***If you somehow managed to avoid seeing The Avengers this past weekend, be warned that significant spoilers are ahead. And just to be perfectly clear, the image above is not a spoiler, it's a picture of a Chitauri soldier.***Marvel's The Avengers has already made $655 million worldwide and broken multiple box office records, but despite that many eyeballs seeing the film, there's really only two possible ways to view that post-credits (technically "mid-credits") scene. One goes like this:
Thanos appears. Moviegoer: "Oh (expletive of choice)! That's awesome! Soundgarden kicks in.
And the other plays out more like this:
Thanos appears. Moviegoer: "Who's that guy?" Soundgarden kicks in.
Yes, Thanos is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — revealed as the shadowy figure behind the Chitauri army controlled by Loki — and that's something that either means nothing to you or is one of the coolest things that could reasonably happen given the known laws of the (actual) universe. While Thanos is an antagonist with decades of history in Marvel Comics, he's not as recognizable as say, Loki or the Red Skull, leaving a large portion of the audience wondering what exactly was going down.
In fact, it's a good bet that even some dedicated comic book fans might have been confused — it's a brief appearance, and Thanos is not identified by name, nor does he have any dialogue. In recent years, the character's appearances have been mostly confined to Marvel's cosmic books like the titular The Thanos Imperative, which, while acclaimed and well-liked, tend to take place separately from the main action of Marvel's fictional world.So: Who is Thanos? Well, only The Mad Titan, an incredibly powerful (super-strength, invulnerability, cosmic blasts) alien and the biggest threat yet — by far — in a Marvel Studios film.
Thanos first appeared in 1973's Iron Man #55, and was created by writer/artist Jim Starlin, a main architect of Cosmic Marvel (he got a "special thanks" in the Avengers credits). Hailing from Titan — a moon of Saturn in both real life and the Marvel Universe — Thanos is driven, like so many characters from fiction, by love. Except the object of his affection is a bit unconventional: The personification of Death, represented in Marvel Comics as a female with a skeletal face. (Thus movie Thanos cracking a smile after the "court death" line.)
His pursuit of Death led him to challenge Marvel's many heroes numerous times, but never as splashy as 1991's The Infinity Gauntlet. The six-part story remains Thanos' biggest moment, as he was able to collect the six Infinity Gems — Mind, Power, Reality, Soul, Space and Time — which, when assembled on a nifty gold glove, grant the wielder near-omnipotence. And what else would a guy like Thanos do with all that power other than kill a whole lot of people? That's exactly what he did, blinking out half of the universe's population in an attempt to impress a girl.That action was, naturally, overturned, but The Infinity Gauntlet — by Jim Starlin, George Pérez and Ron Lim — was a huge success for Marvel, leading to several subsequent spinoffs, including Infinity War, Infinity Crusade and 2002's Infinity Abyss.
In recent years, Thanos has played an integral role in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's cosmic stories, including Annihilation and The Thanos Imperative, which took the character off the board by trapping him in a dying universe — but he's essentially immortal (and in one of the highest-grossing movies of all time), so it's highly doubtful that will stick. Thanos even had his own ongoing series for 12 issues starting in 2003, and his various Infinity Gauntlet-guided misdeeds have inspired two video games: 1995's Marvel Super Heroes fighting game (a Marvel vs. Capcom 3 ancestor) and 2010's Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet.
Still, beyond those games and before Avengers, Thanos' other media appearances were few, limited to the short-lived Silver Surfer animated series and the kid-focused Super Hero Squad Show.While his next movie appearance isn't certain — will it not be until Avengers 2, or might he play a part in Iron Man 3 or perhaps Thor 2? — Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis dropped a major hint as to where the comic book version of Thanos might appear next via Twitter on Monday, saying, "the best timed surprise in the history of modern comics" takes place at the end of this week's Avengers Assemble #3. When you consider that series stars the same cast as the Avengers movie and is specifically aimed at readers looking for a post-film fix, it's not exactly a stretch to connect those dots.
Thanos had been rumored to appear in Avengers since last May, and his appearance was foreshadowed in Thor with the Infinity Gauntlet shown hanging out in Odin's vault. Still, it seemed like such a huge leap from what's previously been seen in the Marvel Studios pictures, that it couldn't possibly be true. But it sure was, and it looks like he'll be a serious problem for Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye (and more?) in the Avengers sequel, which will look to make an even more astronomical pile of money at an undetermined point in the future — and with a movie starring Marvel's cosmic heroes Guardians of the Galaxy rumored last year, Thanos might soon become a Hollywood power player at the level of Harvey Weinstein.
And, of course, there's the real post-credits scene: The Avengers, after defeating the Chitauri, eating shawarma as a payoff to Iron Man's earlier dialogue about wanting to try it. (You probably understood that one.)More from Newsarama:
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