Avengers ‘Anti-Hero’ Thanos Born in Detroit

Artist: Ryan Meinderding Courtesy of Disney/Marvel

Analysts predict the movie Avengers: Infinity War will continue its record-breaking performance this weekend and could be on its way to becoming the most lucrative film of all time.

And the central figure in the movie has roots in the Motor City.

Courtesy of Jim Starlin

That figure is Thanos, the most powerful adversary the Avengers have ever faced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a being convinced he can save the universe from running out of resources by wiping-out half of all existing life.

Thanos is the creation of legendary comics writer, artist and Detroit native Jim Starlin.

He says he was not sure how the character would translate to the big screen until Starlin saw actor Josh Brolin’s take on Thanos.

Courtesy of Jim Starlin

Legendary writer/artist Jim Starlin at work.

I thought it was going to be more of a voiceover acting job,” Starlin remembers. “(But) everything you see Thanos do on the screen, Brolin did…He really captured the weight and solemnity of the character.”

 

 

Thanos’ route to the screen and page was spawned in Detroit, Starlin’s hometown.

He says his father worked for Chrysler and routinely brought home masking tape, tracing paper and pencils – tools the young Starlin decided could steer him to a different career path than typical for those toiling in the Motor City at the time.

 

 

 

Detroit in the 1950’s was not the cultural wonderland that it is today in comparison. There was very little there that was going to spur me off into an artistic career. Everything was more or less geared towards the auto factories,” Starlin says.

Courtesy of Disney/Marvel

He served for a time in the military before returning to Metro Detroit and taking a few classes at Oakland Community College.

Starlin says a psychiatry class introduced him to the Freudian concepts of “Eros” and “Thanatos,” names that became the grist for the writing and artwork that would define much of the rest of his life.

 

I consider (Thanos) to be an anti-hero…because he’s been the good guy as often as he’s been the bad guy in the stories. But because he’s not in that hero category I always found him more fascinating to write…I could make him not as appealing as I would have to make him if he were a hero. He could go off on his own little dark ways and it would still make perfect sense.”  — Writer/artist and Thanos creator Jim Starlin

 

I actually did do the first drawings of (Thanos) back in Detroit before I came to the New York area and used some of those drawings in my portfolio. Got me some work at Marvel,” Starlin says.

Well before Marvel ran a film studio, Starlin did several stints as a writer and artist for the comics giant.

And he kept returning to the character of Thanos.

Courtesy of Disney/Marvel

He’s my baby, for one thing,” Starlin says. “I consider (Thanos) to be an anti-hero…because he’s been the good guy as often as he’s been the bad guy in the stories. So I don’t consider him a villain.

But because he’s not in that hero category I always found him more fascinating to write. I didn’t have to get restricted on where he would go and how he would react to things. I could make him not as appealing as I would have to make him if he were a hero. He could go off on his own little dark ways and it would still make perfect sense,” Starlin says.

He adds that he has a good idea of how things go for Thanos in next year’s closely-held, and at least publicly untitled, sequel to Avengers: Infinity War

Starlin says the saga does not end quite the same as how he penned it in his Infinity Gauntlet comic series.

But he applauds the film writers for adapting the story in a way he says brings all the various plot threads together in a satisfying manner.

Reveal more than that, Starlin jokes, and Marvel will “send Mickey over to break my kneecaps.”

 

Click on the audio link above to hear the full interview with Jim Starlin

 

Image credit: Courtesy of Disney/Marvel

About the Author

Quinn Klinefelter

Senior News Editor

I grab news in the morning, check the papers and the wires, call sources and take a big gulp of coffee. That’s how I start the day.

qklinefelter@wdet.org  

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