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.

Publication history

Writer-artist Jim Starlin originally conceived Thanos during college psychology classes. As Starlin described:
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).

Fictional character biography

Thanos is born on Titan, a moon of the planet Saturn to Mentor and Sui-San. Due to a genetic quirk, Thanos is born with the Deviant gene and as such resembles the Deviants — the Eternals' cousin race — more than his own people. Although treated fairly by his race, Thanos is mindful of his appearance and becomes distant, only keeping company with his brother Eros (Starfox). Thanos matures to adulthood, and via the use of bionics and mysticism augments his abilities to become the most powerful of the Titanian-born Eternals, and is often referred to as the Mad Titan.

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.

First Thanos War

Many years later, Thanos begins his plan to conquer the galaxy; he builds a base on Earth and constructs a space vessel in the solar system that acts as a "universal translator" for his huge army of alien mercenaries, so that they can understand each other's language. It is at this time that Mistress Death - drawn by the level of Thanos' obsession and his now considerable power - manifests itself before Thanos, being an abstract entity and the personification of the universal concept of death. Thanos becomes determined to prove his "love" to Death for this sign of affection by destroying all life in the universe, and embarks on a quest to find the artifact the Cosmic Cube. It is at this time that Thanos finds himself opposed by the superheroes of Earth.

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.

Second Thanos War

Thanos combines the energies from the Soul Gem with the energies of the other Infinity Gems to power a weapon that is capable of destroying a star. Thanos then plans to painstakingly snuff out every star in the universe as a gift to Death. Gamora discovers Thanos' intentions and is killed trying to stop him, while Warlock's unsuspecting ally Pip the Troll is left in a catatonic state for him to find. Gamora lives long enough to warn a returning Adam Warlock, who travels to Earth and enlists the aid of the Avengers, Captain Marvel, and Moondragon. After attacking and dealing with Thanos' mercenary fleet, most of the Avengers and Moondragon storm Sanctuary I, Thanos' vessel. Thor and Iron Man follow Adam Warlock and Captain Marvel, who confront Thanos directly. Captain Marvel destroys the weapon's launcher, but Thanos then kills an attacking Warlock. Thor holds off Thanos while Iron Man destroys the weapon itself, and an enraged Thanos then defeats the remaining heroes with Sanctuary I's weapons. The cosmic entities Lord Order and Master Chaos intervene, and via a subconscious message summon Spider-Man and the Thing. Spider-Man frees the fallen heroes, and then finds the Soul Gem, releasing the spirit of Adam Warlock, who subsequently turns Thanos to stone.


Years later, the Silver Surfer witnesses the resurrection of Thanos by Mistress Death, who feels that Death needs a champion once again. A revived Thanos decides to collect the Infinity Gems, which he takes from the In-Betweener and the Elders of the Universe. Thanos then combines the gems on his left glove to create the Infinity Gauntlet, which allows him to exceed the power he once possessed with the Cosmic Cube.

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.

New Trials

Thanos later discovers via an oracle a new extraterrestrial threat - Tyrant, a failed creation of Galactus. Thanos allies himself with Galactus' former Herald Terrax, the hero Jack of Hearts, a second generation Captain Marvel, and Ganymede, a warrior-priestess dedicated to destroying Tyrant. Together they attack Tyrant's base, at which point Thanos abandons the battle and taps into Tyrant's computers to learn of his origin. Thanos then steals one of Tyrant's "power orbs" - containing power drained from Galactus' Herald Morg. Thanos then confronts the entity and dares Tyrant to stop him. The battle allows Thanos' allies to escape and destroys much of Tyrant's base, at which point Thanos teleports away to safety.

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.

The End

Sometime later Thanos finds and uses the artifact the Heart of the Universe to stop an alien pharaoh called Akhenaten who conquers Earth. The artifact makes Thanos a part of everything, and able to absorb the entire universe - even the other cosmic entities. With his newfound omnipotence, Thanos discovers that the constant resurrection of beings has caused an impurity in the old universe that only he can fix. Thanos then restarts the universe and sacrifices himself to fix the flaw.

Further challenges

A repentant Thanos apparently survives and is accompanied by Adam Warlock to New Rigel-3, where Thanos uses his power to atone for previous acts committed against the Rigelians. The grateful Rigelians ask Thanos to assist with a problem on Rigel-18, which is revealed to be Galactus. Galactus is attempting to unite and use the Infinity Gems to stop his need to devour inhabited planets. Galactus, however, is being manipulated by an inter-dimensional parasite called Hunger, which devours entire cosmoses. The Hunger tricks Galactus into creating a machine - requiring the power of Infinity Gems - that allows Hunger access into the Earth-616 universe. With assistance from Moondragon and Pip the Troll, Thanos discovers the truth and attempts to stop Galactus but is easily outmatched. As Hunger begins to enter their universe, Galactus stalls the entity until it adapts to his power, and Thanos fails to destroy the portal that separates it from the majority of its being. Thanos then distracts Hunger and forces Rigel-18 to collide with another planet while detonating a large nuclear arsenal at the point of impact. Galactus survives the explosion, and Hunger is believed destroyed, although a tiny remnant of Hunger apparently survives by attaching itself to Galactus and then fleeing. Thanos states that although Galactus' intent was noble, his continued consumption of inhabited worlds will eventually unite the universal population against him, including Thanos himself.

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.

Powers and abilities

Thanos possesses a wide range of abilities, some of which are common to the Titanian Eternals, and others that have been acquired through bionic amplification, mysticism, and augmentation by Death itself. In addition to superior levels of superhuman strength, stamina and particularly durability, Thanos has shown himself capable of absorbing and directing enormous quantities of cosmic energy, and using it to shield himself. The Titan is also capable of matter manipulation, telekinesis, and resistance to powerful telepathic assaults. Thanos can also temporarily increase his powers by absorbing energy from an unknown source of quasi-mystical nature.

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.

Other versions

In addition to his mainstream incarnation, Thanos has had been depicted in other fictional universes. Genis-Vell encounters a version of Thanos resembling Adam Warlock in an alternative dimension.

Marvel Zombies

In the Earth-2149 universe, as revealed in one of the multiple Marvel Zombies limited series, Thanos is shown to have been "zombified" and one of those beings that eat many of the sentient beings in the universe. He is killed by the Hulk after an altercation over food.

Ultimate Thanos

In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Thanos is the ruler of Acheron, a vast empire consisting of thousands of worlds that exists on another plane of existence. He has two sons: Gallowglass - whose body is composed of star matter - and an alternate version of Ronan the Accuser, who is loyal to Thanos and his empire, as opposed to the Kree in the Earth-616 universe. He also has a daughter, Atrea, who was punished for her rebellious nature by having her arm "skeletonized".

In other media


  • Thanos appears in several episodes of the Silver Surfer TV series.

Video games


Toy Biz released a Thanos action figure in their line of toys for the Fantastic Four animated series (1994). A Thanos figure is released for the toy line promoting the Silver Surfer animated series (1998). A repainted version of this figure was later re-released in a two-pack with Adam Warlock. Diamond Select Toys has also released a toy version of Thanos. Bowen Designs and Eaglemoss have released mini-busts and statues of the character.

Collected editions

A number of the stories featuring Thanos have been collected into trade paperbacks:

  • The Life of Captain Marvel (collects Iron Man #55, Captain Marvel #25-34, and Marvel Feature #12, 1991, ISBN 087135635X)
  • Silver Surfer: Rebirth Of Thanos (collects Silver Surfer #34-38, The Thanos Quest mini-series, and "The Final Flower!" from Logan's Run #6, 224 pages, April 2006, ISBN 0-7851-2046-7)
  • Infinity Gauntlet (collects Infinity Gauntlet limited series, 256 pages, March 2000, ISBN 0871359448, December 2004, ISBN 0-7851-0892-0, July 2006, ISBN 0-7851-2349-0)
  • Infinity War (collects Infinity War limited series, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #7-10, and Marvel Comics Presents #108-111, 400 pages, April 2006, ISBN 0-7851-2105-6)
  • Infinity Crusade:
    • Volume 1 (collects Infinity Crusade #1-3, Warlock Chronicles #1-3, and Warlock and the Infinity Watch #18-19, 248 pages, December 2008, ISBN 0-7851-3127-2)
    • Volume 2 (collects Infinity Crusade #4-6, Warlock Chronicles #4-5, and Warlock and the Infinity Watch #20-22, 248 pages, February 2009, ISBN 0-7851-3128-0)
  • Infinity Abyss (collects Infinity Abyss limited series, 176 pages, 2003, ISBN 0-7851-0985-4)
  • Thanos: The End (collects Marvel: The End limited series, 160 pages, May 2004, ISBN 0-7851-1116-6)
  • Thanos:
    • Epiphany (collects Thanos #1-6, 144 pages, June 2004, ISBN 0-7851-1355-X)
    • Samaritan (collects Thanos #7-12, 144 pages, October 2004, ISBN 0-7851-1540-4)
  • Annihilation:
    • Volume 1 (collects Drax the Destroyer mini-series, "Annihilation: Prologue" one-shot and Annihilation: Nova mini-series, 256 pages, hardcover, March 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2511-6, softcover, October 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2901-4)
    • Volume 2 (collects Annihilation: Ronan mini-series, Annihilation: Silver Surfer mini-series and Annihilation: Super-Skrull mini-series, 320 pages, hardcover, May 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2512-4, softcover, November 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2902-2)
    • Volume 3 (collects "Annihilation: The Nova Corps Files" one-shot/handbook, Annihilation limited series and Annihilation: Heralds Of Galactus mini-series, 304 pages, hardcover, July 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2513-2, softcover, December 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2903-0)


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