Thanos is closer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe than ever before. The Mad Titan is set to make Earthfall on the release of Avengers: Infinity War this May, and if the teaser footage we’ve seen so far is anything to go by, it’ll take the combined might of every single MCU hero to bring him down. It’s not surprising either, seeing as he’s on a quest to wield all of the Infinity Stones in his golden gauntlet. When that happens, he’ll be as close to a god as he can be -- all of the power with none of the responsibility.
Comic fans have seen what happens when Thanos gets the power of the Infinity Gauntlet in the palm of his hand (literally), thanks to the Infinity Gauntlet event from 1991. That series, which the movie is loosely based on, saw Thanos wipe out half of all life in existence with a snap of his fingers, so the trailers aren’t over exaggerating, this is serious business. Over the years, though, we’ve seen that he’s not always indestructible, and when he’s not wearing his gem-encrusted glove, he’s susceptible to far stronger beings. Here, CBR brings you the 15 Times Thanos was Utterly Destroyed!
15 DOOM RIPS HIS SPINE OUT
2015’s Secret Wars event had some crazy moments. When your series starts with the Ultimate universe colliding with the 616 Universe, you know you’re in for a wild ride. If there was one being in the Marvel canon that could benefit from the end of all existence, it would be Doctor Doom. He’s already wielded the Power Cosmic -- the energy that gives the Silver Surfer his power -- and found it “beneath him,” so the destruction of the universe is just an obstacle to him.
From the ashes of the death of everything rose God Emperor Doom, ruler of the patchwork of realities known as Battleworld. Those who opposed him all met a grisly end, as Thanos found out when he made a desperate grasp for power near the end of the series. His punishment? Doom ripping out his spine.
14 ZOMBIE HULK DESTROYS HIS BRAIN
To get killed by a zombified Hulk shouldn’t be seen as a weakness of Thanos, as there would be few beings alive that would be able to survive a confrontation with an undead Hulk. There’s no doubt, however, that Thanos (also a zombie) got absolutely destroyed in the worst possible way.
As you may have guessed, this happened in the alternate universe of the Marvel Zombies comics. When Thanos started complaining that Hulk was eating twice as much food as all of the other zombies, Hulk confronted the problem “head-on,” by smashing the Mad Titan’s head between his giant Hulk hands, proudly declaring that he’ll be eating both of their food from now on. He also called Thanos “Prune Chin,” proving that even when he’s a zombie, Hulk isn’t short of a snappy zinger.
13 WOLVERINE RIPS HIS ARM OFF
Marvel’s What If comics are a treasure trove of alternate universe madness, forever asking questions about what would have happened had things gone a little differently. In What if...Newer Fantastic Four #1 from 2008, we saw a world in which alternate heroes had to step into the shoes of Marvel’s First Family when they were killed in action.
Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man and Wolverine became the Newer Fantastic Four during the seminal Infinity Gauntlet Saga, and we got to see what would happen when facing off against a Titanian god with unlimited power. It turns out, if you have Wolverine on your team, he’s just going to be the best there is at what he does (even if what he does isn’t nice), and in one swipe he slices Thanos’s arm off, relinquishing his power over the Infinity Gauntlet.
12 BLACK BOLT’S SCREAM
We’ll look back on the 2010s as that time Marvel was really pushing The Inhumans on us. It feels like that time is coming to an end now, but for a while there, everything seemed to revolve around them. The 2013 event Infinity was no different. Despite sharing its nomenclature with the Infinity Gauntlet saga, the storyline had little to do with the fabled stones (known as gems in the comics).
Rather, this story involved Thanos attacking the Inhumans in an attempt to find his son, long abandoned on Earth. When confronting the King of Attilan, however, you need to remember to bring earplugs, because Black Bolt’s whisper can level mountains. Thanos found this out the hard way, when he was faced with a full-on shout that destroyed not only Thanos (temporarily), but obliterated Attilan, and set off a Terrigen bomb that turned thousands of people into Inhumans.
11 GROOT/HULK FASTBALL SPECIAL
When he couldn’t get his hands on the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos went after the next best thing: a Cosmic Cube. That was the plot of the first storyline of the Avengers Assemble comic from 2012. In an effort to produce a comic more in line with the movies, Avengers Assemble saw a familiar team of Avengers join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy to fight against Thanos.
In the eighth issue, the heroes have acquired a weapon of great power from The Collector, and when it’s used, it smashes into Thanos and makes him temporarily vulnerable, something Hulk took advantage of, hurling Groot at the Mad Titan in a classic Fastball Special move. Groot got to work attacking Thanos with all his might before the rest of the heroes joined him and brought about his defeat.
10 THOR’S DEVASTATING UPPERCUT
There’s no denying that Thor, Son of Odin and God of Thunder is what scientists would call “hella powerful.” But when faced with Thanos, the Mad Titan, it always seems to be Thor that gets his butt handed to him. That might have been why, when his son was just coming off a fight with the Mangog, Odin thought he’d help Thor out in his upcoming conflict with Thanos.
The All-Father crafted a shield, gauntlet, and belt, enchanting him with his fancy Asgardian magic before sending them to Thor to use in his battle. It couldn’t have come at a better time too because once again the God of Thunder was getting beaten by Thanos, but when he wore this new armor the tables were turned. The pinnacle of the fight was an uppercut with Mjolnir right to the giant purple chin of the Mad Titan.
9 THANE TRAPS HIM IN AMBER
The Infinity event had a lot of fallout when the dust had settled, not least of which introducing Thanos’s Inhuman son Thane into the Marvel Universe. Thane had been in hiding on Earth until the Terrigen bomb revealed his Inhuman heritage for Thanos to find. When Thane was actuated, his powers were so overwhelming that he destroyed the entire village he lived in, killing all of the inhabitants.
Thanos laid down a path of destruction in finding his son, one that involved almost every Marvel hero, especially the newly expanded roster of Avengers, in an effort to stop him. In the end, it was Thane himself who ended his despotic father’s conquest, unleashing his Inhuman power and trapping Thanos in an amber-like substance, in a state of “Living Death.”
8 CAST INTO THE GOD QUARRY
The latest Thanos solo title has seen the Mad Titan thrown from one deadly situation to the next. First, it was revealed that he was dying of a powerful unknown disease, and soon after he discovers that not only is his Inhuman son Thane out to kill him, he’s using the all-powerful Phoenix Force to do it.
This overwhelming adversity forces Thanos to travel to the edge of the known universe to the God Quarry: a mystical place where gods go to die, and a coven of three cosmic Witches feast on their souls. However, if a being submitted to the quarry willingly, they would face trials that would test them like never before. Fail, and they would be frozen into the stone that lines the quarry. Suffice it to say, Thanos survived his trials, but it nearly killed him in the process.
7 TRAPPED IN THE CANCERVERSE
Returning from the dead can be a tricky thing, and when someone like Drax the destroyer punches a hole in your chest, you may need a little help returning to the land of the living. So when the Guardians of the Galaxy uncovered a giant cocoon being held by the evil Universal Church of Truth, they’re shocked to learn that Thanos is the one inside.
This is the lead-in to the Marvel cosmic event The Thanos Imperative, which, following on from the previous event War of Kings, sees the galaxy fighting to close the Fault: a tear in the fabric of spacetime between our universe and the monstrous Cancerverse. Near the end of the series, Thanos does what he does best, and betrays these heroes, forcing Starlord and Nova to trap him (and themselves) in the Cancerverse as the Fault closes.
6 SQUIRREL GIRL WIPES THE FLOOR WITH HIM
Doreen Green may just be a girl with the powers of both squirrel and girl, but there’s a reason she’s called the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. What started as a bit of a joke turned into a well-earned reputation, as since her inception she’s defeated some heavy hitters such as Galactus, Ultron, a clone of herself and even -- yes, you guessed it -- Thanos.
This happened prior to her current Unbeatable ongoing series, in the GLX-mas annual from 2005. While its canonical status is questioned by some, between the end of one story and the start of another, Squirrel Girl single-handedly (well, assisted by squirrels, one would assume) defeated Thanos and saved the universe. The Watcher even shows up to proclaim that this is indeed the real Thanos, and not a clone, robot or other simulacra.
5 WARLOCK TURNS HIM TO STONE
While Thanos’s main nemesis these days would arguably be “the entire Marvel Universe,” there was a time when he wasn’t an Avengers villain, but a cosmic threat tackled by Adam Warlock. Before the Infinity Gauntlet saga, Thanos had previously attempted to wield the power of the Infinity Gems.
In one of their epic battles, Thanos fatally wounds Warlock, and he is only saved by a time-traveling version of himself arriving and absorbing his soul in order to prevent him from becoming the even more powerful being known as Magus. Warlock returns to the past and, with the powerful Soul Gem in his possession and the soul of another version of himself, defeats Thanos in his moment of victory and turns the Mad Titan into a statue of solid granite.
4 THE ULTIMATES PREDICT HIS DOWNFALL
With the massive success of 2006’s Civil War event, it was somewhat inevitable that Marvel would plan a sequel. In 2016, that sequel came in the form of (unsurprisingly) Civil War II. The basic concept was that an Inhuman was discovered with the apparent ability to predict the future, and the superhero community was divided in two about whether to use this information proactively or leave that kind of absolute power alone.
The inciting event that began the second superhero civil war involved Captain Marvel and her team of Ultimates using these visions of the future to predict the arrival of Thanos on Earth. With this unique knowledge, they were able to get the jump on him and defeat him decisively. The conflict did, however, cost the life of War Machine and put She-Hulk into a coma, revealing the gift/curse nature to this Inhuman ability.
3 HUMILIATED BY HELLCAT (AND THE NYPD)
It’s pretty clear in retrospect that in the early days of Thanos’s villainous career, Marvel writers didn’t really know what to do with him, and hadn’t quite decided just how cosmically powerful he would become. That is why, in Spidey Super Stories #39, we see Thanos riding around New York City in his now infamous Thanoscopter, trying to steal from children.
The heroes in this bonkers adventure were Hellcat and Spider-Man, who were battling Thanos over a Cosmic Cube. The cube fell into the hands of a small boy, who uses it on Thanos to trap and ultimately defeat him, his final indignity being escorted away in handcuffs by the NYPD. Perhaps not the most brutal physical defeat, but mentally this whole ordeal must have destroyed him.
2 STARLORD KNOCKS HIM OUT WITH A COSMIC CUBE
Thanos seems to have an unfortunate history with Cosmic Cubes. Firstly a small child uses one to easily overwhelm him, and secondly, he gets blasted in the face by one after only recently being brought back to life.
This happened in Guardians of the Galaxy #25 from 2008, in the events surrounding the event The Thanos Imperative. Newly resurrected by the Universal Church of Truth, Thanos goes on a rampage, with only the Guardians in his way. Starlord unwittingly unleashes the full force of a Cosmic Cube right in Thanos’s face, abruptly ending the fight and knocking the Mad Titan unconscious. This wouldn’t be the last time that the Guardians face off against Thanos, but we’ll have to wait for Avengers: Infinity War to see if their cinematic counterparts are able to defeat him so easily.
1 DRAX PUNCHES THROUGH HIS CHEST
Drax’s origin story in the comics is one of those unfortunately complicated affairs that can only happen in comics. After Thanos crash lands on earth, he inadvertently kills a human family. In an effort to stop his wayward son for good, Thanos’s father Mentor resurrects the slain dad and turns him into a killing machine, existing for the sole purpose of killing Thanos. His name: Drax the Destroyer.
You’d think that, given the massive popularity of the Mad Titan, Drax’s quest to kill Thanos would be fruitless, but in 2006’s Annihilation Event he accomplished his (literal) life goal, driving his fist right through Thanos’s chest, gripping the Titanian’s heart in his hand as he died. It’s a gruesome moment that’s no doubt extremely cathartic for Drax, even if, like most comic book deaths, Thanos would inevitably return.