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The Greatest Thanos Stories Ever Told!

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Every day in April we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!

Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).

Today’s list is the Greatest Thanos Stories Ever Told!


10. “Thanos vs. Mephisto” Silver Surfer #45

Written by Jim Starlin and drawn by Ron Lim and Tom Christopher.

This issue was interesting at the time for the fact that Silver Surfer is unconscious the entire issue, so it pretty much just stars Thanos. He has recently acquired the Infinity Gauntlet and the whole issue is Mephisto trying to manipulate Thanos to the point where Mephisto can steal the Gauntlet. As you might imagine, things don’t go Mephisto’s way.

9. “Epiphany” Thanos #1-6

Written by Jim Starlin with art by Starlin and Al Milgrom.

As penance for his past action, Thanos agrees to stop Galactus from devouring Rigel-18. However, he soon gets caught up in a larger drama where Galactus is being manipulated by a mysterious cosmic being known as the Hunger. So first Thanos (and his sometimes allies, Warlock, Pip and Gamora) have to stop Galactus and then they ALL have to stop the Hunger! The fate of the universe is once again on the shoulders of Thanos!

8. Marvel Universe: The End #1-6

Written by Jim Starlin with art by Starlin and Al Milgrom.

The Egyptian Pharaoh known as Akhenaten is given extraordinary power a millenia ago. Now he has finally mastered the power and the universe as a whole is at danger. Thanos once again finds himself working on the side of good as he and a group of Defenders tries to stop Akhenaten’s plot. In the end, Thanos gets the “Heart of the Infinite” that powered Akhenaten and suddenly Thanos is the most powerful being in the universe once again. Warlock, though, convinces him to set the universe right once again.

7. Magus Saga (Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-11)

Written and penciled by Jim Starlin, inks by Al Milgrom mostly.

Starlin revived Warlock, who was pretty much in limbo and set him against the evil Universal Church of Truth, which turns out is ruled by an evil version of Warlock from the future. Can Warlock defeat a villain who is himself? This storyline introduced Warlock’s supporting cast of Pip the Troll and Gamora, the deadliest woman in the universe. In a twist, we see one of what soon became a routine event – Thanos teaming up with a hero to take down a greater evil, in this case, the Magus.

6. “The Death of Captain Marvel” Marvel Graphic Novel #1

Written and drawn by Jim Starlin

A mature, touching look at how a hero handles death when it appears in one of its most un-“epic” forms, a hero brought low by cancer. Thanos makes a powerful (post-death) appearance in this storyline as he appears to Captain Marvel when Marvel is at death’s door and helps his former enemy accept passing over into the afterlife.

The top five is on the next page!

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Turd Burglar

May 1, 2013 at 8:34 am

Thought for sure that Infinity Gauntlet was a shoe in for the top spot.

Nice to see Thanos 1-6 show up. To bad Infinity Abyss did not make it. Both were on my Starlin top ten list.

Should I be surprised that no non-Starlin stories made the cut? I thought DnA’s stuff had fans out there.

Jeans Hancock

May 1, 2013 at 9:29 am

You forgot Jason Aaron’s latest arc on the mad Titan. Only two issues in but it is shaping up to be an amazing look at at the events leading to up how Thanos became obsessed by Death.

I’ve really wanted to read all Starlin’s Marvel cosmic stuff for a long time now. Can anyone give me a rough reading order at least of the essential stuff?

I’m just sad the Spidey Super Stories story with the Thanoscopter didn’t make the cut. It was definitely high on my list.

It actually did make quite a run for the top ten, buttler! It ended up #12, I believe, behind…hmm…Infinity…War, I think. Maybe Infinity Abyss.

My list:

1. Thanos Quest
2. Marvel: The End
3. Infinity Gauntlet
4. Epiphany (Thanos #1-6)
5. “The Final Threat” (Avengers Annual #7/Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2)
6. “The Thanos War” (Captain Marvel #25-33)
7. Infinity Abyss
8. Rebirth of Thanos (Silver Surfer)
9. Infinity War
10. “Magus Saga” (Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-11)

Thanks, Brian. That makes me pretty happy.

No Silver Surfer #50? I would think that would beat #45.

And isn’t it strange that Marvel is investing so much in recreating Abnett and Lanning’s cosmic saga onscreen, when those comics didn’t sell very well and aren’t that well remembered? I mean, that run culminated in a huge Thanos crossover, but it’s nowhere to be seen here.


May 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Ron Lim was so perfect for Silver Surfer around that time. I loved his art on the series. My favorite of all of these is Thanos Quest which was an awesome show of how cunning the character could be.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

May 1, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Color me surprised that Infinity Gauntlet isn’t on top.

I’m also surprised neither Annihilation or Thanos Imperative made it on here, as both were amazing stories.

I’ve really wanted to read a bunch of these older stories, but I’d rather get them as trades if at all possible. Which ones are trade-available, and which will I have to hunt down singles for?

I have Rebirth of Thanos/Thanos Quest and Inifinity Gauntlet/War/Crusade.

M--Starlin/Warlock/Thanos Fan

May 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Marvel Mastworks–Warlock Volume 2 collects the Starlin run on Strange Tales and then the Warlock sries through issue 15, I think, which covers the Magus Saga and bit more. Pretty sure it also includes “The Final Threat” story arc. Hope that helps those looking for the older stories. There also is a hardcover collecting the Silver Surfer run covering the Return of Thanos and Thanos Quest. I actually thought that run was better than Infinity Gauntlet. (Probably felt the opposite when I read Infinity Guantlet as it was being released when I was a kid.)

Loved Thanos Imperative, by the way.

Thanos quest wins for me easily. I’ve read that so man times.

I recall absolutely hating The End. The entire The End series (X-Men, Wolverine, Hulk) was underwhelming, to my recollection.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

May 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Thanks, M! I’ll definitely have to pick that trade up.

Jonathan, I could see how you could argue against X-Men: The End (WAAAAAY too long) and Wolverine: The End (WAAAAAY too stupid), but I adored Hulk: The End. I never got my hands on Marvel: The End, so I can’t judge that one.

Great list! I wish we could have seen Annihilation and Thanos Imperative on it though!

Um… where’s Thanos Imperative??

The new trade Avengers vs. Thanos contains:

Iron Man (1968) 55; Captain Marvel (1968) 25-33; Marvel Feature (1971) 12; Daredevil (1964) 105-107; Avengers (1963) 125; Warlock (1972) 9-11, 15; Avengers Annual (1967) 7; Marvel Two -In-One Annual 2; material from Logan ‘s Run 6

I agree that “Thanos Imperative”, “Thanos: Infinity Adyss” should have been on the list. Perhaps even “Annihiliation” (even though stricktly speaking it isn’t a Thanos story). But that isn’t that always the problem with top ten lists, they only have ten spots? Perhaps No. 1 (The Final Threat) and No. 7 (Magus Saga) could have been combined to fill a single slot, because they are part of the same story. To be fair, one could make the case that “Silver Surfer” No. 45 was part of “Infinity Gauntlet” and thus saved another spot. The main point being that there are so many good Thanos stories!

If you can look at the cover for no. 10 and NOT hear Cheap Trick’s “The Boys Are Back” . . . you’re the weird one. Not me. :P

1. Marvel: The End
2. Epiphany (Thanos #1-6)
3. Thanos Imperative
4. Infinity Gauntlet
5. Thanos: Infinity Abyss
6. Thanos Quest
7. “The Thanos War” (Captain Marvel #25-33)
8. Infinity Abyss
9. Rebirth of Thanos (Silver Surfer)
10. Infinity War
11. “Magus Saga” (Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-11) and “The Final Threat” (Avengers Annual #7/Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2)
12. Infinity War (and related tie-ins – and there are many of them)
13. Infinity Crusade (and related tie-ins)

I have an issue with the description of the Captain Marvel entry. It makes it sound like this is just another story where…

I would emphasize it’s the first story where Thanos gains a powerful weapon to try to commit mass murder. All you other such stories are just imitatin’.

Is this the first list for a character dominated entirely by one creator? Was Punisher all Ennis or just mostly Ennis?

The greatest Thanos stories ever told were told by Jim Starlin. His was the vision that raised the Titan from just another alien with a bad complexion to the most interesting, complex and best villain of the Marvel Universe (and yes, that includes Dr. Doom).

Nobody else has come close to grasping the complexity of Thanos. Mark Waid infamously put Thanos in a Ka-Zar story where at one point Thanos chases Ka-Zar like Elmer chasing Bugs (and to about the same effect). Then there was Dan Jurgens during his run on Thor who also mangled Thanos in some dumb and now, forgotten story. It was so bad when next Starlin returned to the character he waved away those previous lame versions by having Thanos tell Warlock those were malfunctioning robots.

It’s a shame Marvel and Starlin are at odds with one another, With Thanos slated to play a significant part in the Phase 2 films, it would be nice if the Powers That Be at Marvel could bury the hatchet and allow Starlin another crack at the character he perfected and wrote better than anyone else has since

@John: Nine out of ten of the Greatest GI Joe stories were by Larry Hama, and I think that’s the closest anyone’s gotten to a perfect score on one of these lists.

Agree with the top 7 entries although might have them in slightly different order. ‘The Magus saga’ leading into ‘the Final threat’ is epic and my high point of the Starlin Thanos stories. I would replace Starlin’s Thanos issues 1-6 with the Keith Giffen issues 7-12 where Thanos makes a trip to the Kyln and faces the Beyonder. This leads directly into Giffen’s first and best ‘Annihilation’ series which is great and should also be in the top ten.

Just on Keith Giffen…show him some love people. Everyone seems to forget that Giffen not DnA began the recent Marvel Cosmic renaissance after which DnA took the baton. Giffen’s stories are dark and complex and changed the landscape of Marvel permanently. He took Nova Richard Rider the boy and made him one of the most interesting characters in Marvel Universe.

I see Thanos has yet to have a good artist take him to the page….


May 2, 2013 at 4:47 am

Worst is Giffen’s run following Starlins in what was then supposed to be an ongoing. Issues 7-9 or 10 before it was mercifully cancelled. I have a lot of respect for Keith Giffen and some of his work is in my top ten favorite comics such as The Heckler and Ambush Bug. And I understand he had to come up with something real quick. But why did he ever think it was a good idea to give Thanos a sassy smart-mouthed Pixie as a sidekick?

Jim Kosmicki

May 2, 2013 at 6:15 am

I agree with putting the two-annual story ahead of Infinity Gauntlet. I remember having the second half of that annual crossover and going to every newsstand in town trying to find the first part.

however, the glaring hole in this list is the 5 page short story from Logan’s Run #6. It’s been reprinted in a few of the Thanos collections since then, but I will always remember reading it in the original comic. At the time, we were excited because the comics were going beyond the movie to explore more of Logan’s world (we didn’t know there were book sequels yet). And then we were disappointed because the main story was short. But when we read that extra story with Drax and Thanos and the flower, it didn’t matter. That story hit me like a ton of bricks and really made me begin to think about comics as a storytelling medium. This story would be in my top 3 Thanos stories for sure.

and I appreciated what Giffen did in the last 6 issues of the Thanos series, but also recognize that he was playing a long game there, setting up the Annihilation series. I would agree that the first six issues were superior and belong on this list before the last six issues.

Pedro Bouça

May 2, 2013 at 6:44 am

An all-Starlin list. As it should be! I thought Infinity Gauntlet would be #1, though.

Happy, REALLY happy to see that the most recent Bendis abomination isn’t here. Seems that all Bendis’s sales don’t translate in goodwill to his stories…

@Jason, I think you’re hearing Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back…” — minor point I know.

No question #1 deserves its place. That was such an amazingly powerful issue and so tragic for Warlock–presumably because Starlin had no plans to bring him back so he could be pretty damn final.
Infinity stuff? As I recall, the first series consisted of about 90 percent padding–Thanos proclaims he’s invincible, someone tries to take him down, Thanos wins. Next issue, repeat. Not to mention one that was an entire Thanos daydream.
Was The End the one that assured us Death would never again be a revolving door for MU characters?

oh,forgot to say that Death of Captain Marvel TPB includes all of the original Thanos Cosmic Cube story except for a crossover in Avengers. And yes, the “Death” story is unbelievably awesome. I can understand why nobody has really resurrected him since.

Aside from echoing the Starlin and Lim love, there’s one thing that no one has mentioned that always impressed me… like Superman or Spider-Man, Thanos is one of those characters whose costume has never had a serious, lasting redesign. It looked correct when he was created, and so it remains.

The biggest addition over the years? Pants and sleeves. And that’s really more of a re-color than anything.

Thanos is the best Marvel Universe villain when he is beign written by Starlin.

8 out of my 10 made it (my “best score”)
The 2 that didn’t were “the Infinity War ” and it’s aside “I, Thanos”

Turd Burglar

May 5, 2013 at 6:45 am

@John —

Punisher was 9 Ennis stories, G.I. Joe was 9 Hama stories. None of the characters have been all 10 by the same writer.

Although not the star, to be the Annhilation War would count because he was one of the biggest players in it. I’m surprised in doesn’t make a lot of people’s Top Ten.

Glad Marvel:The End made it. I would really like to see Marvel try and revisit the “Heart of the Infinite” at some point.

“I though the Annhiliation War”…I meant, got to read before hitting the publish button!

“Today’s list is the Greatest Ghost Rider Stories Ever Told!”…

Jonathon Riddle

May 21, 2013 at 12:29 am

Kind of strange to see Starlin’s Warlock divided up into two pieces here, since the annuals were the conclusion of Thanos’ battle with the Magus. Part of what makes that story so great is that the reader doesn’t realize it’s all one long story until the wrap-up at the very end when Warlock’s past literally catches up with him.

Infinity Abyss deserves placement, which I thought was superior to both Marvel: The End, and the Thanos regular series. But it puts a smile on my face that every story in the list was written by Jim Starlin. The character is so uniquely his creation that no other writer comes close to understanding the Mad Titan as well as Starlin does.

The only exception I can think up is The Universe According to Thanos, which appeared in Silver Surfer 55-56, by Ron Marz and Ron Lim. It’s a hypothetical story which shows what may happen to the Silver Surfer if he fails to snatch the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos’ hand. The story is blunted a little by it’s lack of consequence (The whole thing was a dream. It’s hard to get more cliched than that.) but for two issues, readers got to see Thanos kill his enemies – his goodbye to Adam Warlock was especially satisfying – and torture the Surfer maliciously, all while ruling the cosmos with the embodiment of Death at his side.

The It Was All His Imagination aspect of that story made me want to throw it across the comic book store. Followed by the writers.

How many other comic villains have had moments like Thanos at the end of Quest?

Interesting how little used he was before, considering 7 of the 10 happened after his “death.”

I just read a countdown this past week that said that Infinity Gauntlet was the #1 Marvel story of all time. In this countdown it isn’t even the #1 Thanos story. Interesting. I bought the Infinity Gauntlet trade yesterday so I can finally read it.

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