Why The MCU Changed Thanos’ Origin So Much

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Summary

  • Thanos in the MCU differs significantly from the comics, but these changes were necessary for the franchise to maintain its narrative emotional arc.
  • The MCU’s portrayal of Thanos as a Titan instead of an Eternal and the absence of his biological son Thane are major differences from the comics.
  • Thanos’ motivation in the MCU is driven by a desire for balance, whereas in the comics, his obsession with impressing Mistress Death contributes to his genocidal actions.


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Thanos is the most popular villain to come out of the MCU, but the version of the character on shown on screen is drastically different than the one in the comics. Ever since the first Avengers movie, when Thanos sent his army to aid Loki in his attempt to conquer Earth, the MCU set up that there was a much more powerful threat somewhere in the universe that was imminently approaching the heroes. Over several movies, as the Mad Titan sought out the Infinity Stones, the MCU masterfully wove a web of plot threads that culminated in the arrival of a frightening, mighty adversary.

Once he arrived, Thanos proved that the Avengers were right to fear him, with his unimaginable strength, massive army, and cunning intellect. He not only succeeded in his plan and wiped out all sentient life from half the universe, but it took the Avengers five years to reverse the Snap, and lasting damages of it are still impacting the MCU to the present day, even after his death. But while Thanos is the most compelling villain to come out of the MCU so far, the movies made significant changes to the character in order for him to fit within the franchise’s narrative emotional arc.


The MCU’s Thanos Is Nothing Like The Comics

Thanos sits on his throne in Marvel Comics.

The MCU’s Thanos varies widely from his portrayal in comics, and, for the most part, these changes work best for the franchise. There are some smaller differences that ultimately would not impact his storyline that much. For example, in the MCU, Thanos is inexplicably near-invincible, but the comics explain that this is due to him subjecting himself to bio-enhancements. Also, Thanos is exiled from his planet for his genocidal tendencies in the movies, but in the comics, it’s his parents who hate him and try to kill him, making him distance himself from his people. There are five major differences, however, that would have completely reshaped the MCU.

Thanos In The Comics Is An Eternal

In the MCU, Thanos is a member of a race known as the Titans, which is the reason for his distinct, large, purple-skinned appearance. In the comics, though Thanos was born and lives on Titan, he’s actually an Eternal, a god-like race of beings created by Celestials first introduced in the MCU in Eternals. Thanos’s DNA was deliberately fused with Deviant DNA to make him the most powerful Eternal, which caused his purple appearance. The MCU has kept Thanos a Titan, however, even changing making his Eternal brother Eros a half-brother, suggesting that they’re different races but share the same father.

Thanos Has A Biological Son Named Thane

The Children of Thanos, powerful beings from across the universe that Thanos adopted during his after his invasions, are major players in the MCU, with Gamora and Nebula being the most impactful in the MCU. In the comics, in addition to his adopted children, Thanos has a biological son named Thane. Not only was Thane’s arrival new to readers, but it was also new to Thanos as he didn’t know about Thane until Thane made himself known. Not only does the character highly favor his father in appearance, he also shares much of his immense strength and power, signaling a possible challenger to Thanos’ undisputed role as the ultimate villain.

Thanos’ Mass Genocide Was To Impress Death

In the MCU, Thanos’ desire to eliminate life from half of the universe was born out of his intense need for balance in the universe. He witnessed the people of his planet suffer due to overpopulation and limited resources, and his maniacal solution was to kill half the universe so that his distorted notion of balance could be restored. In the comics, Thanos’ motivation is much less philosophical. He is obsessed with Mistress Death and believes that, by bringing to death to trillions of lives, he can finally impress her. Mistress Death is never even referenced in the MCU, so it had to change Thanos’ motivations to maintain continuity.

Death Made Thanos Immortal

Though Thanos achieves many abilities on his own in the comics, giving him unmatched invulnerability, it is only after his interactions with Death that he becomes immortal. Death bestowed upon Thanos mastery over death itself, rendering him impossible to kill. She also grants him the ability to curse people and control the dead. While Thanos in the MCU is exceptionally potent, it is clear that he still succumbs to the laws of death the way all characters in the franchise due. Not only does he sustain significant damage after the Snap, Thor succeeds in killing him by beheading him with Stormbreaker.

Thanos Was The Avatar Of Death

In The Thanos Imperative storyline, Thanos’ control over death is amplified, making him the Avatar of Death, and granting him the ability to kill entire universes. In one universe called the Cancerverse, Mistress Death is killed, and Thanos is able to resurrect her. Together they are able to unleash her full power on the Cancerverse, completely obliterating all of its life. He’s so insanely powered that the Guardians of Galaxy figure the only way to stop him is to trap him in the universe he killed. While MCU Thanos is a formidable opponent, he does not come close to the Avatar of Death.

Why The Comics’ Thanos Would Never Work In The MCU

Josh Brolin as Thanos at the end of Avengers Infinity War

Marvel ultimately made the right decision in changing Thanos’ storylines in the MCU, because keeping them in would have completely altered the main stroyline, and not for the better. The first 3 phases of the MCU are dedicated to Thanos’ collecting Infinity Stones to execute his genocide. If MCU Thanos had Avatar of Death levels of ability, he would not have needed the stones to wipe out just half the universe, he would have been capable of obliterating it entirely. Also, Thanos’ appearance is so distinct from that of the MCU’s Eternals and Deviants that the MCU would have to do a lot of retconning in order for those traits to make sense.

Additionally, if MCU Thanos were immortal, then there would have been no satisfying conclusion to the Infinity Saga. After everything the Avengers endured, if they were ultimately unable to kill Thanos, all of their sacrifices would have been for nothing. And thematically, Thanos’ motivations for killing half the universe stemming from an obsession with a woman would have been unsatisfying. The MCU prefers morally ambiguous villains, who initially have rational thoughts but carry out those thoughts in irrational, horrific ways, like Killmonger and Ultron. Thanos wanting to restore balance and redistribute resources gives more depth and nuance to his villainy.

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