“And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born—to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!”
Each Friday Marvel.com will present a different column focusing on the one and only Avengers. From line-ups to costumes to villains to classic stories and beyond, we’ve got you covered on the history of Marvel’s most prolific team of heroes!
So let the call go out: Avengers Assemble!
By Jim Beard
Mad Titan. Nihilist god. Worshipper of Death. Thanos—maybe you’ve heard of him?
With his startling cameo at the end of “Marvel’s The Avengers” and return in the pages of AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, one of the Marvel Universe’s most dangerous villains finds himself in the spotlight once again, much to the chagrin of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
Thanos first surfaced in 1973’s IRON MAN #55 as a threat to be reckoned with, but by 1991 he achieved ultimate power by gathering together the Infinity Gems in a single piece of apparel: the Infinity Gauntlet. Over the six-issue INFINITY GAUNTLET limited series, the villain challenged the entire universe for supremacy over life—and death.
The Avengers stood tall to confront Thanos’ schemes, though the Infinity Gauntlet’s power existed at a cosmic level far above their mortal existence. Many larger players entered the arena for the fight, but Earth’s Mightiest Heroes still came away with a story of their own to tell.
INFINITY GAUNTLET #1 told of Thanos’ grasping for the status of godhood, now that he claimed the Infinity Gems; but despite his omnipotence he couldn’t seem to get a rise out of the one being he cherished most: Death. Not even the presentation of the space pirate Nebula as one of his most evil creations and the construction of a temple to Death swung her attention to Thanos—it would take the literal wiping out of half of all life throughout the galaxy to prove his love for real.
And so, on Earth, half the population humans simply…disappeared.
Enter the Avengers. While Quasar focused on events unfolding in outer space, the remainder of the team juggled two mind-boggling catastrophes on Earth: the fall-out from the disappearances, such as crashing planes and the like, and the loss of many of their own members. Captain America grew grim as he tallied up the Avengers’ members who fell under Thanos’ extreme love letter to Death in INFINITY GAUNTLET #2.
Black Panther! Hawkeye! Hercules! Beast! Quicksilver! USAgent! The Wasp! All among the missing and all mourned by their comrades, but before the Avengers could continue to reel from the event, disaster struck the planet once more. While Odin the All-Father called a meeting between his fellow godheads to address the Thanos problem, the Mad Titan unleashed a wave of anger that spread out through the universe and sent the Earth into the depths of cataclysm.
Together with Doctor Strange, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, the Avengers and others from among the world’s heroes flung themselves into space and at Thanos in INFINITY GAUNTLET #3. Captain America, Thor, She-
The all-powerful Titan froze the oncoming heroes in INFINITY GAUNTLET #4 and then offered up an idea to his lady Death: perhaps if the champions possessed a slight chance for victory against him, she might find herself impressed by his majesty? Diminishing his connection to certain Infinity Gems, Thanos then confronted the Avengers and their friends. They never really stood a chance.
Each of the heroes found themselves utterly defeated—and in some cases destroyed—by Thanos. Only The Scarlet Witch escaped, with the help of Doctor Strange, to live to fight another day. Sadly, the bulk of the Avengers would “sit out” the rest of the cosmic struggle, which transpired in INFINITY GAUNTLET #5 and #6, save for Thor. The mighty God of Thunder also found restoration through the efforts of Strange and stood with The Hulk, Doctor Doom, Drax the Destroyer and The Silver Surfer in the final assault.
In the end, the Infinity Gauntlet fell into the protective custody of Warlock and the Avengers regained their lives once the dust cleared from the cosmic struggle. Sent home with assurances that the powerful artifact would be used wisely, the heroes knew in their hearts that the time would come again when the Infinity Gauntlet would once again