Comic book fans are passionate about their favourite superheroes and villains. D.C. and Marvel are in an endless cold war, and their legions of followers are constantly battling one another. Each loves to size up their favourite characters with those from the opposition. Two standout villains, Marvel’s Thanos and D.C.’s Darkseid, cause much debate on who the best bad guy is. Thanos vs. Darkseid is an endless sideshow with neither conceding, and each side is convinced the other villain is the champion. So, who is the ultimate villain?
RELATED: Interview: Patrick Horvath Combines Dexter and Richard Scarry in Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees
Iconic Comic Book Villains
Thanos and Darkseid are pillars in the pantheon of comic book villains. These two are the ultimate bad guys, usually portrayed as apex predators controlling and manipulating other lesser villains. The Justice League, DC’s most formidable team of heroes, regularly battles with Darkseid, their primary foe; if troubles are brewing, inevitably, the trail leads to Darkseid. Over at Marvel, the Avengers, earth’s mightiest heroes, are often pitted against the arch-enemy, the mad Titan himself, Thanos. Whenever the Avengers fight their way through a slew of baddies, Thanos waits at the end.
Thanos has been a formidable supervillain in the Marvel Universe since Jim Starlin created him in February 1973 when he first appeared in The Invincible Iron Man #55. The warlord was born on Saturn’s moon, Titan and belongs to the Eternals race, but Thanos also has genes from a race called the Deviants. This mutation is what created his purple skin. The Deviants are humanoids created by the experiments of the Celestials.
Thanos is famous for his clashes with the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and the X-Men. Jim Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet (1991) comic storyline secured Thanos’ reputation as one of pop culture’s best and most exciting villains. The Infinity Gauntlet comics comprise many story arcs and feature Thanos’ exploits as he gathers all six infinity gems to kill half of all life in the universe. In the comics, Thanos is driven to genocide to impress Mistress Death, the living embodiment of death in the Marvel Universe.
RELATED: Interview: TMNT: Saturday Morning Adventures Team Discuss Bringing the 1987 Cartoon to Comics
Starlin’s college psychology classes prompted the creation of Thanos, with Starlin telling Adelaide Comics and Books:
“I went to college between doing U.S. military service and getting work in comics, and there was a psych class and I came up with Thanos, inspired by Sigmund Freud’s concept of human death drive, or Thanatos but I’m not sure how he fit into it, just anger management probably.”
Starlin continues, “So I came up to Marvel, and Editor Roy Thomas asked if I wanted to do an issue of Iron Man. I felt that this may be my only chance ever to do a character, not having the confidence that my career was going to last anything longer than a few weeks. So they got jammed into it. Thanos was a much thinner character and Roy suggested beefing him up, so he’s beefed up quite a bit from his original sketches … and later on I liked beefing him up so much that he continued to grow in size.”
RELATED: Do You Know The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Secret Last Name?
Marvel mimicked D.C. and Jack Kirby’s groundbreaking work on the New Gods and the Fourth World Saga, and Starlin drew inspiration from Kirby and beefed up Thanos, Darkseid style. Brian Cronin at Comic Book Resources shared an interview of Starlin acknowledging:
“Kirby had done the New Gods, which I thought was terrific. He was over in D.C. at the time. I came up with some things that were inspired by that. You’d think that Thanos was inspired by Darkseid, but that was not the case when I showed up. In my first Thanos drawings, if he looked like anybody, it was Metron. I had all these different gods and things I wanted to do, which became Thanos and the Titans. Roy took one look at the guy in the Metron-like chair and said: “Beef him up! If you’re going to steal one of the New Gods, at least rip-off Darkseid, the really good one!”
Jack Kirby was a master comic book storyteller whose work is iconic in the industry. Kirby was a creator and co-creator of many important Marvel characters like the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, The Avengers, The X-Men and Silver Surfer, to name a few. Kirby became unhappy at Marvel; the artist created all these fantastic characters without copyright or creative custody over them.
RELATED: The Names of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Explained
Kirby’s frustration drove him into the arms of D.C., where he introduced Darkseid and the New Gods in his Fourth World metaseries. Kirby was inspired to create the New Gods years before leaving Marvel. In the New York Times, Author Marc Flores comments:
“The idea of the New Gods had come to Jack years earlier when he was plotting 90 per cent of the “Tales of Asgard” stories in Thor. He wanted to have two planets at war and end with Ragnarok, the battle that would kill Thor’s lucrative pantheon. Instead, he tried the idea in his Inhumans stories.
Now, he was presenting it in its original context. Though he wouldn’t ever say it publicly, the New Gods books started right after the gods in Thor killed one another. The first page of Orion of the New Gods showed the same scenes from Thor—a planet torn in half and armoured gods holding swords and dying on a fiery battleground.”
RELATED: Michael Keaton’s Batman Returns to Face the Fear of Scarecrow
The Fourth World was primarily a battle between good and evil, as represented by the worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips. Darkseid, the evil master of Apokolips, has one goal: acquiring the Anti-Life Equation, which will give him the ability to control the thoughts of all living beings.
Thanos vs. Darkseid
The two supervillains are intrinsically connected; Darkseid was the template for Thanos, especially his bulky muscular physique. The characters, however, have marked differences in personality and psychology. In the comics, Thanos wants to impress Mistress Death; in the MCU, he wants to bring order and balance to the universe.
Despite his genocidal ambitions, Thanos cuts an almost anti-hero figure doing evil for the greater good and not for his benefit. Thanos is a narcissist and self-serving, but in his twisted logic, he believes he is doing good.
RELATED: The Best Comic Books Right Now Are Animated Series Adaptations
Darkseid is just pure evil and driven by nothing else but control and power. Thanos seeks the companionship of Lady Death but also that of his daughters, Gamora and Nebula. Darkseid cares little for interpersonal relationships, only focused on his singular vision to obtain the Anti-Life Equation.
Both villains are compelling; Darkseid, however, might be stronger physically. Thanos can take down Hulk and Thor sometimes, but Darkseid must consistently be content with Superman. The to and fro on who is stronger between Darkseid and Thanos can go on endlessly, but at the end of the day, both can cause trouble for any superhero or supervillain. Thanos becomes more challenging to deal with when he is wielding the Infinity Gauntlet, but Daarkseid has his all-powerful Omega Beams, which almost nothing can withstand.
Physically, Darkseid seems the superior foe, but from a psychological perspective, Thanos is the more interesting character. His appearance in the MCU during the Infinity War Saga, which culminated with Avengers Infinity War and Avengers Endgame, catapulted the villain to superstar status in pop culture.
RELATED: First Look At Zack Snyder & Titan Comics’ Rebel Moon Prequel
Darkseid is featured more prominently in D.C.’s Animated Universe but lacks the screen time in feature films, only appearing briefly in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Darkseid has been unable to embed himself into popular culture as profoundly as Thanos. The Titan’s complex nature allows for more nuanced storytelling, while Darkseid is less nuanced.
The King of Apokolyps is intriguing from a different perspective. He is more mysterious than Thanos, but his immense power and indomitable will to enslave everyone make a terrific combination. The fact that our beloved heroes, like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, have to muster all their strength to defeat Darkseid holds us in fascination with the character.
Choosing the ultimate villain comes down to one’s preference. If you enjoy a supervillain with more nuance and drama surrounding him, then Thanos is the ultimate bad guy, but if you seek a cold-blooded tyrant that instils fear more so than any other, then Darkseid would be the better villain. Both characters share similar traits, but these are the key differences which set them apart. So, between the two of them, choosing who the ultimate bad guy is comes down to your preference because both are amazing supervillains.
RELATED: Digital Artist & Illustrator Warren Louw Teases Something Big For Superman
- Thanos and Darkseid are two of the most essential supervillains in comic books.
- Fans are forever debating which is the ultimate villain.
- Both are fantastic characters with overlapping similarities but have subtle differences that set them apart and make them fantastic characters.