Alright, I have an admission to make – I am a Marvel nerd.
Now, just to be clear, I’m not the sort of nerd that can tell you what happened in issue #497 of The Amazing Spider-Man. However, I can tell you that there were more than 497 issues of said comic. So I place myself somewhere in the middle of the nerdiness scale. But I suspect the majority of people don’t care how nerdy I am, so let’s call that irrelevant information.
So why is this relevant to my writing?
Well, today I saw Infinity War for the second time (side note: I would totally go again), and I realised two things about my writing.
1. At some point in time, a group of people sat in a room and said ‘let’s make a whole bunch of different superhero movies, and then later put all of those superheroes in the same movie.’ They then proceeded to spend ten years working to make this a reality. Ten years is a long time to work on (or towards) anything, so I have a huge amount of respect for that. If it takes me 10 years to release my next book, I’m okay with that providing the result is as awesome as that movie.
2. My villains need work.
For this blog post, I’m going to focus on number 2. Thanos has become my personal goal for a villain. But why? Let me tell you.
Note: The following blog post does contain spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War. I have sectioned it into ‘minor’ and ‘major’ spoiler sections – with a spoiler free conclusion at the end. Stop reading whenever you feel the need.
So, Thanos has a few things that make him a pretty damn great villain. Let’s list them:
***Minor Spoilers Begin Here***
Firstly, let’s talk about his goal – he intends to save the universe.
Normally, that wouldn’t be so bad. It’s the how that’s the problem. Thanos has noticed that over-population is a universal issue. There are more mouths to feed than recourses to feed them with. So Thanos has offered a solution; let’s just randomly kill of 50% of the people in the universe.
See, ethically, that’s a bit of an issue. But this is the first thing I love about this guy as a villain; he genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing, no matter how controversial.
So why does Thanos decide to wipe out half the universe? Because he’s nuts, right?
Well, no. Not exactly.
Thanos lived on Titan, which was once a prospering planet (or moon, if you want to be particular). However, they faced the problem of over-population. Thanos offered a solution; kill half the people. Again, ethically that’s not the best idea. So they didn’t do it. The result? Titan burned itself out. Thanos lost his entire planet. His goal is not just to wipe out half the universe; it’s to stop this from happening on other planets – to prevent others from losing their homes.
*** Major Spoilers Begin Here ***
So this is the big bit for me: the inner conflict. By this point we’ve established that Thanos is a madman with a reason – but there’s more to it than that.
First, let’s talk about the scene in which he meets Gamora. Sure, he trained her up to be a deadly assassin (probably not a great act as a father), but something stood out to me here; he took her aside and distracted this child – and made sure she didn’t watch his army murder half her people. He could have just let her watch, but he didn’t.
Then there’s the part where he kidnaps her, but still brings her food because he thought she might be hungry. This was in the same day- he was not feeding her to simply keep her alive. He wanted to keep her comfortable.
After these actions, I have to believe that he legitimately cares for Gamora.
So when he sacrifices her to gain the soul stone, that’s when everything changed about him for me. He sees – and loves – Gamora as a daughter. So throwing her off a cliff? That hurts. A lot. But he believes in his mission so much that he is willing to give up everything in order to accomplish it. Even if it means killing his daughter. And I guess that’s kind of admirable, in a really dark, sadistic way. Again; he legitimately believes he is saving the universe. He will sacrifice anything to make it happen.
So at the end of the movie, I can almost be happy for him when he’s sitting there watching his sunrise. I probably would be, if it wasn’t his fault that all my favourite characters are now dead. (Well, there’s speculation about the death thing, but I’m going to stay out of those dark corners of the internet for now. Let’s just agree that they’re gone.)
*** Spoiler Free Section!***
So what does this mean for my next novel? Well, firstly, it could take a while, because I’m suddenly committed to spending as much time as needed on it.
But I want my villain to have every single one of those things – the goal, motivation, and conflict that’s going to make people understand that villain. Hopefully the way I kind of get where Thanos is coming from.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to re-evaluate the way I’m writing my characters right now. Until next time!
Copyright Note: Thanos & all other characters mentioned in this blog post belong to Marvel. And if you enjoyed this post, you should totally go and see Infinity war. Also, I totally stole the header image off the internet, so if that needs to be removed or credited please tell me.