Thanos Creator Jim Starlin Reflects on the MCU and the Comics Industry

October 30, 2019, 3:27 PM UTC

“Extremely surreal.”

That’s how it feels for comics artist and writer Jim Starlin to see his creations and co-creations (which include Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, and Gamora) blow up on a global stage. Those characters, which date back to the ‘70s, have skyrocketed to non-comics fame, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

“When I first started… the movies couldn’t do a rocket ship that would go across the screen without shaking like crazy—because it was on a string of course,” Starlin, 70, told Fortune while at New York Comic Con earlier this month. 

“I could work on a drawing for a month [today], and it would never be as spectacular as what they can do in the movie.”

Another one of Starlin’s characters, Shang-Chi, will soon be hitting the big screen as part of the MCU’s Phase Four—and Starlin hopes he will get a lighter treatment than he did in the comics.

“It was a pretty dark story about an assassin who changes his ways,” Starlin said. “Marvel’s pretty good about doing that sort of thing, so I think there’s a good chance that will happen.”

Starlin has seen the reaction to comics change a lot over the decades—he recalled getting strange looks if he took out a comic book to read on the New York City subway when he first got started in the business. But now, he said, no one would bat an eye.

Similarly, the industry itself has transformed.

“The business now has changed more from the comics being a commodity that they’re selling, to being more like research and development for other products like toys, movies, television shows,” Starlin said.

But he doesn’t think that means it will stay that way.

“New people will be coming in to want to draw and write. That’s what it was like when I came in the ‘70s,” Starlin said, pointing out that a lot of young people were giving their input during that decade’s boom.

So what might the next generation do?

“I think they’re going to change what you see in comics the same way we did in the ‘70s,” Starlin said.

Watch the video above to see more of Fortune’s conversation with Starlin.

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