Adam Warlock is among the most powerful Marvel Comics characters ever created, and now, he’s finally getting introduced into the MCU. Although Warlock and Thanos won’t meet in the MCU, as Thanos is long gone, the two have battled in the comics a couple of times – and Adam is one of the few who defeated the Mad Titan. So, how did Adam Warlock defeat Thanos in the comics?
Adam Warlock actually defeated Thanos several times in the comics. One time, he used the Soul Gem (or Stone in the MCU) to turn Thanos into stone. The other time, he tricked Thanos into taking off the Infinity Gauntlet and then defeated him, but let him live as a farmer in exile.
There were other fights between the two – sometimes Thanos prevailed, sometimes Adam had the help of other heroes – but they formed somewhat of an odd relationship over the years. As Adam Warlock is considered the Avatar of Life and Thanos the Avatar of Death, they are essentially two sides of the same coin, sometimes being allies and sometimes enemies.
The dynamic between the two is quite interesting, so let’s dive deeper into Marvel Comics lore and see how Warlock managed to defeat the unbreakable Mad Titan.
Who is Adam Warlock?
Comic book readers will already be well acquainted with Adam Warlock, but he might be a more obscure character for those relying only on the MCU. He is set to appear for the first time in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 movie coming out on May 5, 2023, but in the comics, his first appearance came way back in Fantastic Four #66 in 1967.
Back then, Adam Warlock was known only as Him – an artificial being created by a group called the Enclave, who were experimenting on trying to create the perfect human being – unfathomably intelligent, unfathomably strong, durable, and everything that goes with it.
They didn’t expect, however, that the new being would also be exceptionally cunning. Him felt that they planned on using his powers in malevolent ways, so he lashed out and attacked his creators, damaging their complex and escaping.
Then, as a creature of no experience and pure instinct, Him tried to abduct Lady Sif to mate with her, only to be met with Thor’s fury and beaten half to death. Him closed himself into a regenerative cocoon, only to be reborn even more intelligent, experienced, and superior.
Now, over the years, Him became Adam Warlock, and as he gained experience and knowledge, he blossomed into one of the most powerful beings in Marvel Comics. He bonded with the Soul Gem, which, upon his already superior physiology and power, granted Adam Warlock powers unknown – seemingly unlimited and nigh-omnipotent.
Of course, as with any comic book character, those power levels fluctuated over the years; Adam lost and regained the connection with the Soul Gem, etc. But one thing always remained constant – Warlock is insanely powerful, and I can’t wait to see what version of him we’re getting in the MCU.
How did Adam Warlock defeat Thanos in the comics?
Thanos was the big baddie behind, essentially, throughout Phases 1-3 of the MCU. Of course, other villains were shooting their shots, but Thanos pulled the strings that led to the Infinity Saga’s grand finale with Avengers: Endgame.
We know that Adam Warlock will be introduced as a villain in the MCU, but I’ll go on a wild guess and say that it won’t remain that for long. Much like in the comics, I reckon Adam will quickly find a moral compass and strive to be good instead of bad.
That being said, as soon as fans learned that the MCU was introducing a new super-powerful character, they started comparisons with the epitome of power they had so far – The Mad Titan. And, if you want to know how the two matched up in the comics, you’re in the right place.
They fought several times, individually or in groups, but there were two times when Adam Warlock had a clear-cut victory over Thanos. I’ll break down both instances.
Avengers Annual #7 & Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 (1976)
Throughout these two issues, Adam Warlock got his first victory against Thanos. And it wasn’t that long after they initially met. When they met, Adam actually became an ally of Thanos and his stepdaughter, Gamora.
They joined forces to defeat a villain named Magus, but as Adam Warlock ultimately realizes – he WAS Magus, just from the future. Long story short, Thanos betrayed Warlock and killed him – or so he thought.
He actually trapped Adam within the Soul Gem. And, as the fight between Thanos and the Avengers raged, Spidey inadvertently released Warlock from the Soul Gem. That’s when Warlock’s absolute dominance over the Mad Titan presented itself for the first time.
Thanos was on the brink of victory, but as Warlock was released and grabbed hold of the Mad Titan, he simply turned him into solid rock – granite, to be precise. In an instant, Thanos went from nearly accomplishing his goals to being a rock statue.
Infinity Gauntlet #6 (1991)
After being turned into stone by Adam Warlock, Thanos was essentially dead – residing in Death’s Realm. Well, he managed to find a way to regain his being and his physical body and ventured onto the infamous Infinity Gauntlet journey – the storyline that inspired the whole MCU’s Infinity Saga.
It took a while, but Thanos was successful in his endeavors and collected all six Infinity Gems, snapping half of the universe out of existence. But, unlike in the MCU, the Mad Titan wasn’t satisfied with the power he had. He continued going for more.
Thanos defeated almost all of Earth’s heroes, captured most of the powerful cosmic entities, and went as far as to become one with Eternity, overlooking the end of time itself from the position of a mere spectator.
However, Adam Warlock, Nebula, and what was left of the heroes managed to trick Thanos into taking off the gauntlet for a second. It was enough for Nebula to grab it and snap the lost half of the universe back into existence.
But Nebula couldn’t control the sheer power of the Infinity Gauntlet and almost lost her own life, so Adam Warlock took over the gauntlet and essentially defeated Thanos. However, Thanos peacefully gave away the Gauntlet and somewhat proved that he’ll no longer be a threat to the universe.
So, instead of killing him, Adam Warlock let Thanos retire in exile as a farmer, not to be seen or found again. He then dispersed the Stones, giving one to five different characters in Marvel Comics for safekeeping, forming what was later known as the Infinity Watch. And, even Thanos was a member of the Watch himself.
Now, those two aren’t the only times that Adam and Thanos fought on opposite sides. On some occasions, Thanos won by preparing and planning, while on others, Adam had the help of other individuals against the Mad Titan. These two instances, however, are the two most important focal points of their comic book relationship.
Adam Warlock in the MCU: What to expect?
So, the Soul Stone is gone, and Thanos is gone. Meaning; neither will Adam Warlock have the same powers as he had in the comics, nor will he battle Thanos. Then, what can we expect from him in the MCU?
After all, we’ve seen what Will Poulter will look like as Adam Warlock, and he does have some sort of a gem on his forehead. That’s usually where the Soul Gem resided in the comics, but we know that won’t be the case in the MCU, as the Soul Stone is long gone.
I reckon that the gem (or stone) on Adam Warlock’s forehead will be something that is the product of the High Evolutionary experiments. We know that the High Evolutionary will be the main antagonist of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and that the two characters have a strong connection from the comics.
The High Evolutionary found Him after his cocoon rebirth, and he actually named him Warlock. He also gave Warlock the Soul Gem, so I’m guessing that the High Evolutionary will use him as a weapon until Adam finds himself and his own path.
As for what the character will be like, we do have some information coming from the director James Gunn, and the actor, Will Poulter. The actor spoke to ScreenRant and said:
“The first thing to confront is that I am very, very far from perfect. I think one of the cool things about this character is that James [Gunn] certainly allowed me to kind of explore Adam’s imperfections as well, while he orientates himself. He’s in his infancy at this point of the story, so he’s really trying to [orient] himself in this world as effectively a newborn.”
The director, James Gunn, reiterated those statements in an interview with Empire, saying:
“It’s kind of more complicated than that [referring to Adam Warlock being a hero or a villain]. But he’s definitely not a good guy. What we’re seeing is the infant form of Warlock, newly out of the cocoon, and he does not understand life very well. He’s basically a baby.”
I love that sentiment for Warlock because it is what we saw in the comics during Adam’s very beginnings when he was only known as Him. He had no experience, no purpose, and no orientation.
He acted purely on instinct, so he attacked when he felt his creators were malevolent. When he felt the urge to mate, he kidnapped a woman to mate with. It took him a while to find his orientation, purpose, and experience in life, and I hope that the MCU will also have the same approach to the character.
Adam Warlock and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 premiere exclusively in theaters on May 5, 2023.