Everyone knows that Squirrel Girl is unbeatable, as that has become one of the defining traits for the character over the years. All she does is eat nuts and kick butts, but one of her most famous victories has some interesting lingering questions about it that have never fully been answered.
At the heart of the question of, “Did Squirrel Girl really defeat Thanos?” is how much writer Dan Slott knows about how comic book fans think and how he has been able to play around with their conceptions for a series of massive plot swerves meant to poke fun at the obsession that comic book fans have with “who would win a fight?”
Squirrel Girl made her debut in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes #8 in 1990. Marvel Super-Heroes was designed as a follow-up series to Marvel Fanfare. Both series would feature stories from either canceled titles or, more commonly, inventory stories that Marvel never got a chance to use. An “inventory story” is typically a script an editor will hire a writer to produce that, if need be, can be given to an artist to draw if a title is having deadline issues. Sometimes, the story would even be illustrated and not used. In any event, since Marvel paid for these scripts, if they never got used as actual fill-ins, Marvel would then have them appear in Marvel Fanfare and after that series was canceled, Marvel Super-Heroes. Will Murray wrote an Iron Man fill-in script that introduced a new superhero called Squirrel Girl. It was then drawn by Steve Ditko and published in Marvel Super-Heroes.
Murray wanted a lighthearted story, feeling superheroes were getting a bit too grim and gritty, so Squirrel Girl was just the answer. In that first appearance, she and her squirrel friends impressively defeat Doctor Doom!
That was the only comic book appearance by Squirrel Girl for over a decade until Dan Slott decided to bring her back as a member of the Great Lakes Avengers in the GLA series in 2005 (art by Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar)…
Even though she joined the team in the second issue, Squirrel Girl and her squirrel sidekick, Monkey Joe, narrated the story, interacting with the readers and doing some meta-fictional commentary on how serious comic books had gotten over the years (things got worse when Monkey Joe himself was murdered in a satire of those very types of senseless comic book murders that the book was criticizing).
At the end of the series, the members of the Great Lakes Avengers realized that they were all mutants, so they decided to become the Gret Lakes X-Men, or GLX for short. This led into the GLX Holiday Special, where Slott really began to have fun with the fact that Squirrel Girl’s first appearance saw her defeat one of the most formidable villains the Marvel Universe in Doctor Doom.
So all throughout the Holiday Special, Squirrel Girl easily defeats some major villains. First, in a story drawn by Matt Haley, she takes down M.O.D.O.K. along with her new squirrel sidekick, Tippy-Toe…
In the next story, drawn by Georges Jeanty and Drew Geraci, Squirrel Girl amazingly defeats Thanos in an entirely off-panel battle!
The trick here, is that Slott specifically has the Watcher show up and announce that Thanos was the real Thanos and not a clone, robot or simulacrum. This was Slott poking fun at the fact that Thanos’ creator, Jim Starlin, had revealed in a Thanos miniseries that pretty much every time that THanos had been defeated in a comic book not written by Jim Starlin, then that Thanos was a clone of the real Thanos…
Slott knows how seriously people take whether or not Character X can be defeated by Character Y (even, in this instance, the creator of the character is the one taking it very seriously), so he went out of his way to make it so that there was no way for anyone to say that this was not the real Thanos.
Or was there?
In She-Hulk #12 (the 2005 series), Dan Slott, Rick Burchett and Cliff Rathburn told the story of the trial of Eros, the Avenger known as Starfox. Eros had been accused of using his ability to alter people’s emotions in a nefarious manner. Eros’ brother, Thanos, showed up to testify in his brother’s trial. At the end of the issue, Thanos made the shocking revelation (via telepathic testimony, which takes away the opportunity for a being to lie under oath) that it was Eros who had used his powers to make Thanos fall in love with death and therefore, you could argue that it was Eros who was ultimately responsible for all those who Thanos had killed over the years due to his love for Death itself….
She-Hulk, though, felt that this was all too convenient. Using Moondragon’s telepathic powers, She-Hulk essentially entered Thanos’ mind in the following issue where she discovered that this was not the real Thanos, but rather a very special clone of Thanos. We then discovered that this clone of Thanos was so perfectly done that it would fool anyone, even a cosmic being…
Therefore, Slott very pointedly undercut his very own original joke in the GLX Holiday Special about the fact that the Watcher noted that the Thanos who lost to Squirrel Girl was definitely the real Thanos. Now, Slott was saying that it is possible that there is a clone of Thanos who is so good that it could even fool the Watcher.
However, there is a whole other wrinkle thrown into the mix, as we find out in that issue that the memories of the clone were, quite naturally, tampered with by Thanos, since he needed for the clone to have the legitimate memory of Eros creating a love in Thanos for death (which did not actually happen). If Thanos altered the clone’s memories, though, then it is very possible that he made the clone remember that Thanos said that he could create a clone that could fool anyone. In other words, it is possible that Thanos was lying about being able to fool the Watcher with a clone!
So that leaves us with Squirrel Girl defeating a character who is known to have created clones of himself and in fact, most of his most embarrassing losses were credited to those clones. However, we also have the Watcher saying that the Thanos who Squirrel Girl defeated was not a clone, but we also have a clone of Thanos that Thanos claims can fool anyone, even a cosmic being like the Watcher. That clone, though, could have had its memories altered to implant that claim from Thanos.
In the end, then, Dan Slott has successfully messed with all of our heads to poke fun at jut how seriously people take the question of whether Squirrel Girl can actually defeat Thanos or not.
Everyone knows Squirrel Girl is unbeatable, but when it comes to her defeat of Thanos, there are some interesting lingering questions about the fight.