Joe Keatinge is quickly becoming a jack-of-all-genres in comics. Whether it’s his creator-owned Image Comics series “Hell Yeah” or his take on Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios “Glory” relaunch, Keatinge has demonstrated an ability to cover many differing tones and genres in comics. This October, he adds the Marvel Comics Cosmic Universe to his resume with his take on an origin story for “Thanos: Son of Titan.”
Announced earlier this month, the miniseries by Keatinge with art by “Journey Into Mystery’s” Richard Elson focuses on the cosmic villain, his origins, and how aspects of the Marvel Universe caused him to become who he is.
Keatinge spoke with CBR News about his work on the upcoming title, his excitement at handling one of his favorite characters, how he landed the writing job through social media, and what’s in store for new readers and longtime fans alike.
CBR News: Joe, “Thanos: Son of Titan” was just announced and it’s been blowing up all over the Internet — what can you tell us about the aspects of Thanos you’re planning to explore in this story?
Joe Keatinge: There’s a lot about this guy I’m excited to explore. It’s not every day people are inspired to wipe out an entire universe, achieve god-hood and so on, all to court a woman who just happens to be the personification of Death. It’s on record he annihilated a good chunk of his own race, but he somehow remains calculated, methodical, and retains the belief he’s noble. Like Doctor Doom, I think he’s a guy who believes his intentions are just, as messed up as that is.
The idea of seeing how he ends up there, especially having been born from a scientific, peaceful utopia, really intrigues me.
You noted on your Tumblr that this is “very much a passion project in every single way.” What is it about working with this character makes you so passionate to handle this book?
I was of the perfect age when “Thanos Quest” and “Infinity Gauntlet” were coming out. I found the latter one first and it starts off without giving you a lot of context into who this guy is. All I knew was he’s standing in front of a giant monument of the word “God” and Mephisto is pretty much begging Thanos to slave under him. Keep in mind there was a massive gap in Thanos appearing at all, so he came out of nowhere for me as a reader. This one scene got me enthralled, but what completely sold me on him at the time was the juxtaposition of the covers where every single Marvel hero is coming at this guy and the next is his response — where he gestures at them and says, “Come and get me.” Now that’s bad ass.
From there I would read anything he was in. I went back and dug his reappearance in “Silver Surfer,” was stoked when he returned for “Warlock and the Infinity Watch,” “Infinity War” and so on.
This whole project has an odd bit of kismet surrounding it. I somewhat recently became obsessed with 1970s Marvel in general, as beyond Kirby’s stuff it’s mostly a gap in my comics knowledge. Before then I had read the origins of the Marvel Universe — all the original Kirby, Ditko, Lee, Heck, Wood, etc. — and then I started reading comics in the 1980s. So there was this decade of stuff beyond Kirby’s for me to check out.
Anyway, right around Free Comic Book Day this year I got the urge to dive into [Jim] Starlin’s “Warlock” run. Luckily, I was spending FCBD at a store well-known for a killer back issue stock, Raleigh, North Carolina’s Ultimate Comics. There I just stocked up on every single “Warlock” comic they had, including the Gil Kane run, the Hulk issue, leading into Starlin’s take. That night a group of us — “Hell Yeah’s” Andre Szymanowicz, “Return of the Dapper Men’s” Janet K. Lee and “Batman Inc.’s” Chris Burnham — went to go see “The Avengers” and I completely lost it when Thanos appeared at the end. I was in the absolute perfect head space as a fan and reader for Thanos to be making his big comeback. So much so that when I was a guest at the Vancouver Comic Con, I finished off the run to include “The Life Of Captain Marvel” reprint miniseries and it completely had me all in. I was all up in All Things Thanos.
So, yeah, when [Marvel editor] Stephen Wacker asked me if I’d be interested in working on a Thanos origin miniseries, I couldn’t have been more ready to go. I’m drawing on a lot personally here — from the original spark of imagination I had when I was a kid seeing him take down the Marvel superheroes to the fire being relit in me recently by going back and checking out this whole history to diving in head first into Marvel Universe for the first time as a writer. As I said before, I was and am “all in.”
Obviously, the end credits scene in “The Avengers” has ramped up interest in Thanos for folks who may have never heard of him before. How will “Son of Titan” help explain who Thanos is and what his place is in the Marvel U to readers unfamiliar with iconic stories like “Infinity Gauntlet?”
One of my biggest goals with this is similar to something I did on the Extreme revival of “Glory.” If you have never, ever read a Thanos story — heck, an Avengers story at all — you should be able to sit down and read this without any confusion whatsoever. So, yeah, if you’re someone whose only exposure to the Marvel Universe are the movies, you should have no problem sitting down with “Thanos: Son of Titan” and being drawn in. No prior knowledge is required.
On the flip side, you’re definitely a fan of the character and his role in Marvel history. How does “Son of Titan” build upon the lore of the character without sacrificing the ability for new readers to jump in?
If you’re someone like me and have been obsessed with him for years, then there will be a lot in there to reward you. A lot of small bits and Easter Eggs that you know will be something huge later on. There’s one moment in particular in the first issue that I am thrilled for long-time readers to check out.
It was stated in the series announcement that you actually got this gig through social media — something you’re very active on. What do you think is the importance of social media in the comics industry when it comes to happenstance like this?
It’s part of the Way Things Work now, you know? Stephen read my comics, looked me up online and was able to contact me through social media in an instant. I know I’m not alone in here. This is pretty much the most obvious statement ever, but yeah, social media’s become a major component in how we communicate with each other, how things are marketed, how people get exposure and so on. It was absolutely essential to how I hooked up with Marvel.
You’re working with Richard Elson for this book. What about Richard’s style do you think makes him a good fit for the story you’re telling?
Everything! Did you see that “Mighty Thor” annual he just did?! Or all of his “Journey Into Mystery” issues?! Richard is astonishing at making the cosmic seem real, yet retaining the fantastic. He is the absolute perfect person to tackle a story like this — we’re showing you where this huge cosmic entity like Thanos originated from, why he is the way he was, who he was before he threatened the universe with the Star Gem or all of reality with the Infinity Gauntlet. That’s very much in Richard’s wheelhouse. I’m very stoked to have him on board.
Keeping busy seems to be a running trend for you lately — you’re doing both “Glory” and “Hell Yeah” for Image, which are two very different books from mainstream superhero stuff. Does “Thanos: Son of Titan” scratch an itch to write more traditional superhero (or in this case, supervillain) fare, or do you find the experience similar to crafting stories for your Image books?
Even as a reader I was never someone to just want one type of story or genre. As a writer, I want to similarly tackle a huge variety of stories. “Glory” is a very different book from “Hell Yeah” which is a very different book from “Thanos: Son of Titan.” That excites me. That’s why I love this medium so damn much. It is capable of doing anything. I definitely want to continue doing more along the lines of “Son of Titan” and one of my favorite aspects of the Marvel Universe is that it affords you the opportunity to do a huge variety of stories in this one place. I’d love to stick around there.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far in crafting the story for “Thanos: Son of Titan?”
There’s a lot of eyes on this thing. Thanos is very much the “It” villain right now. There’s a huge pressure to deliver, but I dig that. It’s a challenge, for sure, but working with Marvel has been a lifelong dream of mine. I’m ready for it.
“Thanos: Son of Titan” #1 by Joe Keatinge and Richard Elson hits shelves in October.