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10 Reasons Why Thanos May Be The Scariest Marvel Villain

by Steve Wynalda
fact checked by Jamie Frater

In the comic book world, Thanos is among Marvel’s coolest and most popular bad guys. So it’s no surprise that he soon made an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the mid-credit scene of 2012’s The Avengers revealed that the Mad Titan was behind Loki’s invasion of New York, comic geeks all over the world peed their pants with excitement. When Guardians Of The Galaxy revealed that Thanos was collecting Infinity Stones, they had to pass out diapers to moviegoers. Then, in October 2014, it was announced that Marvel’s Avengers would climax in a two-part Infinity War. When geeks managed to catheter themselves and make it to Avengers: The Age Of Ultron, they weren’t disappointed, with another mid-credit scene showing Thanos slipping on the Infinity Gauntlet. So who is Thanos and why does he generate so much excitement?

10He Had A Really Dysfunctional Family

History Of Thanos

Thanos is an Eternal, an ancient race of genetically altered humans created by mysterious aliens. Confusingly, the Eternals are long-lived but not immortal. Their powers include superhuman strength, teleportation, flight, and the ability to project various forms of energy, including light, radiation, and heat. The Eternals established a civilization on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, but also maintain a presence on Earth, which they are pledged to protect from their cousins, the unsurprisingly evil Deviants.

Although born of two Eternals on Titan, Thanos was also a mutant, which considerably enhanced his powers. Feared and considered deformed, Thanos was shunned by both his family and the wider Eternal society. His own mother found his appearance so unsettling that she tried to kill him at his birth and he had to watch as his unworthy brother, Eros, was groomed to become the leader of Titan. Thanos became further ostracized when he dabbled in black magic, something forbidden by Eternals, forcing his own father to exile him. Years later, the Eternals did let Thanos return to Titan to make amends. Instead, the Mad Titan nuked the moon, wiping out the civilization. In revenge, his dad and grandfather later tried to kill him, proving that holding a grudge definitely runs in the family.

9He Has Attained Omnipotence (And Repeatedly Lost It)


Photo credit: Marvel via

In 1966, Marvel introduced a powerful object known as the Cosmic Cube. Since you can’t have too much of a good thing, they later introduced several more, all cube-shaped containers with almost infinite powers. (In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Tesseract is a Cosmic Cube.) Naturally, Thanos was desperate to get his weird purple hands on such power, and actually managed to absorb the power of a Cube in one arc, becoming near-omnipotent as a result. Sadly, he wasn’t omnipotent enough to tell when people were lying to him, and Captain Marvel soon tricked him into believing the Cube was completely drained of power and useless. When Thanos discarded the Cube, Captain Marvel destroyed it, depriving the Mad Titan of his power.

Next, Thanos decided to collect the six Infinity Stones (also known as Soul Stones), which each controlled an aspect of the universe. He then mounted the six of them on a gauntlet, giving him god-like mastery of existence. After killing half the universe, including a number of superheroes, he decided to abandon his physical form and become one with creation. This was a terrible move, since the gauntlet was still on his body and the superhero Nebula immediately grabbed it and reversed everything Thanos had done, including his own omnipotence.

The story arc known as “Marvel: the End” introduced a force (or object, depending your interpretation) known as the Heart of the Universe, which allowed its user to become one with everybody. On Earth, the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten was taken away by space aliens to be infused with the Heart’s power. When he returned in the present day, Akhenaten killed a number of superheroes. Naturally, Thanos wasn’t about to be upstaged and managed to steal the Heart. Displaying a greater mastery of its powers than the hapless Akhenaten, he soon made himself omnipotent.

Cosmic deities enlisted the help of virtually every Marvel superhero to take Thanos down, but all failed. Enraged, Thanos absorbed the entire universe and remade it, with himself as the supreme being. Luckily, the superhero Adam Warlock was on a quick jaunt outside the universe at the time and survived. Citing a deadly flaw in all of creation, he managed to persuade Thanos to change his mind and sacrifice himself to restore the space-time continuum.

8He’s Got Serious Brawling Skills

When Thanos (currently played by Josh Brolin) is given serious screen time in the coming Marvel movies, he’ll come with some interesting abilities. As mentioned before, Thanos is an Eternal, with all the amazing powers of that genetically enhanced race. As if that wasn’t enough, he was born a mutant, which gave him near-impervious purple skin and strength far greater than any Eternal. And on top of that, he has implanted numerous cybernetic enhancements within his body.

Physically, that means he’s stronger than Thor or even the Hulk and has bested both on multiple occasions. The Silver Surfer is an insanely powerful being capable of surviving the forces inside a black hole, but Thanos once nearly beat him to death with his fists. He has a genius-level intelligence, making him even smarter than comic book giants such as Reed Richards or Bruce Banner. His inventions, which include his transportation throne, rival those of Tony Stark.

Even without his throne, Thanos can teleport and traverse time and dimensions. Like the Scarlet Witch, Thanos can manipulate objects with his mind and communicate telepathically. Like all Eternals, he can project energy from his body, and usually does so from both his eyes and hands. These energy blasts can come as a concussive force, similar to Iron Man’s repulsor beams, or as magnetic or heat energy. Thanos can also protect himself with a wall of pure energy sturdier than Captain America’s star-spangled shield. As the cherry on the cake, he can absorb the energy blasts of opponents and fire them back at them.

7He’s Killed Billions With A Flick Of His Infinity Gauntlet

Of all Marvel’s ultimate super-weapons, the Infinity Gauntlet is billed as one of the most powerful. That’s all thanks to the six Infinity Stones embedded in it, which each contribute their own powers. Four of the stones have already been featured in the Marvel movies. The Tesseract, the focus of Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, housed the blue Space Stone, capable of opening portals between dimensions and transporting anyone anywhere in the universe. Loki’s scepter housed the yellow Mind Stone, capable of bending the will of almost anyone and awakening unrealized powers in people.

The red Reality Stone appeared as the Aether in Thor: The Dark World and can be used to control or bend reality itself. The purple Power Stone, which can rip apart a planet, was introduced in Guardians Of The Galaxy. The remaining two are the Soul Stone, which can manipulate the dead and steal powers, and the Time Stone, which allows time travel. Both will no doubt be introduced in coming films. The colors of the stones are different in the movies and the comics, so good luck keeping up.

And where are the stones now? The Tesseract/Space Stone is currently in Odin’s Treasure Room, the Mind Stone is embedded in the forehead of the Vision, and the Reality Stone is in the possession of the Collector. The Collector almost got his hands on the Power Stone as well, but following some doll-based shenanigans, the Guardians of the Galaxy left it with the Nova Corps.

In the comics, Thanos got his hands on the Infinity Gauntlet in 1991, promptly wiping out half of the universe, including Daredevil, most of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men.

6. . . And Murdered Individual Superheroes


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In addition to mass genocide, Thanos has also personally committed some handcrafted artisanal murders. As a child, he began killing animals, a classic sign of a sociopath. As a teenager, he graduated to murdering people and eventually tortured and vivisected his own mother. In the fourth issue of the Infinity Gauntlet series, the Mad Titan and his minion Terraxia murdered such Marvel luminaries as Thor, Wolverine, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Cyclops, Cloak, Nova, Quasar, and Captain America. To no one’s surprise, they were all eventually resurrected, but Thanos had solidified his status as Marvel’s premier purple space villain.

Over the course of his career, Thanos has also dispatched beloved heroes like Adam Warlock and Pip the Troll. He killed the shape-shifting Skragg by turning him into stone. He even killed an entire innocent family just to hide his arrival on Earth. When the family patriarch was resurrected as Drax the Destroyer, Thanos killed him as well.

5He Has Been Killed Several Times


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Thanos was introduced for the first time in 1973’s Iron Man #55. A mere four years later he was killed off at the end of the story arc known as “The Final Threat.” Shortly after his bid to rule the universe with the Cosmic Cube, Thanos began collecting the energies of the Soul Gems to develop a weapon that destroyed whole planets. The Avengers and Spider-Man teamed to stop him, with the web slinger managing to free Adam Warlock, who quickly turned Thanos to stone.

But Thanos didn’t stay dead. When his old nemesis Captain Marvel died of cancer (acquired from a nerve gas explosion while fighting the supervillain Nitro), Thanos appeared as a ghost to escort the Captain into eternity.

For more than a decade, Thanos was absent from the comics, until he was finally resurrected in 1990 to restart his quest for the Soul Gems, now known as the Infinity Gems. It would take another 15 years before Thanos was killed again, this time when Drax the Destroyer literally punched his heart out of his chest.

That sounds pretty final, but Thanos managed to return to life via a cocoon. In the story arc known as “The Thanos Imperative,” Drax once again dispatched his old foe, this time with a huge bomb. But even that didn’t finish the Mad Titan—while Thanos’s flesh was literally vaporized, he survived as a skeleton and slowly regenerated. Later, Thanos’s own son, Thane, encased him in an amber cube known as the “living death,” which no one imagines will hold him long.

4He Has Kids (And Has Tried To Kill Them All)


Photo credit: Marvel via Comics Cinco Estrellas

One of the more tragic characters in the Marvel universe, Gamora was raised by Thanos from infancy and the Mad Titan always hid his evil nature from her. Since not actually being evil would be too much like work, he just altered her mind so she wouldn’t perceive him as evil. When the veil was finally lifted, she tried to kill Thanos, only to be slaughtered herself. Fortunately, Adam Warlock was in the neighborhood and dropped by to hide her soul in the Soul Gem, allowing her to be resurrected during the “Infinity Gauntlet” story arc. Her relationship with her dad remains complex.

As for biological kids of Thanos? Well, he apparently had a number of illegitimate children across the universe, but he killed every last one of them, usually by destroying the entire planet they resided on. The very last survivor was a half-Inhuman resident of Earth known as Thane. Like the Eternals and the Deviants, the Inhumans are a race of superhumans genetically engineered by aliens in the distant past (tinkering with human DNA was apparently all the rage at the time). When Thanos tried to kill Thane, his son trapped the Mad Titan in the “Living Death” mentioned earlier.

Meanwhile, clones made by Thanos fared no better. Called Thanosi, they were not exact clones of Thanos, but incorporated features of his most deadly foes. A glitch in their creation left the clones mentally deficient and they used their powers to annihilate millions. As is tradition, Thanos tried to destroy them, but a few escaped.

3He’s Gone Toe To Toe With Deities


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Marvel has quite a number to characters who are considered deities or near-deities. There’s Galactus, a sentient survivor of an extinct universe with a tendency to snack on planets. The Stranger is the intellectual and physical composite of billions of humanoids who once lived on the extinct planet Gigantus. The powers of Mistress Love, Sire Hate, Lord Chaos, and Master Order are self-explanatory. And, of course, there’s Eternity and his sister Infinity, along with Eternity’s boy Eon and grandchildren Epoch and Era. And Thanos has taken almost all of them on.

He took down Galactus by persuading two even older god-like beings to gang up on him. The Stranger tried to attack Thanos after he had finally obtained the Infinity Gauntlet, which went about as well as you’d expect. Lord Chaos and Master Order were so freaked out by Thanos that they quietly manipulated fate to create Adam Warlock and the Avengers. When Thanos battled the Asgardian god Odin, they nearly destroyed Thor’s domain. Eternity and Infinity were casually destroyed when Thanos got his hands on the Heart of the Universe. The Living Tribunal, considered the most powerful being in the universe, also took a run at a Heart-powered Thanos and lost, although this has since been quietly removed from continuity.

2His Little Brother Is Everything Thanos Is Not

We’ve already talked about Thanos’s dysfunctional family, but one member deserves an honorable mention. Thanos may be a semi-god, but he still has one of those baby brothers. Spoiled, pampered, and narcissistic, Eros is the bad boy of the superhero world and can make Thanos look downright heroic at times. The pair’s different personalities aren’t the only strain on their relationship. After all, Thanos killed their mother and destroyed much of their home world. To make matters worse, Eros eventually took the name Starfox and became a member of Thanos’s most hated foes, the Avengers.

As an Eternal, Eros boasts amazing strength and the ability to fly, both a big draw for Earth-bound ladies. As if that weren’t enough, his greatest superpower is the ability to stimulate the pleasure center in someone else’s brain, which means he can make people like him and/or sleep with him. If that sounds creepy, it should—Eros is just about the only Marvel character to be charged with sexual assault and She-Hulk kicked his butt after he used his power to seduce her. While he has slept with much of the known universe, he always returns to the loving embrace of the oddly named prostitute Heater Delight.

1He Has The Hots For Death


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Like other celestial gods, Marvel’s Death can take any form it wants. According to the 2013 origin story “Thanos Rising,” Death first appeared to the young Titan as a little girl, encouraging his nascent sociopathy. Under her tutelage, Thanos learned dark, forbidden secrets that he would use in his rise to power. Later, she appeared as a woman to an adult Thanos, leaving him forever smitten. His obsession with her drove just about every evil thing Thanos did after that.

Following Thanos’s first demise, Death brought him back to life in order to restore balance to her realm. She claimed that the universe was growing so overpopulated that it would soon overwhelm her abilities. Thanos agreed to rid the universe of half its population and made good on his promise once he’d acquired the Infinity Gauntlet. However, Death was unimpressed and spurned his advances.

In fact, nothing seemed to impress her. Thanos even created his own companion, Terraxia, but Death failed to be jealous. He committed planet-wide genocide over and over again, but Death just yawned. Thanos even sought his own demise to be with her, but she just returned him to the land of the breathing.

In fact, Death had her own amorous disasters. She fell for the Silver Surfer and dispatched Thanos to capture him. Thanos, unsurprisingly, tried to kill him instead. Then she met Walker, the embodiment of death in another galaxy. They dated and, as a gift, Walker offered to destroy all the inhabitants of his own realm. When she refused, they battled and, you guessed it, Thanos was by her side. And, when Death became infatuated with Deadpool, Thanos cursed the mercenary with immortality, ensuring that he and Death would never be together.

One story arc, known as “The Thanos Imperative,” was indicative of their dysfunctional relationship. Death again resurrected Thanos so that she could send him to the Cancerverse, a universe where death does not exist. Once there, Thanos was defeated by an evil Captain Marvel. The Mad Titan then begged Marvel to have mercy and kill him. But it was a trap and the moment Marvel killed Thanos, Death was allowed into the Cancerverse. She proceeded to destroy Marvel and the rest of the universe. But she left Thanos alive. Even when the Mad Titan asked for a little appreciation, Death ignored him.

Steve is the author of 366 Days in Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency: The Private, Political, and Military Decisions of America’s Greatest President and has also appeared on KnowledgeNuts.

fact checked by Jamie Frater