Avengers: Infinity War, which just dropped a meaty new trailer today, has been building up its main villain for a long time. We’ve gotten glimpses of Josh Brolin’s Thanos as early as 2012’s Avengers, where he turned up as the force behind Loki’s attempt to take over the Earth. Since then, he’s sort of been the CEO of evil in the Marvel universe, supporting the schemes of Ronan in Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ultron in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, before appearing at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. But who is he, really, and what’s he after?
The key thing to know about Thanos, at least the Thanos who’s appeared for years in Marvel Comics, is he’s literally in love with the personification of Death (an obsession he shares at times with Deadpool). And that appears to have carried over to the movies, as he apparently wants to erase half of all life in the universe. The character was created in the early ’70s by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich and, in the comics, Thanos is the child of powerful creatures called Eternals, and largely ostracized for his appearance. As he ages, he becomes increasingly obsessed with nihilism and death, and also augmenting his physical form through any means necessary to complement his vast intellect, which is why he’s a giant purple brick s#!thouse who punches out several Avengers in the movie. His MCU quest for the Infinity Stones is heavily inspired by the 1991 miniseries Infinity Gauntlet, written by Starlin, but even without the Infinity Stones, if you cross Thanos, it’s probably going to be the last thing you do.
He’s also been rampaging across the MCU for a long, long time and the Guardians of the Galaxy have, in particular, suffered at his hands. Thanos killed the entire family of Drax (Dave Bautista) and wiped out most of Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) species. The comics have implied, more than once, that Thanos is wittingly or unwittingly the avatar of a force of nature, with his counterbalance being Adam Warlock, who shifts from being a bad guy to a hero in the comics as he stands in opposition to Thanos. By what we’re sure is a coincidence, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 ends with the implication that Adam Warlock, who normally holds the Soul Stone, is being created by Ayesha, the genetically perfect being the Guardians rob at the beginning of the movie, as a super soldier to beat up Star Lord and his team. Which seems a bit excessive, but these galactic beings live their lives at a much higher emotional pitch.
In other words, Thanos is the worst of the worst, but we should keep in mind that the movies have deviated from the comics before, and the trailers seem to emphasize Thanos’ emotional connection, as abusive as it is, to Gamora, who is his adopted daughter. So he may have far more personal reasons for rampaging across the universe: We’ll find out April 27th.