With an all-time record breaking opening weekend gross of $207.1 million, odds are many of you saw The Avengers over the weekend. Joss Whedon‘s Marvel superhero mashup is one of the most fun summer movies in recent memory and delivers on the nearly impossible promise set up by Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger before it. Now that’s it out there, though, it’s time to look forward. Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2 are all on the way and one huge surprise in The Avengers will likely have some kind of effect on them all.

Whedon sneaks two special credits sequences into The Avengers. One was just recently added but the other, more surprising and possibly confusing one, has been in the works for years. It sets the tone in the Marvel Universe for years to come.

At the press junket for The Avengers, I asked both Whedon and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige about this incredibly important scene and deleted the quotes from my initial interviews so you could all see the movie first. Now, after the jump, you can read whose idea this pivotal scene was and how it came about. Be aware, if you haven’t seen The Avengers yet, this is a massive spoiler.

Everything below this sentence should be considered huge, huge spoilers.

In the credits of The Avengers, it’s revealed that Thanos, one of the most powerful and evil villains in the Marvel Universe, was the ultimate mastermind behind Loki’s failed attempt at taking over planet Earth. Thanos was first hinted at in Thor where his Infinity Gauntlet was in the Odin’s Trophy Room (below) and his presence in the Marvel Movie Universe is going to change everything.

So whose idea was it to introduce such an iconic, important character? What will it ultimately mean? Here’s my discusssion with Kevin Feige about it.

/Film: Thanos at the end. At what point did you know that you wanted to do that? Who shot that? How was that put together?

Kevin Feige: Joss. Joss, Joss, and Joss.

It was his idea?

Yeah.

And you let him do it because you said you wanted it to be “cosmic?”

I wanted to get cosmic and did with THOR and told him that we wanted it to be aliens, that a portal opens in New York and aliens poor out, because the cosmic cube opened a portal. Who they were, what they were, and how they interacted was all Joss and Joss is a huge fan of Thanos.

Okay, and you sort of came to this is a character that fans would appreciate and like?

All of our tags are sort of like that. If you don’t know who Nick Fury is, that’s just Sam Jackson in an eye mask at the end and somebody is going to tell you who it is. If you don’t know what Mjolnir is, that’s a hammer in a crater, “What does that mean? What’s the big deal?” You know, the THOR tag frankly is the one that is kind of most clear to a new audience, because “What’s that?” “It’s the cosmic cube. Oh, Loki is still alive.” Most of them are… and my first experience with this was X MEN 2, which we liked the idea of hinting to the Phoenix and Bryan [Singer] did in that little flash. I could see it as we always do opening weekends, sneak into the theaters and watch it play, you could see like one out of 150 or 200 fans went “Oh my God! That’s the…” And they go “What? It’s a light underwater? What is that?” But all you need is 5% of the audience to be vocal enough that it starts to spread and Nick Fury was the same way. That really spread. So I think Thanos will be the same way. During the premiere last night there were two guys behind me, I don’t know who they were, when Thanos turned around they went “Oh my God, it’s that… What’s his name? I can’t remember his name, but he’s that… Oh my God.” So you know clearly in the way it’s presented, it’s somebody important, so “ask somebody.” But don’t spoil that.

Next up, I spoke to Whedon about his decision to add Thanos into the film:

/Film: The last thing is the Thanos tag. Can you talk a little bit about that? Kevin said it was your idea. Why decide on Thanos? Why now?

Joss Whedon: He for me is the most powerful and fascinating Marvel villain. He’s the great grand daddy of the badasses and he’s in love with death and I just think that’s so cute. For me, the greatest Avengers was THE AVENGERS annual that Jim Starlin did followed by THE THING 2 in 1 that contained the death of Adam Warlock. Those were some of the most important texts and I think underrated milestones in Marvel history and Thanos is all over that, so somebody had to be in control and had to be behind Loki’s work and I was like “It’s got to be Thanos.” And they said “Okay” and I’m like “Oh my God!”

Of course neither would reveal what this means going forward, though Feige did hint it won’t come to true fruition until a Guardians of the Galaxy film finally gains traction. However, with The Avengers 2 likely coming in 2015, you can bet he’ll be a big part of that.
Also of interest, Comic Book Movie revealed that actor Damion Poitier actually played the character in motion capture so maybe he’ll be back in a few years.
Do you think Avengers 2 will be a full on battle between them and Thanos for the Infinity Gauntlet? Will that have to be a part of Thor 2 to make sense?
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