There’s no doubt about it, comics featuring the Mad Titan Thanos are currently hot. A big reason for this is obviously due to the success of the recent Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War. This film was a huge global success, and this was in no small part because of Josh Brolin’s (albeit aided by CGI) riveting portrayal of its central antagonist Thanos. In many ways, Avengers: Infinity War was Thanos’ movie. But while the introduction of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet has pushed the price of that same-titled 1991 mini-series to new heights (Infinity Gauntlet #1 is currently the second most sought after modern comic, with 9.8 copies of this issue alone having broken the $200.00 mark) – that series was not Thanos’ first appearance, nor, in the opinion of some, even the best of the Thanos stories out there.
In this entry I want to take a look at ‘the Other Thanos’. These are the Thanos appearances before the 1991 Infinity Gauntlet mini-series. Almost all of these comics are highly sought out and many of them are currently spiking up in value. Given that Thanos will be back in the cinema next year, these price hikes are probably not going back down soon. So what are the most iconic early appearances of the Mad Titan?
This one starts it all. “Beware the…Blood Brothers!” Drax the Destroyer finds himself on earth and a prisoner of Thanos. The Destroyer sends a telepathic message to Iron Man and together they defeat the Blood Brothers. Near the end of this issue we first meet Thanos. He is seemingly beaten by the end of the story, but the damaged Thanos is revealed to be a robot. This issue also introduces Thanos’ brother Eros, later known as Starfox. Jim Starlin is the creative force that develops this story and he would continue these Thanos-centric threads in various other Marvel titles over many decades. The best time to have picked up this comic was before the release of Infinity War or just after the first wave of ‘Thanos mania’ subsided. It has seen many rises and falls in price but the long term trends may see it going still higher up. Currently best returns are on 8.5 CGC grades, for which fair market value is sitting at $1000.00 dollars as I type this.
This is actually the third appearance of Thanos (his second full appearance is in the previous issue Captain Marvel #27). Another Jim Starlin outing. In this comic Thanos sends a being called the Controller to destroy the Avengers. This develops the crossover story arc that first makes Thanos a god. A continuation of the Iron Man #55 story, but Captain Marvel #28 also features the first Cosmic Object that would transform Thanos from a deviant Titan into a being of almost infinite power: the Cosmic Cube (better known to Marvel Movie fans as: the Tesseract). The entity known as Death (Thanos’ ongoing comic book love interest) is also present here. This story arc would lead to Thanos’ first major defeat and seeming death. But you can’t keep a strong Titan down, and before long he would be back. This is a sought after book at the moment but you can still pick up a CGC 9.0 (which has seen the best long term returns) for under $200.00.
After the fall out from the Cosmic Cube story arc, Thanos is resurrected in Silver Surfer v3 #34, but it is in issue 44 that we are introduced to the Infinity Gauntlet. The second Cosmic Object augmenting Thanos’ power. Since the release of the last Avengers film, prices for this issue have soared. It’s funny to think that this was a regular feature of the dollar bargain bins up until just a few years ago. The best grade to see strong returns on this Copper Age key is, naturally, a CGC 9.8. This is a modern comic and not that difficult to find in higher grade. I picked up a copy from a yard sale for $1.00 last fall, and it was in surprisingly good condition.