When it came time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to build towards the top villain threat at the end of the first Avengers movie, Thanos seems like the only choice. Marvel had three potential villains big enough for that role and since Dr. Doom and Galactus are Fantastic Four characters and were off-limits at the time, that left Thanos by default. And hey, it has worked out great so far as Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were both more successful than anyone could have even hoped.
The Mad Titan has a great reputation as the be-all/end-all final boss of the Marvel Universe. He’s succeeded at obtaining great power and even total omnipotence all for messed up reasons like wanting to bone the Grim Reaper and wanting to slaughter all of his bastard children. He shrugs off hits from the Hulk, Silver Surfer, and even Black Bolt’s vocal cords. Thanos is serious business.
Sometimes, though, Thanos has his off days. Those head-scratching times when you remember how weird comics can be. Here are some fun examples. You can watch the video or read the article!
Spidey Super Stories is an artifact that will never stop being funny. A Spider-Man comic for young readers, it featured some of the most dumbed down dialogue and adventuring you’d ever see in a superhero story. This late-70s tale came at a time when Thanos had only been around for a few years. Like his mainstream counterparts, Thanos was indeed out to gain power from the Cosmic Cube.
Unlike his mainstream counterparts, he did it in part from a generic helicopter that had his name sprawled across it. Coming off as more of a Wet Bandit than the cosmic bringer of doom, Thanos chased after the Cat (who had yet to become Hellcat in Marvel lore, which is probably for the better here), who for whatever reason carried the Cosmic Cube.
Somehow the Cube got in the hands of a skateboarding kid and Thanos snatched it from him. His defeat came when he attacked the Cat and Spider-Man with an earthquake, which made him drop the Cosmic Cube, leaving the skateboarder to get it and defeat Thanos with grass. Thanos was then arrested by the police.
The same issue had people losing their minds over Impossible Man being an alien, but Thanos? Some purple dork getting booked after fumbling omnipotence.
So we know the whole deal with Thanos and Gamora. She’s his adopted daughter and super-assassin who ultimately betrayed him. Jim Starlin and Ron Lim, the very creative team behind Infinity Gauntlet, did a short story for Marvel Holiday Special 1992. Their tale of Thanos was a good one, going into his attempt to give Gamora a pleasant upbringing to go with her assassin training. For some crazy reason, Thanos decided to celebrate Christmas with her.
Again, there’s some genuine heart in the tale of Gamora sacrificing her doll to save Thanos from a would-be assassin, but the whole “tossing in an Earth holiday” to make the story on-brand for the one-shot is just so strange.
Oh, and then they went and watched dolphins for a while. If it’s good for Lobo, I guess it’s good for Thanos.
DARKSEID ON THE PAYROLL
Secret Defenders was your usual superhero team-up book where the team-ups changed up by the story. One of the stories was actually a villain team-up where Thanos was the benefactor. His team ended up being made of Rhino, Titanium Man, Nitro, Super-Skrull, and Geatar and they went and fought alien robot monks or whatever.
Whenever you get a story like this with a bunch of random characters being selected to do a mission, one of the clichés you’re likely to see is either a scattered pile of dossier pictures or a bunch of faces on monitors. Thanos went with the latter and had plenty of villains he was considering but didn’t choose. Guys like Juggernaut, Venom, Ultron, Annihilus…and Darkseid.
Yeah, for some reason he had Darkseid on one of his monitors, like he was a coin flip away from asking the ultimate evil of the DC Universe to run errands for him. Sure, Marvel and DC were on friendlier terms back then and all, but this was even before Marvel vs. DC where the two fought it out and later merged into becoming Thanoseid. Thanos simply had Darkseid on speed dial.
Sometimes when a certain writer is so in love with a certain character, they go a little wacky trying to explain their off days. For instance, John Byrne wasn’t happy that X-Men villain Arcade once lit a match on Dr. Doom, so he went out of his way to explain that it was a Doombot and not the real deal. Since Jim Starlin is Thanos’ creator and can’t go five hours without writing a story about how awesome he is, he’s just as guilty.
In the miniseries Infinity Abyss, it was revealed that there was an army of Thanos hybrid clones out there being jerks and trying to end the universe. They all came off as Thanos trying to cosplay as other Marvel heroes like Iron Man, Gladiator, and Dr. Strange. There was even a failed Thanos Wolverine clone mixed in there, who got to make the cover of one issue.
It was revealed that Thanos had been cloning himself for years because the real Thanos is no punk and if he ever seemed like a punk, it was because the real Thanos wasn’t there. Like the time Ka-Zar got the best of him. Or that time Thor beat him into purple paste. No way, Jose. Thanos has the alibi of being too cool for that shit!
The storyline came to a climax when Thanos and a handful of heroes had to fight the especially ridiculous Thanos-Galactus. Yeah, Galactus has DNA, apparently.
SQUIRREL GIRL BEATS UP THANOS! …MAYBE!
Squirrel Girl made her debut taking out Dr. Doom by overwhelming him with an army of squirrels. That eventually led to a trend of Squirrel Girl being this paradox of a character in the Marvel Universe. She was Koko B. Ware, only she was somehow pinning Andre the Giant. Once she started a resurgence as a member of the Great Lakes Avengers/Great Lakes X-Men, she returned to inexplicably taking out villains well above her pay grade.
In the pages of the GLX-Mas Special, after making short work of MODOK, Squirrel Girl was confronted with Thanos as a mid-issue cliffhanger. Many pages later, we got to see Squirrel Girl standing victorious over the Mad Titan while Uatu the Watcher looked on to verify that yes, indeed, this was the real deal Thanos and not some kind of lame copy or whatever.
Then Dan Slott, the guy who wrote that very scene, retconned it shortly after in the pages of She-Hulk where he outright claimed it to be a clone that would fool even the likes of cosmic beings. Why? Regardless, in Squirrel Girl’s solo series years later, she and Galactus shared a laugh over the fact that she totally handed the real, actual Thanos his ass, no backsies.
CUBE TO THE BALLS
Back in Annihilation, Thanos had the most metal death ever when Drax impaled him with his fist from behind and showed Thanos his own heart. It fucking rocked. Then in the original ongoing for the modern-day Guardians of the Galaxy, the series ended with Thanos’ resurrection. He was mindless and overly strong, much like the Hulk, except he was also totally naked because not wearing pants is how resurrection works most of the time.
When Star-Lord decided to wrap things up, he did it by getting his attention with a cracked, yet shiny, Cosmic Cube. Thanos slowly advanced with a flicker of recognition in his eyes. Star-Lord let loose with a blast capable of knocking out Thanos and that’s all well and good, but…
Um, okay, so you know how mainstream comics can’t show naughty bits and always have to find ways to obscure nudity? Well, I don’t know how intentional it is, but Star-Lord took out Thanos with a Cosmic Cube blast to the dick.
Not cool, Quill. He needs that for…hm. Actually, I don’t think Death has genitals either. Never mind!
EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HERO
In the pages of Avengers World, mutant heroes Cannonball and Sunspot were sent on a mission to go into the future and meet up with the offspring Avengers from that crappy animated film that nobody remembers anymore because Marvel decided to start making good movies afterwards. It’s been about 20-25 years since Cannonball and Sunspot’s time and the world had become a very different place. As they traveled through Danvers City, it became apparent that Earth had become a more popular spot for aliens to hang out.
The two took a stop at a bar and tried to fit in by discussing how tough they were. They namedropped Thanos as one of their big enemies and that in turn started a bar fight. Somehow, Thanos had gone on to become the greatest Avenger to ever live. Apparently you can come back from wiping out half of the universe.
As Cannonball put it, “That is a face-turn I did not see coming.”
Man, what is it with Thanos and Christmas?!
Marvel’s YouTube series What The–?! featured a holiday episode back in 2014 where Thanos had a master plan to steal all the Terrigen Crystals from the Inhumans. Unfortunately, their security was a bit too scary so he had a backup plan: become Santa Claus. After all, breaking into houses is one of Santa’s superpowers!
Thanos beat up Santa and stole his costume. He then got stuck having to listen to superheroes tell him what they wanted for Christmas before he had a chance to sneak off. Having to put up with Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Thor, and Captain America was bad enough, but then Hulk showed up and the whole plan went to Hell while Thanos’ skull went into the floor.
PATTON OSWALT’S STAR WARS EPISODE VII
This one isn’t an official Marvel thing, but it’s mainstream enough for me to include.
The TV show Parks and Recreations had a long running gag about how backwards and prejudiced the town’s original traditions were. Main character Leslie Knope wanted to make some changes and citizen Garth Blundin (Patton Oswalt) was completely against it. In a funny scene, he did a very nerdy filibuster about how he wanted Star Wars Episode VII to work out.
Luckily, an eight-minute version hit YouTube shortly after its airing and it was a doozy. While Garth’s ideas for Star Wars itself were a little creative, like Leia leaving Han for Lando and Chewbacca being turned into a cyborg spider, it went into overdrive when he namedropped Thanos. Due to the Infinity Stones, Thanos would not only turn the movie into Star Wars vs. Avengers, but he’d also bring the X-Men in. He had control over time and space and could do that.
One great touch was that when he first mentioned Thanos, someone yelled, “Oh, come on!” That voice could have possibly belonged to Chris Pratt, who was only months away from filming Guardians of the Galaxy.
THE LOSS TO ARSENAL
Thanos has appeared on multiple animated series. He antagonized the Silver Surfer while lusting for “Lady Chaos.” He opposed the Guardians of the Galaxy while donning the Carnage symbiote. In Super Hero Squad, he even got full control of the Infinity Gauntlet, only to lose to another overpowered maguffin.
And you know what? At least there was honor in that loss. Getting beat by the Infinity Sword is way better than what happened on the Avengers Assemble cartoon. For half a season, Thanos gathered the six Infinity Stones and when he completed the collection, he made short work of the Avengers.
Then Iron Man revealed his rebuilt robot bodyguard Arsenal. Arsenal’s main ability was absorbing energy, so when Thanos blasted lasers at him, the robot took it head-on and advanced. Thanos had power over time, space, reality, and so on. There were so many ways to destroy that robot, including wishing it to not exist anymore.
So what did Thanos do in this situation? He shot MORE lasers! And it ended with him getting the Gauntlet pulled off. Thanos got beat up and then Arsenal transformed into Ultron and why did they cancel Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for this again?
THE SATSUI NO HADO GAUNTLET
The story for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is bananas. In it, Marvel and Capcom each have their own universe, which means that Final Fight, Street Fighter, Strider, Monster Hunter, Mega Man X, Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, and Resident Evil all happened in the same era. Looking into that further means that Dr. Wily is a long-dead historical figure who presumably died before Zangief was born.
Anyway, the worlds got merged together by a hybrid of Ultron and Sigma, all because Death wanted to sneak off and get it on with Jedah from Darkstalkers. Long story. Throughout the game, Thanos was treated as a wild card forced onto the side of good. With the story revolving around the Infinity Stones, he was obviously going to make a go for them. That’s his thing.
Instead, Thanos became aware of Death’s activities and chose to focus on the violent darkness living inside Ryu. Thanos created a new gauntlet that absorbed all of Ryu’s killing intent, and then walked off to do his own thing.
After the credits, Thanos returned to threaten Death, as Ryu’s Satsui No Hado powers were capable of hurting her. To prove it, the game ended with Thanos performing a Hadoken.
Hopefully they’re saving that move for Avengers 4.
Gavin Jasper wonders why Thanos never used the Infinity Gauntlet to give himself hair. Follow Gavin on Twitter!