Talk­ing With The Ti­tan

While Marvel’s big screen Thanos is based on Jim Star­lin’s ’70s cre­ation, the writer tells Stephen Jewell that it’s time to move on…

Comic Heroes - - Feature -

Ev­ery­one knows that bad guys have more fun. Just ask Jim Star­lin. Four decades af­ter he first brought the Avatar of Death to un­dead life in the pages of Fe­bru­ary 1973’s Iron Man #55, the Detroit-born writer/artist is re­turn­ing to his most iconic cre­ation with a new graphic novel, Thanos: The In­fin­ity Rev­e­la­tion. Pub­lished in early Au­gust, its re­lease will co­in­cide with Guardians Of The Galaxy’s much an­tic­i­pated ar­rival in cin­e­mas – and the pur­ple-skinned alien tyrant, voiced by Josh Brolin, will play a more prom­i­nent part in James Gunn’s su­per­hero sci-fi ex­trav­a­ganza than his brief post-cred­its cameo in Avengers.

“To be hon­est, I find writ­ing a vil­lain much more fun than script­ing he­roes,” laughs Star­lin. “He­roes have a pretty limited range as to what they can do and still be he­roes. A vil­lain, on the other hand, can do the most out­ra­geous things and still be a vil­lain. Just look at (Star­lin’s 1990 se­ries) The Thanos Quest. The Ti­tan is my way of vent­ing all the dark things that lurk deep within my soul with­out me hav­ing to abuse any small, big-eyed an­i­mals.”

death be­comes him

Thanos is of­ten com­pared to DC’s cos­mic despot Dark­seid, but Star­lin ac­tu­ally came up with the idea for him six months be­fore he made his Marvel de­but, weav­ing him into a three-is­sue stint on Iron Man. “The in­spi­ra­tion for Thanos and his brother, Eros, came from a psy­chol­ogy class I took af­ter I got out of the (mil­i­tary) ser­vice,” re­calls Star­lin, who de­nies draw­ing in­flu­ence from the sim­i­larly-named Greek god of death, Thanatos. “The source of Thanos’s ori­gin is Freudian more than any­thing else.”

Af­ter his guest-spot on Iron Man, Star­lin was of­fered his first reg­u­lar as­sign­ment at Marvel, as­sum­ing the plot­ting and pen­cilling reins of Cap­tain Marvel from is­sue #25. At that time in the com­pany’s his­tory, Cap­tain Marvel was a Kree mil­i­tary of­fi­cer called Mar-Vell (sev­eral other char­ac­ters have taken up the man­tle in the years since). Star­lin em­barked upon an am­bi­tious in­ter­ga­lac­tic sto­ry­line that has helped to set the stall for Marvel’s cur­rently bur­geon­ing Cos­mic line. “There are plenty of sto­ries to read that are set on Earth so plac­ing a tale off-planet some­times al­lows you to tell a story that might run into dif­fi­cul­ties if set on Earth,” says Star­lin. “Comics are a commercial medium and mar­ket forces ef­fect what you get the chance to con­sume.”

Star­lin cites the ex­am­ple of Dread­star, his labyrinthine cre­ator-owned se­ries that launched Marvel’s ma­ture im­print Epic Comics in 1982. “Back then, I did a story about in­cest and I’m cer­tain I couldn’t have got it through with­out hav­ing it set in an off-world en­vi­ron­ment,” he rea­sons. “Other­wise the pub­lisher would have got­ten too much flack.”

Apart from Thanos, The In­fin­ity Rev­e­la­tion will see Star­lin once again writ­ing for Gamora and Drax the De­stroyer, who made his de­but in the same Iron Man arc that gave birth to the Mad Ti­tan him­self. “The Guardians are some­thing new for me to play with, even though a good num­ber of its mem­bers are char­ac­ters I cre­ated,” he says. “Of course, Drax is greatly changed – I think for the bet­ter – since I first guided his path. The rest of it was like go­ing back to visit with old friends. Read­ers of the graphic novel will dis­cover that all of these char­ac­ters have an un­ex­pected twist to them in this tale while the An­ni­hi­la­tors – what a name! – will also put in an ap­pear­ance.”

big re­veal

The In­fin­ity Rev­e­la­tion is the sec­ond in­stal­ment in a much big­ger story that be­gan in Star­lin’s re­cent Thanos An­nual and will take in his up­com­ing run on Sav­age Hulk be­fore con­clud­ing with a fur­ther two graphic nov­els. Star­lin is quite cryptic about what we can ex­pect. “As the ti­tle sug­gests, The In­fin­ity Rev­e­la­tion is about dis­cov­er­ies,” he teases. “Right from the start, Thanos is busy learn­ing things and en­coun­ter­ing puz­zles. The big­gest re­veal, though, doesn’t come un­til the very end.”

Star­lin has stated that both Marvel’s cur­rent comic book in­car­na­tion and his movie equiv­a­lent are de­rived from the Thanos that he de­picted in the ’70s. He seems philo­soph­i­cal about Guardians Of The Galaxy’s im­mi­nent big screen out­ing, though, per­haps be­cause he hopes that it will ease the way for the Dread­star film that We Are The Millers pro­ducer JC Spink is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing. “He told me this past week that he’s fairly cer­tain he’s found the stu­dio, which will be­come Dread­star’s home,” he says. “Now we can be­gin try­ing to fig­ure out where ex­actly in the sprawl­ing Dread­star saga the movie should be­gin, as I’m def­i­nitely set on not start­ing out with The Meta­mor­pho­sis Odyssey.”

Star­lin’s graphic novel, Thanos: The In­fin­ity Rev­e­la­tion, is out in Au­gust.

Be­low: Star­lin is pen­cilling his own script, col­lab­o­rat­ing with inker Andy Smith.

Above left: Thanos has been around for longer than people think: he made his first ap­pear­ance in Iron Man #55 in 1973.

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