Marvel is going all cosmic in the movie world, and Thanos, a character created by Jim Starlin, is at the heart of it.
The evidence is unavoidable. First it was the Thanos cameo at the end of the Avengers—supposedly thrown in because director Joss Whedon was a fan of the character and a cosmic storyline is integral to keeping him on board for Avengers 2.
Now it’s the news that The Guardians of the Galaxy are getting a movie in 2014, a team which includes arch Thanos foe Adam Warlock and many other characters from the cosmic Marvel universe created and developed by Starlin in his Warlock and Infinity Gauntlet books.
And Marvel has just announced a high profile Thanos 5-issue miniseries, Thanos: Son of Titan, to be written by Joe Keatinge (himself recently known for the cosmicky Moebius/Kirby mashup Extreme relaunch) and art by Richard Elson. “I don’t go Forrest Gump on it, but aspects of the Marvel Universe have been born that directly turn Thanos into who he is,” Keatinge told USA Today.
What’s so interesting about all this? Well, besides what sounds like an exciting movie storyline, it is an incontrovertible fact that Jim Starlin created Thanos, Gamora and many other elements of the Guardians/Infinity Gauntlet/Cosmic Cube in various Marvel comics. Adam Warlock was a Stan and Jack creation (completely revamped and developed by Starlin) but Thanos? Starlin all the way.
And in case you’re wondering about that, Starlin has coyly posted the followed imageon his Facebook page:
This is probably one of the first concept drawings of Thanos I ever did, long before I started working at Marvel. Jack Kirby’s Metron is clearly the more dominant influence in this character’s look. Not Darkseid. Both D and T started off much smaller than they eventually became. This was one of the drawings I had in my portfolio when I was hired by Marvel. It was later inked by Rich Buckler.
So yep, Jim Starlin created Thanos. No two ways about it. And in theory he then signed a check with a voucher on it for work for hire. But Marvel hasn’t been able to produce any records from that period (mid ’70s) so proving that rests entirely on the goodwill of the company-friendly New York state courts.
Starlin has remained pretty mum on the subject to the press—he declined to comment on earlier Beat stories, for instance—but he did open up to the LA Times:
It’s nice to see my work recognized as being worth something beyond the printed page, and it was very cool seeing Thanos up on the big screen. Joss Whedon and his crew did an excellent job on “The Avengers” movie and I look forward to the sequel, for obvious reasons. But this is the second film that had something I created for Marvel in it — the Infinity Gauntlet in “Thor” being the other – and both films I had to pay for my own ticket to see them. Financial compensation to the creators of these characters doesn’t appear to be part of the equation. Hopefully Thanos’s walk-on in “The Avengers” will give a boost to a number of my own properties that are in various stages of development for film: “Dreadstar,” “Breed” and the novel “Thinning the Predators.”
So here you go people, a test case is looming. And as we mentioned previously, instead of the great sainted memory of the real King of Comics as the rallying point, you have a living breathing creator…who has archives that are better than those of the company he was working for.
Hopefully, as we’ve mentioned previously, Marvel/Disney is going to give Starlin the proper compensation should they continue with the movie Thanos plans.
If not, well…Jim Starlin, I hope you have a good lawyer.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.