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Many, many heroes have faced off against Thanos, but perhaps the ultimate Marvel Cinematic universe fight would be Thanos vs. himself. 

Fans have taken to review the entirety of the MCU and have noted how Thanos changed from his first appearance in the original Avengers to his dusty end in Avengers: Endgame. Complicating matters, as it always does, was time travel, putting the “old” Thanos back into play — so who was more formidable in the end? The Thanos that fought in Infinity War, or the Thanos that made trouble with the Guardians of the Galaxy?

Thanos: From the end credits to the Iron Man snap

Thanos | Marvel

Movie viewers first saw Thanos literally rear his ugly head at the end of The Avengers. Hardcore fans knew who he was, but casual fans thought, “Who’s this big purple dude who’s supposed to be worse than Loki?”

And so began hundreds of “What does the end credits scene mean” analyses across the Internet. Although Thanos remained in the background of The Avengers films, he was allied with Loki so that he could retrieve the Tesseract, which contained the space stone. 

We next ran into him in Guardians of the Galaxy and considering what a goof that movie often is, it’s easy to forget that this was audiences’ first major exposure to the MCU’s most dastardly villain and his plot to eliminate half the life in the universe by using the Infinity Stones.  

A bulk of Guardians the Galaxy revolved around the Orb. While this seemed like a McGuffin, a meaningless object that drives a movie plot, the Orb contained the power stone. 

With the pesky Guardians foiling his plans, Thanos took matters into his own hands, eventually finding all the stones and executing his infamous snap. Thor killed Thanos later, but when the Avengers began time traveling, 2014 Thanos came back into the picture, intending to lay waste to the heroes for good. This did not end well for him. 

Thanos 2014 vs. Thanos 2018: Who was worse?

Fans considered the multiple Thanos versions on Reddit, with the topic-starter stating, “I didn’t mind 2014 Thanos, but he certainly lacked the ‘wiseness’ and ‘unstoppability’ of 2018 Thanos. For me 2018 Thanos is just iconic – including his armorless design … There was also a constant sense of threat and danger, which only increased whenever he would collect another stone on the Gauntlet.”

One fan responded that the 2014 Thanos still made sense because he didn’t behave the way most villains would when confronted with a vision of his own demise. “Instead Thanos blamed his victims for his plan not working and decided to wipe out everything to convince himself that it was worthwhile.”

On the other hand, the MCU had previously found effective drama with the idea that even with diametrically opposed sides, it’s not as simple as one side is all right, and the other side is all wrong. Consider Captain America: Civil War’s “Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man” debate. What made that battle compelling was that both sides made valid points. While the idea that Thanos could be right about anything may seem horrifying, that’s part of what makes a compelling villain too. 

What makes a truly great villain?

The writer Christopher Vogler stated in The Writer’s Journey that “Every villain is a hero of his or her own story.” This idea was embodied by Killmonger in Black Panther, who had a valid reason to be angry at how he had been abandoned and forsaken. One fan on Reddit brought up this idea in relation to Thanos too. 

“I don’t like how 2014 Thanos came off more as a sadist than as a hero of his own story. I think 2018 Thanos is far more compelling,” the fan said. 

While few would argue that Thanos got his just desserts in fading away to dust, it’s not hard to wonder if he could come back someday himself. If the heroes could do it, could Thanos do it, or maybe someone even worse than him? As ever with Marvel, the possibilities are endless.