“The Avengers” continued to roll at the box office last weekend, and now stands as the No. 4-grossing worldwide film release of all time with more than $1.2 billion earned.
As such, I think I can safely write about the mysterious character who appears in the film's first post-credits scene. But if you haven't yet seen “The Avengers,” spoilers are ahead.
The mysterious purple character at the end of “The Avengers” is Marvel Comics' Thanos, a mad titan obsessed with the personification of Death. The character, who first appeared in 1973's “Iron Man” No. 55, was created by Jim Starlin.
Starlin recently talked to the Los Angeles Times about Thanos.
“When editor Roy Thomas asked me to do a fill-in Iron Man, I decided to add him to the mix,” Starlin said. “I showed some character sketches I had of the character to Roy, he asked if I could perhaps bulk up Thanos some and then let me run with it. Mike Friedrich then dialogued the issue. As time went on, Thanos just sort of grew organically on his own. Not sure where his loving Death came from. At the time I was recently out of the service and rather messed up. Hard to remember what was going through my head back then.”
Many of the original Thanos stories are collected in the “Marvel Masterworks: Captain Marvel” Vol. 3 hardcover, including his first appearance in “Iron Man” No. 55.
His first battle with the Avengers is recounted in Essential Avengers Volume 6, which includes Captain Marvel #33 and The Avengers #125 and 135; he again faced the Avengers in Essential Avengers Vol. 8.
Thanos returned in the 1990s in the pages of “Silver Surfer,” written by Starlin, and in the “Thanos Quest” miniseries, in which he sought the powerful Infinity Gems. These stories are collected in “Silver Surfer: Rebirth Of Thanos,” which collects Silver Surfer #34-38, The Thanos Quest miniseries, and a short story featuring Thanos, “The Final Flower!” from Logan's Run No. 6.
Then came the story that made the powerful villain even better-known among comics fans, in a crossover that became a 1990s best-seller.
“Infinity Gauntlet” featured a near-omnipotent Thanos, with the powers of the Infinity Gems, versus the combined might of the Marvel Universe's heroes. The story was written by Starlin, with art by first George Perez and then Ron Lim.
It was followed by two sequels, “Infinity War” and “Infinity Crusade,” and much later, a third, “Infinity Abyss.”
“He's a villain of such power and stature that he can give the Avengers a fight all by himself,” Marvel Senior VP — Executive Editor Tom Brevoort recently said at Marvel.com. “There's no such thing as a small Thanos story — he operates on an intergalactic scale. And he's a fascinating, nuanced character, with passions and neuroses all his own that make him stand apart as an individual, and not just a cookie-cutter moustache-twirler.”
Starlin looked at the possible end of the Marvel Universe in a story featuring Thanos, “Marvel: The End,” in 2004. Thanos most recently took part in the storyline “The Thanos Imperative,” a story in which many of Marvel's space-based heroes fought to close a rift in space.
Thanos' return to the Marvel Universe was in this month's “Avengers Assemble” No. 3; he battles the Avengers team in “Avengers Assemble” No. 4, on sale June 13.
“Since we designed ‘Avengers Assemble' to be a nice, easy entry point for people coming out of the film, for all that it still exists within our current Marvel Universe, it was a bit of a no-brainer to have Thanos be the villains behind our first storyline,” said Brevoort, at Marvel.com. “More than simply bringing him back, this storyline will be setting him up for bigger things.”