While their schemes are usually crushed by the heroes, over the years the villains of the Marvel Universe have achieved some truly impressive feats — they’ve killed heroes, conquered planets and stood up to gods. But among their ranks, only one has done all that and single handedly wiped out half the population of the Marvel U. That honor belongs to Thanos, the intergalactic killer, warlord and occasional anti-hero who recently returned to menace the Earth in Marvel’s “Infinity” event.
In 2014 Thanos’ creator, writer/artist Jim Starlin, returns to the character and Marvel Comics to bring readers the Mad Titan’s next big adventure, a 100-page original graphic novel titled “Thanos: The Infinity Revelation.” CBR News spoke with Starlin about the cosmic epic, which pits the title character and Adam Warlock against the Silver Surfer and his cosmic powered teammates, The Annihilators.
CBR News: Jim, your last work for Marvel was on a “Thanos” ongoing series in 2004. You’ve been away from both the company and the character you’ve created for some time now. How does it feel to return to Marvel?
Jim Starlin: It’s like visiting old friends. I had a certain amount of trepidation coming back and working here just because I hadn’t done this sort of work in a while and they started me off with a 100-page story. Marvel doesn’t believe in half measures. [Laughs]
It’s gone very well. Originally Mark Bagley was supposed to draw this story, but his schedule prevented him from doing so and something I was supposed to write couldn’t happen just yet. So I took on the penciling job as well. That was the part I was a little bit hesitant on. It worked out tremendously well though, and Andy Smith is doing a bang up job on the inking. Frank D’Armata is our colorist and his pages are just looking terrific.
What’s it like returning to the character of Thanos? What about him do you find most interesting and what keeps him fresh for you? Has there ever been a point where you felt like you don’t have anything more to say with the character?
I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with Drax after the original run [Laughs], but I always had something in mind for Thanos. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have these dark, unspeakable corners within our psyches. Thanos is my dark, little corner that I rather enjoy visiting.
I had a lot of fun doing that in the past with books like “Thanos Quest” and “The Infinity Gauntlet.” This one has that same kind of feel. It’s a very off-the-wall story about an undefined obsession that gets out of control, and even with Adam Warlock hanging out, trying to mitigate the damage Thanos might cause, [Laughs] things get out of hand and it turns into a nice, wild ride at the end.
Thanos was last seen in Marvel’s “Infinity” event where he and his army of followers invaded Earth on a mission of pillage and destruction. How big of an impact will the “Infinity” event have on this graphic novel?
Marvel and [editor] Tom Brevoort were not really forthcoming about what was going on with Thanos [in other titles] when I first started up on my book because we were getting used to each other again. So I wrote the whole thing without ever having seen “Infinity.” Now that those books have come out I went back to some of the graphic novel’s pages, that had already been penciled and inked, and added some Outriders into the background here and there. I also added Corvus Glaive into the background in one scene as well. That was as much continuity from “Infinity” as I could manage.
Unlike your previous Thanos stories, which were serialized, “The Infinity Revelation” is an original graphic novel. How different was it telling this story in this format as opposed to a miniseries or a run on an ongoing title?
The flow of telling the tale goes much more easily with an uninterrupted story. That’s the upside of it. The downside of it is that you’re starting off the job facing 100 blank pages, which is quite daunting. I sat down and wrote it first so I had a complete script to work from, and once I got to the penciling I convinced myself that I was doing five 20-page stories. It was much easier that way.
You wrote and drew the first Marvel graphic novel, “The Death of Captain Marvel,” over 30 years ago and the format and the page count have both come a long way since then.
Yeah, “Captain Marvel” was about 48 pages. Directly after that I did a “Dreadstar” graphic novel for Marvel, but I have not returned to the format since then.
Let’s talk a little more about the story of “The Infinity Revelation.” In terms of plot and themes what is it about? What can you tell us about the events that set the story in motion?
I’m working on three Thanos projects. This is just the first one to be announced. They’re all sort of connected in some way even though they happen in different time periods.
This story is set in the present and it’s about an undefined obsession that Thanos is feeling. He’s seeking a way to act upon it and meanwhile the big entities of the Universe like Eternity and the Living Tribunal all know that there’s a major change coming. Basically Thanos precipitates it, things get out of hand, and he and Adam Warlock do their best to rectify the situation.
You mentioned that Adam Warlock is accompanying Thanos on his quest in the OGN. Since they’ve been both allies and enemies in the past, can you talk about the dynamic between those two characters?
The fact that Warlock’s first encounter with Thanos ended with Thanos killing him sort of put a damper on their relationship. They’re both characters that are out of the flow of the norm in the Marvel Universe though. Life and Death don’t have a real firm grasp on either character; they’ve both had multiple resurrections over the years.
â€¨So they’re both sort of in line with characters like Lord Chaos and Master Order. They’re on their way to evolving into one of those abstract entities. They both seem to be major players in any kind of cosmic thing that comes down in the Marvel Universe, whether for good or for ill. Thanos has been on both sides of that equation, so they have a lot in common.
I think Warlock has decided that he’s going to be buddies with this guy so he can reduce whatever damage the Titan’s causing. Thanos thinks that Warlock is this strange thing that he can gain perspectives from that he wouldn’t elsewhere. That’s the basis of their relationship, and they are the closest thing to a friend that each of them has.
One of the antagonists Thanos will run afoul of in “The Infinity Revelation” is the Silver Surfer. Since these two guys have clashed on a number of occasions, how would you describe the enmity between the two of them? Do these guys hate each other?
There’s a scene inside the book where it looks like Thanos is going to kill the Surfer but doesn’t. He then says of the Surfer, “Like Galactus, I realize he’s so easy to manipulate that it would be a waste of a valuable asset killing him.”
I take it Thanos doesn’t have a high regard for the Surfer’s intellect. How does the Surfer feel about Thanos though? Since he served Galactus for years we know he does stop to consider the cosmic big picture. Does that also influence the way he views Thanos?
I suspect that he mostly fears and hates Thanos. I don’t see any affinity between those two characters.
The Surfer’s teammates, The Annihilators, will also be a part of “The Infinity Revelation.” What do you find most interesting about these characters? Have you written any of them before?
I’ve written the Surfer, of course, but this is my first time writing most of those characters. It was kind of funny, Walt Simonson was instrumental in getting me to sit down and talk with Marvel again. I owe him for that support, and when I started drawing this story I realized that I was treating Beta Ray Bill terribly. There was a big confrontation between him and Thanos and when I saw Walt the following weekend in Baltimore I said to him, “I feel bad about this, the only consolation is I treat Ronan the Accuser much worse in the book.” [Laughs]
Are there any other supporting players or minor character that pop up in “The Infinity Revelation” that you can tease?
Some of the Guardians of the Galaxy make a brief appearance. You’ll get cameos by Drax, Rocket Raccoon and Groot. I didn’t have any reference on Drax or Rocket’s current costumes when I started the series so their costumes are just a little out of date.
You touched upon art briefly at the beginning, but let’s talk a little more about your pencils for “Thanos: The Infinity Revelation.” How would you describe the look of the book? How does it compare to some of your recent work like “Breed III?”
“Breed III” was a different kind of story and I’m not inking this. This is a Marvel comic to so it has different dynamics than what I would do in “Breed.”
It’s kind of like going back in time in some ways. I’m trying to work in a style that’s a little more up to date than what we did in the ’70s, of course. The pages are much more complex than what I was doing back then.
The art in comic books over the past 30 years has grown by leaps and bounds. But I don’t think the stories have evolved as much. So there are some comfortable areas and some new areas. I’m having a good time with the book though. I’ve been finished with it for a while now and the book is currently being inked and colored.
It certainly sounds like “Thanos: The Infinity Revelation” is a return to the grand, cosmic Marvel epics that you’re known for. Can you offer up a final overview of the story’s tone, scope and scale?
Multiple realities are an aspect of this story. That’s something I haven’t played around with too much. So from about page six on the reader of this book is going to be sitting there scratching their head and thinking, “Doesn’t Starlin remember who he’s drawing?” It takes a while, but it will become apparent that there’s a reason for these inconsistencies.
So there’s a mystery element to the story than as well?
It’s not so much a mystery as a revelation that comes down and says, “This is why strange things are happening.”
Also, there will be a major change in Thanos by the end of “The Infinity Revelation.”
Finally, you mentioned you’re working on two other related Thanos projects as well. Is “Thanos: The Infinity Revelation” the first chapter in a larger trilogy?
I am working on three different stories, but they don’t all happen within the same time frame. So they don’t really qualify as a trilogy, but they’re all headed in the same direction.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on “Thanos: The Infinity Revelation” and the other projects Starlin is working on featuring the Mad Titan.