Thanos is a fictional character that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character's name is a derivation of Thanatos, the personification of death and mortality in Greek mythology. Thanos first appeared in Iron Man #55 (Feb. 1973) and was created by Jim Starlin.
I went to college between doing U.S. military service and getting work in comics, and there was a psyche class and I came up with Thanos ... and Drax the Destroyer, but I’m not sure how he fit into it, just anger management probably. So I came up to Marvel and [editor] Roy [Thomas] asked if I wanted to do an issue of Iron Man. I felt that this may be my only chance ever to do a character, not having the confidence that my career was going to last anything longer than a few weeks. So they got jammed into it. Thanos was a much thinner character and Roy suggested beefing him up, so he's beefed up quite a bit from his original sketches ... and later on I liked beefing him up so much that he continued to grow in size.
Thanos' first appearance is in Iron Man #55 (Feb. 1973). Under Starlin's guidance, the character quickly became a master villain and one of the main threats to Marvel Earth in the 1970s. The character made a series of appearances in a variety of titles (primarily Captain Marvel) until apparently killed at the climax of Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977).
Starlin resurrected Thanos in Silver Surfer vol. 3, #34 (Feb. 1990). He followed this with a two-issue mini-series, Thanos Quest (1990), and then a series of annual company-wide crossovers featuring Thanos, anchored by the limited series Infinity Gauntlet #1-6 (Jul. - Dec. 1991); Infinity War #1-6 (Jun. - Nov. 1992); and the Infinity Crusade #1-6 (Mar. - Nov. 1993). Thanos also made appearances as a supporting character in issues of the ongoing series Warlock and the Infinity Watch (1992-1995).
The following decade, Starlin featured Thanos in another limited series, Infinity Abyss #1 -6 (Aug.- Oct. 2002, with issues published biweekly), followed by Marvel: The End #1 - 6 (May - Jul. 2003, with most issues published biweekly). That year, Thanos debuted in an ongoing, self-titled series initially written and penciled by Starlin, with writer Keith Giffen and penciller Ron Lim taking over with issue #7. The series ran for 12 issues (Dec. 2003 - Sep. 2004).
Bitter at being an outsider, Thanos becomes fascinated with nihilism, embarking on his quest to "please" death, and begins by conducting a nuclear bombardment of Titan that kills millions of his race. Thanos' mother is thought to have died during the bombardment, but years later it is discovered that he kidnaps and then dissects her. He later travels to Earth, and prior to landing his vessel destroys a nearby car to prevent anyone from becoming aware of his existence. Unknown to Thanos, two of the family members in the vehicle survive — the father's spirit is preserved by the Titanian cosmic entity Chronos and is given a new form as Drax the Destroyer while the daughter is found by Thanos' father Mentor and is raised to become the heroine Moondragon.
Iron Man and Drax storm Thanos' base and fight Thanos' minions, the Blood Brothers, while Captain Marvel becomes aware of Thanos courtesy of his cosmic awareness and explains the threat to Daredevil, the Black Widow, and Moondragon while Thanos hunts for the Cosmic Cube. The Avengers later destroy the vessel acting as a translator for Thanos' mercenaries.
Thanos eventually locates the Cube, and uses his minions the Super-Skrull and the Controller to try and destroy Captain Marvel, who rallies Eros, Mentor, Drax, Moondragon, and the Avengers against Thanos. Thanos uses the Cube and wills it to allow him to be part of - and therefore in control of - everything. Although Thanos is now omnipotent and easily defeats the heroes, he makes the mistake of discarding what he believes to be a now-drained Cube. Captain Marvel shatters the Cube, which undoes Thanos' wish. Thanos then discovers that Death has abandoned him as result of this defeat, and retreats. Iron Man later investigates Thanos' old base and together with the Thing battles the Blood Brothers again.
Thanos journeys into deep space and learns of the Universal Church of Truth, led by the being the Magus, a warped and future version of the hero Adam Warlock. Deciding that the Magus is a threat to his plans, and after finding the child Gamora—whose race has been exterminated by the Church—Thanos raises and trains her to assassinate the Magus. Thanos also joins forces with Adam Warlock, who is unaware of the fact that the Magus is actually the Champion of Life and that Thanos is the Champion of Death. The two eventually battle, and Thanos feigns defeat to allow Adam Warlock time to manipulate the timeline and undo the Magus. It is during this alliance Thanos secretly siphons off the energies of the Soul Gem that Warlock possesses for future use.
Thanos honors Death by erasing half the population of the universe, but a group of Earth's superheroes almost defeat an overconfident Thanos. He then goes on to defeat an assembly of the cosmic hierarchy (here Galactus, the Stranger, Epoch, Kronos, two Celestials, Lord Chaos, Master Order, Mistress Love, Sire Hate), and even Death finally decides to join them. The conflict culminates in single combat with, and victory over, Eternity itself. As Thanos abandons his corporeal self to assume Eternity's position, the space pirate Nebula, who claims to be his granddaughter, takes the Gauntlet. Nebula then undoes all of Thanos' changes, but shortly afterwards loses the Gauntlet to Adam Warlock. Warlock had earlier made Thanos realize that it was his own self-doubt that subconsciously engineered his defeats, and when confronted by the superheroes he activates a nuclear device in his costume, telling them he prefers death to imprisonment. With no time to deactivate the device, Thor throws his hammer Mjolnir into Thanos, hurling him miles away. Thanos, however, teleports away just as the device detonates. Only Adam Warlock - in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet - is aware of the deception, and notes that Thanos now has a chance to reform.
Thanos does reform for a time, and is eventually given the Reality Gem by Adam Warlock to safeguard. Thanos uses the gem to resurrect the hero Captain Marvel, who died during the time that Thanos himself was dead. Thanos seeks forgiveness for his past actions and claims he wished to test the power of the gem. Captain Marvel, however, knowing of Thanos' self-doubts, guesses the truth and suspects that he has been resurrected to try and dissuade Thanos from his real goal: using the gem to make Mistress Death love him.
Thanos confesses and at Captain Marvel's request allows him to return to the afterlife. Thanos then assists Adam Warlock and Earth's superheroes against first the Magus and later the Goddess- the evil and good personas of Warlock, who expunged them to become omnipotent when possessing the Infinity Gauntlet (Although none of Earth's heroes entirely trust him after his past actions). After fighting Thor, now strengthened by the Power Gem, in single combat, Thanos uses an invention to imprison him, and takes Thor to Asgard, home of the Norse Gods. Once in Asgard Thanos, Drax, and the Silver Surfer engage Thor's father Odin in battle, but are overpowered. It is at this point, however, that Odin discovers he is indirectly responsible for Thor's insanity, and aids Thor in curing himself.
Soon after this Thanos recovers his vessel Sanctuary II from the android Quasimodo, and saves the Silver Surfer and Spider-Man in the process. Thanos is later revealed to be trapped in an alternate dimension. He employs the aid of the brother of Ka-Zar, Parnival Plunder, to attempt escape, planning to control all vegetation and cause universal havoc. A year later a now gigantic Thanos is still trapped, and attempts to use the Hulk as a physical anchor back to the Earth-616 universe. He is, however, defeated by the Hulk and the mutant X-Man.
Thanos reappears two years later, having escaped the alternate dimension. He now seeks the Chalice of Ruins, Map of All-Ending, and Illumination Stone, which when united will enable the user to destroy the universe. Thanos enlists the aid of the Asgardian monster Mangog and the traitor Tarakis, and storms Asgard and ravages entire worlds hunting for the artifacts. After several bloody battles, the Thunder God Thor defeats Mangog with the help of Orikal while his ally Firelord defeats Tarakis. Just as Thanos unites the items and realizes his goal, Thor dons Asgardian armor which allows him to match Thanos' new power levels and defeats the Titan.
Thanos later requires the aid of Thor and Genis (Captain Marvel's son) against the death god Walker, who attempts to woo Mistress Death and then destroy the entity after being rejected. Thanos and the heroes are successful, and it is revealed at this time that Thanos' retaking of his vessel and previous encounters with Ka-Zar and Thor were planned and served as useful preparation for the battle against Walker. Thanos then devises a plan to become the All-Father of a new race of Gods created by himself. Thanos, however, finds himself opposed by the Avengers, former member Mantis, and her son Quoi, apparently destined to be the Celestial Messiah. Thanos abandons this plan after having to unite with Mistress Death to destroy the Rot, an aberration in deep space that is apparently their offspring.
Thanos once conducted extensive research on genetics, and after studying many of the universe's heroes and villains cloned them and gene-spliced his own DNA into the subjects. Although he later abandons the project, five clones survive, being versions of Professor X, Iron Man, Gladiator, Doctor Strange, and Galactus respectively. A sixth and unnamed version of Thanos also appears, and it is revealed that many of Thanos' recent encounters with Earth's superheroes were simply clones impersonating him. The true Thanos - with the aid of Adam Warlock, Gamora, Pip the Troll, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, and Dr. Strange - destroys the remaining clones.
Thanos then visits the Kyln, an inter-galactic prison on the edge of the universe. It is here that Thanos meets the chaos mite Skreet, who chooses to accompany him, and the Fallen One, the very first Herald of Galactus. The Fallen One attempts to find and destroy Galactus, but Galactus teleports him back to Thanos as he offers to handle the matter. Thanos defeats the Fallen One by tricking it to ignite a gas giant, and after mind wiping him employs it as his own personal Herald.
Another clone of Thanos recently appeared at the trial of Eros and stated that his brother inspired his obsession with Death when they were children, when attempting to make young Thanos accept the death of an animal he had involuntarily killed. By Titanian law Eros had to then take full responsibility for all the genocides Thanos had later committed. It is then revealed that this is a false memory implanted by the true Thanos as a personal joke.
Thanos allies himself with the genocidal villain Annihilus, who is employing the Annihilation Wave to decimate the universe. Thanos does so as he is "curious to see how a radical tilt in the universal balance would play out." Thanos also convinces Tenebrous and Aegis - two of Galactus' ancient enemies - to defeat the World Devourer. Annihilus desires the secret of the Power Cosmic and asks Thanos to study Galactus, but once Thanos learns of Annihilus' true goal (to use the Power Cosmic to destroy all life and remain the sole survivor) he decides to free Galactus. Drax the Destroyer, however, appears and kills Thanos before he can do so. During a climactic battle with Annihilus, the hero Nova is near death and sees Thanos - now standing with Mistress Death as her apparent consort - observing him.
Thanos possesses a superhuman intellect (typically preferring to outwit enemies) that was obsessively dedicated to the annihilation of life and the mastery of any technology or mysticism that will enable him to achieve this goal. He possesses technology that allows force field projection; time travel; move through alternate dimensions and teleport over interstellar distances. Thanos also trained his adopted daughter Gamora to become one of the universe's most adept and feared female assassins.