Six interconnected superhero films formed what is officially dubbed “Phase One” of the Marvel cinematic universe with The Avengers serving as the closing chapter. It wasn’t until last summer however, with Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor did moviegoers get introduced to the larger cosmic universe and the otherworldly characters it hosts.
The Tesseract, or the Cosmic Cube as it’s more commonly referred to as, became the McGuffin that drove the plot of The Avengers, forcing together the characters we met over the last few years and throwing them headfirst into a battle against Loki and his army of alien invaders. Loki was introduced in Thor and after putting on a show this summer, returns for his brother’s sequel Thor: The Dark World next fall. But as we learned during a few off-planet scenes in The Avengers, Loki was merely a servant of someone and something much greater.
When Joss Whedon was brought in to helm The Avengers he completely rewrote the script previously drafted by Zak Penn. Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige only had a few guidelines for what Whedon’s film must include: a Tesseract-powered portal opening in New York leading to an alien invasion. The Chitauri and their leader who showed up during the mid-credits sequence, Thanos, were selected by Whedon, and it was done so very intentionally.
For years, Feige has namedropped the Guardians of the Galaxy as a property he and Marvel Studios were legitimately interested in adapting into a feature film in an effort to bring fans deeper into the cosmic side of Marvel Comics. If Iron Man were a B-List character before he got his own movie, the Guardians are D-List. The success and acceptance of The Avengers and its sci-fi elements has allowed them to take even greater risks and as we learned (officially) at Comic-Con, that’s exactly the plan. It’s always been a near certainty that Thanos would return for Guardians of the Galaxy but his role in the bigger picture plans for the future of the franchise hasn’t been so clear.
On the Screen Rant Underground podcast we talked in detail on several occasions about our theories of Guardians introducing a new set of characters to battle Thanos in a story that would serve as a lead-in to The Avengers 2 the following summer. Since that time, Joss Whedon signed to write and direct The Avengers 2 with a release date in May 2015, meaning it’s picking up where Guardians of the Galaxy will end. Can we then expect Thanos to be the primary villain of The Avengers 2? Yes.
Jim Starlin created the character Thanos and was responsible for his most popular appearances beginning with the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries. He was not however, given any credit, notice or as he points out, a ticket to see The Avengers movie despite his creation showing up at the end. He loved the movie but was none to happy about how he was(n’t) treated by Marvel. He said the following to Hero Complex about Thanos showing up in The Avengers a week after the film hit North American theaters.
“It’s nice to see my work recognized as being worth something beyond the printed page, and it was very cool seeing Thanos up on the big screen. Joss Whedon and his crew did an excellent job on The Avengers movie and I look forward to the sequel, for obvious reasons. But this is the second film that had something I created for Marvel in it — the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor being the other – and both films I had to pay for my own ticket to see them. Financial compensation to the creators of these characters doesn’t appear to be part of the equation.”
Negative buzz – or potential legal proceedings – from an unhappy creator of a character key to the film franchise is the last thing Marvel Studios needs and Starlin was quickly brought in for damage control (oddly enough, the Thanos prequel comic was also suspiciously canceled by Marvel in July). Starlin has since chatted with Comic Book Therapy where he revealed that he was “in talks” with David Bogart, SVP of Operations & Procurement, Publishing at Marvel Entertainment. According to a reader of Cosmic Book News who chatted with Starlin at Montreal Comic-Con this weekend, Starlin now has a deal in place with Marvel and will seemingly be compensated for his creations being used in the films.
And we pluralize “films” because Starlin said that Thanos will appear in both Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers 2. It’s not a surprise as Thanos’ role in Marvel Comics is much more far-reaching than that of a villain relegated to battling only the Guardians and it opens the doors to a lot of speculation about the connectivity between a few of the Phase Two films. Without getting into too much detail or summing up key story lines from the books, Thanos is going to want/need that pretty golden glove hidden away in Odin’s Vault, as revealed in Thor. That’s the overly powerful Infinity Gauntlet and from the sounds of it, quite a few of the items in that vault may no longer be in the vault a few films from now.
That could mean that Thor: The Dark World will tease Guardians of the Galaxy and the villains of the Thor sequel may breakout the items from the vault (bring on Dr. Strange!). Either way, The Guardians of the Galaxy are going to be protecting Earth from the villain also known as The Mad Titan and they do not want him to get the Infinity Gauntlet. The Avengers really won’t want him to have that glove either come time for their second team-up.
Anxious to see Thanos courting Death?
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014 and The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
Header image edited from The Thanos Imperative (2010) #3 covert art by Aleksi Briclot.