There’s no shortage of people who want figures of heroes and monsters from their favorite movies. The figures of foreign heroes in the BANDAI SPIRITS collectible series TAMASHII NATIONS decisively fill this need! Here I’d like to talk about them from the standpoint of a film critic.
This time, I’d like to talk about Thanos, the mighty super-villain from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as he appeared in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.”
2012’s “The Avengers,” in which multiple heroes came together onscreen simultaneously, was a dream come true for comics fans. The film itself was satisfying enough, but it came with a little tease that made fans even happier. A special scene during the end credits hinted that Thanos was coming for the Avengers. This was yet another dream come true for fans -- if a nightmare for the protagonists of the story. The character of Thanos debuted in 1973, in issue 55 of “The Invincible Iron Man.” Yes, in his first appearance Thanos menaced not the Avengers but Iron Man himself. In fact, he doesn’t make much of an impression in this seminal appearance. The main antagonist is Drax the Destroyer, and this Thanos is actually a robot decoy. And he isn’t even giant-sized; he stands roughly the same height as Iron Man. There was no way for him to support a feature yet.
Thanos continued to appear from time to time in various Marvel comics, but the moment that propelled him to stardom among fans came in 1991, with a crossover event called The Infinity Gauntlet. This is when he developed into more of a powerful character, and it is the storyline that most shaped the portrayal of Thanos in the MCU. In the story, Thanos obtains six “Infinity Gems” (changed to “Infinity Stones” in the MCU), then uses them with the gauntlet to cause half of the galaxy to disappear. The heroes then do everything they can to restore the world to the way it was.
In Japan, a translation was published in “Marvel X,” a (truly awesome!) comic anthology magazine designed to introduce readers to the Marvel universe. The first time I read it, honestly, I found the plot of being able to disappear half of the galaxy with a snap of the fingers a little silly, but at the same time I was struck by the epic mythos of it all. In the pages of American comics, I found a modern-day mythology in which human dramas were explored in the format of superhero stories.
After that tease in “The Avengers,” Thanos was hinted at in a variety of MCU films. His first real appearance came in 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” where he was played by Josh Brolin. (His brief cameo at the end of The Avengers was played by a different actor.) Then, in “Avengers: Infinity War,” he took the main stage. The heroes, of course, were the Avengers, but the real star was Thanos. This was the film in which Thanos described his deadly plan. Thus the heroes lose at the end, and the evil villain triumphs – of course.
The production staff made it clear that this wasn’t the end by putting THANOS WILL RETURN at the end of the film. (In fact, the official title of the old comic series was “THANOS: The Infinity Gauntlet.”)
The first thing I want to draw your attention to with this figure are the optional faces. Sometimes fearsome, sometimes sorrowful, Thanos is one of the most emotionally expressive characters in the MCU, and by choosing different faces you can capture totally different moments in the character’s story.
You can of course pose him together with other characters in battle scenes, but my favorite is him sitting on his throne waiting for battle. He’s an incredibly powerful, almost omnipotent being – but with a certain humanity at the same time. Doesn’t this scene just perfectly sum up “Avengers: Endgame”?
Sometimes I wonder about Thanos. He’s incredibly powerful, but gets worked up when Spider-Man webs his face. He’s obsessed with the idea that space is too crowded, but never considers a more peaceful approach to balancing it like, say, making everyone half-sized instead of wiping out half of the galaxy. (In the comics, Thanos’ motivation for disappearing half of all living things is a lot more personal, and I recommend reading it if you can.)
That’s right: Thanos isn’t perfect. That reflects Stan Lee’s fundamental philosophy, that there are no perfect people, so there can be no perfect heroes. Or villains.
When I display this figure in my room, I put him in his armor so he can cheer me on like an oni of Japanese legend.
For those who want a more soothing presence, you can pose him sitting and taking a break on a pipe (?)
One final memory. When Kevin Feige (a key architect of the MCU, and currently Marvel Studio’s president) came to Japan in 2012 to promote “The Avengers,” I had the chance to interview him. I actually brought a vintage action figure of Thanos to show him and asked Feige, “is he going to be in the movies?” And he laughed, “we wouldn’t have put the cameo in if he wasn’t!” There weren’t many who even knew who Thanos was in Japan at the time. Now, eight years later, he’s popular enough to get an S.H.Figuarts movie portrayal. I never could have imagined this ever happening!
Text: Sugiyama Supi Yutaka