Nova Corps: A Comic Book History

by Brett White

Pretty much out of nowhere, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” cast has expanded to include not one, not two, but (possibly) three members of Marvel Comics’ intergalactic force of space cops: the Nova Corps. In addition to the actual members of the Guardians, the cast now includes Academy Award nominees Glenn Close and John C. Reilly, who are reportedly fulfilling roles similar to that of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury and Phil Coulson for the Nova Corps. In addition to that comes news that Lee Pace’s character isn’t the main antagonist like originally thought, but will most likely end up being a hero with spin-off possibilities. We have a hunch that this means Pace is playing Nova, Earth’s representative in the Corps.

But who are the Nova Corps and how do they fit into the Marvel Universe? Here’s a history of the Nova Corps’ role in Marvel Comics.


The concept of the Nova Corps was created by legendary writer Marv Wolfman. The first member of the Corps, Earth’s own Richard Rider, debuted in “Nova” #1 in 1976. The full Corps followed three years later, debuting in “Fantastic Four” #208.

The Nova Corps were combination space police and explorers, hailing from the planet Xandar. The Corps consisted of 500 soldiers of various species and homeworlds all ranging in rank from Corpsman to Centurion. The soldiers all tapped into the power known as the Nova Force, a limitless energy reserve created by Xandar’s living computer called the Xandarian Worldmind.

The Nova Force granted Corps members a number of powers, the strength of which being determined by the Corps members’ rank. The powers include super strength and speed, as well as flight, invulnerability, energy manipulation and the ability to open stargates. Each soldier also had access to Xandarian databases and navigational charts to help with their patrolling and general fighting of evil.

You’ll notice that everything up top is in the past tense; that’s because even though protecting Xandar happens to be one of the Nova Corps’ primary functions, Xandar and the Corps have been destroyed on three separate occasions. Once by the Zorr in 1979’s “Nova” #25, then again by Nebula in 1985’s “Avengers” #257, and most recently by the Annihilation wave during 2006’s “Annihilation” event. Following the recent annihilation of the Nova Corps and Xandar, the entirety of the Nova Force and Xandarian Worldmind were shoved inside the mind and body of the last remaining Centurion: Earth’s Richard Rider.

Rider had been a member of the Nova Corps for 30 years at that point (which is like, about a decade-ish in comic book years), but the newfound power proved to be something he had to adjust to, despite his extensive experience. Nova personally defeated Annihilus, the master of the Annihilation wave and then patrolled the cosmos as the Nova Corps slowly rebuilt itself. Rider seemingly met his end sacrificing himself alongside Star-Lord to kill Thanos. Rider’s sacrifice also included the sacrifice of the Nova Force, seemingly ending the Corps again. Comics being comics, though, both Star-Lord and Thanos have shown up alive and well within the past year and currently star in their own monthly comics. Richard Rider is nowhere in sight.

The current Nova, starring in Marvel’s monthly “Nova” series, is Sam Alexander, the teenage son of former Black Nova Jesse Alexander. It’s been revealed that the Black Novas existed within the ranks of the Nova Corps as a covert ops division. Now Sam Alexander uses the Nova Force as Earth’s (and possibly the universe’s) sole Nova.

Considering Lee Pace’s age, it’s more likely he’ll be playing Richard Rider and not an aged-up Sam Alexander. As for Glenn Close, if she’s the head of the Nova Corps then she will have to hold the title of Nova Prime. The title has been held by characters named Malik Tarcel, Tanak Valt, Rhomann Dey and Garthan Saal, all of whom are men. A genderswap would be welcome in this case, but Close could be playing a totally new character. Reilly has already been linked to Rhomann Dey, who held the title Nova Prime and selected Richard Rider as a Nova back in 1976’s “Nova” #1. That’s a pretty important character, meaning that Reilly could have a larger role than we think.

With “Guardians of the Galaxy” now including the Nova Corps, this movie just got a whole lot bigger.

Which Nova Corps members would you like to see in “Guardians of the Galaxy”? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter!