With the arrival of Avengers: Endgame (MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD) comes the departure of Thanos and a gifted performance by Josh Brolin. First introduced as a background menace in Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, he became the dominating force of destructive evil in Avengers: Infinity War when his ultimate purpose emerged: to wield the Infinity Gauntlet and use its Infinity Stones to wipe out half of Earth’s population (and beyond). At first his plan succeeded, until the Avengers discovered a way to stop him utilizing time travel and Pym Particles.
For all his villainy, Thanos was a complex antagonist, who lived by his own code of conduct and moral compass. This is in keeping with his comic book counterpart, who has been written as both compassionate and brutal (and sometimes both at once). With Thanos’ destruction in Endgame, there are many more stories that followed in the comics we’ll never see told on film, ten of which are described for you here.
Admit it; you secretly wished that Deadpool would make a surprise appearance in Avengers: Endgame. Whether he was eating pizza and pwning noobz with Thor or just using the megaphone on an ice-cream truck to catcall Captain America’s behind, his presence would have been an already great movie better.
But what if he was taking on the Mad Titan himself by stealing his girlfriend? In Deadpool vs. Thanos #1, Deadpool attempts to court Thanos’s one true love, Lady Death, and hijinks ensue when Thanos can’t kill him. Not only was this a missed opportunity as far as great Thanos stories go, the premise was something the Avengers never thought of.
As we know from Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel is very much alive and very much female. In Marvel’s first graphic novel, however, Mar-Vell of the Kree wasn’t doing so hot, with a surprising health scare truncating his years of battling Thanos. In a strange twist of fate, an all-powerful superhero contracts one of Earth’s deadliest illnesses: cancer.
This was one of the first times the Mad Titan was revealed to be a compassionate character, capable of empathizing with another person even if they were a mortal enemy. Death features heavily, as both a figure and a concept, humbling Thanos as he shares moments with one of his greatest foes who now faces the unknown.
Though its title is confusing (and irritating), Infinity War is actually the name of the comic series after the Infinity Gauntlet series that the Infinity Saga of the MCU films is based on. In it, Adam Warlock (not Iron Man and the Avengers) defeats Thanos, stripping him of the Infinity Gauntlet and banishing the darker side of himself (the Magus) so that he can be a rational being wielding it.
Meanwhile, the Magus wants the Infinity Gauntlet, and recruits a Thanos from yet another timeline to retrieve it. What does this mean? That previous Big Bad of the Avengers, Thanos, has to team up and fight alongside them to defeat the Magus and himself!
Though the MCU had Thanos only hunting the Infinity Stones, he’s sought all sorts of cosmic weapons. He encounters one in Marvel: The End, when he finds himself strangely on the side of the Avengers, helping them to defeat an Egyptian Pharaoh who has been granted extraordinary powers.
Akhenaten is corrupted by the powers of The Heart of the Universe, an ancient energy source bestowed upon him by the Celestial Order. He travels to the modern era to take over the world, but is stopped by Thanos, who absorbs the Heart (taking the entire Universe and every living being into himself). Adam Warlock, outside the continuum at the time, convinces Thanos to sacrifice himself for the good of humanity.
Thanos and Mephisto are two of the most formidable supervillains in the Marvel Universe, and who wouldn’t want to see these two go at it? The story, contained in Thanos Annual #1, is a throwback to Captain Marvel #33, where Thanos first encounters the trickster (he comes to him like a vulture to carrion when Thanos has been handed his first defeat).
Both a tie-in to Infinity Gauntlet and an investigation into Thanos’s inner motivations, both villains are explored by way of each other’s contrasting personalities. Each one preys on the other’s weaknesses, not realizing that their vulnerabilities may be one and the same.
Thanos Rising is a controversial Thanos origin story, comprised of 5 issues over a limited run. It begins with Thanos, a shy boy on Titan, who has a prophetic encounter with a young girl at school. She sends him to explore some caves with friends. His companions die in a tragic cave-in, and Thanos is blamed for their deaths.
Like chronicling a serial killer’s transformation, it follows his fascination with death from that moment on. He goes from dissecting lizards to dissecting his own mother, and finally to taking lots of lovers and slaughtering worlds. Oh, and that girl who told him to explore the cave? She grows up to be none other than Lady Death.
Featuring several of the most prominent of the intergalactic beings in the Marvel Universe, Thanos plays a key role in one of the largest events of modern Marvel Comics. Initially, he acts as an adviser to Annihilus, Ruler of the Negative Zone, who seeks to expand his empire by sending an invasion force into the positive matter universe.
In a return to form, Thanos leads waves of drones bent on destruction. He is the tempered, measured weight on Annihilus’ scales of violence, counteracting their centrifugal force with his philosophical morality and code of conduct. He is more like his MCU self in Avengers: Infinity War, and then some.
In The Thanos Imperative, the events that were started in Annihilation now come to a conclusion. Thanos has been the philosophical and strategic adviser for Annihilus, Ruler of the Negative Zone, who has invaded the positive zone with his forces of drones. A rift in space has occurred in the tumult known as the Fault, and it has allowed the forces of the Cancerverse to penetrate the positive matter universe.
Recently resurrected from a murder plot, Thanos has to stop them, except that everyone in the Cancerverse is essentially undead. He even takes on an evil version of the Avengers called The Revengers,which just feels so right.
The Magus, the dark side of cosmic superhero Adam Warlock (often attributed to a future self that will cause chaos and havoc), has run amock in the form of the Universal Church of Truth. Adam must team up with his former enemy, Thanos, in order to stop the Magus from taking over the world in the future.
Gamora, the deadliest woman in the universe, is introduced here. Thanos doesn’t exactly mentor her in the same way he does in the MCU version of their relationship, but he does prove that while villainous, he is capable of working well with others (even those that have tried to kill him). This cements him as one of Marvel Comics' most complex villains.
There have been many series involving Thanos that show his compassionate side, as well as his philosophical, empathetic side. In Thanos Wins, he puts a spotlight on his brutal side. The title explains the plot; a future Thanos has gained everything he ever wanted, including the annihilation of the universe. However, King Thanos is lonely, and he longs for a challenge.
It materializes in the form of his younger self, present day Thanos, who has come to battle King Thanos for the hand of Lady Death. If one must die to be with Death, only Thanos can kill Thanos. Their “Clash of the Titans” is the clash of the imagined self against the Id; of what Thanos wants versus what he actually needs.