Thanos creator, Jim Starlin, on Avengers: Endgame and Shang-Chi

Avengers: Endgame Jim Starlin

Avengers: Endgame is now out in theaters, and it has become a huge blockbuster. It broke all kinds of records and became the first film to reach $1 billion at the worldwide box office during its opening week. The film features an enormous cast and also some cameos like Stan Lee. If you pay attention during the Captain America support group scene in the film, you’ll notice another comic book icon, Jim Starlin. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the creator of Thanos and the writer of the Infinity Gauntlet comic book series. He’s also the co-creator of Shang-Chi, who’s about to have his own live-action film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starlin talks about his time on the set of the film, his reactions to the final version, and thoughts on the Shang-Chi movie.

[Spoilers Ahead for Avengers: Endgame]

Nerd Reactor: What was it like trying to keep secrets for Avengers: Endgame?

Jim Starlin: We went down to the set about a year and a half ago when they were just beginning to film Endgame. Everybody had very much not been able to talk about it while they were in the midst of production. I came down and signed the non-disclosure form. So basically I found out a lot about the movie that nobody else knew about until it actually came out. So for the last year and a half, I had to sort of keep my mouth shut and wait for them to finally get done and going from there. I loved it. I had a great time watching what they were doing.

Were there a lot of things that surprised you in the film?

Oh yes. These stories are so complex that there’s just no filling me in on the time we had on everything. There were a lot of surprises for me too. I actually had no idea how Thanos was going to check out at the end of the movie. And so that was a pleasant surprise for me as it was for everybody else. It was a casual demise.

Were you shocked about Thor quickly killing Thanos in the first act?

Didn’t buy it for a moment. [laughs] You know, it was too early in the movie, too simple, and too many scenes in the trailer and him and his armor. A number of characters passed away and came back in this thing at different timeframes. You really have to be a bit of a science fiction fan and keep very close attention to what’s going on to just keep an eye on all the different events that are happening in different timeframes. At one point just after Endgame, a writer came over to me and said, “I found a big hole in it. There’s still Loki running around with the Tesseract. They never got that.”

And I went, “No, no. Five minutes later in the army scene, they got that.”

And they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s right.”

So Thanos is one of your babies. What was it like seeing him on the big screen?

I tend to think of these characters as my offshoots in many ways. Thanos and Dreadstar have always been my favorites. Watching Thanos, who was my firstborn – the first character I’ve ever created, do so well, it’s kind of amazing. In some ways, I have to look at it as my career’s gone downhill right from the start. Maybe Dreadstar will get bigger than him down the line and we can have a little bit of sibling rivalry going there. But I’ve enjoyed the hell out of watching what they’ve done with [Thanos].

Were you concerned about how they were going to adapt Thanos?

Only a fool would think that a multi-million dollar movie production is going to be faithful to the printed word that you put down there. And so I came in there very open to the fact that he was going to be interpreted and have been pleasantly surprised at just how closely they did stay [faithful]. They had to get rid of some things like Mistress Death because the Marvel universe is not ready until a couple more Doctor Strange movies come out. But I figured even she is going to have a good shot at coming around in a later movie because they’re making so much money off of Thanos right now that I can’t see him being completely retired. [laughs]

When you were on the set, did you get to have your own input on the story?

Oh no. That’s all settled up before. There’s a law between the comic book people and the movie people that was set up quite early. I wouldn’t want somebody looking over my shoulder as I was plotting out my stories, and I wouldn’t do that to somebody else. Not that I had any chance in this particular case. It’s a different medium, and it’s actually a different universe. Half the characters that are in Infinity Gauntlet aren’t in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point. Silver Surfer and Warlock haven’t come in yet and a couple of other ones here and there. You have to give some flexibility and I came in expecting that. And I’ve been surprised how closely the spirit of the characters that these folks have stayed with. I’m quite appreciative overall.

Did you get emotional when watching Avengers: Infinity War or Avengers: Endgame?

I get kind of choked up when Thanos did in Gamora. The waterworks didn’t start but they were there in the background just waiting to happen. I had a personal stake on Gamora. Some scenes in Endgame were quite heartbreaking. There were a few points in there where you go, “Oh no.” But at the same time, there are many, many scenes in there where you’re just laughing your ass off. It’s a nice roller coaster; up and down.

Who do you want to see next in the MCU, Silver Surfer or Warlock?

I think it would be Warlock. That’s who I’m rooting for anyhow because I’m more associated with him than Silver Surfer. They sort of set him up to be in the next Guardians movie and I think [James] Gunn and his interviews have sort of hinted at that. I fully expect him.

So what do you hope for Marvel Studios to bring to the Shang-Chi movie?

I can’t imagine how they’re going to handle it. I’ve heard about the Shang-Chi movie for about the last five years. Other studios have bought up the rights and it never went anywhere. And I think the trap is doing a kung fu movie that has been done to death. I’m really curious and I have faith that they’ll find that hook that’ll make it different than let’s say Iron Fist. I have hope but I have no idea how they’re going to do it. [Marvel Studios head] Feige’s got a way of finding the right people to work on these projects. I have confidence they’ll find some way of making it other than just another kung fu movie.

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