in the marvel universe, the infinity gauntlet reigns supreme. but as thanos’ post-credits cameos in the marvel cinematic universe have shown audiences, the gauntlet is useless without the full set of infinity stones. originally called the soul gems, and later, the infinity gems, the infinity stones have shaped the farthest corners of marvel’s universe since they were created for cosmic 1970s tales. in epics like jim starlin’s the infinity gauntlet, thanos gathered the soul stone, mind stone, power stone, time stone, space stone and reality stone to threaten the universe. after years of build-up, josh brolin’s thanos seems poised to do that on the big screen in 2018’s avengers: infinity war. while thanos might be the infinity stones’ most famous user, he’s hardly the only marvel character to wield the stones’ power.
now, cbr is looking back at some heroes and villains who you didn’t know wielded the infinity stones. in this hardly comprehensive list, we’ll be looking at characters who have held any or all of the infinity stones for any length of time, including as part of the infinity gauntlet. while we’ll primarily be focusing on examples from the marvel universe, we’ll be also looking at a few alternate realities from comics and tv.
while the infinity stones will rock marvel’s cinematic universe in 2018, they’re also set to take center stage in the ongoing sagas of marvel’s comic universe too. after the marvel multiverse was recreated, the infinity stones were scattered across the far reaches of the marvel universe. in jason aaron and esad ribic’s marvel legacy #1, the space stone reappeared alongside one of marvel’s most popular absent heroes, wolverine
after charles soule and seven mcniven’s the death of wolverine left logan trapped in an adamantium shell in 2014, logan reemerged without explanation in that 2017 special. after hunting down a frost giant who stole the space stone for loki, wolverine stole the stone for unclear reasons. while it’s unclear where that story will unfold, marvel released a teaser image, penciled by ron lim, that hinted at upcoming storylines involving logan, the infinity stones and the guardians of the galaxy.
since deadpool is a relatively more recent part of the marvel universe, readers didn’t have the chance to see how the merc with a mouth would act in some of marvel’s most famous past eras. starting in a 2013 run on deadpool, gerry duggan, brian posehn and scott koblish remedied that with a series of “inventory issues.” these new stories were loving parodies of old marvel comics that embraced the trappings and tropes of the eras they were supposedly created in.
in 2015’s deadpool #45, duggan, posehn and joblish teamed-up again as part of deadpool’s 250th issue spectacular. in a story that was ostensibly an infinity gauntlet tie-in, thanos hired deadpool to steal the reality-altering cosmic cube. while thanos was distracted, deadpool stole thanos’ infinity gauntlet. deadpool used its vast power to make marvel’s heroes throw him a roast before erasing the event from memory.
throughout the 2000s, the marvel adventures line gave young readers an accessible introduction to marvel’s heroes. this streamlined version of the marvel universe even adapted a few of marvel’s major stories in titles like the avengers and the infinity gauntlet. in brian clevinger, lee black and brian churilla’s 2010 miniseries, the avengers traveled to space to battle thanos after he made half of the universe disappear.
during the heroes’ final fight with thanos, spider-man was able to snare the infinity gauntlet with his webs and pulled it away from the mad titan. after attacking thanos with an energy blast, the web-slinger used the reality-altering gauntlet to change history so that thanos never found the infinity stones. while this undid the events of the story, thanos and spider-man both remembered what really happened. although he vowed to take revenge, the imprint folded before thanos got the chance.
13. captain america
in the late 2000s, the revelation of the illuminati’s existence rocked the marvel universe. while that group of superheroes quietly shaped marvel’s world, they faced their greatest challenge when they discovered another parallel reality that was on a collision course with earth. in 2013’s new avengers #3, by jonathan hickman and steve epting, the illuminati turned to the infinity gauntlet to stop this incoming incursion.
due to his stainless pre-secret empire reputation, the illuminati chose captain america to wield the infinity gauntlet. although the gauntlet’s immense power was enough to stop the incursion, it and each of the infinity stones were destroyed in the process. when the illuminati reluctantly vowed to destroy any additional encroaching earths, the group wiped the incident from captain america’s memories. although he later got those memories back, the avenger completely forgot that he had used the infinity stones for a while.
12. black panther
after incursions from alternate worlds destroyed marvel’s multiverse, an all-powerful doctor doom used shards of dead universes to from battleworld in his image in 2015’s secret wars. in jonathan hickman and esad ribic’s epic crossover event, a few surviving heroes joined together to defeat doom and restore the multiverse. doctor strange, who’d been working as doom’s sheriff, secretly gathered the infinity stones to form a new infinity gauntlet that another hero could hopefully use.
in secret wars #6, black panther found the infinity gauntlet after strange’s death. with the gauntlet’s unlimited power, t’challa was able to hold his own against the nearly omnipotent doom in the crossover’s final battle. as battleworld crumbled after doom’s defeat, black panther used the time stone to transport himself back to his kingdom wakanda, the moment before the incursions began.
11. black widow
since 2013, avengers assemble has been the main animated venue for earth’s mightiest heroes. the show’s second season revolved around the threat of thanos and the infinity stones. in the 2015 episode, “widow’s run,” one of the avengers’ least cosmic members, black widow, stole the infinity stones to save the world.
after seeing visions of iron man and heimdall taking over earth and asgard with the infinity stones, black widow took the stones with the help of thor. when dormammu invaded earth, she used to stones’ power to send him back to his home dimension. in a moment that recalled the x-men’s “dark phoenix saga,” black widow struggled to free herself from the stones’ corrupting influence. after the other avengers freed her from the stones’ grasp, thanos arrived on earth and took them for himself. in one of the cartoon’s darker moments, the avengers watched on helplessly as thanos destroyed the universe at the end of the episode.
10. adam warlock
the first infinity stone, the soul gem, debuted in adam warlock’s first solo tale in 1972’s marvel premiere #1, by roy thomas and gil kane. although he was originally an artificial alien who had been created during stan lee and jack kirby’s fantastic four, warlock evolved into a cosmic religious figure. after jim starlin took over the character, he became a thoughtful hero and thanos’ primary nemesis.
after thanos reigned supreme in starlin, ron lim and george perez’s the infinity gauntlet, adam warlock played a key role in ending the conflict. after taking the gauntlet, warlock undid all of the damage caused during the crossover. after that, the living tribunal, the ultimate protector of the marvel universe, ordered warlock to split up the stones. while he kept the soul stone, warlock gave each of the other stones to a group of his allies who became known as the infinity watch.
before she was a guardian of the galaxy, gamora was a key member of adam warlock’s infinity watch. created by jim starlin in 1975’s strange tales #180, gamora was adopted by thanos and raised to be his most ruthless assassin. after teaming up with warlock to battle the magus, his dark future self, she was killed by thanos and absorbed into the soul stone.
during the infinity gauntlet, warlock resurrected gamora, his longtime love interest, along with some of his other fallen friends. when he was forced to dismantle the infinity gauntlet, warlock gave gamora the time stone, which gave her occasional visions in warlock and the infinity watch. after a few years, the infinity stones were stolen and taken into another universe. the 2006 crossover “annihilation” gave gamora her next starring role, a modern makeover and a spot on the modern guardians of the galaxy.
8. mr. fantastic
after the infinity stones were scattered, mr. fantastic was the main person responsible for bringing them back into the marvel universe. in brian michael bendis, brian reed and jim cheung’s new avengers: illuminati #2, the leader of the fantastic four told the illuminati about his intentions to reassemble the infinity gauntlet. after they cautiously helped him, reed richards tried to wish the infinity stones out of existence. when that failed, he split the stones between himself, professor x, black bolt, iron man, namor and doctor strange for safekeeping.
in other worlds, other versions of reed richards weren’t so generous. in 2009’s fantastic four #570, by jonathan hickman and dale eaglesham, mr. fantastic discovered the interdimensional council of reeds, a collection of alternate reality reeds who worked together to “solve everything.” several of these heartless reeds possessed versions of the infinity gauntlet that were basically useless outside of the home universes.
7. iron man
in the marvel universe, tony stark was the first human to openly wield all of the infinity stones at once. the hood, a small-time crime boss with major league aspirations, tried to gather the infinity stones so he could kill every single member of the avengers. while he stole most of the stones, iron man tricked him and gathered all of the stones to form the infinity gauntlet in 2011’s avengers #12, by brian michael bendis and john romita, jr.
after using the gauntlet to send the hood back to jail, iron man seemingly wished the infinity stones out of existence. in reality, he kept the gauntlet and dispersed the stones among the illuminati once again, with captain america taking black bolt’s place in the group. in the world of the avengers assemble cartoon, stark kept the stones in avengers tower, where they slowly began to corrupt him.
thanks to guardians of the galaxy, drax achieved international movie stardom, but that drax is almost unrecognizable next to his original comic book counterpart. created by jim starlin and mike friedrich in 1973’s iron man #55, drax was originally a human real estate agent named arthur douglas. after thanos’ spaceship passed over his family’s car, thanos attacked arthur and his family. mentor, thanos’ dad, saved arthur’s life by transforming into the super-strong drax the destroyer and filling him with hatred for the mad titan.
when drax was revived from the dead again in the infinity gauntlet, the resurrection was imperfect and left his mind in a child-like state. when adam warlock gave drax the power stone for safekeeping, drax thought it was a jellybean and ate it. after serving as the infinity watch’s resident strongman, drax eventually regained his intelligence and helped form the modern guardians of the galaxy.
before she became more of an antihero in 2017’s guardians of the galaxy vol. 2, karen gillan’s nebula started out as a secondary antagonist in the marvel cinematic universe. after comics nebula was created by roger stern and john buscema in 1985’s avengers #257, nebula served as a second-tier cosmic avengers villain. despite that, the self-proclaimed “granddaughter of thanos” was the final antagonist in the infinity gauntlet.
when thanos held the gauntlet, he used the infinity stones to make nebula a corpse in a state of living death. while he was distracted, she stole the gauntlet. after healing herself, she threatened the entire universe, and it took the combined might of thanos, hulk, adam warlock, thor and several cosmic entities to defeat her in the crossover’s climax. while nebula was sent to a space prison for her crimes, thanos was allowed to retire to a peaceful life of farming.
4. lord pumpkin
marvel purchased the relatively young publisher malibu comics in 1994. while it was known within the industry for its digital coloring department, malibu also published a moderately successful superhero line called the ultraverse. after ultraforce and malibu’s other comics fell under marvel’s domain, marvel sent adam warlock, loki and the infinity stones into the new and improved ultraverse.
one of the infinity stones, the power stone, eventually fell into the hands of lord pumpkin, one of the ultraverse’s strangest villains. created by dan danko, steve gerber and aaron lopresti, lord pumpkin was created to be a toy for a prince in a medieval kingdom. after the prince tortured his pumpkin-headed companion, pumpkin became an evil sorcerer, took over the kingdom and turned his attention towards earth. although he had a very flammable straw body, the fire-breathing villain briefly wielded the power stone before loki betrayed him.
3. doctor doom
even though he’s one of the most prominent villains in the marvel universe, doctor doom has teamed up with marvel’s heroes on a few occasions. however, those alliances tend to fall apart as soon as doom can take advantage of any given situation. after he helped mr. fantastic and the future foundation defeat the interdimensional council of reeds, doom took over the similar parliament of doom in jonathan hickman and steve epting’s ff #16.
while the alternate reality reeds had mostly lobotomized the dooms of their respective worlds, the marvel universe’s doom was fine. as he walked through the council’s rubble, doom took two of the reeds’ infinity gauntlets, even though they were useless there. after finding a reality where his infinity stones worked, he created a new universe. after his subjects rebelled, the parliament and the fantastic four saved doom, who said he found omnipotence “beneath” him.
in 2003, the worlds of marvel and dc comics collided in the ultimate crossover, jla/avengers. in that well-received epic, kurt busiek and george perez brought the two universes together to make all kinds of jaw-dropping moments. in one of the comic’s most unexpected scenes, darkseid, the ultimate villain in the dc universe, took hold of the infinity gauntlet and all of the infinity stones.
several powerful artifacts from the worlds of marvel and dc were hidden around both universes. somehow, the infinity gauntlet ended up on darkseid’s world, apokolips. although he was able to recognize the stones’ unimaginable power, he also realized that the gauntlet was useless outside of its original realm. in an equally shocking moment, he threw the infinity gauntlet to the ground and told a group of assembled heroes to leave.
1. the flash
wally west, the third flash, is the fastest man alive. in 1996’s marvel vs. dc, he proved that by outpacing quicksilver, the avengers’ resident speedster. those two speedsters had another chance to race when a pair of cosmic entities, korona and the grandmaster, set the justice league and the avengers against each other in jla/avengers. after darkseid threw the infinity gauntlet to the ground, both quicksilver and the flash ran to catch it before it hit the ground.
although quicksilver got out to an early lead, the flash saw that darkseid was about to hit the infinity gauntlet with his teleporting omega beam. wally pushed quicksilver aside and grabbed the gauntlet while it was in mid-air. although he only held it for a single moment before the heroes were teleported elsewhere, the flash held the infinity gauntlet as an inadvertent trophy that confirmed that he was still faster than any avenger.
stay tuned to cbr for all the latest in comics and pop culture news! let us know who you want to see hold the infinity gauntlet in the comments!
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