There’s no question that Marvel’s Avengers and their ultimate villain Thanos have reached the highest levels of American pop culture. So high, in fact, that President Donald Trump’s team has compared him to the snapping supervillain. And the creator of Thanos isn’t happy about it.
For most government officials, being referenced in or referencing blockbuster superheroes or fan-favorite franchises would be uncommon. But in his time in the White House, Trump’s social media team have referenced Game of Thrones, with the president apparently refusing an invite from friend Vince McMahon to appear on WWE Smackdown (so far). The Trump team knows the reach possible when referencing buzzworthy topics, but playing with Thanos, a war criminal, has earned a direct response from the Marvel villain’s creator, Jim Starlin.
On Tuesday evening, the official Donald Trump War Room account tweeted out a meme of the President superimposed onto the body of Thanos. He is then shown snapping House Democrats who put forward recent impeachment proceedings to dust, just like the Mad Titan tried to do in Avengers: Endgame. Take a look:
Jim Starlin, creator of Thanos, took exception to the tweet and didn’t mince words in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. Starlin, like many others replying to the tweet, was most struck by the comparison to a believer in genocide on a universal scale:
After my initial feeling of being violated, seeing that pompous fool using my creation to stroke his infantile ego, it finally struck me that the leader of my country and the free world actually enjoys comparing himself to a mass murderer. How sick is that? These are sad and strange times we are going through. Fortunately all things, even national nightmares, eventually come to an end.
Choosing this specific Thanos clip was an odd choice by the Trump account. The Thanos snap inspired memes by the hundreds, so there were certainly more fitting — the scene being referenced sees Thanos try and fail to snap the Avengers out of existence, only to be defeated himself. Thanos’ plan falls apart because of his arrogance, getting defeated and snapped out of existence later in the film. It appears the account mixed up the Thanos clip, as a more appropriate scene might be Thanos successfully snapping half the world to dust in Avengers: Infinity War. Still, the implication of tying yourself to one of the murderous villains in all of comics and the MCU is, as Starlin points out, a bizarre choice. Thanos has done some awful, awful things.
As of the writing of this post, the clip is still up despite hundreds of responses pointing out the flaw in the message the meme is trying to convey. It remains to be seen whether Disney will officially comment on the clip. But, the mix here of politics and pop culture is pretty confusing. Hopefully, someone explains to Trump’s team the implications of the clip. Meme or not, even Thanos would probably acknowledge it’s inviting criticism.