It took Thanos some time to become an iconic Marvel villain. He made his name in the comics way before he was included in the MCU. But it wasn’t the same always. Thanos used to serve as a villain for just one of the early Avengers. Lee had no plan to cast him as an important or lasting character.
How did Thanos come to be a supreme villain after Darth Vader? It was sure not easy or straight. He had to face challenging situations and accept numerous defeats for him to transform into the supercharacter he is today. Here’s a list of the top 10 significant Thanos moments that established his character.
1. His Debut in Iron Man
Thanos appeared first in Invincible Iron Man #55 created by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich. The comic portrayed Thanos as an intimidating villain who the Iron Man troop could only survive with the help of Drax the Destroyer, but he was still not considered as a universal threat that the fans recognize him as, today. He needed to work on his villainous personality a little more for him to be believable.
2. The Quest of Thanos
Discussing attaining his villainous character, we must include Thanos Quest by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim where Thanos did the exact same. The plot revolves around the obsession with the Infinity Stones and his transformation from being the villain of the week to an everlasting peril.
In Thanos Quest, Thanos peeps into the Infinity well and is informed that he has to collect the six Soul Gems to become powerful enough to kill one-half of the universe, in order to satisfy his true love, Mistress Death. Thanos was also introduced to Adam Warlock here, a friend and foe who played a major part in developing his story.
3. The Infinity Gauntlet
Jim Starlin and George Pérez’s Infinity Gauntlet is the tale of ultimate success as a result of the Thanos Quest. He achieved all the stones and went on killing half of all life with the click of his fingers. This showed how tiny the Avengers and the other heroes on Earth were, in comparison to real mighty power. And for the first time, Thanos was “real power”.
4. The Infinity Watch
Thanos was ultimately defeated in Infinity Gauntlet. Adam Warlock obtained the Gems for the welfare of the cosmos. Warlock understood that the only way to protect the stones was to divide them up for good. So Warlock called for mighty heroes and gave each a single gem to watch over. This group of heroes was known to be the Infinity Watch. Even considering everything that happened in the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos got to be one of these heroes in the Infinity Watch. Thanos and Warlock had an earlier conquest in the Infinity Gauntlet, but their relationship strengthened in the Infinity Watch, thus, Warlock entrusted him with the Reality Gem. This empowered Thanos to be a potential threat to the Avengers, slowly improving his villainous career.
5. The birth of Thane
Thane is the brutal son of Thanos who first appeared in New Avengers #10 by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Deodato. Thane was very important to Thanos, compared to his adopted children, Nebula and Gamora whom he only used for war and games. Thanos got to know about Thane’s existence from the Eternal/ Inhuman. Thane’s character served fans more information on Thanos’ history and he could also be used as a rival to his throne.
6. Eternals and Titans
Thanos was known to original retcons. Invincible Iron Man #55 introduced him as a Titan, who is a purple being from the moon or Titan. But we get to know later, that Thanos was originally an Eternal who was born with Deviant Syndrome, which resulted in his unrealistic appearance.
The final and official retcon bound Thanos’ history in Eternals Vol. 5 #12 by Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic. The comic explains that Thanos was not an Eternal born with Deviant Syndrome. He, in reality, had two pure-blooded Eternal parents and was the product of the continuous fusion of Eternal and Deviant DNA. This made Thanos’ appearance more probable than just a sudden change in fate.
7. The Rising of Thanos
Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi’s Thanos Rising published in 2013 showed the birth of Thanos but more, how he was connected to Death. Eternals #2 shows that his fascination for Death was because of a weird mix of dual lineage, the original reason was rather twisted. An incarnation of Death would follow Thanos in various forms all his life, transforming him from the peace-monger he was as a child, to the ruthless Mad Titan that we know of, today. He confides more in Death and his fellow Eternals. The constant involvement of Death in his life will leave a mark on him all his life.
8. The truth about Thanos’ parents
Eternals Vol. 5 brings out the ravaging truth about Thanos’ parents, that they are still alive. They would exist as long as the Earth exists. Thanos’s trauma overpowers here when he realizes that the same inhuman parents who tried to kill them, will always, somehow be present in his life. This highlights him not as a mad villain, but rather as an abused child who found comfort in Mistress Death, the same warmth and comfort he never found in his parents.
9. Training Gamora
All credit to the MCU team, Zoe Saldana or Gamora has become one of the most important Marvel Comic warriors till now, and her history with Thanos is an important aspect of her character. Starting from her Guardians of the Galaxy stories, fans have known that she is the adopted daughter of Thanos who was solely trained to destroy the universe. Their history only became known in 2019’s Thanos Vol. 3 #1-6 by Tini Howard and Ariel Olivetti. This storyline revolves around Magus, a darker incarnation of Warlock who will stand as Thanos’ greatest threat one day, which is why he perfected Gamora to be the most dangerous villain there is, so she could kill Magus when he seemed to be a potential threat. This explanation justifies his choice of adopting Gamora and making her an evil supervillain of the universe.
10. The victory of Thanos
Amid the other storyline which takes place in another universe, Thanos Wins by Donny Cates is the greatest example of Thanos’ supreme power. It revolves around Thanos killing every Avenger in the Marvel cosmos, and destroying the universe to its ruins. Thanos Wins makes Thanos everything, fulfills his dreams, and gives him all that he ever asked for, bringing together every storyline that had happened earlier.
Thanos has undergone innumerable phenomenal changes but this is more or less his journey from being Iron Man villain-of-the-week to a remarkable supervillain in Marvel history.