Guardians of the Galaxy
Explore what makes Marvel’s greatest filmic hit iconic.
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