I watched Captain Marvel for the second time this Saturday past, this time on IMAX. As befits the experience of watching it on the biggest screen possible, I had some friends with me. None of them are what you would call “hardcore comic book geeks” having only read a smattering of titles I’ve shoved at them over the years, so usually following these comic book movies they bombard me with questions on the drive home (and make me feel good about having “wasted” so much time and money over the years on stories about people who wear their underpants on the outside).
With Captain Marvel, while I got the usual questions about changes from her comic book origin, details about some surprising revelations surrounding characters, there was one question I didn’t foresee: Is Thanos a Skrull?
Having decades of comic book lore catalogued in my brain, I didn’t even think that would have been puzzling to non-comic readers, but it actually makes a lot of sense to ask. One of Thanos’ most distinct alien features seen in Avengers: Infinity War is after all the cosmic despot’s multi-cleft chin, the exact same dimpled jawline sported by Talos and the rest of the shapeshifting alien Skrulls that finally make their big screen debut in Captain Marvel. It’s too much of a recognizable trait for somebody to look at them together and not think they’re related, despite Thanos having purple skin and the Skrulls a green complexion.
With Thanos revealing in Infinity War that his rather ambitious crusade to halve the population of the known universe started a few decades earlier, some of my friends even took this to mean that maybe one of the Skrulls we meet in the 1995-set Captain Marvel would go on to become Thanos somehow. The simple truth though is that Thanos and the Skrulls are not related. Nothing is ever truly simple though, especially in superhero comic books, so there are further explanations needed as to why they look so similar then.
To put it plainly, you can blame the Celestials for wanting to sign their work just like artists throughout the ages. While these ancient near-omnipotent alien beings have been ubiquitous in the comics, they’ve only ever been shown on-screen in the Guardians of the Galaxy films (you can briefly glimpse one destroying an entire planet in GOTG Vol.1 while Kurt Russell’s Ego is also revealed to be a Celestial in Vol.2). Irrespective of whether we’re talking about their appearance on screen or paper though, their origins are a bit of mystery. We know though that they are vastly powerful and have been around since the early days of the universe. And with all that time and power, the Celestials have picked up the hobby of creating life for their experiments.
For the Skrulls, their story began all the way over in the Andromeda galaxy on the planet Skrullos, where their lizard-like proto-ancestor was mutated into a humanoid form by another ancient race known as the Xorrians (rumoured to be the originators of humans and Kree as well). It was these early, rather peaceful Skrulls that were discovered by the Celestials and then used in their experiments over 100 million years ago. The Celestials split the Skrulls into three different sub-species: the baseline Skrulls, with no special abilities but the potential to evolve; the Eternal Skrulls, who were granted near-immortality and various super powers; and the Deviant Skrulls, who could shapeshift.
As with any society comprised of varying classes, this imbalance resulted in a war between the sub-species. It was the shapeshifting Deviant Skrulls who would come out on top, completely eradicating the other two. The Deviant Skrulls – who would now be known as only Skrulls, seeing as there were no other variants left to cause confusion – would eventually spawn their own minor genetic spinoff, but that’s not important here. What is, is that along with their shapeshifting abilities, the Celestials gave them those iconic chins, which would become known the galaxy over as they infiltrated and conquered thousands of other civilizations.
Meanwhile, spinning forward the clock to about a million years ago, and the Celestial’s experiments brought them to Earth. Here their work on early Homo Erectus resulted in two new offshoot races, also known as the Eternals and Deviants – the Celestials, for all their power, were not very creative when it came to naming things it seems. While both groups would eventually spread out into the stars and boast cosmic abilities, the Eternals (who will be making their debut in the MCU with their own movie sometime after Avengers: Endgame) were the embodiment of serenity and aesthetic perfection by human standards, whereas the Deviants were visually twisted and war-like. One of those “uglier” physical traits for the Deviants being… DUM DUM DUUUUMMMM… that clefted chin.
On Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, an Eternal colony thrived, and it was here that Thanos was born. Unlike his beatific Eternal parents though, Thanos possessed a latent Deviant gene that mutated his appearance and made him an outcast in his own community. Hell, his own mother was so shocked by his Deviant appearance that she believed he would become a monster and thus tried to kill him. Of course, this revulsion from his people is what sparked his nihilism and actually set him on the path that would eventually see him commit the monstrous act of erasing half the life in the universe. Nice job, mom!
So yes, besides for those galaxy-spanning warlike ways and cosmic godparents who lacked creativity when it comes to chins, the Skrulls and Thanos are really not related. You can check out the green shapeshifters in Captain Marvel in cinemas right now, while Thanos will be returning in 6 weeks time in Avengers: Endgame.
Last Updated: March 12, 2019