Continuing our series of profiles of the characters who will star in the upcoming "Guardians of the Galaxy" feature film, this week we’re going to examine one of Marvel’s most enduring cosmic heroes, the relentless engine of destruction known as Drax The Destroyer.
Drax was created by writer/artist Jim Starlin in 1973’s Iron Man #55, the same issue that would introduce the death-worshipping villain Thanos, whose bid for godhood continued in the pages of Starlin’s epic run on Captain Marvel.
As revealed in Captain Marvel #31, Drax had once been been real estate agent Arthur Douglas, who while travelling with his family down a deserted Nevada highway had the misfortune of encountering one of Thanos’ scouting ships. Determined not to have his presence on Earth revealed until he was ready to unfold his plan, Thanos fired on the Douglas’ family car, killing Douglas and his wife, although their daughter escaped the wreckage, and would grow up to become the psychic warrior known as Moondragon (and also go on to join the Guardians). As Douglas’ soul was about to travel on to the next plane of existence, it was snatched by the cosmic Titan known as Chronos, who was aware of the threat Thanos posed, and sought a champion to oppose him. Douglas’ soul was infused into a new, indestructible body, and given a new identity as Drax The Destroyer, as well as a singular purpose in his existence: to destroy Thanos.
Thanos was destroyed in the ensuing conflict, though not by Drax’s hand, leaving Drax aimless and without a purpose in his life for a time. Eventually, he reconnected with his daughter Moondragon, and they travelled to the planet Ba-Banis together. Moondragon, in her arrogance, decided that her mental powers made her suited to rule over the planet for its own good, and she used them to completely dominate her subjects. Drax attempted to thwart her plans with the help of the Avengers, in 1982’s Avengers #219-221 by Jim Shooter and Bob Hall, but their confrontation ended tragically when Moondragon used her powers in a vicious telepathic assault on her father, causing him to experience death for the second time.
When Thanos returned to the land of the living in the run-up to the Infinity Gauntlet event, Chronos decided Drax would once again be needed to combat the Mad Titan, and in 1990’s Silver Surfer #35, by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim, his soul was restored to a new, more powerful form. Unfortunately, the effects of Moondragon’s psychic assault persisted, and this new incarnation of Drax was severely brain-damaged, possessing a childlike intellect, a temper to rival the Hulk’s, and no memory of his previous life, except for his obsession with Thanos. After Thanos’ defeat during the Infinity Gauntlet affair, Drax joined a number of future Guardians of the Galaxy, including Adam Warlock, Gamora, and Moondragon in the Infinity Watch, a group formed to safeguard the Infinity Gems which comprised the Infinity Gauntlet. He remained in his brain-damaged state throughout this time, serving as both the team’s powerhouse, with the added might of the Power Gem at his disposal, as well as its comic relief, due to his often buffoonish antics.
Chronos eventually attempted to restore Drax’s mental faculties, but it was not until 2005’s Drax The Destroyer miniseries, by Keith Giffen and Mitch Breitweiser, that Drax would see a lasting change in his status quo. Having been secured aboard a transport ship en route to the intergalactic prison known as the Kyln, due to his dangerous temper leading him into reckless actions, Drax was among several alien convicts who crash-landed on Earth when the ship’s systems failed. With his intelligence still at an infantile level, Drax drank the plasma spill from the ship’s singularity drive. This began to have strange effects on him, which were seemingly cut short with his murder at the hands of his fellow convicts. However, Drax would not stay dead for long, bursting forth from the shell of his old body into a new form, physically smaller and less powerful, but now with a cunning intellect, prowess in battle, and every bit of his old killer instinct. With the aid of a bizarre young Earth girl named Cammi, he quickly decimated the alien criminals, with the survivors, including Drax and Cammi, being swept up by a second ship sent by the Kyln.
Drax and Cammi eventually got caught up in the Annihilation War against the forces of the evil Annihilus, and were separated during the conflict, with Cammi going off into parts unknown, leading Drax into an ongoing and fruitless search for her. When yet another universal menace, in the form of the alien technological overlords known as the Phalanx, presented itself, Drax was among the heroes who fought them off, and was subsequently recruited by Star-Lord (profiled in last week’s Galaxy Guide) to join the Guardians of the Galaxy, a quick reaction force formed to prevent any more such cosmic threats from arising. Drax served with distinction with the Guardians, until Thanos reemerged once more, this time to aid the Guardians against the forces of the Cancerverse, an alternate dimension corrupted by bizarre demonic entities that possessed every living thing. Driven mad by the warped forces of the Cancerverse, Drax could no longer tolerate working side by side with Thanos and attempted to kill him, only to find himself destroyed at Thanos’ hands. Several other Guardians were also killed in the ensuing conflict with the forces of the Cancerverse, and the team was effectively at an end.
Most recently, however, the Guardians, including Drax, have resurfaced under as yet unexplained circumstances in the pages of Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley’s new Avengers Assemble series, once again confronting the threat of Thanos alongside the Avengers. Death and resurrection have been an essential part of Drax’s cycle since his inception, but with his forthcoming role in the big-screen adaptation of the Guardians, his time in the realm of the living this time around may be more than just an extended visit.
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