Whether on comics pages or in blockbuster films, Thanos is one of the premier villains of the Marvel Universe. Created by Jim Starlin, the Mad Titan went on to enact one of the most wide-ranging and destructive villainous schemes in comics during 1992 event series The Infinity Gauntlet.
Thanos was brought to even greater prominence through the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being the overarching villain of the Infinity Saga, but how does the Josh Brolin portrayed cinematic Thanos differ from his comic counterpart? Let’s compare the two iterations to find out.
10 Accurate: The Infinity Gauntlet
Thanos’ most iconic moment came when he wielded the Infinity Gauntlet in the aforementioned mini-series of the same name. After acquiring the six Infinity Gems from their assigned guardians in prelude series Thanos Quest, the Mad Titan put the gems together on the Gauntlet and acquired the ability to control the universe’ very fabric. This being Thanos’ most famous storyline, it was only natural the MCU adapted it, with his search to acquire the Infinity Stones (slight name change) being the overarching thread throughout the 22-film saga that concluded with Avengers: Endgame.
9 Inaccurate: No Infatuation With Death
In the pages of Marvel comics, Thanos’ motivation is one of the most classic of all dramatic storylines: unrequited love. The object of his affections is one of the most unique, however; Thanos is infatuated with Death itself, who appears to him the form of a beautiful woman. The light of Thanos’ life nonetheless refuses to return his affections or even acknowledge him, no matter how many souls Thanos butchers in her name. However, in the MCU, Death and Thanos’ affection for her was excised, out of fears that introducing another character to the already overcrowded Infinity War would’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back that was the film’s narrative.
8 Accurate: The Snap
One of the most famous moments in The Infinity Gauntlet comes in the mini-series’ first issue; to demonstrate the power in his grasp and as a vain attempt to woo Death, Thanos snaps his fingers and causes half the universe’s population to fade from existence. The lives obliterated are only restored time is reversed by 24 hours, ensuring the finger snap never happens in the first place.
Even if his motivation for doing so was different, Infinity War likewise featured Thanos snapping his fingers to halve the universe’s population, while Endgame featured the surviving heroes undoing the effects with the help of time travel.
7 Inaccurate: “Balancing The Universe”
With Death excised, the MCU needed a new motivation for Thanos to want to acquire the Infinity Stones and cut the universe’s population. Thus emerged the obsession with “balance” now known as intrinsic to Brolin’s Thanos; in order to save the universe from eventual implosion by way of overpopulation, Thanos wanted to reduce the universe’s population so that the universe’s finite resources would be more equitably distributed. This was quite a departure from the comics’ Thanos, who kills to bring himself satisfaction and who’s never maintained the pretense of nobility in the same way his MCU counterpart does.
6 Accurate: A Call To Agriculture
In the final pages of The Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock is living a simple life as a farmer on a small planet. Having wielded ultimate power and come away from the experience unfulfilled, Thanos has forsaken his dreams of conquest and power and plans to live out the rest of his days in blissful exile. Thanos has a similar ending in Infinity War; having successfully used the Gauntlet to “balance the universe,” he retires to a planet known as “the Garden”. In the MCU, however, the heroes were less keen to let Thanos go about his retirement in peace.
5 Inaccurate: He Didn’t Destroy Titan
In both the comics and MCU, Thanos hails from a now ruined world known as Titan (though in the comics Titan is, in fact, Saturn’s moon of the same name, which isn’t the case in the MCU). Treated as an outcast by his people throughout his life due to his mutated appearance, Thanos left the planet and returned with an army of space marauders, enacting nuclear armageddon upon his own people.
In the MCU, Thanos played a far less personal role in Titan’s destruction; the planet instead suffered an overpopulation crisis, though nonetheless rejected Thanos’ planned remedy of randomly killing half the people.
4 Accurate: Relationship with Gamora
Gamora, “The Most Dangerous Woman In The Galaxy,” is the adopted daughter/former chief enforcer of Thanos in both the comics and the MCU. When her people, the Zen-Whoberi, were wiped out by the Church of Universal Truth, herself the sole survivor, Thanos adopted the young Gamora and trained her as an assassin. Her backstory is much the same in the MCU, only in this telling it was Thanos himself who invaded her homeworld, and fittingly, he slaughtered only half her people. While more outwardly affectionate to Gamora in the MCU then he often was in the comics, Thanos proves to be just as abusive a father as his comic counterpart when he hurls Gamora to her death to acquire the Soul Stone.
3 Inaccurate: Relationship with Nebula
Gamora isn’t the only adopted daughter of Thanos in the MCU, there’s also Nebula, who, like her sister, came into Thanos’ possession when his forces murdered her family. Nebula received the brunt of Thanos’ abuse and was painfully transformed into a cyborg to offset her perceived inadequacies. Nebula’s counterpart in Marvel comics, on the other hand, bears only superficial resemblance to the MCU version; a pirate by trade, Nebula claimed to be the granddaughter of Thanos when first introduced, but this claim has been contested, and she had no relationship with the Mad Titan before his resurrection just prior to The Infinity Gauntlet.
2 Accurate: The Black Order
Jonathan Hickman introduced the Black Order in the pages of Infinity; a group of powerful warriors who help Thanos hold worlds hostage for tribute, and who then raze the ones unable or unwilling to comply.
The group’s depiction in Infinity War/Endgame changed certain aspects of the group, notably making them “children” of Thanos in the same vein as Gamora and Nebula, rather than simply allied warriors. The fact remains, however, that in both the MCU and the comics, the Black Order serves at Thano’s behest and invaded Earth on their master’s command.
1 Inaccurate: No Thane
There was one child of Thanos that the MCU excluded; Thane. Unlike his adopted siblings, Thane is a biological, albeit illegitimate, son of Thanos, born from a one night stand between the Mad Titan and an Inhuman woman. Living in Attilan, Thanos invades Earth to kill Thane, fearful his son might one day usurp him. Given how many characters and storylines the MCU films starring Thanos featured already, Thane’s exclusion was an understandable one.
From his backstory to his motivation, how much of comic book Thanos does the Marvel Cinematic Universe use?