Thanos' Motivations In Avengers: Infinity War Have Much Stronger Comic Connections Than You Think

Thanos' quest for the Infinity Stones comes to a head in Avengers: Infinity War, but the movie also finally gives us the reason why the Mad Titan has spent six years' worth of post-credits teasers gathering such vast cosmic power. And, perhaps surprisingly, those motivations have deep roots in the comics.

Thanos, as he appears on the first page of Silver Surfer #35. Image: Ron Lim, Tom Christopher, Tom Vincent and Ken Bruzenak (Marvel Comics)

Going into Avengers: Infinity War, we knew there was going to be one big difference between the film's take on Thanos and the Thanos we know of in the comics that loosely inspired the film, Infinity Gauntlet. In that iconic '90s series, Thanos performs the now-infamous snap of his Infinity Gauntlet-clad fingers to woo the female personification of Death into accepting him as a lover - but Death is not in Infinity War, and so Thanos has altogether different motivations for gathering the stones.

OK sure, the Infinity Stones grant you incomprehensible cosmic power. But as Infinity Gauntlet #1 showed, they don't help with your flirt game in the slightest. Image: George Pérez, Josef Rubinstein, Tom Christopher, Max Scheele and Ian Laughlin (Marvel Comics)

In the film, Thanos's plan has a more grimly ecological bent: He firmly believes that the population of the universe has grown too much to survive on the finite resources of the cosmos.

So, he wants to kill half of them, in the hopes that a drastically reduced population will force civilisations to better limit themselves and survive for future generations, instead of devolving into an early end fighting and dying over a lack of resources.

This change has lead to some critiques that Thanos' motivation for smacking about our beloved cinematic heroes is lacking, and that it's a rare tweak from comics that doesn't work in comparison to... well, having him be horny for literal Death.

But it isn't actually a change from the comics at all - Thanos has the same reasons for wanting to cull the population of the universe, he just doesn't express them in Infinity Gauntlet. He expresses them almost a year prior, in the pages of Marvel's Silver Surfer comic.

To set up Thanos' revival and the impending event, Jim Starlin - the creator of the Mad Titan - took over writing duties for Silver Surfer starting from its 34th issue, in February 1990.

The storyline saw the Surfer encounter Mistress Death and Thanos for the first time, as Death tasks the revived Thanos with correcting a great imbalance in the universe. In Silver Surfer #35, Thanos shows the Surfer what that imbalance is: There are too many people alive for civilisation at large to last much longer.

Thanos really hates rush hour in Silver Surfer #35. Image: Ron Lim, Tom Christopher, Tom Vincent and Ken Bruzenak (Marvel Comics)

Thanos whisks the Silver Surfer to Earth and a small planet called Salaria to explain his reasoning, saving his harshest judgements for Earth. More humans than ever are living longer, consuming more resources (and turning them into waste), and dangerously damaging the environment than ever before.

Thanos sees correcting the imbalance as a mercy to what he sees as a sentient species being cruelly forced to live in intense conditions, something that the Surfer strongly disagrees with. This leads to the Silver Surfer wanting to start a fight to stop the Mad Titan.

Thanos reveals his grim plan in Silver Surfer #35. Image: Ron Lim, Tom Christopher, Tom Vincent and Ken Bruzenak (Marvel Comics)

It's then that Thanos lays down a supremely dick move, as he is wont to do. In hopping from Earth to Salaria, Thanos used the Surfer to pick up bacteria harmless to humanity but hitherto unseen on Salaria, causing the outbreak of a deadly illness that - thanks to some sneaky time-hopping from Thanos - has already caused half the Salarian population to die out.

The Surfer can either fight Thanos, or save the rest of the Salarians. Thanos goes off on his merry maniacal way, and the Surfer races to cure what's left of the species.

The surfer prepares himself for a cosmic clash in the final pages of Silver Surfer #35. Image: Ron Lim, Tom Christopher, Tom Vincent and Ken Bruzenak (Marvel Comics)

It's the setup for the Surfer's realisation of just how awful a threat Thanos is, leading to the eventual events of Infinity Gauntlet a year later. Sadly, the MCU didn't have a Surfer (not yet anyway) to warn them about just how big a threat Thanos would end up being - but at least his motivations had a much closer link to the comics than you might have thought.


    To be honest i like MCU Thanos more than Comic Thanos. MCU Thanos seems a lot more grounded and believeable in his ideals.

      MCU Thanos was the hero of his own story. A friend told me this after my first watching - and it was clear on second watch that while we see him as wrong or, at the very least, misguided, he is the protagonist of Infinity War. He cares about the fate of the universe and he'll sacrifice everything to save it.

      Now we have to wait a year to find out if someone is able to change his mind - or simply beat him down. I'd like to think it's the one time the MCU might take a more "highbrow" approach and let Thanos learn there is another way. This way he'll forever remain a misguided hero.

        Exactly. Thats what i like about Thanos in MCU. He is not the typical "Bad Guy". To him what he is doing to good. He thinks he is trying to save the universe. Its just how he is going about it is wrong. You can see the humanity behind his actions. He is doing what he is doing for the sake of the universe. And he thinks the ends justify the means.

        Bad guys that are evil just because they are bad guys are generally boring.

          Yeah and I was expecting Thanos to turn out to just be the generic "he's a bad guy because he's bad", so I was really impressed with Infinity War.

          I'm a big fan of the more grey area villains... Those moments when they say or do something and you find yourself agreeing with their points, just perhaps not their genocidal solutions.

            To be honest I agreed with Thanos's believe about overpopulation in the universe. Just snapping his fingers and there goes half, could have been a better way that even the heroes could get behind.

              I agreed with him on it too, but his method was psychotic for sure... The catch is that coming up with a better solution that would have actually worked for the entire universe is essentially impossible.

                Sterilisation? Maybe 75%, something like the Genophage.
                If he has all that power I think he could do negative population growth until the numbers came down, then a zero population growth.
                Seems like his solution was a band aid anyway.

    It's kind've a shame that nothing was done with that line from Avengers "To challenge them is to court death (Thanos smiles)" - it was a nice little easter egg for people who knew Thanos's history.

    Silver Surfer will bring balance to the MCU x

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