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Who are The Guardians of the Galaxy?
The Next Level of Defense
The San Diego Comic Con for 2013 is the nexus geek activity for anyone who’s a scifi/fantasy/adventure/superhero/anime enthusiast. Just talking about it is enough to make any fanboy drool. If you are lucky enough to get tickets, have the disposable income, and have the time, patience, and (most importantly) endurance, the SDCC is for you.
“Well, what’s the big deal?” I hear from my unenlightened friends in the back row.
The big deal is that if you read comic books, regular books, watch movies, or watch television, it is your chance to talk to the writers, artists, actors, producers, and fellow geeks about all things awesome. It is THE event.
Among the goodies that geeks get to experience are sneak previews. This includes the latest in the Marvel movie franchise machine. Along with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Avengers, Marvel is going to introduce a team that very few people outside of real geekdom know about – The Guardians of the Galaxy.
It is no secret that I’ve been a fan of the Marvel Universe’s version of Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and with him my fascination of the villain known as Thanos, the mad Titan. Part of Captain Marvel's storyline was his wandering through the galaxy, protecting the universe. The problem was that as Captain Marvel was killed off in 1982, much of the supporting cast was basically lost and remained unused for decades. With that supporting cast, a whole bunch of Marvel creations also fell by the wayside. Why? Marvel just wasn’t writing a lot of deep space planet spanning story lines.
And that was a crime.
If you had an opportunity to see a superhero movie without knowing the heroes, would you still see it?
You see, in the mid 1970’s and 1980’s Marvel ‘s universe pushed outside of Earth. Oh sure, there were a few extraterrestrial heroes and villains that had stopped and stayed on this mud hole for a while. Heroes and villains like the Silver Surfer, Galactus (and all of his heralds), Captain Marvel, the Kree, the Skrulls, The Stranger, Overmind, Omega the Unknown, and Captain Universe, but those stories focused mostly on their stay on Earth.
Especially the Silver Surfer – his title dealt with his being imprisoned forever by Galactus as punishment for helping the Fantastic Four (and the people of Earth). However, he was a vehicle for being a messiah-like figure and he mostly battled metaphysical villains like Mephisto and dealt with existential and philosophical issues.
That and he whined about it… a lot.
But I digress.
Teams like the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Starjammers represent a united force for order outside the confines of Earth. The Fantastic Four defend the outer periphery of Earth (as well as the Negative Zone and the Microverse), the Avengers are next in line, then we have defenders of countries (like Canada’s Alpha Flight), followed by city defenders.
Depending on how they handle this franchise, it will either be a great story or it will fizzle out in obscurity. So, in order to keep you guys informed, let me give you the skinny on what could be the next Marvel hit for 2014.
Where are they from?
Star-Lord, Peter Quill
His own title. Forgotten title from the 70's
None. Very clever. Great fighter
Precognition, Celestial Madonna, Fighter
Formerly starred in a limited series in the 80's
An exceptionally bright raccoon... that talks... and flies a spaceship
Drax the Destroyer
The cast of Captain Marvel and the Infinity Watch
Really big, really strong, really mean
The cast of Warlock and the Infinity Watch
Formerly his own title in the 70's, Died, Resurrected
Really strong, fires force blasts from his hands, excellent strategist and fighter
Thor and the Hulk
He's a big walking talking tree
The Micronauts... Last seen in Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell)
Sticks to walls, Danger sense, Great Agility
Phyla-Vell aka Quasar aka Martyr
The cast of Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell)
Has energy manipulation powers - can make light weapons
The Avengers, Defenders, and cast of Captain Marvel (father and son)
Mental powers: telepathy, telekinesis, and became a giant dragon
A Group of Future-Past
If it were twenty years ago and someone wanted to tell the story of The Guardians of the Galaxy, it would be set in the 31st century of an alternate timeline with a different set of characters. Originally, the team known as The Guardians of the Galaxy were veterans of Earth’s war against Martians and the Badoon.
The initial incarnation premiered in 1969 and had been popping up in other titles - usually through some kind of time displacement. Most famously, they were part of the Michael Korvac saga and allied themselves with the present day Avengers to fight him.
The original team consisted of:
Vance Astro – Also known as Major Victory. A time displaced astronaut from the 20th century Earth. He came to the 31st century while he was in suspended animation and has been entrapped in a containment suit – which kept him alive as part of his initial trip to Alpha Centauri. Vance is the alternate version of the New Warrior, Justice, and has telekinetic powers.
Martinex T’Naga – A crystalline being from Pluto with roots to Earth. He has resistance to cold as well as enhanced strength, speed, and stamina.
Captain Charlie-27 – A superstrong native of Jupiter. His superstrength is derived from the higher gravity pull from his planet. He is also an accomplished soldier.
Yondu Udonta – An alien from Centauri IV. He has no powers but is a natural mystic and an expert archer. His other ability is a mystic “sixth sense” which gives him a connection to other life forms.
Starhawk – The mysterious (and sometimes transgender) “one who knows”. He has very great, very nebulous powers – which really haven’t been fully defined. The catalogued powers include precognition, super strength, flight, and some amount of photonic blasting powers. He shifts from either one of two different personas of Stakar and Aleta, male and female, respectively.
Nikki – Nikki is a female Mercurian who has very hot body temperature and resistance to heat.
Most of these characters claim to be the last of their species and have banded together to initially fight the Badoon and free Earth. After they’d won the war, the Guardians had trouble assimilating back into Earth society and left to seek adventure on their ship, the Captain America.
However, as we’re dealing with the incarnation that will be in a feature film, let’s talk about the current, present-day, incarnation.
Today's Guardians of the Galaxy
The origin of the group that one day became the Guardians of the Galaxy is a really good story. The very first team was assembled by Peter Quill (Star Lord) as part of a Kree covert tactical unit. Like the dirty dozen, Quill has his choice of characters that have been captured and kept in the Kree detention center. The first team was made of Quill, Rocket Raccoon, Captain Universe (Gabriel Vargus), Mantis, Groot, Deathcry, and Bug. The team is successful in their mission with only one real casualty in “friendly fire” as Deathcry went berserk after Captain Universe robbed her of a kill. Captain Universe blew her up in self-defense.
Following the Annihilation War, Quill started a new team with some of the out of place characters from that war.
Here are some of the regulars and characters that will probably be part of the upcoming movie.
Peter Quill aka Star Lord
Peter Quill was born on Earth during a perfect alignment of stars. Quill’s father, being something of an alcoholic psychotic saw no resemblance between himself and the boy and went to kill the infant immediately. However, before killing the child, he is struck down by a sudden massive heart attack.
Peter’s mother raised him alone. The child was incredibly gifted. Unfortunately, Quill’s mother is killed by Baddoon when he was eleven. He is sent to an orphanage and pushes himself mentally and physically to be the best and brightest. He runs away from the orphanage and becomes a trainee to be a NASA astronaut. After a few delays (despite being the most qualified candidate) he is accepted to be an astronaut and is recruited by the Master of the Sun. He is then given the mantle of Star Lord and put through the illusion of killing the Baddoon that killed his mother. (Much of this origin was retconned without the psychotic father. Instead, Quill’s real father was J’son of Spartax who had slept with Peter’s mother who was later killed by Baddoon).
Quill is given a ship named “Ship”. Ship has artificial intelligence and becomes his companion. Ship is later destroyed after a battle with the former herald of Galactus known as “The Fallen One”. Shortly after the battle he is captured by the Kree and placed in an intergalactic prison.
After Nova frees Quill from prison he becomes the advisor of Ronan the Accuser. As part of his new responsibilities, Quill forms a version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. It is their job to stop small menaces before they become larger threats.
Star Lord has no powers but is a brilliant tactician. He uses an element gun that can fire any of the four major elements. At one point, Quill was fitted with cybernetic parts, but those were later removed. Currently Quill only uses Kree sub machine guns with various types of ammo and explosives.
The short story is that Rocket Raccoon is a talking raccoon who has a talent with strategy and can fire major assault weapons.
Oh, not good enough? Okay.
And, yes, before you ask, he was inspired by the Beatles’ song, Rocky Raccoon.
Rocket is not really an alien that looks like a raccoon, he is a raccoon – albeit a genetically engineered one made so by robots that really didn’t like human beings too much. Hundreds of years ago, robots that ran an insane asylum worked with animal mascots and genetically engineered them to have human intelligence. Rocket is one of those descendants.
He was designated to be the protector of the quadrant. Rocket is like Flash Gordon if he were a raccoon. He’s a raccoon of action and daring. Whenever Peter Quill is out of the picture, Rocket is the one that everyone turns to for leadership.
Groot – Monarch of Planet X
He’s a walking tree and he’s massive.
Really, think “Ents in Space” and you’ve almost got Groot. The thing that makes Groot different from the charming Treebeard of Tolkien fame is that Groot is royalty. A typical Groot conversation would begin “I am Groot!” and then he’d say what he’d have to say. According to Maximus (the mad inhuman) Groot’s language is one of subtlety. There are infinite meanings to the same sentence all depending on the slight inflection of what he says while creaking his wooden frame. This may or may not be true as Maximus is quite insane. Then again, he was able to interpret many of Groot’s “I am Groot” instructions accurately.
The thing about Groot and his royalty is that he will never let you forget that he is, in fact, royalty amongst the tree-things of Planet X.
Groot’s roots (so to speak) come all the way from the days of Tales to Astonish back when Thor was still looking for his own title. At this point, he’s possibly the last surviving member of his race – no one knows why. Perhaps it had to do with deforestation – who knows?
The thing about Groot is his size and durability. On the one hand, he’s a tree. On the other hand, his massive size makes him the perfect thing to pick up large objects and throw them. Unfortunately, get enough people around him with torches and he’s a walking bonfire. The good thing about Groot is if he sustains enough damage, he can break a small twig from himself and regrow (after a time).
He has made a sort of relationship with Rocket Raccoon where Rocket is good at firing large weapons and Groot is good at carrying them.
Bug – The Last Remnant of an Awesome Toy Line
When I was a kid, they had a cool collection of toys called “The Micronauts”. Their big selling point was interchangeable parts as well as some of the toys were made from die cast metal. The last part meant that if we played with them and explosives, chances are that they’d survive the blast.
Marvel built an entire line of characters for the toys and published the Micronauts title with it. The villain of the group was Baron Karza and the entire story took place in a dimension called “The Microverse” (still in the Marvel continuity, too).
Bug was one of the characters. He was a galactic warrior who was very much like Spider-man. He could cling to walls and was really agile. In addition to this he had a helmet that gave him enhanced sight and with his antennae, he could communicate with other things that had antennae. Like Spider-man he has a limited “danger sense”.
I guess it’s the entire "insect thing".
When the Micronauts title ended, Marvel brought Bug back for their Annihilation: Conquest storyline as part of Star Lord’s covert team.
Gamora – The Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy
Some people have really good PR.
It’s part of having a reputation. For example, in Neil Gaiman’s book, Neverwhere, the protagonist’s party is auditioning a fighter/bodyguard for their mission. One guy auditions and says that he’s “the best fighter outside of Hunter”. When he’s chosen to do combat for his “job interview”, he’s put up against a large and very strong warrior woman – Hunter - who promptly killed him.
In very much the same way, that’s Gamora. Her reputation as the deadliest green woman in the galaxy is well earned. Sure, she has some cybernetic and bionic implants which give her enhanced speed, strength, durability, and agility – but that isn’t what gave her her reputation.
She was raised by Thanos. (for more details regarding Thanos, I’ve written an entire hub about him. He’s that guy you see at the very, very end of the Avengers movie.)
Thanos, in an unheard of display of compassion, took charge of her as an orphaned child. His plan was to raise her as a perfect assassin to destroy the head of the Universal Church of Truth, aka The Magus (an alternate version of Adam Warlock). It was Thanos who had augmented Gamora’s body and trained her. By the time she’d reached adulthood, she was the most feared assassin to the church.
Teaming up with Adam Warlock and Pip the Troll, she learned of Thanos’ eventual treachery toward universal annihilation. When she turned against Thanos, he killed her. However as she lay dying, Adam Warlock found her and absorbed her soul into his “soul gem”.
As we all know, no one stays dead for very long in the Marvel Universe. When Thanos returned from Death’s realm, Adam Warlock, Pip the Troll, and Gamora returned to fight him. Since her resurrection, she has been part of Warlock’s infinity Watch, but after that title fizzled out she did not return until the Annihilation storyline.
She remains as deadly as she was prior to her death.
Drax the Destroyer
Drax has always gotten the short end of the stick. One way or another he usually gets screwed.
Drax is a direct by-product of Thanos’ existence. When Thanos’ father, Mentor had seen the danger of how destructive his son was to become, he enlisted the aid of Kronos, the god-like father of the Eternals.
And Chronos acted.
Turning the clock back twenty years ago, after Thanos attacked Titan and killed his own mother, Thanos went to Earth on a covert scouting mission. His ship was spotted by a real estate agent, Arthur Douglas with his wife and daughter. As the mission was covert, Thanos deemed Douglas and his family expendable. So he killed them (not realizing that Douglas’ daughter survived – eventually becoming the Avenger, Moondragon).
When Douglas’ soul began its final journey to the afterlife, Chronos grabbed it and built it a nigh invulnerable body of earth and rock. He also gave him incredible strength (Drax can lift 70 tons), the ability to fly and create concussive force bolts. And on top of everything else, he implanted him a psychotic hatred of Thanos.
So long as Thanos lives Drax will be around to kill him. He does not tire. He does not rest.
As fate would have it, Captain Marvel got to Thanos first when he foiled his cosmic cube fueled plans and left Drax purposeless for a time. When Thanos returned for a second attempt to destroy the universe, Adam Warlock (seething with cosmic power) turned him to stone, leaving Drax purposeless again.
As Drax was trying to find a new purpose to his existence, his daughter had gone on an insane power trip. When he tried to stop her, she telepathically shut off his brain killing him.
This was not the end of Drax. Thanos returned from Death’s realm and with that Drax returned as well – albeit with a bit of brain damage. He became this hulking, indestructible, engine of destruction that would destroy anything between him and Thanos. He was quite uncontrollable. He also became more indestructible after he’d gained the “power gem” after joining the Infinity Watch.
As was the fate of his fellow Infinity Watch members, when they disbanded, they faded out of the continuity until 2006. Drax came back with less power, but this time he’d regained his intelligence. Now a tattooed fighting engine that fights with knives, he was committed to killing this incarnation of Thanos. Cutting his way through every obstacle like a wild Cuinisart, he finally did so by stabbing the Titan through the heart, giving what Thanos had always wanted; a chance to finally be with Death.
Guardians of the Galaxy Quiz
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I’m not a movie producer. I’m just a guy who loves reading comic books.
I’ve been reading Marvel Comics since I was six years old and my cousin had given me a shoebox full of cut up, read, and reread issues that I would give my eye teeth to have again. Among those falling apart issues was half of the Jim Starlin run of Captain Marvel. One of the first Marvel issues I’d read was the Captain Marvel versus the Controller knock down drag out. I have yet to read a great superhero battle of that caliber.
The thing I love about this team is that because none of these characters has been used in decades, they are all expendable. There is no marketing franchise right now for any of them. I haven’t seen the Rocket Raccoon plush toys nor have I seen a Drax the Destroyer knife set.
It was like the writers said, “Who do we have lying around here that we can use for a new title? Drax? Yeah, let’s use him. Gamora? Sure, she’s killable. Who else? Phyla-Vell? Didn’t Peter David just create her for five or six issues? Sure, let’s use her, too.”
When you see a title like The Guardians of the Galaxy, a title that in itself has been resurrected to give a bunch of characters one last chance to make something of themselves, it’s fuel for really good, on the edge, storytelling.
Characters that I haven’t mentioned are Moondragon, Phyla-Vell (Captain Marvel’s “daughter”), Cosmo (a mutant cosmonaut dog), Adam Warlock (artificially created human being), Mantis (Martial artist, Avenger, and former Celestial Madonna), Nova, and Captain Universe. However, as they are most likely not going to be in the movie, this article will serve as a reference. I might follow up this hub with an “others” article, who knows?
Anyway, what I started to say is that I’m not a movie producer – but I can see the strategy that Marvel has used to create a blockbuster like the Avengers. This proposed film has great actors for it (apparently Benicio Del Toro will be playing The Collector) and enough obscure characters to make geeks like me scream for joy. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many people like me out there and it will need to be more of a commercial success. Hopefully, the writers, directors, and producers will be able to create a credible backstory to make this work with common movie goers.
I know, though, I’ll be there to see it.
© 2013 Christopher Peruzzi