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  1. #1

    Default The philosophy of Thanos and my issues with Thuggish Thanos



    This video, along with the great essay by Tegan O'Neil on Thanos Rising, shows why i'm a member of the ''no one can write Thanos but Jim Starlin'' club (although i like Ron Marz and Keith Giffen's take on the character). It really shows that Starlin inteded Thanos to be more than just ''Marvel's Darkseid'', but it seems that Marvel's editors and bean counters are unable to see Thanos in the same way as Starlin and the fans.


    Marvel's editors and Writers have proven plenty of times that they will Always ignore Starlin's writing on Thanos, the guy who not only created him, but also made him a compelling byronic character and freudian metaphor and gave him a solid character arc from villain to anti-hero where he learned through bitter experience that genocide and destruction will not convince Lady Death to love him and that not even omnipotence will make him happy. In the last 5 or 6 years Thanos was used when Marvel editors needed a cosmic jobber, capitalizing on his appearance in the MCU and on the reputation of the Infinity Gauntlet, while glossing over his character development.

    Hickman, Lemire and Cates take on the character has for the most part, rung particularly shallow as far a I'm concerned with Thanos being protrayed as a barbaric cosmic potentate and more or less reliant on brute force to get his points across as opposed to using his cunning and scientific resources, and we know that the brutish, rampaging villain is Mangog and Juggernaut's shtick, not Thanos. And Bendis use of him as a saturday morning cartoon villain with guns who can be punched by anyone, including Street level vigilantes, was pretty infuriating. The less said about Jason Aaron's regrettable goth-tinged Thanos Rising story the better.

    Oh man, it would be great if there was a cosmic storyline that reveals that Bendis' saturday morning cartoon Thanos and Lemire's bloodthirsty thug Thanos were actually one or two Thanosi clones and that the mastermind behind the return of the Thanosi were Tyrant (i liked Cosmic Powers despite the 90's cheese) and Garthan Saal, as to solve the loose ends of Dan Abnett and Lanning's run on Nova and GOTG. So bring on the Thanosi when you come back, Mr. Starlin!

    I'm kidding, i know the recent graphic novels by Starlin tried somewhat to reconcile his protrayal of Thanos with the Others, but some things still didn't fit like how he could do the stuff in OGNs and be imprisoned on Earth after Infinity and deal with Incursions straight after didn't quite fit timeline-wise, Starlin's portrayal of Lady Death (silent hooded figure who doesn't like wanton violence) is also very different from Aaron's portrayal of her (scantly clad manipulative bitch). So the local continuity fixer Al Ewing decided to explain the contradictions by introducing the idea of two Thanoses in Ultimates #11. The Starlin Thanos who found love with Starlin's death in Infinity Finale. And the Thuggish Thanos, the Thanos the editors and casual fans wants, the Thanos as he was used in Avengers Assemble, Civil War II and Lemire's Thanos.

    ...That being said, pretty much all of this is nothing but my headcanon, because the way Ewing phrased the concept of Thanos' existence in different aspects allows for multiple interpretations.

    Still, i think Thanos needs to be put on a long hiatus after the new Infinity Siblings trilogy by Starlin, like he was pretty much during the 80's after The Death of Captain Marvel. There are plenty of heavy weight villains Marvel Writers could use instead of another weak, and dumbed down version of Thanos.

    Of course, Thanos has become too big of a cashcow for Marvel to let Starlin write him only when he feels like it and his protrayal of Thanos as a introspective anti-hero can't be the villain the editors wants him to be. But there are the hardcore Starlin fans like me, who hate seeing Thanos being depicted as a thuggish villain, so Marvel throws them a bone by allowing Starlin to do new Thanos stories with the OGNs. It's kinda like what Renew Your Vows is for the Spider-Man fans who hated One More Day, or what Fallout New Vegas was for the Classic Fallout fans (AKA the No Mutants Allowed crowd) who hated Fallout 3.

  2. #2
    CBB 4 LIFE Mr MajestiK's Avatar
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    This is one of the best writeups I've seen on Thanks in a long time.

    Thanks for starting this thread.
    Enjoying the camraderie of friends and family is all that matters in the world.

    Mr MajestiK took a short hiatus and the Chaos Bringer was reborn.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr MajestiK View Post
    This is one of the best writeups I've seen on Thanks in a long time.

    Thanks for starting this thread.
    You're welcome.

  4. #4
    Alpha Villain BadTitan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainMar-Vell92 of the Kree View Post


    This video, along with the great essay by Tegan O'Neil on Thanos Rising, shows why i'm a member of the ''no one can write Thanos but Jim Starlin'' club (although i like Ron Marz and Keith Giffen's take on the character). It really shows that Starlin inteded Thanos to be more than just ''Marvel's Darkseid'', but it seems that Marvel's editors and bean counters are unable to see Thanos in the same way as Starlin and the fans.


    Marvel's editors and Writers have proven plenty of times that they will Always ignore Starlin's writing on Thanos, the guy who not only created him, but also made him a compelling byronic character and freudian metaphor and gave him a solid character arc from villain to anti-hero where he learned through bitter experience that genocide and destruction will not convince Lady Death to love him and that not even omnipotence will make him happy. In the last 5 or 6 years Thanos was used when Marvel editors needed a cosmic jobber, capitalizing on his appearance in the MCU and on the reputation of the Infinity Gauntlet, while glossing over his character development.

    Hickman, Lemire and Cates take on the character has for the most part, rung particularly shallow as far a I'm concerned with Thanos being protrayed as a barbaric cosmic potentate and more or less reliant on brute force to get his points across as opposed to using his cunning and scientific resources, and we know that the brutish, rampaging villain is Mangog and Juggernaut's shtick, not Thanos. And Bendis use of him as a saturday morning cartoon villain with guns who can be punched by anyone, including Street level vigilantes, was pretty infuriating. The less said about Jason Aaron's regrettable goth-tinged Thanos Rising story the better.

    Oh man, it would be great if there was a cosmic storyline that reveals that Bendis' saturday morning cartoon Thanos and Lemire's bloodthirsty thug Thanos were actually one or two Thanosi clones and that the mastermind behind the return of the Thanosi were Tyrant (i liked Cosmic Powers despite the 90's cheese) and Garthan Saal, as to solve the loose ends of Dan Abnett and Lanning's run on Nova and GOTG. So bring on the Thanosi when you come back, Mr. Starlin!

    I'm kidding, i know the recent graphic novels by Starlin tried somewhat to reconcile his protrayal of Thanos with the Others, but some things still didn't fit like how he could do the stuff in OGNs and be imprisoned on Earth after Infinity and deal with Incursions straight after didn't quite fit timeline-wise, Starlin's portrayal of Lady Death (silent hooded figure who doesn't like wanton violence) is also very different from Aaron's portrayal of her (scantly clad manipulative bitch). So the local continuity fixer Al Ewing decided to explain the contradictions by introducing the idea of two Thanoses in Ultimates #11. The Starlin Thanos who found love with Starlin's death in Infinity Finale. And the Thuggish Thanos, the Thanos the editors and casual fans wants, the Thanos as he was used in Avengers Assemble, Civil War II and Lemire's Thanos.

    ...That being said, pretty much all of this is nothing but my headcanon, because the way Ewing phrased the concept of Thanos' existence in different aspects allows for multiple interpretations.

    Still, i think Thanos needs to be put on a long hiatus after the new Infinity Siblings trilogy by Starlin, like he was pretty much during the 80's after The Death of Captain Marvel. There are plenty of heavy weight villains Marvel Writers could use instead of another weak, and dumbed down version of Thanos.

    Of course, Thanos has become too big of a cashcow for Marvel to let Starlin write him only when he feels like it and his protrayal of Thanos as a introspective anti-hero can't be the villain the editors wants him to be. But there are the hardcore Starlin fans like me, who hate seeing Thanos being depicted as a thuggish villain, so Marvel throws them a bone by allowing Starlin to do new Thanos stories with the OGNs. It's kinda like what Renew Your Vows is for the Spider-Man fans who hated One More Day, or what Fallout New Vegas was for the Classic Fallout fans (AKA the No Mutants Allowed crowd) who hated Fallout 3.
    Good stuff that post

  5. #5
    Better than YOU! Alan2099's Avatar
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    Marvel's editors and Writers have proven plenty of times that they will Always ignore Starlin's writing on Thanos, the guy who not only created him, but also made him a compelling byronic character and freudian metaphor and gave him a solid character arc from villain to anti-hero where he learned through bitter experience that genocide and destruction will not convince Lady Death to love him and that not even omnipotence will make him happy.
    I think the big reason Marvel tends to ignore a lot of Starlin's work is that Starlin took away the motive of the character, his goal, his drive, and replaced it with ... nothing.

    Thanos tends to just stand around monologuist about how deep and intellectual he is and then the universe bends over backwards to prove how he's the greatest thing in it.

    If you're not into pseudo intellectual speeches, Thanos has become a really boring character under Starlin. One who can beat anyone and gets away with everything.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alan2099 View Post
    I think the big reason Marvel tends to ignore a lot of Starlin's work is that Starlin took away the motive of the character, his goal, his drive, and replaced it with ... nothing.

    Thanos tends to just stand around monologuist about how deep and intellectual he is and then the universe bends over backwards to prove how he's the greatest thing in it.

    If you're not into pseudo intellectual speeches, Thanos has become a really boring character under Starlin. One who can beat anyone and gets away with everything.
    The appeal of Jim Starlin stories is the trippy artwork and the metaphysical phylosophy. Also you can make Thanos action packed without regressing him into a saturday morning cartoon villain or a space version of Jeffrey Dahmer. Ron Marz, Keith Giffen and Dan Abnett and even Starlin himself in Infinity War, Infinity Crusade and Thor: Blood and Thunder are good examples of that. If somenody would turn Magneto into a giggling villain in black who ties Rogue to the rails, the X-Men fans would be calling BS, and rightly so.


    And as for Starlin replacing Thanos with nothing: Thanos story arc ended. The character doesn't have anything more to say. Heck, Starlin gave Thanos like 3 endings in Infinity Gauntlet, The End and Infinity Finale. Sometimes there are western comic characters that need a definitive ending like shonen manga characters. Like Cowboy Bebop's ending or not, it ENDED. That gives the events of the whole thing weight. Or Gravitas if you wanna sound fancy. The problem is that 1-)Marvel's top guys could not create another good heavyweight space villain to replace him, and 2-) They started to see Thanos as their own Darkseid after the success of Gauntlet.

    And Starlin wrote Thanos as Mary Sue character? Wut? There are a lot of instances where Starlin wrote Thanos as a humble character who was also humiliated both physically and mentally. And same goes for a lot of other writers. I mean, what the hell? The guy who had him wreck the Avengers (Hickman) also wrote him as a guy who proved to be inferior to his son Thane. That's Mary Sue?

    When he absorbed the Heart of the Universe and became Omnipotent in Marvel: The End, he couldn't save the Universe despite the fact that he was, well, Omnipotent. While he overpowered every single being in the Marvel Universe, it's pretty clear that Thanos was desperate in this instance, which is pretty ironic when you think about it considering the fact that he became the God. At the end of the story, Thanos actually sacrificed himself by recreating the Marvel Universe and curing it from so called "cancer" (heroes and villains keep coming back to life).

    Similar thing happened in Thanos Quest, when Thanos assembled the Infinity Gauntlet, yet Death still refused to speak to him. At the end of that story we actually see that, despite the fact that he became the most powerful beings in Marvel Universe, Death still did not accept Thanos. He actually said that he could make her do whatever he wants, but he wants her genuine love, and if he takes it by force, it's not the real thing. And at the end of the story we actually see Thanos shedding a tear, which is once again, pretty ironic considering the fact that he surpassed pretty much every being in the Marvel Universe. And this is the same issue where Thanos admitted that the Runner got the best of him based on both his dialogue and facial expression and agreed to provide the information he wanted (although Thanos defeated the Runner in this same issue, using the Time Gem at the end, so take that as you wish).

    In the seventies, Thanos was defeated by Mar-Vell who smashed his Cosmic Cube and then was killed by Adam Warlock, who turned him into stone. During his first solo series, he was zapped by Galactus.

    Those are not the only instances where Thanos was either defeated and/or humiliated in some way. He was overpowered by the likes of Odin, Tyrant and the Omega Thanosi in Warlock and the Infinity Watch Vol. 1 #25, Cosmic Powers #6 and Infinity Abyss #6 respectively (although the former two had a hard time putting him down which is impressive durability showing for Thanos). All those issues plus the ones already mentioned above were written by Jim Starlin and Ron Marz. See, there are a handful of instances when Starlin wrote Thanos as anything but "Mary Sue character". I mean, Starlin is the one who created Thanos, and he was created to be a powerful threat. In his first appearance, he wrecked Drax the Destroyer which destroyed the planet as a side effect (Iron-man Vol. 1 #55), and throughout most of his appearances he was introduced as a Teambuster, capable of wrecking Heralds like Surfer and teams like the Avengers composed of powerhouses like Hulk and Thor. And yet despite all that, Starlin had Thanos humiliated, defeated, overpowered and helpless more than once, even in an extremely ironic instances when he literally became God. Just because he wrecks popular and powerful characters, holds his own against Gods and has plan for pretty much everything does not make him a Mary Sue character. He is just a smart Teambuster. I mean, if he is Mary Sue, we might as well say that Ultron, Apocalypse, Mangog and other seemingly unbeatable villains who were stopped only thanks to deus ex machina are Mary Sue as well, especially because Thanos has more bad showings than these characters (not in terms of feats but in terms of introduction), as I've mentione above, all written by Starlin. And that's not even mentioning the other instances where he was depicted as nothing but a hopeless suitor to Death, showing signs of emotional weakness almost every time he is close to her and overall just looking pathetic. Or when his ultimate power was taken away from him more than once, like Cosmic Cube and the Infinity Gauntlet (although it was later confirmed by Vision and Warlock that he lost those powers, or at least the Infinity Gems only because he unconsciously wanted to, but still, he knew humility and defeat).

    I just want to say that, if any writer made Thanos interesting, it's Starlin. Under Starlin Thanos showed he actually has an interesting character, who is more than being powerful and evil, and actually has some human characteristics. Starlin's Thanos was actually respectful, reasonable and sometimes even heroic. He cares about Adam Warlock and Gamora, even if he's unable to be more nice about it. His intelligence may be called a plot device but same can be said for Doctor Doom and Batman.

    Aside from Starlin, most of Marvel writers (with a few exceptions) think Thanos is this creepy guy who wrecks and kills everybody without a second thought, like he is a cosmic satan. In other words, Marvel staff and casual fans thinks he is just Marvel's version of Darkseid, while Starlin's Thanos is a completely different character with no similarities to Darkseid aside from appearance (Thanos wasn't even based off of Darkseid but another New God called Metron). While Thanos' most impressive feats can be found in Starlin's books, same can be said for instances where he has been humiliated.

  7. #7
    Spectacular Member macjr33's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainMar-Vell92 of the Kree View Post
    And as for Starlin replacing Thanos with nothing: Thanos story arc ended. The character doesn't have anything more to say. Heck, Starlin gave Thanos like 3 endings in Infinity Gauntlet, The End and Infinity Finale. Sometimes there are western comic characters that need a definitive ending like shonen manga characters. Like Cowboy Bebop's ending or not, it ENDED. That gives the events of the whole thing weight. Or Gravitas if you wanna sound fancy. The problem is that 1-)Marvel's top guys could not create another good heavyweight space villain to replace him, and 2-) They started to see Thanos as their own Darkseid after the success of Gauntlet. 
    This seems to be a problem that Marvel has had with a few characters, as Elektra falls into the same thing. The arc was over and she should have stayed dead as that's what Miller wanted, but people loved the character. However, similar to Starlin with Thanos no one has really been able to write a good Elektra story other than Miller.

    Part of this perhaps also ties back to the thread about no new iconic characters and what is the challenges that go with trying to create new characters that have to compete with all the history and nostalgia of legacy characters.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by macjr33 View Post
    This seems to be a problem that Marvel has had with a few characters, as Elektra falls into the same thing. The arc was over and she should have stayed dead as that's what Miller wanted, but people loved the character. However, similar to Starlin with Thanos no one has really been able to write a good Elektra story other than Miller.

    Part of this perhaps also ties back to the thread about no new iconic characters and what is the challenges that go with trying to create new characters that have to compete with all the history and nostalgia of legacy characters.
    To be honest, i don't want crazy misogynist-xenophobic modern Frank Miller to write Elektra unless it gives more ''Miller Time'' material to AT4W. His best days ended when he started Sin City and he never stopped writing characters like Sin City pastiches since then.

  9. #9
    Spectacular Member macjr33's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainMar-Vell92 of the Kree View Post
    To be honest, i don't want crazy misogynist-xenophobic modern Frank Miller to write Elektra unless it gives more ''Miller Time'' material to AT4W. His best days ended when he started Sin City and he never stopped writing characters like Sin City pastiches since then.
    Oh I agree 1000%, just making the point that there are certain characters that have had great interpretations/stories by many different writers and some haven't.

  10. #10
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    For many of us newer fans, Thanos just isn't a character we've really had a ton of interaction with. He's always a secondary villain and until a couple of years ago, it just felt like he wasn't that important.

    Marvel is sort of trying with him now, but I don't think it's something that will change right away, even with the movie.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member JudicatorPrime's Avatar
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    For many of us older fans, it's "been there, done that" with Thanos. I may be in the minority here, but had his story truly ended with the spirit of Warlock turning him into stone -- on the threshold of death but unable to pass -- I would have been content. Every story after that has been one writer after another trying to pump air into an inner tube that has tiny holes everywhere. Thanos is bound to deflate no matter what, precisely because of his conflicting superlatives. I feel the same way about Dr. Doom.

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    I feel like Marvel has done more work with characters like Doom and Magneto and Loki. Writers just seem to have fun with them in a way they don't with Thanos. Now, we get some great Thanos stories sometimes, but he just doesn't hold on to that steam.

    In the movie, we have build up and they change his fundamental motivation. We also haven't yet had decades of his perpetual failure.

  13. #13
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    In the movie, he's basically Ra's Al Ghul with much more power. I wonder if they will retcon comic Thanos into also having Ra's Al Ghul motivations?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelC View Post
    In the movie, he's basically Ra's Al Ghul with much more power. I wonder if they will retcon comic Thanos into also having Ra's Al Ghul motivations?
    Unfortunately, Thanos characterisation by Starlin as a self-loathing and psychedelic nihilist who tries to convince the Grim Reaper itself to love him doesn't fit with the standards of a Disney Blockbuster. Disney has an history on removing the more darker and morally grey aspects of certain stories.

    However, Starlin was pleased with the MCU version of Thanos and i liked it too.

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    Personal pet-peeve: worshipping Death is NOT nihilism. Nihilism is believing that nothing has an objective meaning. Morty Smith saying "everyone's an accident, no one belongs anywhere, come watch TV?" is nihilism. Thanos screaming that "death is sacred!" is the antithesis of nihilism. Thanos is a death-cultist, not a nihilist.

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