Who was that guy? SPOILERS AHEAD!
Marvel Studios has a storied history of capping off the credits to their movies with scenes that tantalizingly tease what's coming up in their next movies, and the post-credits scene at the end of Thor: The Dark World just may be the strangest — and most important — one yet. (Warning: The rest of this post contains SPOILERS, not just for Thor: The Dark World, but for Guardians of the Galaxy, and possibly even Avengers 3!)
In the scene, Asgardian warriors Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) deliver what appears to be a small box that emits a red glow to a man with a white shock of hair who calls himself the Collector, and is played with eccentric flair by Benicio Del Toro. The box appears to contain what's left of the Aether, the universe-darkening MacGuffin that so vexed Thor throughout the preceding film. But Sif and Volstagg call it an "infinity stone" instead, and when they leave, the Collector says ominously, "One down, five to go." (There's a second scene that came at the very end of the Thor: The Dark World credits, but that mostly involved Thor and Jane Foster kissing. No mystery there!)
We already know that Del Toro will play the Collector in next summer's Guardians of the Galaxy — featuring the strangest comic book movie cast ever. But maybe we should start with the obvious question first:
So who is the Collector, anyway?
His name is Taneleer Tivan, and he is one of 13 Elders of the Universe. Each Elder is the last of their respective species, all originating from ancient races that populated the galaxy in its infancy after the Big Bang and each having achieved immortality via various means. Because the universe really loves to elevate bipedal humanoids to sentient status.