Jim Starlin reveals why Marvel isn’t done with Thanos yet
The creator of Thanos, Eros, Shang-Chi, and more weighs in on the future of the MCU.
Back at San Diego Comic-Con, I had a chance to catch up with one of the most interesting comic book creators around: Jim Starlin.
The man who invented Thanos and even got a cameo in Avengers: Endgame still has plenty to say about the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly now that his creations Eros and Pip are officially part of the MCU.
“Pip will be the comic relief,” Starlin tells Inverse. “Eros, on the other hand, he's an interesting one. I have no idea what they're going to do with him. I sort of left him as a sociopath and he is sort of a sexual predator.”
Starlin has never been one to hold back, and he’s got plenty more to say. Trust me.
With Marvel dominating the internet yet again after Saturday’s D23 panel, I thought it was finally time to unleash this interview on the world. Read on for Jim Starlin’s thoughts on other characters he created like Shang-Chi and Thanos, along with Adam Warlock (who he changed dramatically), his current non-Marvel project Dreadstar, and more.
The last time we spoke you were working on Dreadstar. How’s that going these days?
Well, we started off with Omnibus Press. And Omnibus Press is disappearing. So I'm going with a new company named Monkey Wrench. We'll be doing the same thing we did with the Dreadstar graphic novel. We're going to do the Kickstarter to finance the printing of it.
We're going to start with an omnibus version of all the Breed stories. Breed 1, 2, and 3. And then we're going into the Dreadstar graphic novels directly afterward. We have all of the second Dreadstar graphic novel, Dreadstar vs. The Inevitable, practically done. I'm 45 or 46 pages into the next one, which is Dreadstar vs. Dreadstar. After that, I have two more graphic novels in the works involving Dreadstar. My plan is to do a five graphic novel set.
At the same time, I'm also going to be working with Dark Horse. And we have a new project I'm doing with Rags Morales. It's the most beautiful artwork I've seen Rags ever produce. This is a new character. I really can't say much more than that.
I know you’re interested in making a live-action Dreadstar adaptation. Is that something you could crowd-fund too?
I don't know if you could Kickstart a major production. I'm talking to people, but I'm not interested in the movie. Something with a streaming service with a good budget. It's a long complicated story that you're not going to be able to fit in 90 minutes.
Marvel Studios recently introduced two more of your characters with Eros and Pip in Eternals. Was that a surprise?
I knew Eros was coming but I didn't know about Pip, which is really surprising and funny, because for the last three or four years, every time I see Kevin Feige, I've lobbied to get Pip in there. He never said a word. He's very close-lipped
There were rumors and you hear enough stuff. They didn't tell me anything. They never tell me anything directly.
How do you think those characters fit into the MCU? What are their strengths as storytelling and pieces of the story?
Pip will be the comic relief. He's also a teleporter and that brings in all sorts of possibilities.
Eros, on the other hand, he's an interesting one. I have no idea what they're going to do with him. I sort of left him as a sociopath and he is sort of a sexual predator. So I'll be curious to see how the MCU Eros fares up against the other one. Especially in this day and age. So that's always a tricky one.
“I’ve heard Marvel may want to use some other characters I’ve done.”
I've heard Marvel may want to use some other characters I've done. I think they're running out. Now that they've got this multiverse, there's the possibility of bringing back Thanos. And with Thanos, that opens up possibilities for other characters. There are a few that they haven't used, like the Blood Brothers.
In the comics, Eros and Thanos interact a lot. Can Eros be an interesting character without Thanos as a foil?
I think they're planning on starting him off without Thanos. Thanos and Warlock also have a lot in common and have an association, and they got a fairly good star for Adam Warlock. I doubt if he's going to be in just this one movie.
“When they did the casting call for Adam Warlock, it wasn’t just for Adam Warlock. It was Adam Warlock/Magus.”
When they did the casting call for Adam Warlock, it wasn't just for Adam Warlock. It was Adam Warlock/Magus — I assume. So I'll be curious to see what happens here.
You didn’t create Adam Warlock, but you evolved his character a lot in the comics. What was your approach there and what interests you about this character?
Well, I had just finished with Captain Marvel, where I took this warrior and turned him into sort of a Shaolin Priest/Messiah character. And so when I started on Warlock, I thought, what am I going to do with him? He is a Shaolin Priest/deity kind of thing and it seemed the most logical course might be to turn him into a schizophrenic paranoiac with suicidal tendencies. And that's what I did.
He’s a character that has a lot of facets, I think they're gonna probably start off with him, more in the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee Him thing. Where they go from that is anyone's guess. But I'd like to think they'll throw a few of my things in there.
What about Eros, how did you come up with him?
I was in community college taking a psychology class, and we had a guest lecturer who was talking about the Freudian concepts of Eros and Thanos. That's where they both came from. Thanos to begin with because the dark side always appeals to me more than the light side. And after that, Eros.
I kept thinking, well, maybe he's a brother. For the longest time, I didn't know what to do with him. The sort of Playboy Eros thing came from just the name itself and Marvel developed it independently from me into more of this sexual predator character. When I came back to use him just a few years ago, I tried more of a sociopath rather than a sexual predator. Because I figured if it comes from the same strain as Thanos, there's got to be something wrong.
Of course, you also created Shang-Chi. How did you feel about that movie?
I was very amused. Everyone figured that The Eternals was going to be the big movie and Shang-Chi was going to bomb. I never bought that. They had a good director and they had a writer who had a background in comedy, which was what Marvel needed because the story that Steve Engelhardt and I created was very dark. It needed some lightening up.
They did a great job at it. I walked out of there just stunned. My only disappointment was that it wasn't Fin Fang Foom who was the dragon. I was waiting for a dragon in a bathing suit.
Three years after Avengers: Endgame, people are still obsessed with Thanos both in the real world and within the MCU. There’s a great scene in Hawkeye where someone writes in a bathroom, “Thanos was right.” Why do you think that character still lingers in our imagination?
Well, I think he probably hits a nerve. He raises questions that a number of us have thought about. He's also just a badass character. I don't think anybody thinks we've seen the last of him. Disney made a shitload of money off of him and there's probably a shitload of money still to be made. So my fingers are crossed.
On the topic of money, there’s a lot of discussion about how comic book creators get reimbursed by Marvel Studios. What’s your experience been with that?
I'm happy with what I got. And I do believe that this conversation may be a little out of date. I think there have been some changes since. This would be probably a better conversation to have with Ed Brubaker and see what he's found out since then.
So what happens if Marvel makes an Eros movie? Do you get another cut?
I get compensated.
What about the Eternals post-credits? Did you get paid for that?
I haven't found out about that yet. Whatever they do financially is long after the movie is out of the theater.
I got paid for my Endgame appearance. I keep getting paid for my Endgame experience because I'm a SAG member. You know, it's not a fortune. They don't pay fortunes for one line. But I get a little check for like 80 bucks or something every few months. And I go, Oh, okay. That's cool.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.