The biggest reason behind the hype for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War is the official debut of Thanos, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest, baddest, villain yet. Audiences have only caught glimpses of him before, and for a collection of films often criticized for their soft antagonists. Now hopes are at an all time high for this version of the Mad Titan, played by Josh Brolin.
Making his first appearance in the comic books in 1973, Thanos has been a hit villain ever since his inception, usually in stories revolving around his obsessed quest for the Infinity Stones. Jim Starlin is the creator to credit with Thanos’ birth, and thanks to him, Thanos lasted this long largely because of his character complexity.
On the surface, Thanos is a megalomaniacal world smasher, but underneath that, there’s nuance and motivation driving the creature inside. After a self-destructive spiral drove him to destroy his home planet and everyone he cared about, the Titan was driven mad by an obsession with Lady Death, desperate to gain her favor, yet consistently spurned.
With his set of skills, he’s probably not suited for anything else anyway. Here are 15 Times Thanos Was Destroyed By Marvel Heroes.
15 Star-Lord and Nova (The Thanos Imperative)
A fault line in the prime universe opens up the Cancerverse, and all manner of turmoil comes through. The resulting wars enable the rebirth of Thanos, who at first takes an evil turn, but reconsiders after identifying the larger threat: Lord Mar-Vell, supreme bad guy from the Cancerverse. Thanos takes this as a personal challenge and vows to destroy Lord Mar-Vell’s universe in retaliation and in the honor of his eternal love, Lady Death.
While acting on the good side for quite a few issues of this extensive multiple title, event, Thanos does eventually trick Bizarro Mar-Vell into letting down his guard to allow Death to find him. But then it’s just time for Thanos to be evil again, so he tries to get back to the universe he’s always known and terrorized. Star-Lord and the hero Nova realize this and eventually sacrifice themselves to keep Thanos occupied within the Cancerverse as it implodes upon itself.
14 Captain Marvel (Captain Marvel #33)
The original Captain Marvel squared off against Thanos in one of his earliest appearances. The Mad Titan’s recurring presence in Captain Marvel told his origin story and how he earned that nickname, attacking his own moon-planet. Throughout Thanos’ nihilistic quest for power he does battle with Kronos - first with a proto Drax, then the kind-hearted Kree soldier, Mar-Vell.
The cosmic cube is the central trigger through this final phase of Thanos’ plan. Once Mar-Vell figures out that crushing the cube will quell the villain’s power, with a little help from Mantis, he’s able to get the job done relatively easily. The psychological battle takes priority in this story, as Earth’s galactic Avengers can hardly comprehend the motivation behind the evil that is Thanos. Captain Marvel’s heroics track this villain across the galaxy and only put a temporary hold on Thanos’ evil ways.
13 Wolverine (What If? Newer Fantastic Four)
In this hypothetical scenario, a new team has taken over the role of the Fantastic Four. In place of the traditional heroes, this version comprises Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine, and a very boring Iron Man. When Thanos strikes, he eliminates half of the Earth's population, shaking the team to their core.
The new team is then introduced, very methodically, to who Thanos is, and the full backstory behind the Infinity Stones. When they meet, Wolverine winds up befriending Thanos, playing the angle of trusted advisor. He even begins to offer the Mad Titan romantic advice on his pursuit of Lady Death.
Just after Wolverine is Cyrano de Bergerac-ing Thanos in front of his love, turn to a full page of Wolverine leaping out and graphically slicing off Thanos’ entire arm, Infinity Gauntlet and all. The Newer Fantastic Four saves the day and true believers are left wondering... What If?
12 Adam Warlock (The Infinity Gauntlet)
The Infinity Gauntlet arc within the Infinity saga earns Adam Warlock his place on the Mount Rushmore of Thanos’ adversaries. During this six-issue miniseries, readers track Thanos as he collects all six Infinity Gems and torments the entire universe for his love Lady Death. The remaining collection of Marvel heroes is, at first, stymied by this villain, until Adam Warlock comes to the rescue. He understands the foe and the fact: that only cunning can defeat the almighty Thanos.
Warlock smooth talks Thanos into surrendering some of his invulnerability, exploiting his hubris; the Achilles' heel of many evildoers. While it’s ultimately Nebula who steals the Gauntlet from Thanos, the whole series may be read as a good vs. evil space opera, introducing Warlock and watching him become a leader within the hero community. He strategizes the whole attack and wins the chess game against Thanos in the end, ultimately pulling him over to his own side and donning the Infinity Gauntlet for himself.
11 Drax The Destroyer (Annihilation #4)
During the epic Annihilation event, Thanos temporarily teams up with a race of bug creatures who initiate a transgalactic Annihilation Wave that eradicates all obstruction and force of will. Annihilus, this faction’s leader, and the Mad Titan team up to harvest cosmic energy, the source of the Annihilation swarm’s power. Thanos is complying on the surface, but secretly, he and Moondragon, Drax’s daughter, are plotting a way to defeat Annihilus from the inside, using his strength and cunning and her psychic powers.
The storytelling is probably about 50% Drax thrashing anyone he comes into contact with, in the most creative ways. When he finally comes face to face with Thanos, after defeating about three dozen guards and henchmen, over the screams of protest from his daughter, Drax punches a hole right through his chest.
Though Thanos has come back from worse, that’s a point for the Destroyer.
10 Lockjaw (Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #4)
This is an entire four-issue arc based around the animals of the universe. The team is surprisingly well supported, with Lockjaw, Zabu (the Sabertooth tiger who works with Ka-Zar), and Redwing (the talented bird who flocks with Falcon). A dog and a cat are thrown in for good measure, and the whole thing is overseen by this lilliputian frog-Thor, named Throg, acting as ringleader for the group.
This crack squad does manage to collect all six Infinity Gems, they embed them in Lockjaw's collar for the ultimate face-off against Thanos. Two energy beams burst from each opponent and meet in the middle in a stalemate. This showdown lasts for about eight pages. Finally, the pup manages to match his own teleportation powers to that of the gems, and transports Thanos to another dimension. It's another fine example of animals saving the universe.
9 Groot (Avengers Assemble #8)
The Guardians of the Galaxy team up with the Avengers in this run. While earth’s heroes are trying to avoid an interstellar war with the Badoons, Thanos resurfaces, this time commandeering a weaker version of the Cosmic Cube. It still makes him all powerful, in any case. The Avengers/Guardians team, mostly led by Captain America and Tony Stark, eventually even go so far as to ally with the Elders of the Universe, via Thor.
Once Tony Stark hacks the blueprints of the cosmic cube, he shares them with Reed Richards, who invents The Ultimate Nullifier. This device sufficiently jostles Thanos’ power just enough to make him vulnerable for Groot to come in and deliver the finishing blow. Just about every superhero in the Marvel universe could have shared the victory in this balanced story of Thanos’ defeat, but it’s Groot who delivers that last strike, making the win all his.
8 Galactus (Thanos 2003)
One hesitates to even include Galactus on a list of heroes; his power is so stunning that it consumes planets, which seems like a red flag. Under an admittedly difficult surface, Galactus is a being like any other, and has served alongside the likes of Captain America and Thor many times. He also often acts as a useful gateway between the local galactic heroes and the greater beings of cosmic importance out in the universe.
In one story, Thanos allies himself with the Rigellans to fight against Galactus. Who has just stumbled onto the Focusing Crux, a techno-mystic device assembled to amplify his cosmic powers. Thanos knew this would mean defeat for the Rigellans and imbalance in an already skewed universe.
Thanos falls easily to Galactus before he eventually convinces the devourer of worlds to work with him to set the universe free from a multidimensional being called The Hunger. The battle between the two wasn’t even close this time, though, omega beams and all.
7 Thor (Thor #25)
In this heroic storyline of Thor, the Asgardian begins as a prisoner of Thanos. The brute has amassed several artifacts: the Chalice of Ruin, Map of All-Ending, Illumination Stone, and the tears of the Asgardian goddess Tarene. While that monologue is winding around, Mangog, the great ugly henchman holding Thor hostage for Thanos, eventually manages to misplace his charge and is defeated after a fierce battle.
The Norse mythology is rich in this clash of titans. Next, Odin coerces Jagrfelm the blacksmith into making Thor some enhanced weaponry he can use to defeat Thanos. The blacksmith complies, but only after Odin summons Firelord for help from another corner of the galaxy.
After one of Thanos’ most physical fights, Thor eventually comes out victorious, hitting Thanos with a blast from the Illumination Stone. Tarene cries a few tears on top of him to add insult to injury, and the realm is safe from the Mad Titan once again.
6 Deadpool (Deadpool vs. Thanos)
The Mad Titan falls to the Merc with the Mouth in this single-issue story. Things get suspicious once people suddenly stop passing away. Readers then learn that Deadpool also happens to be romantically familiar with Lady Death, the very same grim embodiment of mortality that has tortured Thanos these many years. A love triangle soon emerges between the three of them, when it turns out that Thanos and Deadpool need to save their old flame.
Wade Wilson’s crass humor blends with a deeper, philosophical undertone running through the story. Cosmic heavy hitters like Eternity and the In-Betweener fill out the cast as the plot ricochets around the meanings of life and mortality. Once again, Thanos ruins himself and Deadpool lays the trap perfectly.
5 Odin (Warlock and the Infinity Watch #25)
In this story of Adam Warlock and his interplanetary gang of miscreants, Thanos is plotting a siege on Asgard. This brings Thor and the royal family into the fight against the Mad Titan. Things are looking bleak when Thor contracts “warrior's madness” and becomes paralyzed in a glass case. Before long, Odin comes out of battle retirement to face Thanos and protect his realm.
Much ado is made about this clash of foes, Odin’s power level had never been tested until this face off: another really drawn-out, world-smashing battle that lasts about 12 pages. Meanwhile, in the background of this melee, Earth’s Defenders joined by Beta Ray Bill and Lady Sif, are wondering whether they need to put an end to this never-ending battle.
Eventually, Odin is persuaded to grant Thanos mercy, and their dispute is resolved. Thor still hasn’t gotten out of that glass case, though, which is where the plot runs into additional issues.
4 The Ultimates (Ultimates)
This iteration of the Ultimates super team - featuring Captain Marvel, Blue Marvel, Black Panther, Ms. America, and Spectrum - faces off against Thanos as he begins to take more power in their universe. Reeling from the events of the Secret Wars and Civil War 2, the Ultimates had begun by hunting the Anti-Man, aka Connor Sims: a minor villain from earlier skirmishes and Blue Marvel’s past. Soon, the team realizes that it’s actually Thanos who is psychologically controlling Sims.
The Ultimates dispatch Thanos in fine style and go on to be one of the most character-driven superhero teams yet. This story is so much more focused on the heroes than the villains - it’s refreshing. Against the dynamic team leadership of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, the Mad Titan doesn’t stand a chance.
3 Ka-Zar (Ka-Zar #11)
In one, very family based story, Ka-Zar is forced to choose between preserving his home land or eliminating Thanos. At the heart of the Savage Land, the hidden realm in Antarctica, is the Terraformer: a piece of mystic technology supporting the entire ecosystem. Once Thanos decides to pursue that technology and harness it for his own, evil means, Ka-Zar takes the aggression pretty personally.
Not only has Ka-Zar found himself a partner in Shanna, but they’ve also just recently had a son, and much of the narrative is Ka-Zar’s internal monologue, questioning his abilities as a father. His love for his son is what ultimately propels him to throw Thanos into a volcano and then lead him on a chase around the urban center of the Savage Lands.
Eventually, Ka-Zar lures Thanos into the Terraformer and he calls in an airstrike from S.H.I.E.L.D. to blow them both up. Happily, the Savage Lands remained unharmed, and the ecosystem can carry on.
2 Spider-Man (Marvel Two In One Annual #2)
Here is a story from one of Thanos’ early quests to collect all of the Infinity Stones. He faces all of the Avengers, but ultimately Spider-Man leads to Thanos' downfall this time. The adventure opens with Peter Parker receiving a telepathic distress call from Moondragon. She and all of the other Avengers have been captured by Thanos, unable to stop him. Parker picks up the call and enlists the help of his spaceship-owning friend, Ben Grimm, to fly out on a rescue mission to Thanos’ evil headquarters.
Spider-Man and the Thing eventually make it past layers of henchmen and obstacles to fight Thanos. Spider-Man releases the Avengers and a massive fight ensues. In the background, the webslinging wall crawler is hanging out beneath the fray, ensuring Thanos doesn't escape. Once he eventually does flee, Spider-Man catches Thanos and succeeds in wresting control of the Soul Gem, which unleashes a form of Adam Warlock that breaks the spell of Thanos’ power. Not bad for a kid from Queens.
1 Squirrel Girl (Great Lakes Avengers X-Mas #1)
Ever so coolly in her Squirrel Girl way, she defeats Thanos in the background of her own story. While Squirrel Girl hosts this Christmas special, the story in which Thanos suffers this silly defeat focuses almost wholly on the rest of the Great Lakes Avengers. This version of the team features Mr. Immortal, Big Bertha, Grasshopper, Flatman, and Doorman, plus Tippy-Toe - Squirrel Girl’s trusty teammate.
Her battle with Thanos comes after a particularly well-handled brush with Modok, the giant head with legs and arms that was terrorizing S.H.I.E.L.D. nearby. Once the reader moves to the next story, it’s a far more touching holiday tale. The main plot follows a group of rampaging Christmas trees, but under that crime fighting, an emotional angle on Mr. Immortal hits home. Right after that, a Watcher practically raises Squirrel Girl’s fist in victory over Thanos. The Great Lakes Avengers are always keeping it entertaining.
Did we miss any other heroes who beat Thanos? Let us know in the comments.