With six Avengers, three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and one hell of a super-villain standing front and center throughout the 143-minute runtime of "Marvel's The Avengers," it's somewhat remarkable that the character most people left theaters talking about was Thanos, the purple-skinned menace glimpsed ever-so-briefly in the middle of the film's credits. But Thanos' sudden rise to infamy didn't shock the folks at Marvel Studios one bit.
"There's a great track record now about lobbing something in at the last moment to get the audience buzzing," Marvel's Kevin Feige told MTV News about the secret villain tucked into the ending of "The Avengers," which hits Blu-ray and DVD on September 25. "Particularly when it came to Thanos, [we knew] that most people in that audience had no idea who that purple guy was — but they could clearly tell he was important, and knew if they asked the two or three people sitting next to them, somebody would know who he was."
The exact trajectory of where Thanos goes from here isn't entirely known, but most fans feel it's all but certain that the Mad Titan will appear in "Guardians of the Galaxy," going on to serve as the major villain of Joss Whedon's "Avengers" sequel. Feige's lips are sealed when it comes to the particulars, but he's quick to add that there is a very clear plan in place for Thanos' next appearance.
"Clearly, there's a purpose to us putting him in the end of that movie. We do have plans for him," said Feige. "I wouldn't say we ever feel the need to rush anything one way or the other. We succeeded in Phase One because we stuck to our guns and stuck to the plan. That plan took place over many, many years and it ultimately paid off. I see Phase Two unfolding in the same way of us taking our time, us doing what's right for each individual movie, while folding in elements that will not only build up to the culmination of Phase Two, but even Phase Three."
Wherever Thanos shows up next, he might look significantly different from his first appearance. Asked if Marvel feels married to the casting of Damion Poitier, the actor behind Thanos in the "Avengers" stinger, Feige said, "I think we feel pretty free to recast. That was cast for literally that one shot. Depending on what the role requires from future movies, we'll go from there."
For now, Feige and Marvel are happy enough to see that Thanos has caught on not just with deep-cut comic book fans, but complete newcomers as well.
"Suddenly, you have a million people who had never heard of an Infinity Gauntlet or a Mad Titan learning those terms," said Feige. "I love that. I love when the experience goes beyond the movie theater and encourages people to look deeper into our universe."
"I was equally excited by the notion that people went out and tried shawarma for the first time," he added with a laugh.
Tell us what you expect to see next from Thanos in the comments or on Twitter!