At first glance, the relationship between Gamora, Nebula, and Thanos might appear to be one comprised entirely of enmity. After all, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos stole Gamora and Nebula away from their families, and despite calling them his children, made their upbringings the stuff of nightmares.
When we first met Gamora and Nebula back in Guardians of the Galaxy, they appeared to have no problem trying to take one another out. Gamora betrays Thanos in that film, and Nebula appears to be loyal to him, and that seems to be that. But as the characters have grown and developed in the MCU through Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the recent Avengers: Infinity War, a rich backstory has emerged between Gamora, Nebula, and Thanos.
All three of the characters changed from comics page to movie screen, and this list will include facts from both of those sources.
In the comics, just like the films, Gamora was a daughter of Thanos who betrayed him and eventually joined the Guardians of the Galaxy. Likewise, Thanos’ screen portrayal is very similar to his comics persona, the Mad Titan driven by nihilism to kill half of the living beings in the universe.
Nebula, however, had her backstory changed more than the other two did, as her origin is very similar to Gamora’s in the MCU. Thus, the three characters know each other intimately, and have more than their fair share of secrets.
Here are 16 Secrets About Nebula and Gamora’s Relationship With Thanos.
SPOILER WARNING: Some entries contain plot points from Avengers: Infinity War.
16 Thanos forcefully adopted Nebula and Gamora
The Thanos “family” isn’t related by blood. It’s related by war.
In the MCU, Thanos is an intergalactic warlord, a despot who travels from planet to planet, wiping out half of their populations as he does so. He believes that halving the universe’s population will “balance the universe,” but he doesn’t merely show up, end lives, and leave. Sometimes he takes orphans with him - orphans whose parents his own army have taken out. He occasionally trains these orphans to be some of the most sophisticated fighters in the universe, and Gamora and Nebula are two of those.
In the comics, Thanos actually had biological offspring of his own, but he destroyed them. None of the Thanos Family is actually related to him, as he accumulated followers through his bloody exploits.
His other "children" that appear in Avengers: Infinity War--Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, and Cull Obsidian--comprise the highest-ranking members of the Black Order. These other children seem to have no problems with their upbringing, as the Black Order is unquestioningly loyal to their master.
Gamora and Nebula took exception to it, though, and once you find out what they had to go through as children, you'll understand why.
15 Thanos forced Gamora and Nebula to fight each other
As revealed in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, we knew Thanos had been a harsh parent to Gamora and Nebula. But it wasn't until the second film that audiences found out just how hard it had been on the two women.
Thanos hoped to inspire competition between the two, and forced them to fight each other in brutal combat over and over again. Thanos always intended to turn Gamora and Nebula into finely-honed machines, and figured the quickest way to do it would be forcing them to fight day after day.
The problem was, Gamora won every fight the two ever had, so it mostly existed to instill jealousy in Nebula for her sister.
These fights may have helped Gamora find favor with Thanos, but for Nebula it was a constant reminder of being second best-- not to mention the horrifying penalties Thanos enforced on the loser (more on those in a moment).
War was all that Gamora and Nebula had ever known, and it informs their actions in every film they appear in. They were forced to fight by the being that called them his children, so they have a hardened survivor's mentality to go along with their skills in battle.
14 Thanos "upgraded" Nebula
As a result of the aforementioned duels with Gamora, Nebula had to endure brutal punishments for losing. Whenever Nebula lost a fight against Gamora (and she never won, not even once) Thanos would replace one of her body parts with a mechanical prosthetic.
As her losses mounted, Nebula eventually became as much machine as she was a Luphomoid (the name of her alien race).
By the time audiences first saw Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, she had acquired all kinds of superhuman traits thanks to Thanos' so-called "upgrades," which we got to see in full view when she fought the Guardians.
Superhuman strength, enhanced senses, and automatic repair were just some of the augmentations Thanos imposed on Nebula's body. These may sound great to you, but remember that the process to replace a body part with a machine would be tremendously painful, not to mention psychologically traumatizing.
While Nebula's cybernetics may look cool or grant her power, there's no question that she'd prefer not to have them. These "upgrades" made Nebula into an imposing supervillain, driven by rage and pain to maim and destroy-- an impulse she has only gotten over with a lot of help from Gamora - and a lot of hatred for Thanos.
13 Gamora was Thanos’ favorite daughter
In one of the very first scenes where we actually get dialogue from the Mad Titan Thanos, he refers to Gamora as his favorite daughter. This scene is found in Guardians of the Galaxy, as Thanos chastises Ronan the Accuser for his handling of the situation with the Power Stone (he also calls Ronan a "pouty child," which is just great in its own right).
The scene actually sets up the events of Infinity War fairly well, as it shows Thanos is pretty much unwilling to accept that Gamora had truly betrayed him. This gets paid off in the most recent Avengers film when Thanos tricks Gamora into thinking she has destroyed him, just to see if she felt any anguish over doing the deed.
Gamora has always been Thanos' blind spot.
In Guardians of the Galaxy he would rather threaten Ronan than blame Gamora for obviously betraying him. And in Infinity War she is shown to be the one person Thanos truly loves. This is proven in a brutal, twisted way, but when has Thanos done anything that wasn't brutal and twisted?
The sick thing about Thanos is that he isn't some monster devoid of feeling-- he is trying to destroy half the universe because he believes its resources are too finite, so he wants to save it. Despite being incredibly harsh and cruel to his children, he does seem to love his favorite daughter.
12 Thanos once turned Nebula into a mindless zombie
Nebula was an antagonist in the comics for many years. Her initial run started with an ill-advised assault on one of Thanos' abandoned outposts, and ended in a terrible outcome for the blue alien.
After tangling with the Avengers and the Skrulls, among others, Nebula came face-to-face with the Mad Titan himself. While she tried to mollify Thanos by saying she was related to him (more on that in a moment), Thanos brushed off any hint of a connection and brutally attacked her. After getting hit by Thanos' full power-- which includes energy beams far beyond what most life forms can survive-- there was hardly anything left of Nebula.
Thanos did not take her life. Instead, he allowed her to wander and roam, without any real mind of her own.
He called Nebula his greatest creation, as she was, for all intents and purposes, lifeless yet was still somehow unable to pass on.
Thanos has always had an obsession with death, and turning Nebula into a zombie was like getting a new toy for him. It is also somewhat reminiscent of Nebula's treatment at Thanos' hands in the MCU, echoing the combat upgrades the Mad Titan forced on her after losing fights to Gamora. Regardless, it shows just how callous Thanos can be.
11 Nebula once stole the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos
Thanos' main storyline has always revolved around the Infinity Stones and the Infinity Gauntlet; items of such incredible power that when they are all combined allow the wielder to control the universe with a snap of their fingers.
Thanos has always been defeated in the end (with the exception of one or two alternate realities), and it tends to come from the unlikeliest of places. One of those places was Nebula as, after being defeated by Thanos, she ended up taking the Infinity Gauntlet for herself.
She used the Gauntlet to essentially revive herself from the wounds Thanos had given her, and was going to use its immense power to reshape the universe in her image until she was stopped.
Nebula was an important part of the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that she's featured fairly prominently in Infinity War. Given her history with the Gauntlet, she may play a very important role in Infinity War's upcoming sequel.
While it doesn't seem all that likely given the way the MCU tends to work (female characters have played second fiddle to male characters in the MCU in literally every single movie, until the upcoming Captain Marvel), we could see an echo of Nebula's role in the comics and see her take the Gauntlet from dear old Dad.
10 Gamora and Thanos have teamed up to save the universe multiple times
If nothing else, this list should tell you that Thanos, Gamora, and Nebula are complicated figures who have found themselves on both sides of good and evil, both sides of hate and love.
The Infinity Gauntlet storyline should prove this duality in Thanos, much like it Avengers: Infinity War did. After Thanos was stopped by heroes led by Adam Warlock, he was later resurrected. He then went on to aid the heroes against other villainous wielders of the Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos' frequent helper in these surprisingly heroic endeavors? None other than his favorite daughter Gamora.
Adam Warlock brought his own share of demons to the Infinity Gauntlet, as he sealed off both the good and evil parts of himself to be able to wield it. The good and evil Adam Warlock (who went by the Goddess and the Magus, respectively) were each complete entities unto themselves, and each one of them conspired to take the gauntlet--and they weren't the only ones.
Much like Thanos, each wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet had sinister designs for the ultimate power in the universe (yeah, even the Goddess) and so they had to be stopped. Luckily, Thanos and Gamora, those two heroes who definitely always get along and save the day, were there to help out.
9 All three of them are mass criminals
Thanos is known for his various destructive sprees, but Gamora and Nebula are no saints themselves. Thanos is a big-time warlord, so he probably has the highest tally of the three, but did you know that in the comics Nebula once destroyed an entire planet? And not just any planet. She destroyed Xandar, while the Xandarians (and the Nova Corps) were on it.
This occurred in Nebula's first incarnation, as a supervillain, but it's still a mass attack. And remember that Gamora was an assassin in Thanos' employ long before she ever became a Guardian of the Galaxy. No one can say for sure just how many people Gamora eliminated for Thanos, but it seems fair to say it wasn't just a few.
Thanos, of course, dwarfs any body count from the other two combined. In Infinity War alone, Thanos manages to erase half of the entire universe. Thanos grew up surrounded by loss, and even fell in love with Mistress Death, the physical incarnation of the abstract concept.
While Gamora and Nebula are certainly fearsome criminals, capable of vast amounts of destruction, their numbers are nothing in comparison the Mad Titan's.
8 Thanos rescued Gamora from a different dimension
Gamora's origin story in the comics is very similar to her treatment in the MCU, being an adoptive daughter of Thanos. There are some significant tweaks that had to be made to adapt the character to the big screen, and chief among them is her home dimension.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn't gotten into the whole "multiple realities" thing yet, so Gamora couldn't start out in another dimension, she had to start out in Earth-199999 (the technical name for the MCU's reality). In the comics, Thanos didn't just pick Gamora off of an alien planet. Oh no, he had to go much farther afield.
In the comics, Thanos shows up to another dimension (specifically, the dimension of Earth-7528) and saves Gamora from religious persecution.
So in the comics, it isn't Thanos who mass destroys Gamora's people-- he merely saves her from the destruction. It's not entirely clear why Thanos saves Gamora, other than the fact that he was looking a new pupil to train to be a fighter. He states several times in the comics that he wanted a unique kind of assassin, one that he personally trained to be both unfailingly loyal and an expert attacker. Apparently, a young girl from Earth-7528 fit that description.
7 Nebula worked for Gamora
In the time following her big dust-up involving the Infinity Gauntlet, not much was seen of Nebula. She was freed from the prison Thanos had put her in, and surgery gave her back her mind (and also gave her the look the MCU emulated), but she didn't appear in many storylines. Nebula just wasn't that important a character, and when she did appear, it tended to be as a destructive force.
It was something of a surprise that when she returned (during the Annihilation crossover event), it was as one of Gamora's Graces, a group of fighters led by The Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy herself.
Gamora led her Graces into battle against Ronan the Accuser (another figure from the MCU's Guardians of the Galaxy) during the Annihilation event, and Nebula was one of them. Much like how Nebula eventually becomes a de facto member of the Guardians after reconciling with Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the two characters ended up working together against a galactic threat.
The fight against Ronan doesn't go too well for Nebula-- he defeats and wounds her-- but Gamora fares a bit better. The Graces may not have lasted long (they appear to have since disbanded), but it's possible that Gamora's team-up with Nebula there helped inform their storylines in the MCU.
6 Nebula claimed she was Thanos’ granddaughter
When Nebula first appeared on the scene in Marvel comics, it was as a supervillain, intent on conquering the universe for herself.
She tried to start with the Skrull empire, attacking one of Thanos' outposts that the Skrulls had taken over. Then an Avenger arrived on the scene-- but it wasn't one of the Avengers we know and love today. No, it was Thanos' own brother, Starfox Yes, in the comics, Thanos' brother Eros goes by the superhero name Starfox and is an Avenger, it's a whole thing.
That was when Nebula claimed to be Thanos' granddaughter (and therefore Starfox's relative). This caused Starfox to hesitate, and partially because of that hesitation, Nebula continued her destructive attacks on several planets.
Nebula reiterated her claims of familial connection to Thanos when the Mad Titan himself reappeared. Thanos was less than impressed by Nebula's assertion, and the encounter resulted in Nebula's aforementioned zombie-fication.
In the comics Nebula wasn't an abused, adopted child of Thanos, but a conqueror in her own right who claimed a connection by blood.
It's a change from the Cinematic Universe, for sure, as her one driving motivation in the MCU is to destroy Thanos--not to claim that she's related to him.
5 Thanos gave Gamora Christmas presents
Chalk this one up to "weird things Thanos does in the comics because he's a super weird guy." Thanos is driven by a lot of odd, conflicting motivations in both the comics and the films.
The most prominent of these is his nihilism, which constantly clashes with his sensitive emotions. You don't expect Thanos, the despotic warlord and destroyer of trillions, to genuinely love his adopted daughter Gamora, but he does (as was repeatedly shown in Infinity War). While in the film his love for his daughter manifests only at his most vulnerable moments, he expressed it much more openly in the comics-- by giving Gamora Christmas presents.
Thanos apparently wanted Gamora to have as "normal" a childhood as possible, so he observed Earth holidays with her, for some reason.
Look, don't try to find a way that this makes sense, because it doesn't. Marvel needed a story for its 1992 Holiday Special, and decided Thanos and Gamora would be perfect for it. The story revolves around Thanos giving Gamora a normal childhood because that will somehow make her a better fighter, so he gives her a doll to play with on Christmas. Gamora is grateful, Thanos is as tender as Thanos can be, and he remembers the day fondly. Sure, why not?
4 Thanos destroyed Nebula’s family and half of Gamora’s entire race
In the MCU, Thanos has spent an unspecified amount of time going from planet to planet, "balancing" the universe. Thanos' version of balance is to halve the population of each planet, and it is for this purpose he wants the Infinity Gauntlet - so he can do it quickly and effortlessly.
Along the way, Thanos has racked up millions of lives lost at his hands, and the victims of his attacks tend to be the ones he forces to join him. Gamora and Nebula belonged to two races that fell to Thanos (the Zehoberei and the Luphomoids, respectively). They were both taken as children after Thanos decimated their home planets.
In a gripping scene in Infinity War, we see Thanos' army destroy half of the Zehoberei while the Mad Titan distracts Gamora, getting her to look away from the act While it is not explicitly stated that Thanos did the same to Nebula's people, we can at least assume that he destroyed Nebula's family before taking her as his own. Either way, it's doubtful the Luphomoids came away unscathed after dealing with Thanos, as he is, to put it in Bruce Banner's words, "a plague."
What, you mean your family life didn't begin when your adoptive father committed genocide against your people? Huh.
3 Gamora fell in love with one of Thanos’ most powerful enemies
The original Infinity Gauntlet crossover event found Thanos contending against some of the strongest heroes in the universe for control of the Gauntlet.
In the desperate struggle for the Gauntlet, perhaps the greatest of all of Thanos' foes was Adam Warlock, a scientifically engineered human with a vast array of superpowers, chief among them the ability to perform magic at a quantum level, strengthened by a connection to the Soul Gem. It was Adam Warlock who ended up with the Infinity Gauntlet at the end of the crossover event and reset the timeline, restoring life to those Thanos had destroyed. It was also Adam Warlock whom Gamora fell in love with.
Warlock trusted Gamora so much that he gave her the Time Stone for safekeeping, so that the Infinity Stones could never again be wielded all together in the Gauntlet. Gamora found herself falling in love with Adam Warlock, growing jealous of his affection for his other partners. She had trouble realizing her true feelings, however, and this instability led to her giving him back the Time Stone.
Both characters have since had other lovers, but none of them were as much of a slap in the face to Thanos as this pairing.
2 When given the chance, Gamora spared Thanos’ life
This entry represents a disparity between comics-Gamora and MCU-Gamora. See, in the comics, Gamora was given a chance to finally end Thanos. He had been defeated, he was weak and vulnerable, and she spared his life.
This is echoed but not faithfully adapted in Avengers: Infinity War, as Gamora also gets a chance to take Thanos out there, but when given the opportunity in the film, she takes it. Gamora destoys what she thinks is Thanos without any hesitation (though it turns out to be a mere illusion created by Thanos to test her). That being said, while she does try to end Thanos, Gamora immediately begins to sob in misery as she mourns her adoptive father.
Both of these events show that it isn't just Thanos who holds on to sentimentality.
Gamora may act like she holds nothing but enmity for Thanos, but she still has some affection for the titan who shaped her childhood.
She knows Thanos must be stopped, but that doesn't stop her from mourning him. To be honest, her reaction in Infinity War probably makes more sense for the character. It's much more in line with her whole ethos to end Thanos and feel bad about it afterward because she knew it was the right thing to do than it is to stop herself from ending him entirely.
1 Deep down, Gamora and Nebula love each other
It sure took a while for the daughters of Thanos to realize it, but deep down, they do love each other.
What started in Guardians of the Galaxy as a purely antagonistic relationship ended up being something heartwarming by the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Much like this list, those movies proved that there was something beyond the surface enmity between the characters.
After an intense battle (and a much more intense heart-to-heart), Gamora and Nebula come to grips with the fact that they each have something to apologize for, but that doesn't mean they aren't sisters. Gamora may have repeatedly defeated Nebula in combat which resulted in Thanos torturing her, and Nebula may have worked for Thanos ever since in the hopes of taking out Gamora, but they didn't really hate each other.
They hate Thanos.
Thanos is the one who made the two of them fight each other in the first place, driving a wedge between what could have been a lifelong friendship.
Gamora and Nebula were able to (mostly) put aside their differences in the name of working together-- first to escape Ego, the Living Planet, and then to find and destroy Thanos.
While there is certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to Gamora and Nebula's feelings about each other, there isn't as much complexity when it comes to ending Thanos. They may harbor some sentimentality over their childhoods, but in the end, they each love their sister and hate their father.
Do you have other trivia to share about these complex relationships from Avengers: Infinity War? Let us know in the comments!