With Thanos having become the snappiest dresser in all of Marvel, thanks to Infinity Gauntlet in the recent Avengers: Infinity War movie, it only makes sense that we look back to his origins with an article. His comic origin is actually really bizarre. You see, he didn’t start out as an Avengers villain. Or a Guardians of the Galaxy villain. His first appearance was in February 1973’s The Invincible Iron Mab #55, though he’s not the only major player to make a first appearance.
Guest-starring Drax the Destroyer as the Kool-Aid Man!
The Blood Brothers! Yes, the newest stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the deadliest enemies of the universe, Gary and Ross Blood!
Ok, you got me. It’s not the Blood Brothers, though they’re still around to this day (and yes, that was their real names). As you can plainly see, Drax of the Guardians of the Galaxy is proudly showing up in the background of the cover, making like a wrecking ball. He looks a little different from his recent appearances in the MCU. This is thanks to body reboot that Drax went through in 2005 that also rebooted his mind. Because comics are nothing if not convoluted.
Today’s story, “Beware the… Blood Brothers!” has some unique credits. This is one of Jim Starlin’s first works for Marvel as an artist, and his first writing credit. As such, Jim Starlin gets credited as responsible for “Plot, Pencils, and Character Concepts.” Mike Friedrich, who was the main writer on Iron Man at the time, also got credited as a scripter (meaning he supplied the dialogue after Starlin crafted the plot and penciled the story). Mike Esposito applied the inks, but there’s no one listed for the colors. This is typical for the era, which is a shame considering how awesomely 1970s the whole thing is.
Starlin begins his story with the dramatic introduction of Drax the Destroyer, chained up and surrounded by Kirby krackle. He shouts with a gravelly voice a warning for Iron Man. He begs that Iron Man beware the Blood Brothers! However, his warning seems to have come a little late.
Just another day in the office, eh Tony? Luckily, Tony built his suit to take a pounding, and is able to escape the armlock, only to be pounded on worse, crushed under his office desk, and then knocked out by a punch to the jaw. The Blood Brothers then summon their spaceship and take him offworld for… reasons.
We cut over to Drax being interrogated by Thanos, a being sitting in a comfortable looking techno-chair. He is, however, a little more energetic in his speech.
Drax thinks back to earlier in the day, when he reached out mentally to talk with Tony Stark across the cosmos. Why Tony, we never really find out. Tony ditches the important business meeting going on, and he suits up as Iron Man to figure out what was going on.
So Drax mind-blasts him a second time. Class act, that Drax. This time, though, he performs an awesome infodump into Tony’s brain.
Drax fills Tony’s head with images of Titan, also Saturn’s largest moon. Of science, of beauty, of purple people. Amusingly, this would later be retconned that only Thanos would be purple, and later reprints would try to ignore it. Long story short, all was happy until Thanos made weapons. Since this was a bad thing, he was kicked offworld, and subsequently vowed revenge.
Mentor, Thanos’ dad, wanted assistance. So he basically asked God to make something that would kill Thanos: Drax the Destroyer!
Not bothering to come up with a plan, Drax charged headlong at Thanos…
...and was promptly defeated. Thus, he called for Iron Man because reasons, and brought Tony into his current predicament. It’s still not explained at all, but Iron Man is able to escape the Blood Brothers by shooting them with repulsor rays and fleeing. Tony also tries to free Drax, but Thanos then makes his grand appearance to everyone by stomping on Tony’s hand as he lies on the ground.
Thanos believes in no-pants Friday at the workplace, I see. He calls for the Blood Brothers to take Tony away once more, but Iron Man strikes out with his Uni-Beam and frees Drax from his bonds. A fast fight scene ensues, with the cover-advertised foes being beaten in a mere two pages.
Thanos himself then approaches the heroes, making grandiose threats. In this case, should he throw a large switch, the fortress they’re all in will explode. Drax shoots Thanos with an energy blast from his hand (which he used to do all the time) while Tony Stark comes in for a left hook to the jaw. Which makes Thanos’ head explode.
Because he’s a robot, of course. The real Thanos ran off and left a booby trap behind to try and kill anyone who remained. Of course, it didn’t work.
Thanos’ first appearance is surprisingly boring compared to what he would become. He doesn’t do much, sn’t te big threat of the comic, and doesn’t even stay to fight the good guys. However, there’s something undeniably cool about Thanos, even back when, and Jim Starlin would write the hell out of him over the following decades.
Also, at one point, Thanos got a helicopter with his name on the side.
Comics are weird, people.