Dr. House or Professor Snape.
22. Chopper Time!
Believe it or not, Thanos had a personalized helicopter. In 1979, Thanos appeared in a Spiderman comic titled “Who Will Get the Cosmic Cube?,” and he flew around in a helicopter with his name emblazoned on the side. It was also called the “Thanos Copter.” Very subtle, 1979…
21. Bubble Boy
One of Thanos’ lesser-known superpowers is the ability to create forcefields around himself. These forcefields are so strong, in fact, that not even the Incredible Hulk can break through them!
20. Stay Tuned for More!
Thanos’ first appearance on television was on the Silver Surfer cartoon, which aired in 1998. Because it was Saturday morning cartoons, Thanos couldn’t be obsessed with Death, so they made him devoted to someone named “Lady Chaos” instead. Safe to say that this wasn’t Thanos as we knew him.
19.What a Twist!
Because of Thanos’ godlike status, it’s hard to write around that infinite power to give him a sufficient defeat by the heroes. One frequent strategy that the comics have used is to have a last-minute revelation that the entity they thought was Thanos was actually a clone or a robot. Hopefully the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t end the next Avengers film that way.
18. Call the Squad!
Speaking of that surprise “it’s not really Thanos!” twist, Thanos’ second appearance on television was an episode of Super Hero Squad titled “If This Be My Thanos,” where it was revealed that it wasn’t really Thanos, but an imposter. Thankfully, the real Thanos did show up in that show’s second season while gathering the Infinity Gems to take over the universe.
17. Behold the Mad Titan!
Brolin had a rather interesting way of revealing that he’d been cast as Thanos. He made an appearance onstage at the 2014 Comic-Con while wearing a replica of Thanos’ famous Infinity Gauntlet. No doubt everyone had a good cheer over that.
16. What if He was Just Making a Steak Knife?
Thanos was eventually exiled from his home on Titan, but there have been a number of different reasons given as to why that is. One popular explanation given is that Thanos was the first of the Eternals to create a weapon. This went against the laws of the Eternals, and so he was banished.
15. I’m Back!
As Thanos built up his power in exile, he eventually returned to Titan with the intention of destroying it. Using nuclear weapons and his own super powers, Thanos managed to wipe out thousands of Eternals, leaving only a few to survive. Titan was just the first of many worlds and planets that would suffer Thanos’ wrath.
14. Waiting in the Wings
Brolin was reportedly offered the chance to play Thanos while he was busy shooting the film Everest. He was actually the last actor to be cast for Guardians of the Galaxy and went uncredited for his role at first. In fact, Thanos was almost cut from the film, but it served as a connection to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
13. Is That Your Best?! Mua-hahahahaha!
Not surprisingly, Thanos has been used as a final boss in two Marvel-focused video games, specifically Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems. He can even be unlocked as a playable character in Marvel Super Heroes.
12. One Tough Customer
The many high-powered opponents that Thanos has fought against include the Incredible Hulk (whom he defeated), Thor, and many others. He’s also been able to at least hold his own against the godlike entities Odin and Galactus.
11. Challenge Accepted
While the Marvel films seem to be distancing themselves from the idea of Thanos literally pursuing the personification of Death, his first appearance in the films provided a pretty cool hint to his main motivation in the comics. In the mid-credits scene of The Avengers, the Other fearfully reports that “to challenge [Earth] is to court death,” which makes Thanos smile with anticipation.
10. Was Superman Unavailable?
We mentioned before that Thanos’ appearance was partly inspired by Darkseid, so you might wonder what would happen if the two of them ever fought. Well, DC and Marvel decided to tease their audiences with that question during the Marvel vs DC comics. Thanos was determined to fight Darkseid in the storyline, but it never happens!
In a rather disturbing aspect of the Thanos story, he once claimed to have vivisected his own mother to try and figure out how someone like him could have possibly been born. Safe to say that there’s no therapist on Earth who could handle that case.
8. My Own Worst Enemy
At one point in the comics, Thanos created a number of clones of himself to give himself a real challenge (makes sense to us). These ‘Thanosi’ were kept in stasis when Thanos didn’t need them, but it’s safe to say that they broke loose and had to be defeated by Adam Warlock, Gamora, and even Thanos himself.
7. We Don’t Even Have a Complex for This!
When Thanos was born, his mutations were said to have horrified his mother, Sui-San. She could sense from the start that Thanos was trouble (or maybe she was just seriously intolerant) and she tried to kill him. Only the intervention of Thanos’ father saved the infant’s life, and we’ve got to be honest, having your own mother threaten to kill you just after you’ve been born would do a lot of psychological damage to anyone.
6. Too Soon
Thanos was originally slated to be the villain in the second film of the Avengers series, but Joss Whedon put his foot down against it. Whedon urged Marvel to keep Thanos as the overlord of evil rather than just another one-movie villain. As a result, Ultron was chosen to be their next baddie, while Thanos was saved for another day.
5. This Is Nuts
In a rather strange 2005 issue called GLX-MAS #1, Thanos suffered one of his more, shall we say, embarrassing defeats. He faced off against the heroine known as Squirrel Girl… and lost. While the issue wasn’t meant to be part of the main canon, it was still funny to think that the powerful Thanos lost to the powers of a squirrel lady! Maybe they should get Anna Kendrick to be in the new Avengers film.
4. Sonny Boy
Did you know that Thanos once had a son? After a race of Inhumans had the bad luck of attracting the attention of Thanos and his forces, one of the Inhumans gave birth to Thanos’ son, Thane. Thane initially embraced his Inhuman side and became a healer.
3. That’s No Great Reunion
Thane and Thanos did eventually meet, with Thane even developing powers and an appearance more similar to his dad. However, the similarities stopped at appearances. Thane used his new powers to seal Thanos in amber so that he was trapped without dying. We can imagine that this permanent state between life and death was especially infuriating for Thanos.
2. To Court Death
Remember how we said that Jim Starlin came up with Thanos while he was attending psychology classes? Well, Thanos’ name derives from the word “Thanatos.” Sigmund Freud argued that humans have an urge to live—called Eros (hey wait a minute!)—and an urge to self-destruct or die, which he called Thanatos. This plays right into Thanos’ literal obsession with Death.
1. Somebody Stop Me!
Given that Thanos is so powerful and given that he’s actually become completely omnipotent multiple times in the Marvel universe, one might wonder how he could possibly be defeated. However, Thanos’ weakness is remarkably psychological, and it has to do with his desire for death, and thus self-destruction. Thanos has a subconscious desire to be defeated, as he is crippled with a lack of self-confidence. Since he doesn’t consider himself worthy of being in charge of the universe, he constantly fails because he secretly won’t allow himself to win.