Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thanos Vs. Darkseid

Karen: Today's question is: Thanos or Darkseid? Not who's more powerful, but who do you like more, who do you find a more compelling character?

Karen: Of course, Darkseid came first, created by Jack Kirby for his Fourth World series of books at DC in the early 70s. As the ruler of Apokolips, his initial struggles involved the New Gods, and also Superman. But he has branched out from that and become a major league villain who has popped up in a variety of titles.

Karen: Thanos came
after Darkseid and was definitely inspired by him, and Metron, another New God character. Created by Jim Starlin, Thanos first appeared in Iron Man, and soon became the enemy of Captain Marvel, and later, Warlock. But just like Darkseid, his schemes have brought him into conflict with many of the Marvel universe's heroes.

Karen: One could argue that both of these villains have become over-exposed. Yet they remain wildly popular. Personally, I like both but I'd have to go with Thanos as my favorite. I find his motivations, his twisted love of death and entropy, to be more interesting. But let's hear from the rest of you. Who do you like more, and why?


Rip Jagger said...

I'm a Darkseid devotee myself.

Kirby's granite-faced fascistic megalomaniac is arguably the purest expression of raw evil in comics since the original comic book super-villain Hitler himself. Darkseid is clever and cold blooded, consumed by drive to have and hold and obliterate the whole of creation. His nihilism is impossible to fathom.

Thanos on the other hand is no less despicable, but his lurid evil is more singularly depraved and appears to come from a perversity of spirit. Thanos wants power to suit his own weird passions, whatever they might be. Thanos seems more about himself, and so his evil is somehow more identifiable for the reader.

Thanos is horrible, while Darkseid is horror itself.

Rip Off

William Preston said...

Darkseid feels more like a comic book creation. Kirby's New Gods and affiliated characters are fun, but they never felt like they fit with anything else in the DC universe. Thanos, on the other hand, meshes well with the cosmic elements of Marvel (not that those didn't get out of hand with writers creating one godlike being after another).

Having said that, I also think Darkseid is more frightening. Mess with him, and you get yanked out of your little superhero world—on which people have rational motivations—and dumped on a planet from which there's no hope of escape.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Rip, you're a hard act to follow, but I have to disagree.

Thanos had the advantage, at least in the Bronze Age, of not being overexposed. And his evil -- a literal romance with Death -- was truly creepy and a great plot device for megalomanical evil. There was actually a weird logic to everything he did, no matter how cruel and conscienceless: He had to do genocide on the planetary level to impress his ladylove.

Plus most of his appearances were by Jim Starlin at the height of his powers. The Marvel Two-in-One Annual that wrapped up the Warlock saga is one of my favorite comics. His "return" in the Death of Captain Marvel was a great coda to that saga.

Darkseid on the other hand appeared to pop up everywhere in the 80s. The overexposure pushed him into the category of Lex Luthor. How threatening can he be if he is constantly thwarted?

Edo Bosnar said...

Tough one, Karen. They're both so delightfully evil. And everyone above has made some good arguments for their favorite.
I'd give Thanos a slight edge, just because he's somewhat more creepy, and thus scarier.

Fred W. Hill said...

I first came across Thanos in Captain Marvel #27, which included Marv's fight to the death with the Super Skrull (who in my opinion should have stayed dead after that story, but it wasn't a surprise that he was eventually resurrected). Right away I was sucked into the saga by some of Starlin's best art and storytelling. And Thanas was compellingly threatening and creepy, instantly one of my favorite villains. It wasn't until much later that I became aware of Darkseid and his influence on Starlin's favorite baddie. The first comic featuring Darkseid I ever read was the X-Men/Teen Titans team-up, with some wonderful Walt Simonson art. Shortly thereafter I did read some reprints of Kirby's New Gods, and, uh, while I recognized it had many great ideas as well as great art, I couldn't really get into it. Kirby's writing style just never appealed to me. It's like with Ditko -- I love the classic Silver Age material they did for Marvel, but most of their stuff since then leaves me cold.
Overall, even if he was a knockoff, Thanos was a more interesting character than Darkseid, although the latter certainly had his creepy appeal. I did get a bit tired of all those Infinity limited series, however, and bailed out before getting to the conclusion of one of them. That was when I pretty much quit reading superhero comics altogether. So I missed seeing Thanos admit that he essentially repeatedly sowed the seeds of his own defeat and "retired" to become a sort of monkish farmer (as I seem to recall reading somewhere), a highly amusing scenario for however long that lasted.

Sean Strange said...

Wow, this is a great theological question! It's so hard to choose between two of my favorite gods!

It's hard not to go with Darkseid because I worship Jack Kirby as a comic book prophet, and because Thanos was an obvious rip-off of the character. But I think Starlin did make Thanos even more compelling and sinister, because like Rip said his evil is more comprehensible to puny human minds. Darkseid is more of a cosmic demiurge like Galactus or a Lovecraftian deity we can't really understand.

In any case, I think this important question demands further study by comic book theologians everywhere!

Gray said...

This topic really brought out the heavy hitters...I have qualms about even attempting to post on this topic, but...I've always been more of a devotee of Marvel comics generally speaking, so initially I leaned toward Thanos in this debate. He does lose points for being a heavily tweaked version of Darkseid, and I think therein lies the decisive point. Yes, both have been overexposed and often poorly used, but both have shined when in the hands of a skillful writer/ artist team. I've got to go with Darkseid on this one. Thanos is the more compelling character, but in the right hands, the right scenario, Darkseid is more menacing, more dangerous, and the most sinister of the two.
I might be slightly biased because some of my favorite comics by George Perez ( JLA 183-185) and the team of Levitz and Giffen (Great Darkness Saga) featured the Lord of Apokolips. Distribution being what it was, I wasn't exposed to much of Starlin's Warlock or Captain Marvel.

Flying Tiger Comics said...

My real vote would be neither- Darkseid and chums are a bad fit for DC, and Thanos was the beginning of the end for cosmic Marvel since it opened the flood gates to the EE Doc Smith style inflation of powers.

If I have to pick one, then Darkseid because the Kirby stories, when not overlapping with the bottomless chumbucket of DC, are inherently fun and entertaining. Thanos stories just seem to blur into one long treadmill of meaningless death and resurrection. Ironically.

Dougie said...

As Fred said, Thanos gave up stellar genocide to become a farmer.
Darkseid, however, is the Revelation. The "tiger-force" at the core of all things. When you cry out in your dreams, it's Darkseid you see.
No contest.

Just to muddy the waters, what about Mongul and the Lord Papal, who both seem like homages to Darkseid?

david_b said...

Not a DC reader, I'm not all that familiar with Darkseid, although the name and his reputation sounds pretty cool.. I see it as giving DC a larger-than-life villain, more so than a Joker or Brainiac..

Like Fred Hill, having been hooked on the whole Thanos/Captain Mar-vell saga since ish 27, thanks TOTALLY to Mr. Starlin's beautiful art, I'd stay with the story of Thanos.

As explained much better by all the earlier comments here than I could.., he just had a cool attraction to death and all the creepiness that goes with that..

Just to see a Starlin-drawn Thanos smirk at the reader would really draw you in.

I don't have all the appearances, but of all the Bronze Age storylines really nurtured during the decade, I really enjoy reading the Iron Man issues with the Controller, then how that all wove into Thanos and Titan, Mar-vell, Avengers, Skrulls, etc, etc..

If a reader was to start at the earliest mentions of these characters, delve into all the cross-over appearances, and culminate it all with the 'Death of Captain Marvel' story, I believe he would be treated to the finest of Bronze Age (and Marvel) stories.

William said...

I have to go with Thanos simply because I was exposed to him first in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One Annual
#2, and it quickly became one of my all time favorite comics. I have had a soft spot for the Demi-God from Titan ever since.

That said I dig the Dark Lord of Apokolips as well, but mainly for his appearances on the various DC (Bruce Timm) animated shows. The final episode of Justice League was especially awesome.

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