When the mid-credit tag of 2012’s The Avengers revealed that none other than Thanos was pulling the strings on Loki and his invasion of Earth, a fan frenzy began. Everyone was trying to figure out when the purple-faced menace of the stars would reappear, and also who would be playing him when he did eventually rear his head again. Here we are, two years later, and not only has Thanos reappeared, he’s done so wearing Josh Brolin’s face! So now that that mystery is solved, the next question is obviously, "When are we going to see him again?" In comes James Gunn, in a recent Empire Online interview to give us just that answer.
"He will show up [in the sequel] if he helps our story and he will not show up at all if not. Thanos is not the most important thing in Guardians 2, that’s for damn sure. There’s the Guardians themselves and other threats the Guardians are going to be facing that are not Thanos."
Clearly Thanos isn’t as big of a menace in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as some would have you think he is. In fact, it looks like they’re really saving him for The Avengers 3 more than anything, save for a couple of appearances and mentions used to push the story along to the eventual Infinity Gauntlet storyline. (Our best guess, anyway.) So, if Thanos isn’t named as the villain for 2017’s Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, we can’t help but ask: Who will? With that mindset, we’ve hand picked six villains that could be great stepping stones for the eventual battle with Thanos.
The CollectorThe Collector loves to live up to his name, as his cages and archives are full with a bunch of goodies from all around the universe. If it's rare, exotic, or just really sought after, he'll want it for his own. And yet, what's more rare than the Infinity Stones? A force of power that every power-hungry maniac in their right mind wants to get their hands on, scattered across the universe in only six limited edition pieces; the Infinity Gauntlet is the ultimate trophy for the man who wants to have everything. You even see him practically salivate at the end of Thor: The Dark World. We could use a lot more Benicio Del Toro weirdness in these movies, and to give The Collector a front row seat of entertaining yet evil menace is just too good to pass up.
Thanos, of course, will be rightfully pissed; and can dispatch Nebula to take care of The Collector and retrieve the stones. Nebula, sneaky as she is, only takes the job because she knows it'll cause her to run afoul of the Guardians Of The Galaxy. Holding them personally responsible for her continued servitude to his royal pigmentedness. Does The Collector raise a finger to menace the Guardians? No. But you can bet he's going to make an offer to Nebula that allows her to remove both thorns in his side, and deliver the stones to him. Of course, we run the risk of losing The Collector once and for all after this massive betrayal. Then again, if you're going to go out, don't you want to go out big?
Mistress DeathIn an interview about his performance as Thanos, Josh Brolin said that in his tenure as Thanos, he hopes to come across none other than Mistress Death. Literally the physical embodiment of Death, Thanos has a severe crush on this force of nature. He would pretty much do anything, if it meant being in her favor, and not only does she know it – she spurns him because of it. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Hollywood at large, being taken to task for being a little bit uneven in its treatment of female characters, perhaps the best man to terrorize the Guardians Of The Galaxy is, in fact, a woman. Mistress Death cares only about balance in the universe, particularly a balance between life and death. And who gets in the way of Death better than a squad of heroes that are trying to save the world.
With the Guardians Of The Galaxy making their way throughout the universe to protect the innocent, the Mistress becomes a bit perturbed. After all, without death, how can life truly be appreciated? So in order to get things rolling in her corner, Death leads her favorite puppet, Thanos, into the acquisition of half of the Infinity Stones, and lets him run rampant in the galaxy. Her hidden purpose behind all of this is, naturally, to get Thanos himself killed in the line of fire during is universal conquest. To have his soul among her legion would be a trophy beyond all worth, and much Death would occur trying to fill his shoes in the universal power vacuum. The Guardians, aware of the stakes at hand, ultimately trap Thanos in one of the Infinity Stones, and cast him into space. Surprise surprise, he winds up in the possession of Loki, who still holds the Tesseract, and causes him to all of a sudden have a strange craving for all of the Infinity Stones.
The MagusEver since The Collector’s post credits sequence in Thor: The Dark World, everyone’s been talking about the presence of Adam Warlock’s cocoon in his collection. At first, it was nothing more than whispers in the fan community. However, after it appeared again in Guardians Of The Galaxy, James Gunn had no choice but to confirm that yes, Adam Warlock is indeed inside of that cocoon. So if Adam Warlock is going to be in a Guardians Of The Galaxy film, why not have his evil incarnation - The Magus - around to play with, as well? After all, Magus does go back in time to influence Adam to not only take the path in life that transforms him into said villain, he also wants the Infinity Gauntlet for himself.
All of this stems from Adam Warlock, who is also a member of the Guardians Of The Galaxy, getting his hands on said Infinity Gauntlet. Merging two incarnations of Magus into one, we see how Adam is influenced mentally by the Magus, thus causing him to acquire the Infinity Gauntlet. Through the Gauntlet, Magus is given physical form, and he proceeds to try and secure the Gauntlet for himself. Ultimately, he fails, and Thanos somehow winds up with the Infinity Gauntlet in his possession, just as he’s always wanted. This story -- told on screen -- would fulfill the Infinity Gauntlet series, as it sets up for The Avengers : Battle For Infinity, with Thanos and the Guardians crossing over into the world of The Avengers.
The PhalanxThe Avengers: Age Of Ultron is going to, ultimately, end with Ultron being vanquished. That's not based on inside knowledge, nor is it a spoiler, it's just good old fashioned comic logic. Of course, that doesn't mean he'll be completely dead, as he's more of a program than an actual person. Programs can hide, propagate, and ultimately rise again, and Ultron does just that in the comic arc Annihilation: Conquest. Mixing this arc with the preceding arc, Annihilation, gives rise to The Phalanx, as well as keeps Ultron in the game. Much like The Avengers introduced Thanos and put him into play in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron can continue the thread towards the Infinity Gauntlet by furthering Ultron's storyline and melding it with the Marvel Cosmic Universe.
Let's say that after Joss Whedon's The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, portions of Ultron's code drift out into the reaches of space. His genocidal tendencies have helped create a species that is cybernetically modified and ready to annihilate the universe. Their first target is Xandar, home of the Nova Corps; which falls under their massive might. This obviously gets the attention of the Guardians Of The Galaxy, and (depending on whether James Gunn's attitude towards the character changes) could be a great introduction for Nova! Cue a climactic battle that tears certain pieces of the universe apart, and allows Rocket to use that bomb he built in Guardians Of The Galaxy, and you have a firework laden finale that puts the first film to shame.
Howard The DuckThis is the most outrageous option, but hear me out on this one. While this might not make the best full blown sequel to Guardians Of The Galaxy, it’d make a hell of a Marvel One Shot to keep fans satisfied until the next film. So James Gunn has resurrected Howard The Duck from cinematic purgatory in order to make a post credits gag, but he has no intention of giving him a full film. Now knowing how meta-referencial Howard tends to be, this could make him rather… well, unpleasant seems like the best word to use. So naturally, a duck’s gotta to what a duck’s gotta do, and seeing as he has connections with The Collector, who in turn should have connections with Thanos, a plot begins to hatch.
Howard The Duck is going to be hunting Infinity Gems, all so he can surrender them to Thanos’ greedy hands. Why? Because if Thanos has all of the Infinity Gems, he plans to rewrite the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe around Howard, and not Iron Man. Howard The Avenger, The Incredible Duck, and Captain Ameriduck: The First Quackvenger are all on his mind as he chases gem after gem of the remaining three that we haven’t encountered yet. Of course, the Guardians Of The Galaxy put an end to his feather-brained scheme, and he ends up thrown in the Kyln on the charge of "crimes of an egomaniacal/genocidal nature." Again, it’s rather iffy if this could be a full film, but if anyone could make it, it’d be James Gunn.
ThaneOur last villain has some deep connections to the overall future, both confirmed and speculated, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The following quote from the Empire interview we sourced at the head of this piece set us in the direction of connecting Thane, son of Thanos, to the MCU:
"[Thanos has] got some other kids out there. He’s got to look after them. Nebula’s probably the sweetest of them, which tells you what his kids are like."
Reading into Thane’s personal history, you’ll find out that he’s the product of Thanos and an Inhuman female. Lost to his father for the first decade or so of his life, Thane is found in Greenland when one of Thanos’ associates uses Doctor Strange as part of the search for the mad titan’s long lost son. Of course, his son doesn’t have any powers just yet, as he has yet to go through the Inhuman process of Terrigenesis. A battle between his father and Black Bolt changes that, and ultimately Thane becomes super powered.
Now while Thane turns into a good guy in the comics, there’s nothing stopping him from being a villain in the films. Not to mention, we don’t know how he got to Earth. Maybe he can raise some hell as a teenager, and through Peter Quill/Star Lord’s sentiment of "my dad is out there too," Thane can chill out and somehow find himself in Greenland. Bring on Doctor Strange and The Inhumans, coming soon to a theater near you!
When it comes to Guardians Of The Galaxy bad guys, there are plenty more than you've seen on this list. Thanos, while a heavy hitter in the Marvel universe, doesn't need to come out and play just yet. He'll most certainly peek his head out and say a couple of things here and there, but overall we don't need to rush our way to the big purple guy. There's tons of rich material, and even an entire Marvel Cosmic crossover arc that can be adapted, and with links to existing/future properties already in play.