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Sunday, May 13, 2012

We Need To Talk About Thanos


"We Need To Talk About Thanos" is my suggested title for The Avengers 2. Since everyone and their Asgardian brother has seen The Avengers by now, Thanos, who pops up in the closing credits tease for the inevitable sequel, has now been introduced to a global audience. 

Who is Thanos? Glad you asked. Thanos is the shit! Wikipedia can offer more than most need to know, but the important thing is Thanos is the mad god of Titan, a galactic nihilist who worships Death. 

Thanos also happens to be, in my opinion, the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe. For me, personally, Thanos is the second greatest of all super villains, second only to The Joker. That's right. A purple-faced alien in orange shoulder pads most people have never heard of before a week ago is the second most bad ass mofo in all of comic books. Both Thanos and The Joker are killers, mass murderers. In his most fevered dreams, The Joker wishes he could amass the body count Thanos has achieved in his lifetime of villainy. The Joker is a trifle of a killer compared to Thanos, who has murdered billions on an intergalactic scale. 

Yet the capacity for cosmic murder is not what makes Thanos special. What makes Thanos special is that, despite being an eight foot tall purple alien from a moon of Saturn who routinely threatens the well being of the Marvel Universe, he's actually a lot like us.

Thanos did it all - does it all - for love. Thanos is in love with Death, specifically Mistress Death, who in the Marvel Universe is an anthropomorphic personification that can be a skeleton in a black robe or a hot woman in a black robe. Thanos seems to show no preference for what she looks like, but he's 100% sure Death is a lady. Thanos is all man.

Worst of all, for Thanos, his love for Death is an unrequited love. 

In the greatest of all Thanos tales, one of the greatest Marvel stories ever told, The Infinity Gauntlet, Mistress Death resurrected Thanos from the ether and asked him to do one simple thing: Feeling that the number of people living in the universe has outnumbered the number of people who have ever died, Death asked Thanos to even the odds a little and wipe out half of all life in the universe. Thanos happily complied, almost with cartoon hearts in his black eye sockets, and, through murder and more murder, Thanos amassed the six Infinity Gems, which gave him total mastery over Time, Space, Power, Reality, the Mind, and the Soul.  Then he put all the Gems on a glove.

The Infinity Gauntlet. Thus, Thanos more or less became God. Quite literally, the master of all that is. 

Somehow, Mistress Death wasn't impressed. So Thanos did what she originally asked him to do: with the snap of his fingers ("He's really going to do it!", uttered an incredulous Mephisto, the devil of the Marvel Universe), Thanos wiped out half of all life in the universe. Just like that. This was the flashpoint of The Infinity Gauntlet, where the surviving Marvel heroes lead by the Avengers assembled with Marvel's cosmic dieties like Galactus to take down Thanos in a stellar conflict of unimaginable proportions.

Simply put, Thanos killed untold billions to impress a girl. And Death still shot him down! All of that power, all of that murder, becoming an equal to God in nearly every respect, and Thanos still couldn't get the girl. Thanos is a life lesson, a cautionary example, that you can't always get what you want. Even if you're the ultimate evil.

Besides being a fool in love with a girl (or abstract concept manifested as a girl) who won't have him, Thanos is also very human in his one true weakness: Thanos suffers from feelings of inadequacy. Deep in his black heart, Thanos knows he's not quite good enough for everything he wants. Thus, through his insecurities, he unwittingly provides his enemies with the means to defeat him. He's a much more psychologically complex villain than, say, Dr. Doom or The Green Goblin. Why, of all the nigh-invincible alien psychopaths the Marvel Universe has ever known, Thanos is the most... human.

If any of this, what makes Thanos unique and awesome, makes it into movie theaters, Avengers 2 could be something extra special.

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