GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: A Beginner’s Guide to Marvel’s Strangest Comic Book Adaptation

     February 17, 2013

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Rumors continue to emerge regarding casting of Marvel’s 2014 movie Guardians of the Galaxy.  This month has seen Chris Pratt cast in the role of Star-Lord (AKA – Peter Quill), sources citing an audition of Jason Momoa for Drax the Destroyer, as well as speculation of the incorporation of Jim Carrey and/or Adam Sandler as the voices of Groot or Rocket Raccoon.  An impressive array of talent considering the franchise itself is one of Marvel’s lesser known to the general public.  A beginner’s guide to the Guardians of the Galaxy follows after the jump.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-1969As a brief footnote on the Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie is focusing on the second incarnation of the team in the Marvel Universe. The Guardians of the Galaxy originally debuted in 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, focusing on a group of intergalactic heroes fighting a war against an alien race, the Badoon, in an alternate timeline of the 31st century. This team would make infrequent guest appearances throughout Marvel titles until 1990 when they were given their own series which would run until its cancellation in 1995.

Following a decade hiatus, Marvel once again re-focused energy on its cosmic characters beginning with the Drax miniseries and Thanos series in 2004, which served as preludes to the larger Annihilation crossover events which ran from 2006 through 2008. The second of these events, Annihilation: Conquest, was overseen by the writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (commonly referred to as DnA), whose efforts would see the creation of the new Guardians of the Galaxy by the end of the miniseries. The two would go on to pen the new Guardians of the Galaxy series, which would run for 25 issues between 2008 and 2010.

The Annihilation storylines helped to reintroduce the main members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which are being featured in next summer’s movie, into the more mainstream readership. As stated by editor Bill Rosemann via Newsarama, “it occurred to us that, if things went well, there would be a group of characters left standing who would make for a very interesting and fun team.” What readers were given at that time was a team comprised of a proto-messiah (Adam Warlock), a cosmic killing machine (Drax the Destroyer), the deadliest woman in the galaxy (Gamora), the daughter of an alien protector of Earth (Phyla-Vell, having assumed the role of Quasar), a half-human half-alien space cop (Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord), an anthropomorphic raccoon (Rocket Raccoon), and a giant tree (Groot). Interesting may have undersold them…

Led by Quill, the team was assembled for the purpose of a pro-active response to further galactic crisis. An off-Earth Avengers team in all but title.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-knowhereKnowhere – the severed head of a Celestial (a race of beings similar to an interstellar pantheon of gods), services the team as their base of operations. The base is part observation post at the end of the universe, and part intergalactic port of call. The best description could only be Deep Space Nine crossed with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The chief of security to the base, as well as team’s liason to the facility is Cosmo, a dog originally launched into space by the Soviets, who has developed telepathic and telekinetic abilities. Cosmo additionally provides the team with access to Knowhere’s teleportation systems, providing them with unlimited ability to transport anywhere within the universe. While there have been no rumors regarding the inclusion of Cosmo or Knowhere within the movie, it would seem likely each would appear given their importance to the team’s functionality. Although the humorous dog / raccoon interplay between Cosmo and Rocket would also prove to be a huge addition to the overall feel of the team.

Star-Lord

Although Quill led the team, Star-Lord was a rather incomplete character until his utilization in Guardians of the Galaxy. His creator, Steve Englehart, explained on his website the lost potential of his character:

“I conceived something very large. My hero would go from being an unpleasant, introverted jerk to the most cosmic being in the universe, and I would tie it into my then-new interest in astrology. After his earthbound beginning, his mind would be opened step by step, with a fast-action story on Mercury, a love story on Venus, a war story on Mars, and so on out to the edge of the solar system, and then beyond. But — after his earthbound beginning, where I established him as an unpleasant, introverted jerk, I left Marvel, so no one ever saw what he was to become.”

guardians-of-the-galaxy-rocket-raccoonStar-Lord made the rare appearance for the next 25 years, before being re-introduced in Thanos and later Annihilation. Peter Quill has been established as a half-human, half-Spartoi. Quill was raised on Earth by his mother, until he witnessed her death at the hand of two aliens attempting to erase the “Spartoi bloodline”. He eventually would become an astronaut, and during his time upon a space station, would encounter the Master of the Sun – an alien being that would bestow upon him the mantle of Star-Lord, as well as a sentient vessel named “Ship” and his weapon, the Element Gun – a weapon capable of utilizing the elements. In a battle with one of Galactus’ former heralds, Quill’s Element Gun and Ship were destroyed, and he himself critically injured, and was later provided cybernetic implants, enhancing his senses and memory. In more recent continuity, Quill relies upon his battle suit and a pair of Kree machine guns as his primary weapons, having no actual powers of his own.

Rocket Raccoon

Rocket Raccoon originally appeared in 1976 as a work of writer Bill Mantlo and artist Keith Giffen, inspired by the Beatles song “Rocky Raccoon.” Originally written as the captain of the ship Rack ‘n’ Ruin, along with his first mate Wal Russ, Rocket served as the ranger of his planet Halfworld – an abandoned colony of the mentally ill in which the animals had been granted human intelligence. With a backstory like that, it is hard to see why Rocket was a rarely utilized character throughout most of his existence. Rocket is a skilled gunfighter, as well as being credited with having the best tactical mind Quill has ever met.

Groot

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A creature of few words, ironically there is very little to say about the alien Groot. Groot originally made an appearance in Tales to Astonish vol. 1 #13 seeking to capture humans for experimentation. Groot made few appearances until his glory year of 2006, in which he appeared as part of the limited series Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, and later in the Annihilation story arcs. Groot derives from royal lineage, however is believed to be the last surviving member of his race. As part of the species Flora colossus, Groot is able to absorb other wooden plants as food, allowing him the ability to rebuild himself. He is additionally endowed with the ability to control other plant life.  Groot has also exhibited the ability to control his own consciousness through pieces of his body. On multiple occasions it has appeared Groot was killed in battle, however he has consistently been able to regrow himself in preserved pieces of his previous form.

The part of casting a voice for Groot provides some doubt upon the speculation of Carrey or Sandler for this role. Groot’s vocabulary is incredibly limited in his appearances, with all of his sentences consisting only of “I am Groot!” The root cause of this impediment stems from Groot’s tree-like body: his race’s vocal chords are incredibly stiff, limiting their ability to speak. Groot himself is believed to be incredibly intelligent due to his royal upbringing, however there is no way in which to prove this. Given this limitation upon the character, it would be difficult to speculate that any marquee talent would be associated with the role, unless James Gunn is planning on taking a vastly different approach upon the character.

Drax the Destroyer

drax-the-destroyerGiven the reveal of Thanos’ involvement at the end of last summer’s Avengers movie, it is reasonable to assume that both Drax and Gamora will be integral to tying together the Guardians of the Galaxy movie to the Avengers, as these two have the closest personal ties to the villain.

Drax the Destroyer began as Arthur Douglas, an innocent man with his family driving through the desert, when Thanos attacks them, killing Arthur. The Titans Mentor and Kronos capture Douglas’ wandering spirit and provide it with the powerful new body for the purpose of killing Thanos, granting him the new identity of Drax the Destroyer. The new body provided Douglas with extreme strength, flight, and energy blasts. Drax has also shown the ability to sense the presence of Thanos over great distances as his new existence is devoted to killing Thanos throughout his frequent reincarnations. During Drax’s reintroduction through the Annihilation series, his powers of flight and energy projection have been lost. In this time as well, Drax has shown a fondness towards utilizing knives in battle, such as those seen in the preview art for the film. Recent rumors have tied Jason Momoa to having auditioned for the role. Momoa definitely has the physical stature to portray Drax, and has proven himself more than apt in wielding blades.

As an aside, Arthur Douglas’ daughter Heather survives the attack and later becomes the powerful telepath Moondragon, who at various points has been both an Avenger and Guardian of the Galaxy, making her a likely candidate for use in later tie-ins.

Gamora

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Gamora’s equally close ties to Thanos have led to her reputation as the most dangerous woman in the galaxy. As the last of her species, Gamora was found by Thanos as a child and raised to become his perfect weapon. Trained in a number of martial arts and aided by cybernetic enhancements of her strength, speed, and agility, Gamora is widely feared by her enemies. Eventually turning on her one-time master during Thanos’ attempt to destroy the universe, Gamora became a confidante of Adam Warlock as part of his Infinity Watch. Gamora’s abilities have been utilized by the Guardians of the Galaxy both in battle as well as for more stealthy pursuits. Rumors have speculated the likes of Gina Carano, Olivia Wilde, and Adrianne Palicki, however there has been no official word regarding any auditions to date.

With filming set to begin in June, a number of important decisions remain to flush out the remainder of this ensemble cast.  While the movie itself centers around relatively unknown characters, Marvel is facing it’s first true challenge in creating a success from properties not widely known outside of the realm of serious comic readership. Gunn will find himself walking the wire of having a blank canvas to the general public whose knowledge will be only the brand, along with satisfying the most hardcore of comic fandom.

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