If you stayed seated during the credits of The Avengers (and by this point, you know you should for a Marvel movie), you may have had some questions about what you saw. It’s a scene, or rather, a moment that plays strictly to the comic geeks in the audience. But what about everyone else? If you were left confused by what you saw, hit the jump for an explanation. [WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD (Obviously)]
[Seriously, turn back now if you haven't seen The Avengers. I'm telling you the ending.]
After The Avengers have defeated the Chitauri army by sending a nuke into their mother ship, we see their leader talking to a mysterious figure. The Chitauri leader says that the humans are not to be underestimated, and to face them would be “to court Death itself.” And then the mysterious figure turns his head and we see Thanos, The Mad Titan, smiling. Cut to black and the rest of the end credits.
So who the hell is Thanos?
If you were unfamiliar with the character, you were probably left wondering, “Who is that purple gentleman and why is he grinning?
I’m going to say right up front that I haven’t read any comics with Thanos, and my information comes from the Marvel Wiki. I’m going to hit the major points about who Thanos is and the threat he poses.
Like any comic book character, Thanos has had a long and convoluted history in the Marvel Universe. Thanos first appeared in Iron Man #55 (1973), and so lots of weird shit has happened in the almost forty years since he’s been around. He’s literally already out there since he’s a member of a cosmic race known as The Eternals, but he’s born “misshapen and monstrous”, especially when compared to rest of his race of pretty people. From there, Thanos has one consuming passion that runs almost pretty much through his entire story:
He is obsessed with Death. So when the Chitauri leader says that to fight The Avengers would be “courting death itself,” it gives Thanos a smiley face.
Comics being comics, death isn’t only a concept; it’s a literal being. From the Marvel Wiki:
Growing in power and infamy as he traveled the universe, Thanos once met Death itself, as it appeared to him embodied in a female form. Thanos was infatuated with the being, and endeavored to make himself worthy in order to earn her love in return. With an army under his command, he nearly destroyed his former home of Titan, declaring himself its ruler. He then sought out the powerful Cosmic Cube [known as the "Tesseract" in the movies], and a number of Earth’s heroes assembled to confront him.
Let me take a break to say that I don’t know if Marvel is using this storyline as a premise for The Avengers 2. With all of their movies, Marvel has constantly had to wrestle with how much they can take from the comics and how much they have to cater to mainstream audiences. Now back to Thanos…
In addition to his Death fixation, Thanos is also known for being the wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet. You may have caught it at Comic-Con a couple years back, or possibly you’ve seen it in some behind the scenes set photos from Thor because the Gauntlet is in Odin’s vault. So what’s the big deal about this weapon? Again, from the Marvel Wiki:
Mistress Death believed that there was a cosmic imbalance in the universe – that there were more living than there were dead. As a result, Death resurrects her loyal servant Thanos, who is appointed the task of killing off half of the population of the universe. Not only is Thanos’ power augmented by Death, he is granted access to the Infinity Well, where he realizes the power of the Infinity Gems. After much plotting and scheming, Thanos wrestles the gems from their owners and gains mastery over Power, Mind, Space, Reality, Time, and the Soul.
And this thing is sitting in Odin’s vault, which, as we saw in Thor, ain’t exactly fool-proof. I’m not sure if this will be the new MacGuffin, but Thanos without the Infinity Gauntlet is like Captain America without his shield or Thor without his hammer. The weapon is inseparable from the character. Also, Marvel didn’t trot it out at Comic-Con, and sit it next to Asgardian helmets and Captain America’s shield simply because people like shiny things (I mean, they do, but that wasn’t the only reason).
Looking ahead to The Avengers 2, Thanos’ Death-obsession and the Infinity Gauntlet are the two things you should currently keep in mind because Marvel put them on the table. There are other elements from Thanos’ history Marvel could try to weave in such as Adam Warlock or the Infinity Watch, and I’m interested to see how complex the studio is willing to make the movies. No matter the level of complexity, Marvel has apparently announced the villain of The Avengers 2, and now you know a little bit more about him.
*Also, credit where credit is due: Latino Review reported Thanos would be in the movie back in May 2011.