With the blockbuster success of The Avengers keeping hordes of comic book fans and newcomers glued to their seats from beginning to end, Marvel managed to pull off one odds-defying feat. But when the mysterious figure behind the events of the film was revealed to be none other than Thanos, the die-hard fans understood just how wide Marvel had opened the door, and what kinds of stories were now possible for The Avengers 2 and beyond.
Despite fan wishes to see Thanos as the main villain in The Avengers, things worked out differently, with Joss Whedon (now overseer of all of Marvel's 'Phase Two' properties) deciding instead to place the power-hungry alien as the veritable book-end to the entire first round of Marvel films. We noted at the time that the assembled evidence - the Infinity Gauntlet in Odin's vault, Thor preparing to face an even greater villain in Asgard - likely meant that Thanos' appearance was confirmation of his central role in several future films, not just a nod to patient fans.
That looks to be the case after all, as Kevin Feige spoke about the fan reaction to Thanos' reveal with MTV Splash Page. The brief mid-credits scene may have left some audience members scratching their heads, but the purple-skinned grinner is most definitely a sign of things to come from Marvel - in 'Phase Two' and beyond:
"There's a great track record now about lobbing something in at the last moment to get the audience buzzing[...] Particularly when it came to Thanos, [we knew] that most people in that audience had no idea who that purple guy was — but they could clearly tell he was important, and knew if they asked the two or three people sitting next to them, somebody would know who he was.
"Clearly, there's a purpose to us putting him in the end of that movie. We do have plans for him[...] I wouldn't say we ever feel the need to rush anything one way or the other. We succeeded in Phase One because we stuck to our guns and stuck to the plan. That plan took place over many, many years and it ultimately paid off. I see Phase Two unfolding in the same way of us taking our time, us doing what's right for each individual movie, while folding in elements that will not only build up to the culmination of Phase Two, but even Phase Three."
The commitment to an unhurried plan is certainly a good thing, with the Marvel Movie Universe set to get exponentially larger over the next few years. Aside from continuing the individual stories established and expanded upon in regards to Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D., the larger scale of 'Phase Two' will do what comic books attempt on a weekly basis: weave many stories into a single arc. The positioning of the mysterious Tesseract ('Cosmic Cube') as the MacGuffin that bonded the individual Avengers allowed audiences a way in, regardless of how familiar (or not) they were with the source material. With Thanos being prepared as the main antagonist for Phase Two, the character is certainly capable of tying more stories together than an inanimate cube.
Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet, in the comics and Odin's vault
It's strange to think that much of Marvel's current success is due to Iron Man, which went out of its way to ground the comic book within reality. Since then fans have accepted a bit more outlandish and fantastical content with each film, preparing them (hopefully) for all-out cosmic insanity beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy. Obviously more viewers have been convinced to delve into the cosmic side than were turned off by it, as Feige went on to explain how much the films have spurred interest in actual comic books:
"Suddenly, you have a million people who had never heard of an Infinity Gauntlet or a Mad Titan learning those terms[...] I love that. I love when the experience goes beyond the movie theater and encourages people to look deeper into our universe.
"I was equally excited by the notion that people went out and tried shawarma for the first time."
Guardians and Thor 2 will surely provide a bit more insight into Thanos' role - especially if Odin's vault is, indeed, robbed. We know Joss Whedon has got some big ideas, so Thanos might be a major part of them.
The full Marvel ‘Phase Two’ release schedule is as follows: Iron Man 3 hits theaters on May 3rd, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, and The Avengers 2 on May 1st, 2015.
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Source: MTV Splash Page
Thanos Artwork property of Marvel Comics