None of them actually knew about it, but the various heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have spent the last 10 years on a collision course. The blockbuster franchise has essentially set them up as a van full of crash test dummies, and they are about to ram into the massive brick wall that is the biggest comic book villain the world has ever seen in Josh Brolin's Thanos. This epic showdown will all be featured this spring in Joe and Anthony Russo's The Avengers: Infinity War - but it's worth noting that there are some fans out there still asking a very important question: who exactly is Thanos?

It is for those movie-goers - and those needing a nice refresher course on the Marvel Cinematic Universe - that we have put together this feature for you. Below and across the next few pages we've collected absolutely everything that we have learned so far about Marvel's tyrannical, purple big bad, and by the time you're finished you'll realize why the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy are going to be in serious trouble come April 27th. Let's dive in!

He Spends A Lot Of His Time On Sanctuary

Let's start at the start, shall we? Thanos first made his big screen debut all the way back in 2012 when Joss Whedon used the post-credits scene in The Avengers to reveal the Mad Titan as the mastermind behind the movie's entire plot. It turns out that he has a real itch to take over Earth, and is willing to utilize some extreme resources to get the job done. That being said, one of the primary things we have learned about him is that he's definitely not afraid to delegate responsibilities, as he seems to prefer just sitting in his throne on his home world known as Sanctuary.

Thanos not only remained on Sanctuary the entire time Loki was on Earth during The Avengers, but also pulled a similar move in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy. In that film he is on the hunt for the mysterious McGuffin known as the Power Stone (more on that in a bit), but chooses to let Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) acquire it for him instead of going out to get it himself. Some might consider this lazy, but the truth is that he's just flexing. Why do a hard job yourself when you can use legitimate fear and intimidation to get others to do the work for you? Right out the gate it tells you a lot about who this guy is.

He Has A Ridiculously Huge Ship Called Sanctuary II

Of course, Thanos isn't immobile. He can leave Sanctuary when the time calls for it, and as he says in the end credits scene of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, "Do it himself." When those times of action come around, he has Sanctuary II to get him around the universe. First introduced in the mid-credits stinger of Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok, the ship is easily one of the biggest ever seen in a science-fiction movie before - as suggested by the still image you see above. The ship in the middle is big enough to hold Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and every Asgardian still living after the realm's destruction, and yet it looks teeny-tiny next to Thanos' ride.

Thus far our exposure to Sanctuary II on the big screen has been entirely limited to the few seconds it appears at the very end of Thor: Ragnarok, but it also telegraphs a significant message about who Thanos is. Not only does it show that he has access to some serious resources (one can only imagine the amount of metal necessary for its construction), but it also makes you wonder why he would need such a large vehicle. It's very easy to believe that Sanctuary II is packed to the gills with a killer army ready to decimate any planet that the ships lands on.

He Has A Habit Of Kidnapping Children And Killing Their Parents

As noted, we haven't exactly seen Thanos commit any atrocities personally yet on the big screen just yet... but that doesn't mean that we haven't heard some absolutely horrifying stories. In this case, I'm specifically referring to the backstories of both Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) featured in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The two of them grew up as sisters and the "Daughters of Thanos," but there are no blood relation between any of them. The only reason that Gamora and Nebula are Thanos' daughters is because when they were children he invaded their respective homeworlds. After conquering, the Mad Titan went about killing their family members and then adopted the young alien girls with the intention of training and transforming them into elite warriors who would do his bidding.

Needless to say, these are the actions of a truly despotic monster, and offers you a clear sense of what Thanos is all about. There is nothing that he cares about more than power and subservience, and he commits some truly deplorable acts in his quests to gain more of both. It is worth noting that the whole daughters plan didn't really work out, as both Gamora and Nebula will be aiming to kill their adoptive father from the very first moments of The Avengers: Infinity War - and we definitely want to see them get their revenge.

He's On The Hunt For The Infinity Stones

Thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos has been the villain behind the plots of two different films - The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy - but the truth is that in both cases he actually had the exact same motivation: the collection of Infinity Stones. In Joss Whedon's movie he was hoping that Loki could retrieve the Tesseract a.k.a. The Space Stone in addition to taking over Earth, and, as mentioned earlier, the James Gunn blockbuster had him hiring Ronan The Accuser to attain the Power Stone. But those are only two of the six mystery ingots that are floating around the universe, and in The Avengers: Infinity War audiences will witness the Mad Titan on his quest to create a complete set.

In case you haven't pieced it together yet, Thanos' motivation for hunting down the Infinity Stones is the acquisition of even more power - and the truth is that completing his mission would officially make him the most powerful being in the entire universe. When the Space Stone, the Power Stone, the Mind Stone, the Time Stone, the Reality Stone and the Soul Stone are all pieced together in the so-called Infinity Gauntlet (pictured above), the being in possession literally attains the abilities of a god. This is obviously the kind of stature you never want a guy like Thanos to achieve, which is what makes the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy's mission to stop him so vital for the future of the universe.

He's Wielded An Infinity Stone In The Past

Thanos has been on the hunt for Infinity Stones for as long as he's been around in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - but one details that some fans may not have picked up on is the fact that he at one time possessed at least one of the six ingots. Specifically, he had control of the Mind Stone, which was originally kept in the gem of a Chitauri scepter. Unfortunately, he lost the treasure when he trusted it to Loki - who was supposed to use it to hunt down the Tesseract and take over Earth. As a result, something tells us that the Mad Titan will be none too pleased with the God of Mischief when they next come face to face.

Based on the footage we've seen from The Avengers: Infinity War, the film will see Thanos attain at least two of the missing Infinity Stones - the Space Stone and the Power Stone - before the end of the film... but something tells us that he won't stop there. We've also seen an attempt by Thanos' minions (more on them in a bit) to carve the Mind Stone out of the forehead of Vision (Paul Bettany), and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has been shown brazenly wearing the Eye of Agamotto a.k.a. the Time Stone around his neck. That just leaves the Aeather a.k.a. the Power Stone, and the mysterious Soul Stone - and something tells us that he'll acquire both before the credits roll.

He Already Has The Real Infinity Gauntlet

As far as we know, Thanos will be starting The Avengers: Infinity War without possessing any Infinity Stones - but at the very least he does have the mystical item to which they are designed to be attached. As seen above, I'm referring to the famed Infinity Gauntlet. It was during the end credits scene of The Avengers: Age of Ultron that this very special glove was first revealed, shown to be kept in vault before being put on Thanos' meaty left paw. It's worth noting that the gauntlet doesn't actually possess any powers all by itself, but it is necessary to properly activate the six stones so that he can complete his quest.

Die hard fans have been at least somewhat aware of the Infinity Gauntlet's presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe going back to 2011 and the release of Kenneth Branagh's Thor. The production designer on that blockbuster included the glove as an item featured in Odin's Treasure Room at the start of the film... but we later learned that this version of the gauntlet was nothing but a fake. It's a revelation made by the villainous Hela (Cate Blanchett) in Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok, who points out that Odin only kept it around as a spurious demonstration of power. Of course, as of yet we haven't gotten to see the real thing in action, but that time will soon be coming to an end.

The Black Order Is A Group That Does His Bidding

The last important thing to know about Thanos before The Avengers: Infinity War ties back into where we started in this feature: the fact that Thanos knows how to delegate. He has a long list of individuals who have been known to do his bidding in the past - including Loki, Ronan, Gamora and Nebula - but those aren't the only soldiers whom he has employed. In fact, as we'll learn in Joe and Anthony Russo's upcoming blockbuster, he controls a special team of elite warriors known as the Black Order, and it will be with their help that Thanos truly begins to execute his plan to take possession of all six Infinity Stones.

The Black Order is a group consisting of four members - Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw, and Cull Obsidian - and while they are subservient to Thanos, that shouldn't suggest that they are in any way weak. Not only do they individually possesses superhuman natural abilities of their individual species, but their strengths go beyond them as well (such as Ebony Maw's control of the mystic arts, and Corvus Glaive's blade that can cut through anything). They are all terrifying individually, and instilled with a zealot fervor that will see them get their master what he wants or die trying. That makes them extra scary, and ultimately also makes Thanos an even greater threat.

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