Guardians of the Galaxy

Ex­plore what makes Marvel’s great­est filmic hit iconic.

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

When Guardians Of The Galaxy ex­ploded onto cin­ema screens, it was al­most in­con­ceiv­able to imag­ine that the mot­ley band of space­far­ers have not al­ways ranked among Marvel Comics’ heavy­hit­ters. But when Dan Ab­nett and his then-reg­u­lar writ­ing part­ner Andy Lan­ning launched their new in­car­na­tion of the in­ter­stel­lar su­per­hero team in May 2008, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Rac­coon and Groot were far from the ubiq­ui­tous char­ac­ters they are to­day.

“At the time, and tra­di­tion­ally, Marvel’s cos­mic char­ac­ters were less pop­u­lar than the clas­sic and iconic Marvel he­roes,” says Ab­nett. “But I had al­ways loved them, so there was a sense of hav­ing ac­cess to a stock­pile of for­got­ten or half-for­got­ten low-tier pro­tag­o­nists who were just ly­ing around, with no one car­ing for them.”

With Ab­nett not­ing that “one of the take­aways was sup­posed to be a team-book,” Guardians Of The Galaxy was a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of his and Lan­ning’s 2007 cross­over An­ni­hi­la­tion: Con­quest, which pit­ted a host of Marvel’s cos­mic char­ac­ters – in­clud­ing the fu­ture Guardians – against the cy­ber­netic me­nace of Ul­tron and the Pha­lanx. “The line-up of the Guardians grew out of the plot for the event sto­ry­line, but it was also a case of cher­ryp­ick­ing the coolest and most in­ter­est­ing D-list char­ac­ters and try­ing to make sense of them as a team,” ex­plains Ab­nett. “Though my ed­i­tors backed me all the way, I could do pretty much what I wanted. I sort of threw them to­gether in ways that seemed to be the most ap­peal­ing, like putting Rocket with Groot, and then they stole the team name from the orig­i­nal 1969 team, which had an en­tirely dif­fer­ent line-up and was also largely for­got­ten.”

With Nova mak­ing a cameo in the first is­sue, the Guardians’ open­ing ros­ter was cru­cially not re­stricted to the cur­rent core quin­tet with the re­cently re­vived Adam War­lock, Man­tis, Phyla-Vell’s Quasar and later Bug also play­ing prom­i­nent roles. “The line-up was fluid, so the team spirit was sup­posed to be un­easy,” Ab­nett tells us. “Both in terms of Marvel’s IP and within the fic­tional setting, these were over­looked char­ac­ters find­ing a chance to count in the big scheme of things. Nova al­ready had a book of his own, so he wasn’t go­ing to be a part of the team even though he was there to help set it up, a fac­tor nicely al­lowed for in the movie with the use of the Nova Corps.”

In­deed Rocket and Groot didn’t start out as best bud­dies, with the sen­tient tree tak­ing a di­min­ished role for the first few is­sues af­ter be­ing se­ri­ously in­jured in An­ni­hi­la­tion: Con­quest. “In­ad­ver­tently, that set up the movie con­cepts of Danc­ing Groot in the flow­er­pot, and Baby Groot, which are now very much part of the Guardians mythos,” says Ab­nett, who in­stead paired Rocket with Cosmo, a tele­pathic space hound that was in­spired by real-life ca­nine as­tro­nauts such as Laika, sent into or­bit by the Sovi­ets in 1957. “I liked the fact

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