Okay, I’ll admit that when Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy as part of its Phase II I was … skeptical. It’s a relatively unknown franchise that features a sentient tree and a talking raccoon as major characters, that’s a bit of a gamble. Don’t get me wrong I was thinking kudos for taking the gamble but at the same time it might not be something that could translate to a live action film very well. I figured if there was going to be a Marvel flop this was going to be it.
Turns out I’m utterly and completely wrong. (That distinction is probably reserved for Ant-Man…but that’s another post)
All the buzz from Comic Con and the early reviews not to mention the trailers looks as if they knocked it out of the park, again. And opened the door to a wider range of characters and storytelling opportunities in the Cinematic Universe. That’s quite a feat. It went from a film I was lukewarm about to something I am eagerly anticipating.
(Note: You can find my full, spoiler-heavy review here on Monday)
But first let’s do a little primer before we see the film. And now a brief and by no means complete history of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
The team you will see on screen is not the first team
The original Guardians were created in 1969 by Arnold Drake. Drake is primarily known for his work at DC Comics and, as an aside, it’s actually funny/ironic that the first Drake work to be filmed is for Marvel. Discuss amongst yourselves the implications of that. It’s also the first Marvel Studios film not to be based on characters written/created by Stan Lee or Jack Kirby.
The original team was from the 31st century and consisted of Vance Astro, also known as Major Victory (no I am not making that up) a cryo-frozen astronaut from the20th century, a crystal skinned Plutonian Martinex, A powerful Jupiter dweller called Charlie-27 and blue alien Yondu from Alpha Centauri. Yondu is the only original character, so far as I know, to appear in the film and will be played by Michael Rooker. Other members added later were Starhawk, an enigmatic fellow who occasionally became a woman, and Nikki, a young girl from Mercury.
This team primarily popped up in other books like The Avengers and Thor and didn’t have their own title till 1990 where it ran for 62 issues before being canceled.
I mostly remember the Guardians from the “Korvac Saga” storyline from the Avengers but to be honest they did not make much of an impression on me back then.
The current team is actually a reboot
In 2008 writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning re-launched the book with an entirely new team. The one you will be seeing in the movie: Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax, Gamora and Adam Warlock (who is not actually in the film). This time around it was set in the 21st century and was officially part of the Marvel Universe. The title premiered during a huge industry downturn, but the critical attention was there, and those who discovered it, like me, loved it.
Currently the title is being penned by Brian Michael Bendis and its fun but it lacks the sheer badassery of the DnA run.
A Beatles song and a Kirby monster
The two characters who will probably be getting the most attention are Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Groot is a tree Rocket Raccoon is, well, a raccoon.
The inspiration for Rocket was actually the song “Rocky Raccoon” by the Beatles. And not just a little inspired, totally inspired. He was created by Bill Mantlo and Keit Giffen in 1976 but didn’t make his official debut till 1982 in an Incredible Hulk story titled “Now Somewhere in the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Named Rocket Raccoon” where The Hulk and Rocket try to stop a villain from stealing “Gideon’s Bible.” Seriously.
As for Groot he was a one-off villain created by the great Jack Kirby in the 1960s Tales to Astonish #13. Originally Groot could speak full sentences, was from Planet X and was attempting to steal an entire mid-western small town to take home to study. Why? Because it was the Silver Age, that’s why. He was defeated by a local scientist who snuck up behind him and poured termites on him. Seriously.
The beauty of the Abnett/Lanning run was how they incorporated these obscure and somewhat silly characters and teamed them up with “serious” characters like Star-Lord and Adam Warlock. And it worked. Like I said, badassery.
So that’s it for now. Just a few tidbits and trivia to hold you over till the weekend. Come back Monday for the spoiler-heavy review. See you at the movies.