Are you really certain you want to stop him? What makes you think you can?
"Am I not Thanos?! Did I not butcher the woman who gave me birth, who forced me into this hell called life? Is not the wake of my passing crimson with the blood of my enemies and allies alike?! Death is with me every second of the day!"If you'd prefer to read the article in Thanos's own bombastic tone, go here instead.
Since Jim Starlin first introduced him in the pages of Iron Man
vol. 1 #55 (February, 1973), Thanos the Mad Titan has become one of Marvel's most iconic - and dangerous - supervillains. Whereas the heroes of Earth have to put up with the likes of Doctor Doom
, Thanos proves to be a constant threat to, well, the entire universe. Yes, all of it.
Born on Titan, moon of planet Saturn, home to the Titans, a fraction of Eternals that left the Earth thousands of years ago. Thanos is one of two sons of the the rulers of the Titans: Alars, also known as Mentor, and his wife, Sui-San. However, he was born a mutant, which gave him an appearance closer to Deviants, the Eternals' sister race and sworn enemies. This made his life miserable, gave others reason to bully him, while his brother, Eros, was loved by all. On the other hand, the mutation also granted him vast strength and durability, far greater than any of the other Titans; and his ability to wield cosmic energy was second-to-none.
Claimed his first victim at the age of eight, which first introduced him to the love of his life, Mistress Death. Infatuated, it became Thanos's obsession to win over her black heart, which generally resulted in more killing. The Titans naturally didn't take kindly to this, and exiled him after he tried and failed to kill his dad and take over the throne. They probably regretted not giving him his wish and uniting him with his one true love later since after traveling the Universe and claiming all power within his reach, he returned to Titan and let them have a taste of his nuclear revenge
, killing all but a few survivors - his mom being among the dead.
After setting up shop on the nearby Earth, he would inadvertently create two of his life-long enemies, including his arch nemesis: Drax the Destroyer. After possibly being spotted by a human family, he killed them, only for the sole survivor to become Moondragon and her father to be turned into Drax. Imprisoning Drax, he caught the attention of Iron Man, who answered his calls for rescue. Earth has also provided him with a number of other of his regular foes, including Adam Warlock, the Silver Surfer, and Captain Mar-Vell
(not that one
, mind you). These and more would be involved in stopping him from obtaining the Cosmic Cube and from using the the six Infinity Gems (Then known as the 'Soul Gems') in a quest to destroy all the stars in the galaxy in his latest scheme to win over the heart of Mistress Death.
And then he died at the hands of Adam Warlock, staying dead between 1977 and 1990, when Death brought him back to life more powerful than ever in a mission to kill half of all life in the universe in the name of keeping the balance. Crafty as he was and eager to be Death's equal rather than her servant, Thanos put the six Soul Gems back together, renamed them the Infinity Gems, and created the Infinity Gauntlet in order to gain omnipotence
. Ironically, this backfired by making him superior
to Death, who then rejected him because of it. Driven to impress her, Thanos used the Gauntlet to try to prove himself worthy, eventually becoming the very personification of The Universe itself
. Which, ironically again, was what defeated him, since it left his body unoccupied and giving his remaining foes the opportunity they needed to reclaim the Gauntlet.Arguably giving up his old ways
, Thanos made peace with Adam Warlock and joined the Infinity Watch in order to guard one of the gems, trusted to do so specifically because Adam knew that Thanos' experience with them showed him that possessing the Gauntlet would not give him what he wanted. They worked together and with others to fight against Adam Warlock's good and evil sides
, Magus and Goddess.
In time, Thanos would return to his old ways and switch intermittently between hero and villain, until his next big appearance in the pages of Annihilation
. Teaming up with Annihilus in his war against the Universe, Thanos was killed by Drax. Only to then be resurrected soon after for The Thanos Imperative
in order to save Death from the threat of the 'Many-Angled Ones'
, interdimentional invaders from another universe known as the Cancerverse where nothing was able to die. A problem that, with Death's help, Thanos managed to fix. Naturally, he got angry after Death turned her back on him after it was all said and done, forcing Nova
and Star-Lord to hold him back (with the help of a near-dead Cosmic Cube) to keep him from escaping back to their universe and killing everyone
But of course, you can't keep a good megalomaniac villain like Thanos down for long, and he's returned
once more anyway.
In other media, Thanos has also shown up in the Silver Surfer
and The Super Hero Squad Show
animated series, though with Death being replaced by Chaos in the former. He also appears as the Big Bad
of Season 2 in Avengers Assemble
, Thanos made a surprise appearance in The Stinger
of The Avengers
, where he was revealed as the mastermind behind Loki
's plan to conquer Earth. He then appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy
and later the Avengers: Infinity War
duology, portrayed by Josh Brolin
Notable comics with Thanos:FilmVideo GamesWestern Animation
Thanos provides examples of:
- Above Good and Evil: As a firm believer of moral nihilism, he is less concerned with good and evil and more with "How many can I murder to get Death to love me"?
- More like Outside Chaos And Order, Thanos' actions are clearly evil, but attempts to place him in either camp fail because Thanos is always an individual.
- Achilles' Heel: Oddly enough, he's probably his own weakness. This prevented him from keeping the omnipotent powers he would gain for more than a few issues.
- Actually a Doombot: The Thanosi, identical (but varying in power from less to more powerfull) clones Thanos created of himself. They were cooked up by Jim Starlin as a way to explain away any out-of-character moments Thanos had suffered.
- In his first appearance, Thanos is seemingly defeated...but it turns out to be a robot duplicate.
- Affably Evil: He always speaks in a well-reserved manner, and towards people he is fond of (like Drax for killing him, Adam Warlock, Captain Marvel and of course Lady Death), he shows some honest Pet the Dog}-moments.
- A God Am I: Between the Infinity Gauntlet and the Cosmic Cube, he has been on this level more than once.
- Alternate Company Equivalent/Expy: To Darkseid. According to Jim Starlin Thanos was inspired by the New Gods - but originally he looked like the character Metron. Editor Roy Thomas told Starlin: "If you’re going to steal one of the New Gods, at least rip off Darkseid, the really good one!". Although Thanos Space Thrones can be seen as a nod to Metron's Mobius Chair.
- And I Must Scream: Threatened with eternal life by being stuck at the bottom of a gravity well when he came back to life and started attacking the Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Anti-Villain: Post The Infinity Gauntlet, some would argue that for a while he became somewhat of a Noble Demon. note Most of the time, he's a Villain Protagonist in his own series.
- Arch-Enemy: To Drax the Destroyer, Moondragon, Captain Marvel and sometimes, Adam Warlock. And maybe the Silver Surfer too. He's also a fairly constant foe of the entire Marvel Universe... including himself.
- Art Evolution: As seen on this page Thanos was much slimmer in his earliest appearances.
- Ax-Crazy: Depending on the Writer.
- Badass Boast:
- "You address omnipotence. Tread carefully."
- Another one, from Infinity Crusade: "Even devils should beware when bargaining with Thanos of Titan."
- Beyond the Impossible/Deader Than Dead: After becoming an avatar of Death, he gained the ability to permanently kill creatures who are explicitly immortal, as shown◊ in the Thanos Imperative.
- Big Bad: One of the biggest in the entire Marvel Universe. When he's scheming, you know for sure a catastrophe is about to follow. More then once, the entire MU (including the villains) has teamed up to stop him.
- Bigger Bad: To Loki in The Avengers, Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Red Skull in Avengers Assemble.
- Breakout Villain: It might be hard to believe, but Thanos was originally something of a Filler villain. Jim Starlin was offered to do an issue of Iron Man, and he introduced Thanos as the villain of a story that was self-contained but also open-ended. When Starlin went on to write other comics he brought back Thanos and eventually made him into what he is today.
- Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Both Ahkenaten and his own doppleganger became butterflies after he slew them.
- Call to Agriculture: Has confessed a certain fondness for the simple life of a farmer, and sometimes indulges in this after his more grandiose schemes unravel.
- In a What If issue, this is Thanos' final fate after losing the Infinity Gauntlet.
- Thanos has two endings in Marvel Super Heroes, and the player gets to decide if he goes on to conquer the universe, or give it all up and just be a farmer.
- Character Development: At least in theory. Jim Starlin, the creator, had Thanos abandon his Universal conquest/genocide plans long ago, but other writers usually tend to ignore this. One of the reasons why those instances are mostly retconned whenever Starlin returns to the character.
- Characterization Marches On: In his earliest appearances, he's more of a Galactic Conqueror with Death at his side than the true nihilist he later became; it's only after "she" abandons him following his first defeat that he begins actively seeking her favor with schemes to change the ratio of life and death in the universe. Heck, Death was only introduced in Thanos's second appearance.
- The Chessmaster: On a galactic and sometimes universal scale.
- Combat Pragmatist: When he is outclassed by his opponents, he oftens comes up with other ways to win, for example in his battle with the Champion of the Universe. He provoked him, danced around his attacks and made him accidentally destroy the planet they were fighting on in the end, which left him helplessly floating in space.
- Complete Immortality: He gained this after becoming an avatar of Death.
- Crazy-Prepared: Comes with being a cosmic-scale Super-Genius.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: A central character trait evident from some of his earliest appearances, in which he seems genuinely different than other mastermind villains in that he avoids grandstanding until he's already achieved his goals and uses the Reality Warper powers of the Cosmic Cube to their full potential when everyone before him had just created weapons and servants with it. He's only gotten better at it since.
- Death Is Cheap: One can not stay dead if Death needs them alive...
- Death Seeker: If only because it's the best way for him to be united with his true love - which just happens to be Death herself.
- Deflector Shields: In addition to his already nigh-invulnerable body, he has invented several kinds of Force Fields to become even more untouchable, the most powerful version was durable enough to take 2 shots from Galactus himself until it broke.
- Depending on the Writer: Jim Starlin tries to portray him as a great intellect who is greatly aware of the real workings of the universe (whether it succeeds, or Thanos is simply a Black Hole Sue Villain Sue relying on Mc Guffins and Idiot Balls is up to personal interpretation); Jason Aaron's Thanos Rising, at the other end of the scale, suggests that he's simply a very powerful Serial Killer and even that his initial visions of death were ambiguously hallucinations rather than the real thing. Most other writers simply use him as an especially scary cosmic villain.
- Disappeared Dad: Often left the women he would sleep with in the middle of the night, leaving them with only the baby to take care of and the hope of him coming back. He eventually came back to them, but with a different woman and entrance..note
- Dramatically Missing the Point: The notion that killing people will never get Death to love him doesn't ever seem to have crossed his mind.
- The Dreaded: Given the things he's done, it's understandable that people freak out on seeing him.
- Dull Surprise: When he was killed by Drax, all he had to say to it was Interesting.
- Enemy Mine: He isn't above teaming up with his foes against other enemies as long as it situation suits him.
- Enemies with Death: Those who are, are enemies with him. The Many-Angled Ones discovered this the hard way. So did Death-God Walker, who desired to take her role.
- Energy Absorption: A trait common to all the Eternals of Titan. Thanos has just managed to master this power to a level beyond that of even his kin.
- Enfant Terrible: Didn't become one until after his traumatic event in the cave he went in with his friends. Before that, he was a kind child with a creepy fascination with corpses but would get sick when dissecting organisms for study.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He may be the harbringer of death and her lover but he is not okay with Omnicidal Maniacs that want to destroy everything so they can be the only ones living.
- Evil Genius: Let's see...mastered every science in the universe from an early age? Check. Centuries of dabbling in the occult? Check. Unlocked the DNA of Galactusnote and made a hybrid clone of themselves, just to show he could? Check.
- Evil Is Petty: Thanos once tracked down a flower that was the last of its kind, worshipped by locals as a source of hope, and killed it. Why? Because it brought people hope.
- During this he also tried to toss a mother and child off the mountain the flower was kept on, even though they were just bystanders.
- Evil Plan: All he really wants is the love of Mistress Death. However, this being Mistress Death...
- Evil Sorcerer: He is one of science and cosmic energy, but is obviously not a Squishy Wizard.
- Exact Words: Thanos always holds to a bargain. And if he has full faith that the other person making the bargain is going to treat him fairly (such as Adam Warlock), then he'll similarly uphold both the word and the spirit of the deal. However, he's no idiot, and he'll readily stick to his very precise wording if he anticipates a trap of some sort. Most notably, Mephisto discovered this when he made a deal to get a Cosmic Cube from Thanos.
- Expendable Clone: Jim Starlin tends to retcon any perceived slights to Thanos' greatness at first opportunity through various clones to have suffered any defeats that Thanos experiences. Dan Slott has even gone so far as to debate the point with himself. In one story Slott let Squirrel Girl beat Thanos, with the Watcher confirming that it was the real deal, but in a later She-Hulk story it was established that it might or might not have been a clone after all.
- Eye Beams: One of his more potent ways of channeling cosmic energy.
- Failure Is the Only Option: He's doomed to never enjoy long-term success or satisfaction in anything since deep down, he doesn't believe he deserves it.
- Fairy Companion: Had a partner in Skreet the Chaos Mite for a time before being killed by Drax.
- Fate Worse Than Death: What he consideres life. At the end of Infinity he is immobilized in a state of *Living Death*
- For the Evulz: Once orchestrated a situation where his brother was held for trial, and sent his clone with modified memories to convince everybody it was he who made Thanos fall in love with Death, thus making him responsible for all of Thanos's crimes. She-Hulk traveled into the clone's mind to discover it was a lie and that he did all of it not because of revenge, but for pure entertainment. It didn't go well for the clone.
- Friendly Enemy: Adam Warlock has helped thwart Thanos' plans countless times...but may also be the only real friend he has.
- Friend to All Living Things: Even though at an early age, Thanos was drawing pictures of the corpses of the creatures around him, he befriended and refused to eat any of the creatures in the cave he was stuck in for many days. That is, until he found out that they killed and ate his Eternal friends who came with him to the cave and was blamed for it.
- Galactic Conqueror: His reputation as one can even intimidate entire planets into giving in to his demands as shown in Infinity.
- Gambit Roulette: Deceiving and planning on the scale he's known for, especially where such pseudo-omniscient beings as Galactus and Eternity are involved, naturally requires this trope.
- Genius Bruiser: Right up there among both the brightest minds and strongest bodies in the Marvel Universe.
- Hand Blast: His most common method of channeling cosmic power. He can make them powerful enough to knock Galactus off his feet and break his helmet.
- Heel-Face Revolving Door: Will ally himself with forces of good if it serves his own interests.
- Hero Killer: It's easier to name what heroes Thanos HASN'T managed to kill, considering he killed THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE once.
- Idiot Ball: Under Starlin's pen, any hero, villain, or even cosmic entity, except Warlock, tends to suffer from this, to underline how awesome Thanos is.
- If I Can't Have You: Has admitted to being jealous of Death's other paramours. Jealous to the point that, after discovering she had developed feelings for Deadpool, he cursed him with immortality just to keep him away from her.
- Irony: In relation to the above, Death did the same to Thanos. Temporarily.
- Just Toying with Them: At one point during the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, he turned off the sensory input from the Gems that provided any in order to give his opponents a tiny chance of success in order to impress Lady Death.
- Karma Houdini: Almost all the time under Jim Starlin. He killed over a 100 people on his own planet, razed several galaxies and then ultimately half the Universe, and didn't suffer any real consequences. (if you don't count Death refusing to love him or being immensely fickle)
- Kick the Dog: But off course.
- Klingon Promotion: During his tenure as a pirate, he became a leader when his predecessor tried to kill him for not murdering anyone in their many acts of pillaging. He cut him up to pieces without realizing it and was hailed by his fellow pirates.
- Kryptonite Factor / Man of Kryptonite: Drax the Destroyer in his latest incarnation (since Annihilation, to be precise).
- Large Ham: If the odd way his speech bubbles are drawn didn't tell you.
- Mad Scientist: He's not called "The Mad Titan" for nothing.
- Mighty Glacier: Averted, he actually has fast reflexes and is a experienced fighter, but most of the time he just stands still and takes the attacks his opponents throw at him, because he doesn't think they are worth reacting to.
- Mutants: His mutation is the reason for both his physical deformities and his vast strength.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: His name is Greek for 'death'.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: As an Eternal, he has complete control over every last molecule in his body and thus is very hard to hurt. A few feats of him include the following
- An attack from an angry Silver Surfer directly to his face◊ did accomplish next to nothing.
- He was completely unfazed by the effects of Reality Warping◊.
- He's also able to take a full-blown shout from Black Bolt right in the face. Black Bolt's whispers can demolish buildings. All the shout did was destroy his armor and make him bleed.
- He even took blasts from Odin and Galactus and managed to live.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Is quite fond of delivering these. Just ask the Silver Surfer◊.
- Not So Different: When Thanos and Annihilus met, they both realised they had common ground.
- Offing the Offspring: Sui-San, his mother, tried to kill the newborn Thanos the first time she laid her eyes on his deformities, seeing in them his future of being an Omnicidal Maniac. A'Lars, Thanos' father, prevented her from doing so, seeing great potential in him as a mutant Eternal. Thanos has also hunted down and murdered the many children he sired across the galaxy and the primary reason he attacked Earth during Infinity was to kill Thane, his Inhuman son.
- When Nebula claimed to be Thanos' granddaughter, he responded by trying to kill her.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Up until Marvel Universe: The End, which includes his days as wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet and prior to them. He returns to this mindset every once in a while when he goes completely insane.
- Pet the Dog: Has at least some fondness for his adopted daughter, Gamora. She was a means to an end against the Magus however, and Thanos was perfectly willing to kill her.
- Physical God: More so than his fellow Titan Eternals thanks to the mutation that granted him a Deviant-like appearance. Even without powerful artifacts like the Infinity Gauntlet and the Cosmic Cube he is still one of the most dangerous beings in the Marvel verse.
- Pinball Protagonist: In his backstory comic Thanos Rising spends much of each issue acting on suggestions from Death who is constantly nagging him to commit murders. Even when he becomes a space pirate captain it's because he accidentally won a duel with the old captain. He swings a sword with his eyes shut and kills him without meaning to, and so gains authority by sheer accident.
- Really Gets Around: In his younger years. Not for the pleasure, mind you, but to find satisfaction in the act of love along with many other goals to find his purpose in life. That is, before he settled with Death.
- Retcon: Because he didn't like what other writers did with Thanos, Jim Starlin has often done this. See Actually a Doombot above.
- Serial Killer: In his younger years, mostly as practice for his omnicidal tendencies as an adult.
- Slasher Smile: with shades of Smug Smiler.
- The Sociopath: Apathetically butchered over a hundred people on Titan.
- Stalker with a Crush: To Death. The entity even described him as a creepy stalker during the wedding of Rick Jones.
- Straw Nihilist: He is a nihilist in most incarnations.
- Superior Successor: His son Thane in all respects. One hand can rewrite reality. The other hand can trap anyone in "living death" including Thanos. And under the tutelage of Ebony Maw, he may very well become a worse monster than Thanos ever was.
- Super Strength: You better believe it. He destroyed a planet as a side effect of his battle with Drax, he nearly beat the Silver Surfer to death, and managed to stand up to Odin for a little while before being beaten.
- Super Weight: A level 5, who has defeated various heavyweights. With the Cosmic Cube he was a Level 6, with the Infinity Gauntlet a high Level 6, and with the Heart of the Universe he was full-on Level 7.
- Übermensch: He see's himself above good and evil and thinks that everybody would be better off dead.
- Unexplained Recovery: At the end of The Thanos Imperative, Thanos was stuck in a collapsing dead universe. When he reappeared, there was absolutely no explanation as to how he escaped, or indeed any for the next couple of years.
- Telepathy: To which offensive degree varies, but his defensive capabilities are almost unmatched. He has casually and repeatedly repelled telepathic assault from powerful psychics such as Moondragon, Mantis or Cosmo, sometimes even simultaneously.
- The Unfettered: Whenever schemes, scruples are never a concern of his.
- Unstoppable Rage: Thanos did not take kindly to being resurrected. It took several days, and levelling an entire planet (with a population of several million) beforehand, to calm him down.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Despite his strange appearance, he had a loving father and many friends. He was also sickened when he was first made to dissect something.
- Villain Ball: Several times has suffered from this at the verge of absolute victory. Adam Warlock theorized that he let himself be defeated, because subconsciously he found himself unworthy of the absolute power he tried to claim.
- Villainous Breakdown: Had several during The Thanos Imperative, mostly because he was unwillingly resurrected and afterwards confronted with a whole Eldritch Abomination-like universe filled to the brim with what he hates the most: Life.
- Villainous Crush: In Thanos Rising, when he was a kid, he had an unrequited crush on a friend who was rather vicious for an Eternal. She influenced him into doing things that eventually lead him to become the person who he is in the present. As a young adult, she convinced him kill his previous lovers and children, and told him that she was in fact, Death. At the end of that series, he shows that he eventually got over her. Maybe.
- Villain Protagonist: In the series that has him as a protagonist.
- What The Hell, Villain?: During Infinity Crusade, Thanos gets called out for allying with Mephisto - not only for Mephisto being a devil (or maybe The Devil), but because Mephisto already tried to betray Thanos during Infinity Gauntlet. However, it turns out that Thanos already anticipated exactly how Mephisto would betray him and prepared everything to thwart Mephisto's plans.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: It makes it difficult to unite with his one true love - Death.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Is a frequent player of this, especially under Jim Starlin.