Thanos is by far one of the most iconic villains in the Marvel Universe, and it’s hard not to notice his association and his utter reverence for Death. Over the long course of the character’s existence, we know that Thanos has been in love with Death, a champion of Death, brought Death to many planets and many species, and we can’t help but draw parallels between him and our real-life god of Death from the greek mythology under the name Thanatos. This is why we decided to explore Thanos’ origins in a bit more detail to tell you whether Thano was based on Thanatos and to what extent.
Thanos’ name was definitely inspired by Thanatos, who serves as a personification of Death in Greek mythology. However, it was never confirmed that Thanos himself was based on him. Starlin himself patterned Thanos after DC’s New Gods Darkseid and Metron. Even without confirmation, however, there are strong connections between the two characters, primarily their intelligence, connection to Death, and the fact that they are hated far and wide.
Now that we’ve covered in summary what we know about Thanos’ connection to Thanatos, it’s time to explain it in more detail. If you want to know how Thanos came to be known as Death Incarnate, stay with us and keep reading!
Thanos’ origin story tells us that he was associated with Death even before he was born
The story of how Thanos came to be was retold numerous times in Marvel Comics Universe, with several details differing, but it remained mostly the same. Thanos was born to a pair of Eternals, Sui-San, and A’Lars.
We know that Eternals are one of the products of Celestials messing with the human genome. One other product were Deviants, who are closely connected to Eternals but drastically different. Where Eternals are beautiful, graceful, intelligent, and basically are supposed to reflect the best traits possible, Deviants are ruthless, cold, savage, and violent and represent the evolution going backward.
Now at the beginning, only 100 Eternals were created, and they couldn’t procreate. Eternals could always procreate with other races but not amongst each other, meaning that achieving a natural-born true Eternal was impossible.
A lot of stuff happened among Eternals before Thanos’ birth, multiple civil wars and in-fighting, and such civil war was started by Thanos’ father A’Lars, who refused to accept the fact that gods never attempted for Eternals to have children amongst their own species.
As you all know by now, A’Lars will eventually be banished, and this will result in him creating a utopia on Titan where he will marry his fellow Eternal Sui-San, and the two will have two children, Thanos & Eros.
How did Thanos get his name?
Now, before we explain how Thanos exactly got his name, we have to point out that there are two versions that describe the exact moment that Thanos was named.
In ‘Eternals: Thanos Rises’ it is shown that A’Lars and Sui-San fell in love while they were working on their Titan colony, and as a wedding gift, he gifted her the so-called ‘Quantum Bands’ that would allow Eternals to procreate naturally.
Sui-San eventually fell pregnant with A’Lars’ child, and the two discussed the name of the baby boy during a moment of intimacy. Sui-San wanted to name the boy Dione, and she hoped that he would be a scientist or a poet, but A’Lars wanted to name his Thanos because he signified the triumph over Death and over his Eternal opponent Zuras that was responsible for A’Lars being banished from Earth due to his degenerate believes.
Sui-San liked the name, but things will go very wrong when Thanos is born. Obviously, Thanos was born with Deviant genes, which granted him his abhorrent appearance, purple skin, brutish body, and ultimately his cruel and sadistic personality.
Sui-San wanted to kill Thanos the first moment she laid her eyes on him, which forced A’Lars to institutionalize her.
The second origin story of Thanos’ name was told in ‘Thanos Rising’ #1, and even though the story was similar, some details differed. We are given more insight into how Sui-San’s labor was difficult and almost ended up costing her her own life.
Sui-San was in great pain throughout the ordeal, and when Thanos emerged, he had an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, and he didn’t cry.
As with human children, this is considered a life-threatening medical emergency that can end up deadly for infants if not resolved immediately; sometimes, due to the brain being deprived of oxygen too long, it can result in the child having long-time adverse effects on its behavior, growth, and other developmental aspects.
The doctors that were present during the birth were aware that something was very wrong with Thanos, and quite frankly, they hoped that he would die. They recommended to A’Lars that every possible test be run to conclude what could have gone so terribly wrong that he inherited the Deviant genes. The doctors also expressed that even following a difficult birth, his monstrous genes, the boy will live.
A’Lars knew from the first moment that Thanos had deviant genes, but he loved him nonetheless and was prepared to accept him just as he was a normal Eternal. A’Lars cradled the baby in his arms and named him Thanos – the child who refused to die.
Sui-San eventually wanted to see her own son as she didn’t get an opportunity to see him due to difficult labor. As soon as she laid her eyes on him and took a glimpse into his pitch-black eyes, she had a vision that Thanos would bring Death to them all. She tried to reach the surgical knife and kill the child, which resulted in A’Lars institutionalizing her.
As you can see, in both cases, Thanos’ name was inspired by Thanatos because Death surrounded him since birth. He faced impossible odds and managed to conquer Death, and ultimately, fell in love with it.
How are Thanos and Thanatos connected?
In Greek mythology, Thanatos was a personification of Death. He was the son of Nyx (the night goddess) and Brother of Hypnos (the god of sleep). Due to his nature as basically the grim reaper, Thanatos was often associated with negative deities, night, darkness, apathy, misery, sadness, and other related phenomena that affect humanity in terrible ways.
Thanatos is told to be extremely hated both by the gods and mankind because he was regarded as merciless. Even though Thanatos was a minor deity, he appeared in some notable ancient Greek myths, mostly being outwitted by characters seeking to “cheat death.”
Words such as Thanatophorus (death-bearing) and Euthanasia (good Death) were inspired by Thanatos. Thanatos was likewise sometimes represented as a figure carrying the inverted torch because he is the “extinguisher of life”
But the most straightforward connection between Thanatos and Thanos comes from psychology, where Sigmund Freud was inspired by the Greek concepts to create his own concepts of ‘Eros’ and ‘Thanatos.’ Eros was the so-called drive for life, and Thanatos was the drive for Death. Freud explained that the so-called ‘death drive” is what fuels self-destructive behavior in humans through thrill-seeking and other destructive acts.
Although the theory was criticized, and it’s not exactly possible to prove it, it still remains a target of much debate in the community, but this is not something that we will discuss in a post dealing with Thanos.
Anyway, as you can see, the connections between Thanos and Thanatos are plenty, even though it was never outright stated that this mythological character was the basis for Thanos.
Eternals are, in large part, inspired by Greek mythology, for starters. Thanos was like Thanatos, shunned from the rest of his kind on the basis of his birth and nature, something that he had no control over. He also developed an incredible fascination with Death until he became in love with it and her champion.
Thanos had an incredible drive to kill, to extinguish lives, no matter how he rationalized it. The fact stands that Thanos is among the greatest mass murderers in the Marvel Comics universe.
His own mother, Sui-San, recognized him as being “death-incarnate” and wanted to get rid of him as soon as she gave birth to him.
Also, Thanos, in the comics, has a biological brother named “Eros,” who is a full Eternal and wasn’t born with Thanos’ deviant genes. Eros and Thanos are considered to be polar opposites, just like in Greek Mythology, were Eros represents life, energy, and love, and Thanos represents death.
What other parallels can you draw between Thanos and Thanatos? Let us know in the comments below!