Call it a hunch, but I suspect many non-comic geeks are going to be asking this question over the next few weeks:
Who is Thanos, AKA, the man with the purple grin?
Thanos was created by comic writer/ artists Jim Starlin in Iron Man 55.
Those who studied psychology might recognize his name’s connection to the thanatos complex, or death drive. While students of mythology will know that Thanatos (Thanatus in Latin) is the embodiment of death. At this point you might be noticing a pattern.
Thanos is a character obsessed with death. Literally. He spent his villainous career courting Death (a purple cloaked skeletal god of death in the Marvel Universe). His obsession has led him to kill a lot of people in hopes of winning her affection.
In terms of strength, durability, and energy projection he’s on the of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe. However his intellect is his most potent weapon. Thanos stories always involve grandiose schemes that play-out over many issues (a trait common of many Starlin characters and comics). What sets Thanos apart from most other villains is that his plans generally work perfectly. When he is defeated it’s usually because he doesn’t feel he is worthy of Death’s love, and allows his opponents to win in some way (my over-simplification makes it sound less interesting that it is).
Thanos is a total badass of a character, and has been one of my favorite characters for many years.
His stories are deeply psychological, and very twisted. He’s the kind of character that Joss Whedon could have a lot of fun with if he were to perhaps stick around for an Avengers sequel.
If Thanos interests you, you should checkout Infinity Gauntlet. This is the definitive Thanos story, and one of the most fun superhero tales ever told.