GALAXY GUIDE #1: Who Are The Guardians Of The Galaxy?

Welcome to Galaxy Guide, a brand new column here at Splash Page that takes a look at the cosmic side of comic book properties on the big and small screens. For our debut installment, we’re going to be focusing on the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel super-team that’s recently been announced as their next movie franchise, slated to hit theaters on August 1, 2014 — exactly two years from today.

Marvel’s original Guardians of the Galaxy debuted in 1969’s Marvel Super-Heroes #18, by writer Arnold Drake and artist Gene Colan. This incarnation is set 1000 years in the future of Marvel’s Earth, and features a band of freedom fighters from various planets in our solar system who use their special abilities to fight off an evil alien empire and safeguard the galaxy from other threats as well. However, based on recently released concept art by artist Charlie Wen, it looks like the film will feature a different incarnation.

In 2008, writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, along with artist Paul Pelletier, created a new version of the Guardians of the Galaxy, assembling an array of Marvel’s present day cosmic heroes into one team. This latter day version of the team was formed in the wake of the Annihilation Conquest storyline, when the interstellar soldier known as Star-Lord decided that a more proactive approach was needed to combat intergalactic threats, leading him to recruit a diverse group of talents, including Drax, a superhumanly powerful warrior, Gamora, a deadly assassin, Rocket Raccoon, a brilliant military tactician, and Groot, a sentient tree. These are the characters reflected in Wen’s concept art, although there are few other founding members of the team not seen, such as the enigmatic Adam Warlock, Phyla-Vell, wielder of the quantum bands, the precognitive Mantis, and Cosmo, the telepathic dog.

Abnett and Lanning established this new incarnation’s connection to the original team in the second issue, by having Major Vance Astro, the leader of the original Guardians, displaced into our era and discovered by the new team, whom he inspires to adopt the Guardians name. The Guardians would go on to recruit other members as well, including the Micronaut known as Bug, the agile Jack Flag, and the telepathic Moondragon, needing as many allies as possible as they confronted dire threats to the universe such as Blastaar of the Negative Zone, the mad emperor Vulcan, and even Warlock’s evil self, the Magus.

Ultimately, however, there would prove to be a challenge the team couldn’t survive — the combined threat of the Cancerverse, a corrupt universe filled with twisted versions of the classic Marvel heroes controlled by horrifying Lovecraftian entities, allied with a resurrected Thanos, Marvel’s deadliest cosmic villain (and the surprise guest star of this summer’s “Avengers” film). Both Star-Lord and Drax seemingly perished in the ensuing conflict, as chronicled in the pages of the Thanos Imperative miniseries, leaving the surviving team members to disband.

The Abnett/Lanning Guardians series lasted 25 issues (plus related miniseries), and the duo have since moved on to other projects, with writer Brian Bendis currently picking up the Guardians’ story in the pages of his new Avengers Assemble series — which, inspired by the “Avengers” film, has the Guardians and the Avengers teaming up to once again confront the threat of Thanos. Although Abnett and Lanning no longer have anything to do with the franchise, they did issue a statement declaring themselves “excited” to see their incarnation of the team slated for the big screen, and eager to see the film. They also acknowledged the work of previous creators on Marvel’s cosmic characters, saying in part, “We owe a huge debt of thanks to the great stories of our predecessors, in particular, Jim Starlin and Keith Giffen, these guys are the giants on whom we stood.”

In the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at the individual Guardians, their allies, foes, and the adventures they’ve experienced along the way — as well as how these elements may fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Stay tuned for more cosmic action!

Which characters would you most like to see in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!