With Avengers: Infinity War right around the corner, everyone wants to know about Thanos. Who is he? What's his deal? What's with the jewelry obsession? But most importantly, what can this guy do? Why is he a threat? Obviously, the Infinity Stones are a large part of why Thanos is such a threat. But even without them, he's still a bad enough dude to take on the Avengers toe to toe. But just what CAN he do?
A better question would probably be what can't he do. His most obvious asset is his sheer size, towering over Thor and coming level with the Hulk. So we won't talk about how strong he is (very). We also won't talk about the Infinity Stones, since they're not really his powers per se, but rather something he's using for a bit. Also, we could probably write an entire list all by itself about all the myriad powers the Stones grant. Instead, we'll focus on the lesser-known powers. The ones that aren't immediately obvious just by looking at the Mad Titan; the powers of the mind, not just the body. But we'll also include some body stuff, because knowing how hard Thanos can deck a mothatrucka is pretty cool too.
15 SUPER INTELLIGENCE
A pretty useful tip: you don't get to be one of the most dangerous villains in comics by being an idiot. While Thanos is physically very powerful, it's his intellect and vast amount of knowledge that truly make him an omniversal threat. While Thanos is not the first to use the Infinity Gems/Stones, he is the apparently the first to think of using them all together.
Thanos is also a master of technology, equal to or even exceeding the likes of Reed Richards.
One of his most ubiquitous creations is his Space Throne. Able to withstand full-power blasts from the Silver Surfer, it can also deliver devastating energy blasts. Discerning readers might remember it from its brief appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy. Why did the armrests have rockets, anyway?
14 MASTER TACTITICAN
Part of Thanos' brilliance comes through in his dastardly and labyrinthine schemes. While most of his more famous plots involve just brute-forcing his way through, he still gets to flex his secret evil plans every now and then. In Annihilation, he "serves" outer-space bug lord Annihilus in order to further his own goals. In Secret Wars, he even allows himself to be captured in order to destabilize Doctor Doom's paradise.
It's entirely likely this aspect will show up in Infinity War. While we've only seen the classic "Thanos beats everyone up" in trailers, it's possible, even likely, that the battles we see are all a smokescreen for a larger, grander scheme. While Thanos' main goal is of course obtaining the Infinity Stones, we still don't know how he's going to go about obtaining the Soul Stone.
One of Thanos' least remembered powers, it's also one of his most dangerous. Even without the Mind Stone, Thanos is able to reach into another's mind and speak with them, sometimes even controlling them. While not as strong as someone like Jean Grey or Professor X, he can still drive people mad with a gesture, or defend himself from powerful psychics like Mantis and Moondragon.
But, like everything else, his telepathy becomes most dangerous when combined with his intelligence and scheming mind.
He can manipulate and corrupt someone without even speaking, or being in the same room. He's used this to great effect in the past, driving people insane while imprisoned and otherwise helpless. These powers are of course only enhanced by the Mind Stone.
12 MASTER FIGHTER
While Thanos' brute strength is key to his domination of opponents, it should also be said that he is a master hand-to-hand fighter. There aren't a lot of characters in the Marvel Universe that are physically stronger than him, but when he faces them, he can usually gain the upper hand with his fighting skills and intelligence.
He's been shown to be skilled a blade, as well as just his fists, wielding Surtur's Twilight Sword to battle a Mjolnir-wielding Silver Surfer. He's also skilled at combining his physical abilities and energy manipulation (more on that later) to overwhelm his opponents. Whether these skills appear in Infinity War remain to be seen, but it seems unlikely, as Thanos seems to be overwhelmingly stronger than the Avengers.
11 ENERGY MANIPULATION
Just in case Thanos' fighting skills and strength aren't enough to overwhelm any opponent, he also has EYE BEAMS... as well as various other energy manipulation and projection abilities. His eye beams alone have been shown to be able to strike multiple targets. This ability likely stems from Thanos' origins as a Darkseid ripoff/knockoff/homage. The eye beams especially call to mind Darkseid's Omega Sanction.
Interestingly, Thanos can also manipulate metal with magnetism, just like Magneto.
Like all of Thanos' powers, his energy blasts are extremely powerful. Even on the low end, his blasts can knock beings like Thor and Hulk unconscious. At their most powerful, they can crack Galactus' armor and knock the Devourer of Worlds off his feet. In an apocalyptic future where Thanos wins, the energy blasts become so powerful, they can blow Galactus' head clean off with a single shot.
10 SUPERHUMAN AGILITY AND REFLEXES
Thanos is a member of a race called the Eternals. Genetically engineered by the Celestials, Eternals have a whole suite of powers and abilities that place them above normal humans. They're stronger, faster, and generally just better than base humans, on top of being nearly immortal. Thanos, as an Eternal has access to all these abilities, although he has since augmented his strength and speed to be well above a normal Eternal.
What this all means is, despite his bulk, Thanos is surprisingly agile. His reflexes are also enhanced to well above human levels. This, in turn, makes him a much more dangerous fighter on top of his skills and intelligence. While these powers are rarely on display due to Thanos just tanking hits, they're still part of the full package of the Mad Titan.
Another of Thanos' lesser known abilities, this power comes not from his natural abilities, but from his technological mastery. His Space Throne, in addition to all its other abilities, allows Thanos to teleport. What makes this power special, and separate from the rest of the Space Throne, is that he can teleport even when he's not sitting on it. It also allows him to teleport others.
The range on this ability is unknown, both how far he can teleport and how far he can be from his Throne.
This power may even show up in Infinity War, as Thanos can be seen in trailers walking out of portals. Granted, he likely achieves this with the power of the Space Stone. The Infinity Gems replace or enhance a lot of Thanos' base powers, but that doesn't mean he's not dangerous without them.
8 MATTER MANIPULATION
Another ability born out of his Eternal heritage, Thanos has the power to manipulate matter at an atomic level. While this power doesn't come up often, it was introduced in the very first Thanos story, way back in 1973. There, Thanos turns one of his Skrull servants to stone. The mechanism of this transformation is unclear, but Thanos claims responsibility.
This ability doesn't really come up often or at all after this story, but it speaks to Thanos' character that he keeps such a powerful ability in his back pocket. Similar to the Molecule Man's power, but on a smaller scale, this often forgotten power makes Thanos incredibly dangerous. Like everything else, the Infinity Stones enhance this ability, particularly the Reality Stone, which expands this power to include all reality.
Seems like a pretty basic power to be obscure, but here we are. Introduced only recently, in 2014, Thanos demonstrated the ability to fly unassisted in a battle against Star-Lord. Before this, Thanos only flew with his Space Throne. It's unclear if this is a newly acquired power, or born out of some technological gizmo.
It's also possible that Thanos just never felt the need to fly unassisted.
Another possibility involves the power of teleportation granted by the Space Throne. Like teleportation, it's possible that the Space Throne is able to remotely grant its power to Thanos. Even further, this could be an offshoot of Thanos' magical abilities (more on that later). It's also possible that Thanos saw this power as irrelevant due to his ability to teleport.
Part of Thanos' vast expanse of knowledge includes the mystic arts. Thanos, being Thanos, doesn't restrict himself to mere conjurer's tricks, though. His incredible intellect allows him to combine his mystical skills with his technological marvels, resulting in wondrous creations. The most impressive of these is the ubiquitous Space Throne, a combination of super science and magic that grants him myriad abilities.
His powers allow him to create force fields, rend skin from flesh with a gesture, and with the Space Throne, teleport. Thanos once further enhanced these mystical abilities by combining his DNA with Doctor Strange's, implying that his mystical skills and abilities aren't quite on the same level as the Sorcerer Supreme's. His mystical skills are also key to gathering and controlling the power of the Infinity Gems.
Part of Thanos' magical repertoire includes powerful curses. The most notable application of this power is laying a curse of immortality on Deadpool. Due to their occasional rivalry over the love of Death (the cosmic abstract), Thanos eventually curses Deadpool to never die. Whether this curse comes from Thanos' mystical abilities or from his relationship with Death is unclear.
He has yet to curse anyone else, but it's possible his transmutation of a Skrull lackey to stone is related.
While Thanos generally plays the long game, he also doesn't frequently leave his foes alive. This makes a long-term curse like that he laid on Deadpool both impractical and unnecessary. Further, it neither helps him gather the Infinity Gems, nor is it enhanced by any of the Gems.
Another gift from his Eternal physiology, Thanos is functionally immortal. He does not age, cannot die of old age, and is immune to disease. This of course causes some problems, as he is in love with Death and cannot be with her unless he dies. This was a key plot point in the recent "Thanos Wins" story arc.
For a time, he was completely immortal, due to being banned from Death's realm by Death herself. Similar to the curse he laid on Deadpool, he simply could not die, no matter how severe the injury. This in turn led to some pretty intense rage issues. The ban has since been lifted, although in recent times Thanos has moved on from Death and instead seeks the release of Oblivion.
3 HEALING FACTOR
Of course, the main issue confronting Thanos about his immortality is his extreme resilience. Not only does he have ridiculous toughness, further enhanced by his first death and rebirth, he also has an Eternal healing factor. So in the rare event where he does actually get hurt, he simply regenerates and heals.
While not on the scale of Wolverine or the Hulk, he still regenerates far faster than a normal human.
A major limitation to this power means he is unable to regenerate organs, and likely limbs. The circumstances of his death in Annihilation (spoilers, but also the book is more than 10 years old) involved Drax ripping his heart out. It's entirely possible that Drax has a nullifying effect on Thanos' powers, but regeneration has never been one of Thanos' most powerful abilities.
Another rarely used power, Thanos possesses the power of basic telekinesis. Whether this is an offshoot of his energy manipulation or magic powers, Thanos still uses it to the simple effect of holding foes in place. However, it is powerful enough to arrest the movement even of the heralds of Galactus.
This power has some precedent to appear in the MCU. After all, Scarlet Witch gained her telekinetic powers through experimentation with the Mind Stone. This might imply Thanos' telekinesis is related to his telepathy, much like Professor X and Jean Grey. Again, this isn't a power that Thanos usually needs, as he can simply tank hits or kill any foe he might need to restrain with telekinesis. Also, he's not above walking across the room to pick something up.
1 TIME TRAVEL
Like any self-respecting super-scientist, Thanos has a time machine. Although he has never used it to physically travel in time, he certainly has the capability to hop around in the timestream. Instead, he uses it to observe the future and past, to build a catalog of Adam Warlock's life. It also allows him to anticipate a visit by time-travelling warlord Kang the Conqueror, and enlist him into his service
More importantly, it was a precursor the power of the Time Gem. On a much grander scale than the time machine, the Time Gem allows the user to time travel, and control the past, present, and future. When combined with the other gems in the Infinity Gauntlet, it allows the wielder to exist in all points in time simultaneously.