For as weird as the original comic books are, it’s amazing that the new “Guardians of the Galaxy” film is as faithful to the source material as it is.
There’s the Kree, the Nova Corps. Hell, there’s even a severed Celestial head. But for every piece of the books that the movie incorporates, there are a few places where “Guardians of the Galaxy” diverts from the cosmic comics.
Here are the biggest changes made to the characters, setting and mythology in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Not that the cinematic version of Marvel’s space prison was a luxury resort, but the Kyln from the comics is a much darker place. The giant penitentiary on the edge of our universe is more of a city than a cell block, as we see in the movie. Inmates there are essentially receiving a slow-motion death sentence, since most don’t survive three years.
This is where Marvel reintroduced the world to Peter Quill. The cosmic hero had turned himself in after playing a role in the destruction of a lunar colony, a sacrifice that saved countless others. While in Kyln, Quill added cybernetic enhancements to his face, which the Kree later removed when forming the proto Guardians of the Galaxy.
But more on that later.
Ronan the Accuser
Though the earliest incarnations of the Kree enforcer portray him as the tyrannical villain Lee Pace plays in the movie, when Marvel revived the cosmic side of their universe with the “Annihilation” event, Ronan fought on the side of good with heroes like Star-Lord, Drax and Nova. Although, he did clash with Gamora for a moment.
He even joined the Annihilators — the Guardians’ replacements — after the events of “The Thanos Imperative” left the team decimated.
The character played by Dave Batista dates all the way back to 1973. Back then, he wore a purple cloak and was capable of energy blasts. He lost the sartorial flare and the extra power for the modern cosmic universe, but he kept the same tragic backstory, which the movie only touched on briefly.
Drax began life as a human named Arthur Sampson Douglas. When Thanos first came to Earth, his ship attacked the car that Douglas drove in with his wife and daughter, killing the father and mother, but unknowingly sparing the daughter, who would later become Moondragon. Thanos’ father resuscitated Douglas with the sole purpose of killing Thanos, which he does.
It’s unclear whether subsequent “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies will bring Drax’s story closer to the comics, but as it stands, Ronan has been subbed for Thanos.
Thanos and the Infinity Gems
The main thing to know about Thanos the Mad Titan is that he is in love with the physical embodiment of Death. Yes, in the Marvel Universe, concepts like death, time and eternity have physical forms. Since his inception — as a blatant rip-off of DC villain Darkseid — Thanos has attempted to “court death” through various power grabs, whether it’s with a cosmic cube or the six Infinity Gems. (In the movie, they are called the Infinity Stones.)
Thanos has collected the stones on a few occasions, but he did so most famously in the “Infinity Gauntlet” storyline. Before that event formally began, Thanos had to do his own leg works — no Ronan to do it for him — collecting the gems from the Elders of the Universe, some of the oldest beings in existence, including the Collector.
By the time the Guardians of the Galaxy encounter Thanos in “The Thanos Imperative,” he has long lost possession of the Infinity Gems, died and forcefully resurrected twice.
Forming the Guardians
The team as we see them on screen is the first to use the moniker. Two previous rosters appeared in Marvel comics in the ’70s and ’90s. The cinematic Guardians aren’t even the first team led by Star-Lord.
The earliest iteration of the big screen team was formed by the Kree as a desperate response to the Phalanx invasion led by Ultron during “Annihilation: Conquest.” The Kree tasked Quill with leading a team of inmates — a cosmic Dirty Dozen — on a tech-free suicide mission into their occupied homeworld. That roster, which was never referred to as the Guardians, consisted of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Bug, Mantis, Deathcry and Captain Universe, and became the model for the Guardians’ “at all costs” universe-saving missions.
The fierce fivesome of Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Drax and Gamora were only one part of the team when they officially took on the name after the Phalanx invasion. They were also joined by a rotating roster that included Adam Warlock, Quasar, Moondragon, Jack Flag, Mantis and Major Victory, one of the original Guardians.
The decapitated head of a Celestial might be the geekiest bit of Marvel cosmic lore to make it into the movie, but the film only goes partially into the history of the space port. Celestials are ancient, god-like, nearly indestructible beings, capable of creating galaxies. The Continuum Cortex inside the deceased Celestial’s head allowed the Guardians to teleport anywhere the galaxy might need saving. The port is also run by a talking cosmonaut dog named Cosmo, whom you can see in the film.
If “Guardians of the Galaxy” inspires you to check out the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe (which you absolutely should do), here’s the reading order that should cover you.
“Annihilation: Conquest Prologue”
“Annihilation: Conquest: Quasar”
“Annihilation: Conquest: Star-Lord”
“Annihilation: Conquest: Nova”
“Annihilation: Conquest” Book One
“Annihilation: Conquest” Book Two
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2008-2010)
“Guardians of the Galaxy #1-#25″
“The Thanos Imperative”
“The Thanos Imperative”