The character of Thanos was created by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin back in 1973. Immediately he showed himself as a force to be reckoned with taking on Iron Man, The Avengers and Captain Marvel trying to make himself even more powerful by obtaining the Cosmic Cube and the Infinity Stones. Soon, he will be taking center stage in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in ‘Avengers: Infinity War‘ as he takes on the combined might of The Avengers & The Guardians of the Galaxy. But before that epicness begins, here are the Top 5 Thanos Stories that you may want to read to either brush up on your familiarity with The Mad Titan OR that you may need to read if you are unsure as to just who this purple faced villain is that keeps appearing in the end credits of these Marvel films. Let’s begin, shall we?
#5.) Thanos Rising (2013)
This series, written by Jason Aaron with art by Simone Bianchi, explores the origin of Thanos from his birth to his growth to adulthood and provides some startling insights as to his obsession with Death and to what ends he will go to attain her affection. Aaron does a masterful job of matching details of Thanos’ previously unknown past that fits smartly in with each story we’ve read featuring him for the past four decades and it needs to be a part of anyone’s collection in order to gain a better understanding of this dark character.
#4.) Avengers Vs Thanos (1973 – 1977)
This collection covers Thanos’ first appearance from “Iron Man” issue 55 and his battle with Captain Marvel (issues 25 – 33) and The Avengers (issue 125 & Annual 7) as well as encounters with Daredevil (issue 107), Spider-Man (Marvel Team-Up 55) and The Thing (“Marvel Two-In-One” Annual 2) among several other related issues from other comics. In many ways, these early stories written and drawn by legends of the comic industry (Jim Starlin, Steve Englehart, Don Heck, John Buscema & Mike Zeck just to name a few) are the framework of what we’l be treated to when ‘Infinity War’ hits the big screen. Not only is it a truly entertaining read, but it’s a primer on how things were done at the dawn of the Bronze Age of comic books!
#3.) Thanos series (2016)
The Mad Titan’s current titular series, which is brilliantly written by Jeff Lemire, starts out by showing us a side of Thanos we’ve yet to see – weak. The series starts with Thanos dying and travelling the universe trying to find someone to cure him. It features his own son, Thane, the Phoenix Force, Nebula, Starfox and many others. This story arc also demonstrates that even without his full power and in a weakened state, the things that truly makes Thanos dangerous are his cunning and sheer force of will. (BTW: stay tuned for the ‘Thanos Wins” story arc that immediately follows this one beginning with issue 13 written by Donny Cates.)
#2.) Silver Surfer: The Rebirth Of Thanos (1993)
Following the events in “Avengers VS Thanos”, the character was thought to have died. It wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that his creator, Jim Starlin, brought him back in the pages of “Silver Surfer” beginning with issue 34. His rebirth took the comic world by storm and he continued appearing in the book over the next year culminating in the events of “Infinity War”. Having Thanos show up and take on one of the most powerful cosmic heroes in the Marvel Universe is a great reintroduction to this character and, in the hands of Starlin with art by the incomparable Ron Lim, makes this collection and instant classic!
#1.) The Thanos Quest and The Infinity Gauntlet (1990 & 1991)
While all of the other series mentioned on this list are great, if I was pressed to pick one definitive story, it would definitely be the one-two punch of “The Thanos Quest” and “The Infinity Gauntlet“. I almost listed these stories as two separate entries but they are so inextricably linked that it’s almost impossible to do so. “The Thanos Quest” tells the origin of the Infinity Gems and how Thanos sought out and acquired them from the various Elders of the Universe who possessed them. This leads immediately and directly into “The Infinity Gauntlet” which, for my money, is still to this day one of the greatest crossover event mini-series in the entire history of Marvel Comics. Using all six of the gems in concert, Thanos immediately wipes half of the universe out of existence. Naturally this catches the notice of Earth’s heroes (the ones still alive, anyway) and culminates in a massive battle at the edge of space. It also would lays the groundwork for the current incarnation of Thanos that we know today and gave way to several spin-off series and mini-series.
So there you have it! Now you’ll be able to impress your friends with all of your comic knowledge while you are waiting in line to see this culmination of the past 10 years of Marvel films at your local movie theater. If nothing else, at least you’ll have a better appreciation of the magnitude of threat that Thanos poses to the MCU after this required reading list is complete. Will Josh Brolin live up to the hype and be the perfect choice to bring Jim Starlin’s creation to life? Even if he isn’t, at least he’ll get to bring Rob Liefeld‘s creation to life in ‘Deadpool 2‘ in another month. Don’t worry… that list of required reading is next. You’re welcome!