Just over 30 years ago, Jim Starlin crafted Marvel Comics' very first original graphic novel: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL. This summer, he returns to that same format and cosmic height for the next chapter in the life of his signature creation and an ally thought long-dead.
THANOS: THE INFINITY REVELATION sees the reunion of the Mad Titan and his former adversary Adam Warlock in a quest spanning multiple realities, from the edge of the Infinity Well to the vast reaches beyond. Pursued by the Silver Surfer and Annihilators, Thanos and Warlock lead the full force of the Marvel Universe to frightening new frontiers.
We spoke to Starlin about catching up with an old friend and making history once more.
Jim Starlin: Yes, it's an original graphic novel as they're calling it these days. 100 pages. It's like visiting old friends again. I fell right into the routine, and all the worries I had about sitting down and drawing such a large job just disappeared as I went along.
Marvel.com: How far along are you?
Jim Starlin: Oh, it's done. Andy Smith is still doing his beautiful inks on top of it, but I've got about 70 pages of inks in and about 10 pages colored up. We'll start in on the lettering any time now.
Marvel.com: You have quite a bit of history with this character.
Jim Starlin: An old friend.
Marvel.com: How much of Thanos is in you and how much of you is in Thanos?
Jim Starlin: Well, that's always a good question. I mean, we all--if we are honest with ourselves--we all have these dark spaces within our souls that we don't always want to talk about or acknowledge. With Thanos--especially on things like THANOS QUEST--I really let myself go into the darkest places I could find within, and I had a great time mining that.
Marvel.com: Do you have a specific voice in mind for Thanos?
Jim Starlin: Yes. He speaks tersely, always to the point. No contractions. He's as amused at what he goes through as he is terrible about what he's doing.
Marvel.com: INFINITY REVELATION brings us to the Infinity Well. Where does this story pick up in the Mad Titan's ongoing saga?
INFINITY series, so you'll see Corvus [Glaive] and the Outriders in little cameo appearances.
Marvel.com: Thanos is incredibly popular right now, with more name recognition than ever before. Is it all a little surreal?
Jim Starlin: Yes. I'm looking forward to the day when I go into a Walmart and see him on T-shirts or what have you. It's a little unexpected. I always figured that he would be one of the last characters that would take off in this way.
Marvel.com: You've run Thanos through a literal gauntlet. He's been to the highest of cosmic heights to the lowest of lows. What do you have in store for this larger-than-life figure that he hasn't seen before?
Jim Starlin: We're going into parallel universes in this story, which is something I haven't really touched on before. It's about what you would make of a world if you had the opportunity to make a world. It also moves Thanos on a little bit further. At the end of the story, he's at a whole different space and place than he was at the beginning. It's fun to come along and move his tale along again.
Marvel.com: Thanos is charismatic enough for a one man show, but he's sharing the spotlight with the Annihilators as well.
Jim Starlin: Yes, they make an appearance. Thanos also rekindles his association with Adam Warlock, even though he's dead. That's never a hindrance. The Guardians of the Galaxy also have a cameo. You'll see Ronan, Gladiator, Beta Ray Bill. Ikon and Quasar. The Silver Surfer comes in with them. Funny story, actually. Walt Simonson was very instrumental in my coming back to Marvel. Halfway through this story, Thanos has a confrontation with the Annihilators, and I started feeling terrible because I was treating Beta Ray Bill so badly. I knew I'd be seeing [Walt] in Baltimore in a few days, and I didn't know what to do about it. The only consolation I had when I finally talked to him was to say, "I treat Ronan a lot worse."
Jim Starlin: They're dealing with Thanos. Everybody gets beat up. He doesn't play too gently. Ronan has it the worst though. That said it's mainly Thanos' and Adam Warlock's story.
Marvel.com: That's a very complex relationship in and of itself. How do you categorize their roles in each other's lives?
Jim Starlin: It's hard to say, but I think Warlock is the closest thing Thanos has to a friend. Warlock has always approached him after they've gone through a few things, saying, "How can I minimize what he's going to do?" Thanos at this point has come to the realization that he is insane. He's working on a whole different level of reality than anyone else, other than perhaps Warlock. Warlock is also out of the norm. Death doesn't have a real heavy sway on either one of them. They tend to be cast as players in cosmic dramas that are way beyond their plane of existence. Both have learnt to expect the unexpected, to try and let as little damage be done by what we're doing as possible. That's not always a consideration for Thanos, but certainly for Warlock. This is a story of undefined obsession, mostly on Thanos' part. I know that's obscure, but I'd rather not go any farther than that.
Marvel.com: Where do you look to in order to conceive of cosmic landscapes and locations? Is that pure imagination, or does something inform those visuals?
Jim Starlin: I look at everything [Laughs]. Being an artist, you soak up imagery and you put it back out in whatever form you do your own imagery. Nothing's completely from whole cloth. There's a character, Eon, I did back in the Captain Marvel story. Eon came from a greasy smudge on a paper bag inside my kitchen being used for garbage. I went and got a paper and pencil, drew it up, and he became a character in that story. Things come from everywhere.
Jim Starlin: He's very much a mix in this. He is the instigator and savior in this particular story. He's insane. Well established. The strange thing is that, taking some time away from him, other writers have come in to tell their stories, some more consistent with what I was doing than others. The THANOS RISING series was very well done. I thought the iguanas were a little funny [Laughs], but other than that I thought it was really well done and in keeping with where I wanted to go with the character. This character's motivations swing with the wind, even under my own tutelage. There's a point where he decided to become a super hero, with disastrous results. I've played with the inconsistencies in characters as much as anybody else has. I really think that if it's spectacular and a little bit deranged, it's very much a possibility that it's Thanos' doing.
Look for THANOS: THE INFINITY REVELATION in 2014 with more info to come on Marvel.com in the weeks and months ahead!