Who is Thanos? Why MCU fans have reason to fear The Mad Titan

Contributed by
Nov 29, 2017

The latest trailer for Avengers: Infinity War dropped today, and if you haven't seen it yet, check it out here. Now, for those only familar with Marvel Comics through the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), you've probably been wondering who this big hulking purple guy with a faux goatee is — the one who's been showing up in post-credits scenes and brief cameos, talking about how he's got to do everything himself.

Well here's your Thanos 101, a quick course to give you everything you need to know about the impending threat to the MCU as we know it. Beware of spoilers, as parts of the graphic novels Thanos Rising, Thanos Rising, Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, Infinity, and many more series that may be source material for Avengers: Infinity War

The origin story

Thanos, also known as The Mad Titan, is Titanian Eternal created by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich and first appeared in Iron Man #55 back in 1973. His basic abilitites are super strength, speed, and longevity. He can manipulate energy, is telepathic, and telekinetic. Over the years, his powers have been assisted or heightened with the absorption of cosmic energy, bionics and weapons such as the Infinity Gauntlet, but more on that later.

In addition to being super powerful, Thanos has a depth of knowledge in science and technology, including traversing through time, teleporting, and navigating through alternate universes. He is strategic, resourceful, and omnipotent.

Thanos' origin was explored in a five-issue mini-series, Thanos Rising by Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi, in which we learn about his family and life on the Saturn moon Titan. His mother, Sui-San, attempted to kill Thanos at first sight right after his birth but was spared by the request of another Mentor, Eternal. Thanks to his appearance, he grew up a loner, a pacifist, and artist. 

He's haunted

Thanos is haunted by visions and nightmares of someone trying to kill him at birth. Sui-San at this point is locked up in a Titan mental institution, and Thanos experiences a childhood trauma during which he and his were friends are trapped in a cave by fallen rocks. He discovers his friends were eaten by lizards as he digs himself out for days. The people of Titan call Thanos a murderer, but the interesting part to this is that Thanos was introduced to the cave by a girl, who later tells him to cease being passive and avenge his friends' deaths by killing the lizards. 

This killing spree would eventally lead to more blood lust and a hunger to kill, leading to the murder of fellow Eternals.

Over the years, as a space navigator to pirates, Thanos has many lovers and many children in hopes of finding happiness. He is left incomplete and visits his mother's grave only to run into the girl from his childhood, who is now a grown woman.

That woman winds up becoming an Elder of the Universe who is the embodiment of death in all forms, aka Mistress Death. He courts her, but to become worthy of her affection he decides to accumulate power and conquer worlds and tries to obtain the Cosmic Cube on Earth.

Galactic connections

From here the story crosses over into Adam Warlock's story. Warlock was artificially created by The Enclave, a group of scientists to create the perfect superpowered being. Why is this important? Because we see a glimpse into his creation in the MCU in a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's post-credits scene, in which Ayesha, of the golden-skinned Sovereign race, orders the creation of "Adam." In the comics, Thanos is introduced to the Soul Gem, which is attached to Adam Warlock. We've yet to see the orange Soul Stone in the MCU.

A plan is drawn up by Thanos to use the energy of the Soul Gem along with other Inifinity Gems to create a weapon of unimaginable power. Thanos is eventually defeated by Warlock, the Avengers, and the Kree alien Captain Marvel aka Mar-Vell.

Who knows if this will be explored in Infinity War, but for now, we've only seen bits and pieces of Thanos and digging into his early psychology might help explain why he's so hell-bent on destroying the universe, which is all for the affection of Death.

Many of you are probably asking: Where does the Infinity Gauntlet come into play?

He destroys half the universe

Again, in the comics, Death senses an imbalance in the universe, where life is overcoming death, and decides to revive Thanos. After murdering millions of his own race of Titans, Thanos looks to impress Mistress Death, whom he still holds an affection for and begins to collect the Infinity Gems, which have been split up among Warlock's friends, so that he may be on the same level of Death. In Infinity Guantlet, Thanos wipes out half of the universe to prove his love to Death. 

Thanos is driven by his courtship of Death and that is why the MCU should fear Thanos. We've not seen Death yet, so we shall see how or if she is adapted as the motivation for Thanos' actions. Thanos has been watching the attack on New York and other events on Earth, and we do know that Thanos' ship — the Sanctuary — is that gigantic vessel that Thor and all of Asgard run into in the Ragnarok post-credits sequence.

But he needs the Gauntlet and the combined power of those Infinity Stones to harness the power to wipe out the stars.

Where are the stones in the MCU?

  1. The Power Stone (Purple) resides with the Nova Corps and can control all power and energy of the universe.
  2. The Mind Stone (Yellow) is embedded in Vision's forehead and gives the user the most powerful psychic powers.
  3. The Reality Stone (Red) was in the form of the Aether in Thor: Dark World and delivered to the Collector by Lady Sif and Volstagg, can change reality as the user sees fit.
  4. The Time Stone (Green) is around Dr. Strange's neck in the form of the Eye of Agamotto, allowing the user to bend time in any possible way.
  5. The Space Stone (Blue) commands space in any imaginable way. It is cloaked as the Tesseract aka Cosmic Cube and was last seen in Odin's room of treasures. Asgard was destroyed in Ragnarok and the last person to see the Tesseract was Loki. Based on the Infinity War trailer, he swiped it right before summoning Surtur on the Eternal Flame.
  6. The Soul Stone's (Orange) can steal and manipulate souls and is also alive. Its whereabouts are unknown but Adam Warlock would need to come into play. 

In the Infinity War trailer, Thanos is seen in possession of the Purple and Blue Stone, we see the Mind Stone being ripped from the Vision's head, and Loki is holding the Tesseract. Needless to say, Thanos is busy in this film and has the help of The Black Order, a legion of alien disciples who help him seek out and retrieve the Infinity Stones. 

Thanos' murderous obsession and dance with Death is possible if he can complete the Gauntlet. It's power when assembled is unmatched. With so many of the Infinity Stones residing or converging on Earth, it is sure to be a major battle ground, and potentially the final fight for many of our heroes, against a being that is willing to destroy every living thing for his beloved Death, the person largely responsible for who he's become.