Avengers: Infinity War is breaking records and building buzz but it might be crowning a new most-popular villain in the world. Most of the conversation about Infinity War surrounds Thanos, the film's villain, who has burst into the scene after several teases in prior films and simultaneously dominating several stories in Marvel Comics.
With all of this new fame and popularity, could Thanos be the new Joker? Meaning, could Thanos be the best-known, best ticket-selling, most book-selling, villain of the next generation of comic books and films?
The Joker, Batman's biggest and best known villain with or without the Caped Crusader nearby, has been a cinematic icon for years. The character is, in fact, one of the most reputable names in comic books and films, selling books and tickets at the box office on a nearly endless basis.
As a result, the Joker has been plastered on countless books, teased on Gotham for years, and rebooted in cinema half of a dozen times. Iconic actors have played the part and others have become mega-stars as a result the harrowing laugh.
Thanos is proving to be suddenly rivaling the Joker in terms of being a household name, though. How many memes popped up in everyone's Facebook feed about the character in the past two weeks? The purple titan will inevitably draw billions of dollars worth of fans back to theaters for Avengers 4 in just under a year. After that, though, will Marvel Studios simply push the popular villain aside? Or will Thanos be given an inevitable Joker treatment where sporadic appearances, reboots, and takes of the character are used to draw moviegoers and book buyers?
Marvel Studios certainly has more than enough stories to tell with the Mad Titan which have already printed. The Infinity Gauntlet might be his best known adventure but writers have since penned titles such as The Infinity Revelation, The Thanos Quest, and most recently, Donny Cates' impressive run with Thanos. Whether or not Josh Brolin wishes to play the role forever, it seems like too good of a business opportunity for Disney and Marvel Studios to leave such stories untold in a cinematic sense.
Of course, none of these stories quite rival the comic history lure of The Killing Joke, The Man Who Laughs, or some of the classic Detective Comics stories which relied on the Clown Prince (perhaps, with Infinity Gauntlet being the lone exception). The Joker also is not an over-powered villain seeking such drastic achievements as Thanos, making him more accessible for more grounded and self-contained stories.
The Joker has a longer-running history in comics and film but Thanos certainly seems to be eyeing the title of most-popular villain recently, at least in the short term. While Warner Bros. seems to be developing a standalone Joker movie (after Suicide Squad may or may not have damaged the character's brand), Marvel Studios has remained quiet on any potential movie with Thanos' name in the title. That said, the studio has remained quiet on almost all of its plans beyond Avengers 4. With its 90s-centric Captain Marvel bringing back other cosmic heroes, the villain might even pop up in the heroine's origin story.
Take a look at what Marvel Studios did with Iron Man. The character became wildly popular after Robert Downey Jr.'s hit 2008 movie, spawning sequels and an Avengers movie. However, the core franchise would hardly be the only appearance. Iron Man would go on to play a part arguably as big as Captain America in the spangled hero's Civil War movie before joining Spider-Man: Homecoming to add extra incentive for moviegoers.
With Thanos' wild popularity, will Marvel Studios use the character in more films beyond Avengers 4 as Warner Bros. has used the Joker in more than a handful of films? Thanos has already been dominating Marvel Comics stories since turning his head in 2012's post-credits scene, so is it possible for the Mad Titan to truly be as popular, if not more so, than the Joker? Or is it all just recent excitement which will fade away?
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