The Mad Titan Thanos is arguably one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe. Even without the reality-warping Infinity Gauntlet, he’s a force to be reckoned with. Plus, he loves death. Well, specifically Death, the female personification of mortality in the Marvel world. He’s stacked up a huge body count in efforts to impress her and has no qualms whatsoever when it comes to planet-wide genocide. Despite being insanely strong and nigh-indestructible, Thanos’ greatest weapon is his mind, with his super-genius intellect making him an incredibly tough opponent to face.
Taking this all into account, is it any wonder that the MCU has taken its time to build to him? We’ll finally get to see Josh Brolin let loose in the role Avengers: Infinity War, and it looks like it’ll take the majority of the Marvel’s impressive superhero roster to even stand a chance at defeating him. But while the Mad Titan may be incredibly smart and ridiculously tough, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had his ass handed to him on occasion. Here are 15 Characters Who’ve Beaten Up Thanos.
This one could technically be credited to all of the Guardians, but it’s Peter Quill who gets the KO blow (or energy blast in this case). In Issue #25 of the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch, our misfit heroes suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of a newly resurrected (and super pissed) Thanos. The Guardians bravely try to mount an attack, but nothing seems to work.
That’s when Star-Lord pulls out a cosmic cube. He explains that the cube has one more charge left in it and briefly quells the raging Thanos. Before he can even think about taking it from Quill, the cube gives off a massive energy blast that knocks the Titan unconscious and leaves him comatose. It’s a big victory for Peter and the Guardians, who kick back and celebrate at a bar, blissfully unaware that they’ve merely won a battle and have a whole war still left to fight.
14. Squirrel Girl
Doreen Green, aka the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, is one of the more unusual heroes in Marvel’s crazy huge heroic roster. Doreen’s superhumanly strong, but perhaps her biggest game-changing ability is the power to summon an army of squirrels to do her bidding. This may not sound like much, but her combined powers have put down some of the toughest heroes and villains going, with the list including Doctor Doom, Wolverine, MODOK, and, of course, Thanos.
Thanos’ ignoble defeat occurs in the pages of the Great Lakes Avengers Christmas One-Shot, GLX-Mas #1. Like with many of SG’s victories, the actual act takes place off-panel as part of a running joke that Green can beat beings that are way more powerful than her. Uatu the Watcher is on hand to explain that SG has defeated the genuine Thanos and not a clone, an illusion, or any of those narrative “Get Out Of Jail Free” cards comic writers often use. However, in a later issue, Thanos reveals that the memory came from a clone that had undergone some brain tampering and may not be accurate. Whether the actual fight ever took place is up in the air, but it’s still a good gag and worthy of a mention.
In Avengers Assemble #8, Thanos gets a hefty dose of humility. The Guardians and The Avengers visit the Elders of the Universe to find a way to stop Thanos, who is using a “cosmic cube” (actually an advanced dark matter generator) to bend the Earth to his will. The Elders state that the tyrant has made “quite a spectacle of himself” and send the heroes back to Earth, kitted out with a borrowed weapon from The Collector. One blast from Taneleer’s toy and Thanos goes from cosmic and all-powerful to purple and punchable.
All of the heroes are itching to get a piece of Thanos, but Groot is Fastballed by the Hulk into the falling Titan. Groot unleashes his full botanical fury on Thanos, raining punches on him as they both plummet to the ground. When they do land, Thanos finally manages to swat Groot away, only to see an army of heroes thundering towards him and who waste little time in pummelling him. This is clearly a team effort, but it’s awesome that Groot gets a moment to shine before the carnage kicks off.
12. Doctor Doom
Central to crossover event Secret Wars was the strange patchwork planet of Battleworld ruled over by the cosmically powered Victor Von Doom. Now named God Emperor Doom, Victor can bend and shape realities at will. The stranded surviving heroes from alternate universes stage an attack on Castle Doom, but it’s not long before Thanos and his squad show up, eager for some action. Doom confronts the horde and is soon met by the tyrant himself, who squares up to him.
Doom tries to reason with the Titanian, stating that he can keep his bug army in exchange for his fealty. However, Thanos being Thanos counters that it is Doom who should bow before him. Big mistake. In one swift move, Doom rips Thanos’ skeleton out of his body, leaving the rest to crumple to the ground. If ever there was a show of absolute power, it’d be this moment. Granted, Thanos doesn’t get beaten up in the traditional sense, but Doom’s complete domination of Thanos earns it a place nonetheless. Doom could have easily flattened him, but chose to skip to the end and pay tribute to Mortal Kombat instead.
11. Captain Marvel
There have been seven people called Captain Marvel in the past, so we’re going to have to be specific. We’re talking about Mar-Vell, the Kree warrior who was created out of a lawsuit between Marvel and DC over the rights to call a character “Captain Marvel”. It’s unlikely that any of you are massive fans of the Mar-Vell incarnation, but he did end up having an interesting encounter with Thanos in Captain Marvel #31. After being captured in the previous issue, Mar-Vell, Iron Man, Moondragon and Drax the Destroyer break free of Thanos’ stasis field and go on the attack.
Mar-Vell is the first one up and, to be fair to him, he manages to hold his own in a fistfight for a short while, even staggering Thanos a few times, an admittedly tough feat on its own. However, as the fight goes on, the inevitable happens. Mar-Vell slips up and flies too close to Thanos, who snatches him from the air and stamps the pavement with Marv’s face. It’s a decisive victory for the Big T, but Mar-Vell managed to get the better of the Mad Titan for a few panels, which is more than can be said for most of the heroes who’ve faced off against him.
As powerful as the God of Thunder is, Thor is unlikely to win in a straight one-on-one with the Tyrannical One. In fact, Thanos has bested Thor many times over the years. However, in Thor Vol. 2 #25, Odinson gets a little help to even the odds.
We catch up with Thor as he shakes off his defeat at the claws of Mangog and escapes his frozen prison. He soon takes revenge on his warden and then goes after Thanos. Unbeknownst to him, Odin is also hard at work, and the All-Father enchants a freshly-forged belt, gauntlet, and shield, and sends Firelord to deliver them. Thor confronts Thanos and it doesn’t go well for the Asgardian. He’s bombarded with energy blasts until Firelord shows up with the armor. Thor dons it and suddenly, it’s game on. Thor can now resist Thanos’ devastating attacks and pushes his advantage. He lands a sweet uppercut with Mjolnir (seen above) before bringing it down on the purple brute’s head, taking him out of commission. This was later retconned as a clone and not the OG Thanos, but it’s still an impressive victory for Thor, despite Daddy having to help.
9. The New Fantastic Four
What If? Newer Fantastic Four took place in a reality where the original Fantastic Four were killed by a shape-shifting alien and other heroes stepped up to take their place. Thanos does what he’s known for and wipes half of the universe out of existence with the Infinity Gauntlet, leaving the new FF team of Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Wolverine as the only ones with a shot at stopping him.
After a few unsuccessful attacks, Wolverine decides to switch allegiances and join Team Titan. This eventually turns out to be a double bluff, of course, and Wolverine slices off Thanos’ gauntlet arm, leaving the Hulk to pound him into submission. Spider-Man seizes the Infinity Gauntlet and uses it to restore the universe to what it was and even give Thanos a new lease on life, stripping him of his powers and making him a gardener, where it’s said he finds a “simple peace”.
8. Jim, a random child
If we’re talking about the times Thanos was on the receiving end of some punishment, we have to mention Spidey Super Stories #39. In The Cat and the Cosmic Cube, we open with Hellcat, cube in hand, fleeing from Thanos in a (deep breath) personalized helicopter with his name on the side. Yup, this is the issue in which the infamous Thanoscopter makes its blockbusting debut.
Anyway, Hellcat drops the cube and Jim, a skateboarding schoolkid, happens to finds it. Thanos snatches it back, but Spider-Man and Hellcat are nearby. The fight is completely one sided (neither hero gets close enough to throw a single punch) until Thanos causes the ground to shake, knocking him off balance and causing him to drop the cube. Jim, having watched the fight from a distance, grabs it and uses its power to tie Thanos up in grass and foliage. The issue ends with the brilliant spectacle of Thanos being led away in handcuffs by the NYPD. He may not have sustained much damage in the fight, but the fact that he lost to a kid means that his dignity, if little else, took a brutal beating.
7. Iron Man (and several Avengers)
We delve into the world of animation for this one as it concerns Avengers Assemble episode, “Thanos Triumphant.” Despite such a bold title, Thanos actually loses his fight against the assembled might of The Avengers. Avengers Assemble was intended for younger audiences, so canon and established power levels aren’t really an issue. In established stories, Thanos, even without the gauntlet, would normally shrug off The Avengers – especially Tony Stark – without much effort.
However, in this episode, they manage to get the best of the Titan. While Thanos is indeed triumphant for most of the episode, the clincher comes when Tony upgrades his energy-absorbing robot Arsenal to contain Infinity Stone energy (!). Thanos blasts and blasts at Arsenal, but the robot maintains his steady pace towards the Titan, drawing level and simply taking the gauntlet from him. They’re all then teleported to Earth, and the Avengers attack. Falcon gets in some fly-by punches and Hawkeye ties him up with a specialized arrow. This merely annoys Thanos, but a swift strike on the chin from Mjolnir changes his tune, launching him up into the air before Stark gets the final blow, unibeaming him to the ground and embedding him in the concrete. Sure, it wouldn’t happen in the comic continuity, but it’s a kids show, folks. As long as they don’t pull this nonsense in the Infinity War movie, we’re cool with it.
Okay, things are going to get a special kind of strange for this entry, but it stands out as one of Thanos’ more unique fights. In Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #4, Lockjaw the Inhuman dog joins the animal Avengers in a battle against the still humanoid Thanos. Thanos has come to Earth in search of the Infinity Gems, and he finds them in the possession of a group of animals.
Thanos brawls with several cats and dogs before Lockjaw and Frog Thor aka Throg show up and rally the team (what an incredible sentence that is). The animals give their stones to Lockjaw, who blasts Thanos with a massive energy beam that floors him. The Titan and the dog have a huge energy fight as they teleport to different locations, including the Moon, locked in a powerful struggle. Eventually, Lockjaw goes Super Saiyan and banishes Thanos to another dimension before safely returning home to his furry friends. Comic books are the weirdest sometimes.
5. The Ultimates
In the run up to Marvel’s big Civil War II crossover event, we were introduced to Ulysses Cain, a student that becomes an Inhuman and has visions of the future. Ulysses finds his way to The Avengers and warns them of an impending attack. Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, sees this as a gift and a way to win their battles, but Tony Stark disagrees. Carol uses Ulysses’ visions again to stop a Thanos attack. The Ultimates win, but at the cost of War Machine and She-Hulk buying the farm.
There isn’t much focus on the Ultimates’ battle with the Corrugated Chinned One, but we know it’s the premonition that leads to Thanos’ shock defeat. What matters is that they actually won, but at a severe cost. The loss of his best friend is too much for Tony and he clashes with Danvers, kicking off the second all-encompassing Marvel civil war.
If you’re not familiar with Kevin Plunder – aka Ka-Zar the jungle wildman – and struggling to get an idea of who he is, picture Tarzan… and then stop. He’s basically Tarzan. He hasn’t got any superpowers per se, although it has been suggested his physical strength has been magically enhanced. Anyway, how could an unpowered man wearing a loincloth pose any kind of threat to the mighty Thanos? We still don’t know, but it happened.
In Ka-Zar Vol. 3 #11, Kevin fights the Titan. Plunder brawls with Thanos. They end up on a cliff edge overlooking some lava and Thanos tries to squeeze the life out of Ka-Zar. However, the love for his son (?) gives him the strength to break free and land a few punches to Thanos’ purple face. The tyrant staggers before toppling into the lava. This doesn’t kill him, but he slinks off, still burning, to try and cause more havoc before finally being stopped by a huge nuclear explosion. Since this story, it’s been suggested that the villain Ka-Zar beat may have been one of the Thanosi, Thanos’ army of imperfect clones. Imperfect is right.
3. Drax the Destroyer
As Drax the Destroyer was specifically programmed to destroy Thanos, it makes sense that he’d actually do it at some point. In Annihilation #4, he finally got his chance. Thanos has allied himself with bigger bad Annihilus and plots to betray him. Drax – unaware of this and filled with righteous fury – tears his way through to the Titan by shredding his massive bug army.
Soaked in insect entrails and fuming, Drax finally catches up to Thanos, launching himself at him and ripping through his forcefield with his bare hands. As Thanos pays little attention to this, Drax drives his arm through the Titan’s back and punches out his chest, Thanos’ heart grasped tightly in his fist. Once again, Thanos’ ego proved to be his downfall, and Drax was all too willing to take advantage of it. This was later undone, and it’s even called back to in Guardians of the Galaxy #25, the first entry on this very list.
In the 2003 mini-series Thanos, the Mad Titan gave up his evil ways and fought on the side of good for a change. A dark force known as The Hunger has manipulated Galactus into believing he can cure himself of his planet-consuming addiction. Thanos teleports into Galactus’ base and seeks to merely talk. The Eater of Worlds has little time for Thanos’ protests, however, and moves to attack. Thanos hits him with a mighty energy blast that sends the big G skipping across the planet’s surface like an angry pebble.
Thanos holds his own against Galactus, even managing to shield himself from a massive cosmic blast. However, a second one proves to be too much to handle, and it floors him. Galactus picks the injured Thanos up in his gigantic hand and readies his eye lasers. The Titan manages to talk his way out of a certain death, but is unceremoniously dropped, landing in a painful heap. The only thing Galactus could have done to make this more humiliating is if he’d taken Thanos’ lunch money afterwards.
As the Asgardian All-Father is one of the most powerful beings in Marvel comics, a superpowered smackdown between Odin and Thanos was bound to be on the cards. In Warlock and the Infinity Watch story Raid on Asgard, the two powerful behemoths clash when Thanos arrives on the Bifrost looking to kill Heimdall. Odin senses the attack and heads off Thanos at the pass, meeting him on the rainbow bridge and standing his ground.
The two have an almighty lightshow of a battle, with each having an answer for what the other can throw at them. The tide turns when Odin hits Thanos with an especially powerful blast that sends his foe careening through the air and several Asgardian buildings. Despite being beaten, Thanos refuses to yield. The Mad Titans’ toughness is impressive, and even Odin concedes that he’s a worthy opponent. Before the fight can continue, Lady Sif and Beta Ray Bill show up to inform Odin that Thor is sick. The two combatants agree to work together to get to the bottom of Thor’s ailment. Talk about anti-climatic. Here’s hoping they have a rematch in the future.
What other Marvel characters have gotten the best of Thanos? Who do you think will do it in the MCU? Let us know in the comments.