Once you've conquered the universe, what is left to do? That's the question in Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw's Thanos run, which kicked off last month with #13. The first issue began exploring how Thanos - King Thanos, to you - achieved that final victory, who his chief lieutenants are, and who can stand up against a Mad Titan who has it all.
Newsarama spoke with Cates and Shaw about what's to come in December 27's Thanos #14 and beyond, teasing a mysterious Big Bad known as the Fallen One, the surprising origin of this new Ghost Rider, and how this all came together after they finished their creator-owned series God Country.
Newsarama: Donny and Geoff, you two are no strangers to working together. How did this gig on Thanos come about?
Geoff Shaw: Over a conversation about Scooby-Doo as a matter of fact! As the conversation progressed, I casually asked Donny about his Thanos run, and after about an hour of synopsis, I stopped him and immediately expressed a very strong interest in the project. It was just too good to pass up!
Donny Cates: [Laughs] Yeah, that's right! Geoff and I have worked together steadily over the last five years or so, and as a side effect, we've become really close friends. So, we were chatting one night, and I ended up telling Geoff the entire plot of what I was planning on doing in Thanos, and he was hooked. By the end of the conversation, Geoff was like "Wait... That’s the story they are letting you do?! Well, I wanna draw that!" [Laughs] … and the rest is history!!
Nrama: The premise of your Thanos story is pretty straightforward - Thanos wins. But is it really that simple?
Cates: If it were that simple the series would be over after one issue! No, we'll be exploring how Thanos "wins" and the ramifications of that for the entire series. What's great about Thanos, and the reason I love him as a character is that nothing is ever enough for him. No matter how much he wins, it'll never be enough.
Shaw: Winning is never as simple as it seems, nor is it as gratifying as we often expect. Thanos' idea of winning has always been pretty grim, so the prospect of his success brings with it a host of ramifications that offer some pretty fantastic fallout. And none of it is simple!
Nrama: In the first issue, Thanos has a Hulk and Ghost Rider by his side. What can you tell us about the role these familiar faces play in the story?
Shaw: These ain't your grand daddy's heroes, that's for sure - Thanos has seen to that!
Cates: Yeah, I'll have to echo Geoff's coy answer here. Learning just who those characters are, and what their role is in all of this is half the fun. I'll promise you a few things though: You won't see the answers coming... and it will be brutal.
Nrama: Who - or what - can challenge Thanos, especially at the height of his powers? What’s he going up against here?
Shaw: Let's just say it's something he's never been faced with before, and it's the only adversary that could possibly stand toe-to-toe with him.
Cates: Thanos has won. But there's still one final foe out there before he can rest easy... believe me when I say you won't be let down when you see who it is. I'm so excited for that moment. It's maybe my favorite thing in the whole series.
Nrama: In Thanos #13, Thanos encountered his future self - the one that has conquered the universe. What are the chances these two can co-exist peacefully?
Cates: That's what makes this story so fun for me. At the heart of Thanos is this idea that nothing will ever be enough for him. He's driven by this insatiable and insane quest for power and dominion and no matter how high he climbs, it's never enough for him. So, what you'll find here is a Thanos in the future (We call him ‘King Thanos’) who has literally achieved every goal that the Mad Titan has ever set his sights on. Conquered every enemy, sat in every throne, and bent the world to its knees to bow in front of him. And… our Thanos is quite unimpressed. He thinks King Thanos is weak for asking for his help and he's disgusted by this old version of himself. That, to me, is where the meat of this story lives. That's the good stuff.
But hey, enough with all this existential inner-self nonsense… How about that sweet new cosmic Ghost Rider, huh??
Nrama: We’ll give Donny a second to calm down…
Geoff, without being too spoilery, what’s on your drawing board right now?
Shaw: Um, everybody? No, really. A lot of Marvel heroes are having a real bad day.
Nrama: Y cosmic chops are hardly in question – what kind of stuff is Donny challenging you with now? What’s your favorite thing you’ve drawn for Thanos so far?
Shaw: Donny is not taking it easy on me! Every page is a new challenge really, but I've never had more fun drawing comics! The scope is huge, and Donny is firing on all cylinders. There is a scene in particular with the Hulk that is as shocking and awesome as it comes.
Nrama: Marvel has been making good use of its extensive cosmic wing lately. Are there any old favorites the two of you would like to see come face to face with Thanos?
Shaw: So many! But how do you know I haven't drawn it already? (wink)
Cates: Yeah, I'd be hard-pressed to name a character who doesn’t show up in this arc. It's insane. Seriously I cannot overstate how bananas this book is!
Nrama: What’s the trick to getting audiences to root for a villain like Thanos? Should we be rooting for him?
Shaw: I think we all love a good villain, and a really great bad guy makes us take a good hard look at ourselves, challenging what we know to be right. Thanos has been through a lot in his storied life, and some of it very tragic. There's a vulnerability buried beneath all the hate, and therein lies a captivating subject. I don't know if you necessarily root for the guy per se, but understanding him should make you rightfully uncomfortable, and if you can convey that as a storyteller, I think you've won.
Cates: I couldn't have said it better myself. Personally, I feel very uncomfortable with how much I relate to the Mad Titan. I've been able to crawl around in his sick brain for some time now, and I oddly feel very at home there. It's scary… but it sure is fun.
Nrama: In Mighty Thor #700, Thanos was consorting with Hela. Will that relationship be explored here?
Cates: Jason Aaron and I have had some very long talks about that story beat. And while it might not show up in this storyline per se, rest assured Marvel fans, there are big plans for that terrifying couple. Stay tuned!!
Nrama: What can you tell us about your run on Thanos that nobody knows yet?
Cates: There are things you don't know about Thanos. Dark things. You think you know how bad he ...well, you don't. And this is where all the gory details get spilled. And personally, I'm quite excited for people to meet our new Ghost Rider. His introduction in the series is the most metal thing I've ever written. And… who is this Rider?? Is he a familiar face? A new character? Mysteries abound!!
Shaw: Thanos has extremely poor table manners.
Cates: Nuff' Said!