UPDATED: 'Origin of a Mass Murderer' Told in THANOS RISING

June's Thanos

Rising #3 cover.

Update, 3/15: Courtesy of Marvel, we're debuting new interior pages from May's Thanos Rising #2, illustrated by Simone Bianchi. Those follow directly below.

Original story: Thanos has been around since Iron Man #55 in 1973, but he had by far the most visible year of his fictional life in 2012, when he briefly appeared in the mid-credits scene of the $1.5 billion-grossing Avengers movie.

That led to a major role in Marvel's Avengers Assemble, and coming up he's got a key part to play in the upcoming Infinity comic book event — but before that, he's starring in a miniseries detailing his origin, Thanos Rising, debuting in April from writer Jason Aaron and artist Simone Bianchi.

Newsarama talked with Aaron — who's also currently writing Wolverine and the X-Men and Thor: God of Thunder for Marvel — about the five-issue story, which he calls "the origin of a mass murderer," and "darker and weirder" than his past Marvel work.

Newsarama: Jason, Thanos Rising tells the early days of the character, which has been explored a bit over the years in various books. Did you find that there was still a lot of room left to create and add new elements to his origin? 

Interior art

from Thanos Rising


Jason Aaron: Yeah, I think there was. Jim Starlin has obviously done a lot of different stories with the character over the years, as have a lot of people, but there was never that one real origin story. There were bits and pieces here and there, and there were little recaps, but never the full story of where Thanos came from, and how or why he became the monster that he became. This is that story. This is the full-on, five-issue, from day one origin story of Thanos. We know how the guy's gonna wind up — he's going to wind up as this fearsome, cosmic mass murderer. But there will be some surprises along the way.

I'm not throwing out any of the Starlin mythology. I love that stuff. That's what makes Thanos who he is. Without that, he's just a purple alien guy who comes down and wants to conquer Earth. He is, I think, a really scary, tragic figure, as already established. That's the kind of stuff I’m digging into.

If you have no idea who Thanos is, you can pick this up and read it, and hopefully you'll understand everything. If you're a long time fan, and you know all the ins and outs of Marvel cosmic, I think this will all still hold together. It won't throw out any of the stuff you love. And I think there also will be a few surprises along the way. 


This does feel like a little bit of a departure for me, Marvel-wise. As I'm writing it, it feels like a combination of what I'm doing in Thor with what I did in Scalped. And it is certainly darker and weirder than most anything I've done for Marvel, because it's a villain story. There are no good guys popping up to save the day in this. It's the origin of a mass murderer.

Nrama: Speaking of origin stories and mass murderers — you mentioned in an interview with CBR that the My Friend Dahmer graphic novel was something of an influence on Thanos Rising. Does that kind of thing happen more often than people might think — different things from all over influencing fantasy stories?

Aaron: For me, personally, my influences come from all over the place. I think the best comics are influenced by stuff that aren't comics. My Friend Dahmer was one of my favorite books that I read last year. Growing up, I had one of those weird periods, like a lot of weird kids, where I was fascinated with serial murderers. There's still a morbid fascination with a lot of that stuff, and I thought that was a really powerful book. That's the part of the story that always intrigues me — not just the horrific murders that this person committed, but where did you see the first glimmers of what this person was going to become? What were the mechanics that shaped this person? That's a great book that laid out a lot of that. It's the high school years of Jeffrey Dahmer.


Some of that sort of thinking definitely influenced Thanos. We know Thanos is this cosmic conqueror who loves death. What does that really mean, when you love death? I wanted to explore that. What does that mean for young Thanos, for child Thanos, for adolescent Thanos? How do you show that? How do you dramatize that, this growing love and fascination with death? And also young Thanos questioning, "What's wrong with me? Why am I different? Who am I, what am I supposed to do in this world?"

Nrama: It sounds like you're approaching Thanos as more sympathetic than people might give him credit for, and more complex, too.

Aaron: In particular, one of the things that I was most interested in with Thanos was the death of his mother. There were actually a couple of different stories that gave conflicting reports of what happened to Thanos' mother. At one point we're told she dies when Thanos returns to Titan and drops a nuclear bomb, and she is killed in the explosion. Later, I think in an issue of Silver Surfer, we're told by Thanos' father that Thanos brutally murdered his own mother, with his own hands. Not just for no reason, but it was Thanos basically dissecting his own mother, looking for the answers of the questions of his own DNA — "Why am I different, what's wrong with me?"


That idea I seized upon. That defined the whole story for me in some sense. This idea of this kid, who's so desperate for answers to his own being, his own psyche, that he dissects his own mother. Once I had that, I think I had the whole story.

Nrama: You mentioned no good guys popping up to save the day — there really aren't any other real recognizable Marvel characters in this, right? It sounds like we won't really see the other cosmic characters commonly associated with Thanos.

Aaron: Right. We see his parents for a big part of it. His brother Eros is referenced a few times. I treat him more like Norm's wife on Cheers, where we talk about him, but he's always kind of off-panel. Which to me, again, I think was a big key to kind of understanding what I wanted to do. You can look at My Friend Dahmer — Jeffrey Dahmer had a younger brother, which I find fascinating. A younger brother who's really not even much of a part of that story, because he kind of existed in his own world, and obviously didn't grow up to become a cannibal and a serial killer.

Thanos Rising

#2 cover.

I kind of looked at that same dynamic with Thanos and his brother. Two very different people, people who obviously had very different paths in life. They grew up together. They had the same parents, the same DNA. But still — even though they're sharing the same house growing up together, they grew up in very different worlds. That's shown in Thanos Rising by us not even seeing Eros. He's always there, but he's always off panel. He's off in his own world, even though he's six feet away. Even though he's there in the same house, there's still a great distance between what he's going through and what young Thanos is going through.

Nrama: You're working with a lot of talented artists currently, and Simone Binachi is on Thanos Rising. What's the collaboration been like so far?

Aaron: He's amazing. He's a guy I never worked with before, but had been a fan of his stuff. He's real excited about the sci-fi aspect of the story. He loves designing the costumes, and the setting — this very high-tech, advanced underground city on Titan. He loves doing that stuff. It's all very pretty, and elegant, and gorgeous, and perfectly drawn, but when he draws Thanos; when he draws the darkness of the story, he nails that, too. It's not all just elegant and pretty. There's a grittiness and an ugliness and a darkness to everything, too.  

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