By Jim Salicrup
[Editor’s Note: The fifth episode of Marvel’s Loki was a bonanza of easter eggs and references to Marvel history – both on film and in the comics. One that delighted fans the most was the appearance of the “Thanos Copter”, which is a helicopter…piloted by Thanos. It first appeared in Spidey Super Stories #39 from 1979, by Nick Sullivan, Michael Siporin, Jim Salicrup, and Win Mortimer. Since then it’s been a bit of a Marvel in-joke. With its reveal on the wastes of Loki Planet, the Thanos Copter has once again fired the imaginations of Marvel watchers everywhere.
Thus, when former Marvel editor Jim Salicrup – credited with writing the original story – reached out to tell the true tale of the copter….we couldn’t type “Yes!” fast enough. Read on for the never before revealed secret of how the copter came to be!]
No one was more surprised than me to see the wreckage of the Thanos Copter appear as one of the Easter Eggs found in “Journey Into Mystery,” the penultimate episode of the Disney Plus series, Loki. That’s because I’m credited with writing the infamous story in SPIDEY SUPER STORIES #39 back in 1979 in which the Thanos Copter made its ignominious debut. The Thanos Copter was the vehicle of choice that the Mad Titan used to attempt to steal the Cosmic Cube (known as the Tesseract in the MCU). Many years later came 2015’s DEADPOOL Vol. 5, #45, and the Thanos Copter appeared again. To be sure, Thanos was created by Jim Starlin, but that copter originated in SPIDEY SUPER STORIES #39.
Obviously, the Thanos Copter’s story didn’t end in that comic. It’s also been in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers and CRAZY Vol. 4, #1. There have also been limited edition toy Thanos Copters, and I sure wish I had one. But the Thanos Copter really came alive as an internet meme. Even Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has tweeted about the Thanos Copter. People love that crazy copter!
In many of the online histories of the the Thanos Copter, there’s a lack of understanding that SPIDEY SUPER STORIES wasn’t an actual part of the Marvel Universe (the story took place on Earth 57780 according to Marvel). Some folks believe it was a real Marvel in-continuity Spider-Man story where Thanos actually flew a yellow helicopter with his name on it, and at the end was arrested by New York City police. I’ll admit to having written some not-so-great Marvel stories, but this is being taken completely out of context.
SPIDEY SUPER STORIES was a comic book produced by Marvel Comics in collaboration with The Children’s Television Workshop, the people who produce Sesame Street and, years ago, The Electric Company, a show designed to help children learn how to read. It featured a live-action segment where Spider-Man would appear, but being a comic book character he spoke in word balloons–so other characters in scenes with Spidey needed to read what he was saying. In the comic, everything was ultra-simplified to make it as easy as possible for new readers to understand. To this day, I still meet comics fans and professionals who tell me that SPIDEY SUPER STORIES was the first comic book they ever read. So, while I sometimes adapted classic Marvel stories into SPIDEY SUPER STORIES, it became obvious that the sillier we got, the more fun the stories were in this Easy-to-Read format. TV cast member Morgan Freeman appeared on every cover as Easy Reader proclaiming that “This comic is easy to read!”
But while I am the credited writer on SPIDEY SUPER STORIES #39 (there are two other writers listed, but they wrote the other two stories in that issue), it’s about time the real truth was finally revealed. I’ve lived with this secret for 42 freaking years, and now seems the right time to reveal the real story behind the Thanos Copter. Okay, here goes… the late David Anthony Kraft ghost wrote that story for me.
There I said it! I can’t tell you how good that feels. No longer do I have to live this lie. (Unless of course Marvel decides to stop giving all the Thanos Copter royalties to Starlin, and wants to give them to me.) In fact, when David and I originally talked about the story, I was concerned that it was even too silly for SPIDEY SUPER STORIES, but I enjoyed DAK’s sense of humor, especially when writing the Hellcat (who was simply The Cat in this all-ages-friendly comic) in THE DEFENDERS, and I submitted it to my editors at CTW, and it was accepted and published. The rest is history.
Top art from Deadpool #45 (2015) by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan, Scott Koblish, Val Staples, and Joe Sabino.
Spidey Super Stories #39 was one of the few comic books I owned as a kid and I have vivid memories of reading it out loud to my younger brother over and over until he could read it all by himself. Many of the panels including the infamous Thanos copter are burned in my brain forever – especially the terrible, TERRIBLE puns in the second story starring Ms Marvel. I was only 7 years old and he was 5, I doubt we could have done that with “standard” comic books – so thanks you for making these comics Jim!
Spidey Super Stories #4, with Medusa and the Statue of Liberty, was my gateway.
Can Marvel PLEASE reprint these stories for beginner readers?
If Sesame Workshop rights are a problem, just reprint the Marvel-only stories from the front of the comic.
I remember reading and watching these stories on the Electric Company as a kid what very fond childhood memories.
I read about this years ago on Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog, where Chris reprinted several of the most hilarious panels. I laughed so hard; comedy gold.
I should add that the panel where Thanos is perp-walked by the police is almost as priceless as the Thanos Copter. I really want a sequel — Thanos being booked in the Hill Street Blues precinct.
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