Avengers: Infinity War, which just racked up the biggest opening weekend of all time, is chock full of superheroes (EW had to assemble 15 different covers just to fit them all), but much of the movie’s runtime is spent with a single character, the galactic supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin), who seeks unlimited power so that he can finally “balance” the universe. Though he had been glimpsed before in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, Infinity War marks his real introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Viewers who find themselves taken aback by his grim logic or sympathetic dedication should know that Thanos is one of the most fearsome villains Marvel has to offer, and there are decades’ worth of thrilling comics about him. Anyone who wants to know more about the Mad Titan would do well to check out some of them.
Below, EW assembled five of our favorite Thanos comics. To see how certain scenes and visuals made a direct impact on Infinity War, check here.
Jim Starlin (writer), George Pérez and Ron Lim (artists)
This is the big one, the source of Infinity War’s basic story. It was here, in one of Marvel’s first massive summer crossover events, that the Mad Titan Thanos assembled all six Infinity Gems for the purpose of wiping out half the universe’s population with a snap of his fingers. MCU viewers should be aware, however, that the comic version of Thanos is a bit more of a psychopathic nihilist than the film version. So here, Thanos’ ultimate goal in killing so many people wasn’t to balance the universe but rather to please Mistress Death, the anthropomorphic personification of oblivion and thus one of the few beings Thanos has ever “loved.” Jim Starlin had originally created Thanos in the ‘70s as a foil for space heroes like Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock (based in part on Jack Kirby’s New Gods characters Darkseid and Metron), but the character had lain dormant for years when Starlin returned to Marvel in the early ’90s. Infinity Gauntlet picked up a lot of threads Starlin had left hanging in his earlier work and was originally intended as the last Thanos story … but in a classic comics twist, the series sold so well that it earned sequel comics (including Infinity War, from which the new movie drew its title but not its plot) and adaptations and many, many more story lines