Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
As unlikely as it may seem, the Guardians of the Galaxy are poised to be the next Marvel team to get a tent-pole movie, following The Avengers (me, I was hoping for a Champions movie, as all but Hercules have been previously introduced in movies*).
The publisher has turned to Avengers-rehabilitation expert Brian Michael Bendis to write a new Guardians of the Galaxy series, and after teasing them in the first arc of Avengers Assemble, the comic featuring the cast from the Avengers movie, the writer is all set to launch a new Guardians monthly, penciled by Civil War artist Steve McNiven.
The title kicked off Wednesday with its first issue, Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 (market research apparently revealed that comics buyers are more attracted to decimal points than either the number 1 or even 0), and it isn’t a bad read at all.
It’s the origin of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, and while the story is essentially one character telling another his history, Bendis, McNiven & Co. depict it as a regular comic, rather than a long, dull conversation, as Bendis is often in the habit of doing. The last two pages reveal the cast.
And who, exactly, is this cast, and where did they come from? Based on the sales of the previous volume of Guardians of the Galaxy vs. sales of your average Bendis or McNiven comic, I imagine a lot of folks will be reading the new series without knowing much of that. And, as always, I think it’s worth keeping in mind who created these characters and how long ago (none of them are any newer than 1976, if you’re wondering).
So let’s take a look at your new Guardians of the Galaxy, shall we?
THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Not to be confused with the Guardians of the Universe, those little blue jerks who are always giving DC’s Green Lanterns a hard time, the Guardians of the Galaxy were originally a super-hero team in the traditional Justice League/Avengers mold, hailing from the far-flung future of the Marvel Universe, created by writer Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, they first appeared in 1969’s Marvel Super-Heroes #18.
Each was an alien, and the last of his kind, save for human astronaut Major Vance Astro (with a name like that, he was practically predestined to be an astronaut), and they often crossed paths with Marvel superheroes.
Their only real connection to the current Guardians is their name, although the previous volume of Guardians of the Galaxy did feature a story in which the modern GoG encounter a plot point from the original GoG.
Created in 1976 by artist Steven Englehart and artist Steve Gan, Star-Lord was the rather pompous superhero name taken by Peter Quill, the son of an alien father and a human mother. He first appeared in Marvel Preview #4 as a sort of space-cop character, although after Englehart left Marvel, Star-Lord was quickly revamped by writer Chris Claremont of X-Men fame, working with artists John Byrne and Terry Austin (their work on that character was soon overshadowed by a slightly more prominent assignment at Marvel).
Star-Lord returned in the Keith Giffen-written second half of the the 2004 series Thanos, and then reached something approaching prominence during Marvel’s concentrated effort to resurrect its cosmic characters in a suit of miniseries, including the Giffen-spearheaded 2006 Annihilation and the Dan Abnett- and Andy Lanning-led Annihilation: Conquest, during which the character earned his own tie-in miniseries Annihilation: Conquest—Star-Lord that was written by Giffen and co-starred some of the other folks on this list.
Star-Lord and the bulk of the cast from that miniseries would end up in the 25-issue 2008-2010 Guardians monthly, written again by Abnett and Lanning.
Introduced by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen in 1976’s Marvel Preview #7, Rocket Raccoon was a funny-animal character generally played straight — or at least straight-ish. He is a talking, bipedal raccoon with guns, which is generally all anyone needs to know to either love him or roll their eyes at him.
He earned his own, four-issue miniseries in 1985, which featured pencils by Mike Mignola.
The character would pop up here and there in Quasar or She-Hulk, but was rescued from footnote status by Giffen, Abnett and Lanning in the aughts during all of the Annihilation and cosmic business. He was part of Star-Lord’s crew in the Star-Lord mini. and was part of the cast of the Guardians monthly.
The longest-lived of the characters, Groot also has probably the most prestigious parentage, as he was created by the two guys who created the bulk of Marvel’s future movie stars: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (and Dick Ayers, who inked Kirby’s art on Groot’s first appearance).
Groot was introduced way back in 1960’s Tales to Astonish #13, in one of the Lee/Kirby monster stories of the era, this one titled “I Challenged … Groot, The Monster From Planet X!” Aside from a few cameos, the tree monster was mainly absent from the Marvel Universe until 2006, when he appeared in both Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos (the all-monster version) and Annihilation: Conquest, and the various follow-ups.
He has formed a special bond with Rocket Raccoon, perhaps because raccoons like trees, or perhaps because they are the two craziest-looking characters on the team.
DRAX THE DESTROYER
This alliterative character was another child of the ’70s, created by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin in a 1973 issue of Iron Man. He was a regular human whose family was killed by Thanos, and the cosmic entity Kronos (another Starlin creation) placed the human’s spirit into a big, bad-ass green body full of super-powers, for the express purpose of taking down Thanos.
Drax appeared a lot more often between the point of creation and the Annihilation revival, generally fighting Thanos and appearing in cosmic super-comics alongside the likes of the Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock and Captain Marvel. and in Starlin’s Infinity comics.
He received his own 2005, Giffen-written, Mitch Breitweiser and Brian Reber-drawn miniseries Drax the Destroyer, and he was rather prominently featured in the various Annhilation comics and, of course, the previous volume of Guardians of the Galaxy.
The adopted daughter of Thanos, Gamora is one more Starlin creation of the ’70s, debuting in 1975’s Strange Tales. The last of her race, the green-skinned alien has some super-strength and a healing factor, and for most of her career she’s appeared in the same sorts of cosmic comics that Drax has — generally, anything with the word “Infinity” in the title.
As with just about everyone on this list, she was featured in the various Giffen and Abnett and Lanning Annihilation comics, and a member of the cast of the Guardians ongoing.
Brilliant weapons manufacturer Tony Stark was created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber and Don Heck, and first appeared — ah, you all know who Iron Man is.
As to what he’s doing in this book, well he only appears in two panels of the #0.1 issue, so I guess well have to wait until #0.2 issue to find out. Or #1, depending on how quickly Marvel decides to jump to whole numbers when it comes to numbering this somewhat promising new book.
*Yeah, yeah I know, different studios — I’m kidding.