Why is Thanos such a big deal in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’?
Thanos is kind of a joke, isn’t he?
Marvel’s been building up to the Mad Titan’s big, knockdown assault on the universe in Avengers: Infinity War for almost 10 years. But in all that time, across 18 movies, we’ve spent only a handful of minutes with the new movie’s villain.
For those who have no background with Thanos beyond how he’s been portrayed so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s hard to take him seriously. He’s CG Josh Brolin, rendered in deep purple hues that almost make him resemble a walking, talking raisin.
Fans of Marvel Comics, on the other hand, know Thanos well. He’s been a sinister presence for decades, and his pursuit of a fully powered Infinity Gauntlet is the basis for some of Marvel’s most significant and popular story arcs.
If you’ve been scratching your head over Thanos, wondering how this dude that looks like a low-rent Grimace could possibly terrorize the entire MCU, read on. It’s time for an abbreviated history lesson. Needless to say, spoilers ahead for various Marvel Comics stories.
Although Thanos first debuted back in the ’70s, Marvel documented his origin story in 2013, with a (great) five-issue miniseries called Thanos Rising. The story starts with his birth, and we quickly learn that the sight of a rough-skinned, misshapen Baby Thanos was too much for his mother to bear. It drove her instantly mad, and she tried to kill her newborn at first sight.
There’s always been a tragic side to Thanos’s story: He’s deeply in love with Death. That’s capital-D Death, a cosmic being and the personification of life’s end. Although his love is frequently unrequited, it’s led Thanos to declare, more than once, that he would wipe out all life in the universe as a gesture to his lady love. The roots of their relationship are also explored in Thanos Rising.
When Thanos finally did collect all six Infinity Gems and assemble them into a fully powered Infinity Gauntlet in the comics, his first act was a statement for his beloved Death: He wiped out half the population of the universe. NBD.
While the Marvel comics haven’t ever told a story about Christianity’s Satan, the extra-dimensional demon known as Mephisto presents himself as such. He and Thanos joined forces during the Infinity Crusade story arc to derail a threat to all reality. When it was all over, Thanos then burned Mephisto on a deal they’d struck, forking over an object of great power as promised… but only after said object had been stripped of its power.
When Thanos found himself between schemes during a mid-’90s run of comics, he started hunting for a worthy adversary out of sheer boredon. His search led him to Tyrant, a living machine and the created “son” of a cosmic being known as Galactus, who eats entire worlds in order to sustain himself. So Thanos picked a fight with the son of Galactus because he had nothing better to do. And he won.
As if picking a fight with Tyrant wasn’t enough, Bored Thanos later chose to side with a universe-threatening force during the Annihilation arc of comics. He later revealed that he threw his lot in with Annihilus and the Annihilation Wave because he wanted to see what a new cycle of life in the universe might look like.
Charming fellow, right?