Created by Jim Starlin, he’s gone from an angry guy who wants to rule the world to a mass murdering monster who killed half the universe to on again/off again kind of good guy who has one of the most dangerous minds in the Marvel Universe. When asked about his creation, Starlin is quoted as saying:
“I went to college between doing U.S. military service and getting work in comics, and there was a psych class and I came up with Thanos … and Drax the Destroyer, but I’m not sure how he fit into it, just anger management probably. So I came up to Marvel and [editor] Roy [Thomas] asked if I wanted to do an issue of Iron Man. I felt that this may be my only chance ever to do a character, not having the confidence that my career was going to last anything longer than a few weeks. So they got jammed into it. Thanos was a much thinner character and Roy suggested beefing him up, so he’s beefed up quite a bit from his original sketches … and later on I liked beefing him up so much that he continued to grow in size.”
His first appearance was in Iron Man #55 (Feb. 1973), which also featured the first appearances of Starfox (aka Eros), Mentor, ISAAC, Drax The Destroyer and The Blood Brothers. This issue also has a pretty complete origin for Thanos including his home world Titan, a moon of Saturn, as well as his being different from the others from his race and being banished from his home world for trying to take control of it. He was exiled for his crimes but vowed to have his revenge.
Also here and nearly complete is his look. He’s purple and has the chin and his costume has the same coloring of his current look but the specifics of his outfit are still being worked on. The pieces are all there but they just need some tweaking for him to become the despot we now know.
So, as far as the story goes, after we get filled in on who this guy is, and after he captures Drax (a guy whose sole purpose for existing is to kill ONE being: Thanos, and he’s really bad at it!) we get the gist of the big guy’s plans.
He wants to rule the world. Well, TWO worlds, to be exact: his home planet, Titan, first, then he wants to dominate the Earth. To achieve this goal he’s gathered a large army of ‘interstellar malcontents’ to help him. While we only see The Blood Brothers in this story, it’s obvious this guy is someone to contend with. While Iron Man is trying to free Drax he gets blasted from behind. Before he can gather himself, Thanos simply walks up to him and steps on his hand, crushing his blaster and taking away his primary weapon. Even from the beginning, Thanos was a thinker and a very dangerous entity.
But perhaps the best part is when Iron Man and Drax finally catch up to him it isn’t even really him! At some point Thanos must have figured these two would get to him so he took off and left a robot duplicate in his place!
Another interesting part of this first appearance, and something that has become the hallmark of this character, is it wasn’t just a random deal. It’s simply the beginning of something much bigger. Thanos would begin here but this story would continue into Captain Marvel, Daredevil and eventually The Avengers. Generally, when Thanos is invovled, it’s rarely a one-and-done story.
Even from the beginning he was something unique.
So, how does Thanos go from would-be conqueror to a major player and one of the few villains that, when he’s involved, all heroes are more than on their guard? Well, over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of the highlights of this guy starting next week as we look at some of the Mad Titan’s best cover shots!