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The Untold Truth Of Marvel's Talos

Quietly and with precious few others knowing, the Skrull leader Talos — played by Ben Mendelsohn — has become one of the most important characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Not long after Mendelsohn's first appearances as Talos in 2019's "Captain Marvel," we learned not only that he and his people had become secret allies to humanity, but that audiences may have actually met Talos much earlier than anyone realized. With the upcoming Skrull-themed "Secret Invasion" series on Disney+, Talos is likely to have even more to do with how the story of the MCU moves forward.

So, who is Talos and where does he come from? Well, like most heroes and villains in the MCU, Talos comes straight from the comics. Fittingly — considering the era "Captain Marvel" is set in — he's a child of the '90s. His introduction to Marvel Comics is unique compared to most of the narrative's cosmic-themed characters, and both his motivations and abilities are a lot different in the source material. Read on for the untold truth of Talos.

Talos the Tamed

Talos first showed up in 1994's "Incredible Hulk" #418, but he didn't enter the story as a villain or a hero, but as a wedding guest. 

When the Hulk's sidekick Rick Jones gets married to Marlo Chandler, the cosmic jokester the Impossible Man sends invitations to a wide, colorful group of guests. Unexpected superheroes, super villains, and intergalactic dignitaries show up at the wedding, and it's as one of the latter that Talos is present. The one-eyed Skrull shows up just briefly in his first appearance. Goaded by a nearby Kree guest who calls him "Talos the Tamed," the Skrull almost starts a brawl during the ceremony, only for both aliens to be scared back into their seats by the Silver Surfer. 

In the following issue, we learn that the Skrull was once known as Talos the Untamed. Unlike his MCU counterpart, the Talos of the comics was born without the ability to shape-shift. Instead, Talos is much stronger than other Skrulls, and that helped him become one of the most feared warriors in the Skrull Empire. However, during one of the many conflicts between the Kree and the Skrulls, Talos was captured — but he refused to commit suicide, as tradition required. He was returned to the Skrulls in disgrace, and afterwards became known as Talos the Tamed. That is, until the Hulk assisted him in getting his old nickname back.

Talos vs. Hulk

In "Incredible Hulk" #419, shortly after Rick Jones' wedding to Marlo Chandler, Talos attacks the Hulk without warning, vowing to not relent unless the Hulk kills him. While Talos is stronger than other Skrulls, it's clear throughout his attacks that he's no match for the green goliath. If the Skrull were facing either the classic savage Hulk or perhaps even the gray-skinned Joe Fixit version, he might have found his enemy willing to grant his wish. However, Talos happens to attack the hero during the era of the so-called Professor Hulk, at a time when he is desperate to prove to his wife Betty he can be a better man. 

Talos tells Hulk the story of his disgrace, explaining he wants the Hulk to kill him in battle so he can die with honor. The Professor Hulk doesn't want to kill Talos, but the Skrull continues to press his assault. Ultimately, the Hulk chooses an avenue no one would guess: He gets on his knees and pretends to be afraid, begging Talos to stop hitting him. Talos sees through this, but just the very fact that the Hulk would be willing to play at being afraid makes him "unworthy" as an opponent in the view of Talos. He teleports back to his waiting starship, where he learns that while he has failed at his attempt to die in battle, he has regained the respect of his soldiers.

Talos in Annihilation

It would be over a decade before Talos showed up again. The Skrull is a part of Marvel's 2006 "Annihilation" event, though he is a relatively minor player. In the miniseries "Annihilation: Ronan," Talos is one of a group of aliens drawn to the planet Godthab Omega, which was known as a haven for the disgraced. The strange cosmic being Glorian was secretly arranging for alien warriors like Talos, Devos the Devastator, Ronan the Accuser, and Gamora to be brought to the planet. Once there, the aliens battled each other, while Glorian harvested the energy released by those battles in hopes of usurping his former master, the powerful Shaper of Worlds.

Unfortunately for Glorian and the rest of the galaxy, before his plans could be realized the devastating Annihilation Wave hit Godthab Omega. The Wave was an endless horde invading the prime Marvel Universe from the Negative Zone at the behest of its leader, Annihilus. Along with other space-based Marvel characters like Nova, Ronan, Silver Surfer, and even Thanos, Talos would go on to join the fight against the Annihilation Wave.

Ironically, two years after "Annihilation" a proper Skrull-themed event hit Marvel Comics, but Talos had nothing to do with it. In spite of being a Skrull, the character's lack of shape-shifting made him all but useless in the 2008 event "Secret Invasion."

Talos and Howard

When it comes to writers working for Marvel and/or DC Comics, there may be someone funnier than Chip Zdarsky — but nobody comes to mind. While the writer has composed funny stories in other comics, two of the best showcases for his brand of humor were the last two "Howard the Duck" series, which he wrote with art by Joe Quinones. Zdarsky became so associated with Howard that Lea Thompson recruited him to help her when she pitched a new "Howard the Duck" movie to Marvel Studios (they said no thanks).

For an absolutely hilarious tale parodying the Marvel Universe, Zdarsky brought in Talos. Without the benefit of Skrull shape-shifting powers, Talos used makeup and a costume to disguise himself as a human named Jonathan Richards. 

In his disguise, Talos hires Howard the Duck to find a necklace that proves to be a send-up of the infamous Infinity Gems. The necklace instead contains the five "Abundant Gems." The Gems are respectively named Laughter, Compassion, Dance, Respect, and a second Dance Gem. The Abundant Glove looks much like the Infinity Gauntlet, except without fingers. As Doctor Strange explains in 2015's "Howard the Duck" #4, anyone who gathers all five gems becomes, in Strange's words, "marginally powerful." Talos' plans are ultimately foiled when Howard's ally Tara Tam — who gains shape-shifting powers after unknowingly eating a Skrull — disguises herself as the Super-Skrull, which distracts Talos so Howard can steal the "marginally powerful" glove from Talos.

Talos may no longer be with us

In Talos' most recent comic book appearance, it is hinted that the Skrull warrior may have died during the lead-up to the 2020-21 event "King in Black." The 2020 one-shot "Web of Venom: Empyre's End" is set after the Kree and Skrull Empires have merged to become the Alliance. Talos appears as part of a crew of mostly Skrull and Kree characters investigating why the Empire has lost contact with the planet Gnarrat. Orbiting the planet, the aliens find dozens of escape pods which prove to be traps. Each one contains a hostile Klyntari symbiote, like the more well-known Venom and Carnage

In a story that unfolds much like a movie from the "Alien" franchise, almost every member of the crew is either killed by the symbiotes or absorbed by them. Talos is one of the only crew members left when he tricks the Skrull Tarna into an escape pod and ejects it from the ship — planning to distract the symbiotes for Tarna to escape. When he comes face-to-face with Knull, the King in Black himself, he is overcome with terror and races to an escape pod. He ejects the pod just before the ship's self-destruct activates.

While Talos is rescued by a ship captained by the Skrull General Kalamari, it seems likely both Skrulls are now in whatever afterlife Skrulls enjoy. The issue ends with Talos and Kalamari looking out into space, to find Knull and a symbiote army heading for their ship.

The Talos of the MCU

Considering how different they are, it would be interesting to see what would happen if the Talos of the source material were to ever encounter his MCU counterpart. It's tough to say whether or not they would even like each other very much. 

The one thing both versions of Talos share is a dedication to their people. When we meet Ben Mendelsohn's Talos, he's not trying to die honorably in battle against the Hulk or get his hands on any Abundant Gems — he's merely trying to save his misunderstood people from the machinations of the Kree. While he's certainly not opposed to fighting if that's what's necessary, the MCU Talos seems much more in favor of either espionage or — in the case of mending fences with Carol Danvers and Nick Fury — actual dialogue.  

On one hand, it's tempting to think the Talos of the comics could never succeed at his counterpart's quest in "Captain Marvel" because he's too headstrong and ready to use his fists rather than his head. On the other hand, the Talos of the MCU finds himself in a much different position. The Skrull Empire no longer exists when we meet the MCU Talos. If his counterpart in the comics were to become his people's last leader, he might evolve to become what his people need.

Talos was supposed to die

While Ben Mendelsohn briefly plays Talos in "Spider-Man: Far from Home" and is confirmed, per Marvel, to return once more for the Disney+ miniseries "Secret Invasion," originally Talos wasn't supposed to show up outside of "Captain Marvel." As he was doing press for the 2020 dramedy "Babyteeth," Mendelsohn told NME that in the original script for "Captain Marvel," Talos didn't survive. The actor didn't reveal how he was supposed to die or who would've killed him, only that the first script had him dying "at around page 60." 

There is an oft-quoted screenwriting guideline that one script page equals about one minute of screen time, though many screenwriters — like The Working Screenwriter — would debate the accuracy of that. But if, for argument's sake, we assume one page equals one minute, then in the finished film, that would mean Talos would die either shortly before or shortly after he famously revealed himself to Carol Danvers while slyly referencing (per Comic Book) Michael Madsen's Mr. Blonde from 1992's "Reservoir Dogs."

Of course, that's really just speculation. Since we don't know what else was changed between the first script and the final product, we have no real idea when Talos was supposed to die. Regardless, a lot of fans are happy Talos survived the editing process.  

How long has Talos been Nick Fury?

The post-credits reveal from "Spider-Man: Far from Home" had fans speculating almost immediately. While the scene is largely played as a gag, it also introduces a mystery: Exactly how long has Talos been pretending to be Nick Fury? Well, one redditor posted a compelling theory in 2019, claiming that Talos began impersonating Fury in 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" after the real Fury was shot by Bucky Barnes. 

Talos, this theory argues, had to have replaced Fury before 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron." This is because in "Captain Marvel," Fury says he can't eat toast that's cut diagonally. Meanwhile, in an "Age of Ultron" scene set in the Bartons' kitchen, that's exactly what Fury does. The reddit user calls this "The Law of Conservation of Detail" — in other words, it's a weird detail that wouldn't have been included in "Captain Marvel" if it didn't matter.

"The Winter Soldier" is the most likely time for the replacement, the reddit user says, because of how quickly Fury supposedly bounces back from, among other injuries, a "lacerated spinal column, cracked sternum, shattered collarbone, perforated liver," and a collapsed lung. Those are all major injuries, including to two major organs. Yet days later, he's well enough to fly a helicopter and kill the head of Hydra. According to this theory, Fury was healed with Skrull medicine, and subsequently replaced by Talos.

Talos thinks Thanos is a punk

Judging by a number of interviews with the actor, it seems clear that if you were to hang out personally with Ben Mendelsohn, you'd spend most of the time laughing. A month before the release of "Captain Marvel," ScreenRant posted an interview they conducted with Mendelsohn during a set visit, and it's hilarious. The actor leans hard into Marvel's anti-spoiler tactics, brazenly lying about the story. For example, asked about his character, Mendelsohn describes the Skrulls by saying, "Most of the rest of the Marvel comic universe are punks basically. And I guess to quote Snoop Dogg, we are the shiznit. We stand above."

During the course of the interview, we also learn Talos takes issue with the Mad Titan Thanos for a very specific reason: chin theft. Asked how he feels about Josh Brolin's Thanos "stealing" the Skrulls' ridged chin, Mendelsohn answers, "Look, I was very upset with that. Basically I consider Thanos to be a punk. I mean clearly he's looked at us Skrulls, and he's been like, 'You know what, I want to look more like that.'"

Other gems from the interview include Mendelsohn repeatedly referring to himself as "Skrulling" and describing his Talos research as being motivated by a desire to "see us when we were scummy little amphibious tadpoles scum, and see how we rose and became reimagined until this point where I could stand at the zenith of Skrull creation."

His future in the MCU

While MCU fans know Talos will be reappearing in Disney+'s upcoming "Secret Invasion," after that things are uncertain about when and where we can expect to see Talos again, if at all. Unlike Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, Mendelsohn has not been confirmed as one of the cast members for 2023's "The Marvels." Undoubtedly, additional cast will be announced, and Marvel has a good track record of keeping cast members secret when they want to, but his absence from the film's roster does bring up some interesting questions regarding "Secret Invasion."

While we don't yet know very much about "Secret Invasion," we already know one of the biggest differences between the source material and the Disney+ series — in the comics, Earth never had a secret alliance with the Skrulls. So, assuming the upcoming series likewise involves a revelation that the Skrulls have been quietly replacing Earthlings for years in attempt to take over the planet, their motivation isn't as clear as it is in the comics. 

Why would they want to conquer their own allies? Is Talos behind the invasion, or is it part of another Skrull's bid for power? Will we perhaps learn that even though "Captain Marvel" suggested the Skrulls led by Talos were all that was left, that there are other Skrulls who survived the Kree and aren't as friendly to Earth as Talos and his followers? Finally — and perhaps most importantly — whose side will Talos be on?