The origins of Marvel’s strangest superheroes

2014-08-07 00:00

GUARDIANS of the Galaxy is the most untested and most uncertain property yet to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Perhaps that’s why the studio has been blasting a veritable onslaught of promotional material in anticipation of the film’s August 1 theatrical release.

With all of those trailers, teasers, promotional images and behind-the-scenes videos, most are probably aware of the movie, but do they really know anything about it? A talking raccoon and a tree that only says: “I am Groot.” It’s pretty weird stuff, but it’s developed a huge following in the comics community.

What many fans may not know, though, is that most of the characters in the film have been around for decades in the pages of Marvel Comics, even though they didn’t come together as the Guardians of the Galaxy until 2008. Prior to that “GotG” was the name of a group of crimefighters in the 31st century of an alternate Marvel universe.

This version is way more fun.

Following is a quick primer for new and old fans alike, giving some background on the various characters that make up the larger Marvel Universe as shown in the Guardians of the Galaxy film. While there are no intended spoilers for the film, there are plenty of spoilers for comic book storylines. Proceed with caution.

• Star-Lord aka Peter Quill

First appearance: Marvel Preview #4 (1976)

Portrayed by: Chris Pratt

Peter Quill is the product of a human-alien liaison, growing up on Earth. The only relic he has of his alien father is his gun. After his mother is killed by an alien race, the Badoon, Peter is on his own. He takes on the Herald of the world-eater Galactus and winds up in an intergalactic prison. He is freed by Nova and takes part in a war against the evil villain Annihilus. He decides to form a new version of the Guardians of the Galaxy to take a pro-active stance against emerging galactic threats.

• Gamora

First appearance: Strange Tales #180 (1975)

Portrayed by: Zoe Saldana

The last of her people, Gamora’s entire species is exterminated by the Badoon. The intergalactic being Thanos finds her and raises her to be a weapon. She becomes proficient in martial arts, but is unable to stop a vicious attack by a group of teenage thugs on an alien planet. After this sexual assault, Thanos cybernetically enhances her. She eventually turns on Thanos, helping Drax the Destroyer and others in stopping his attempts to destroy all life in the universe. She joins in the Annihilation War, falling into a relationship with Nova, who later saves her from a Phalanx assimilation (think Star Trek’s Borg). Afterwards, she joins up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, still suffering from Phalanx hive-mind withdrawals.

• Drax the Destroyer aka Arthur Sampson Douglas

First appearance: Iron Man #55 (1973)

Portrayed by: Dave Bautista

Originally human, Arthur’s family was attacked and killed by Thanos, or so he thinks. His daughter survives and becomes the telepathic sometimes-villain Moondragon. An alien being named Kronos takes Arthur’s spirit and places it into a more powerful new body, and thus Drax the Destroyer is created. He has super-strength and resilience, and his sole purpose is to kill Thanos. Drax trains the last surviving member of the Nova Corps during the Annihilation War. He is later recruited by Star-Lord to join the new Guardians of the Galaxy.

• Rocket Raccoon

First appearance: Marvel Preview #7 (1976)

Portrayed by: Bradley Cooper (voice)

Rocket’s homeworld is Halfworld, an abandoned colony for the mentally ill. There, animal companions are genetically enhanced to become caretakers for the inmates. He was Halfworld’s chief ranger, protecting the entire colony. After he and his friends cured the inhabitants of their insanity, they set off on adventure. He is chosen to fight alongside Star-Lord again- st the Phalanx because of his tactical prow-ess. Shortly thereafter, he agrees to join Star-Lord’s new Guardians of the Galaxy.

• Groot

First appearance: Tales to Astonish #13 (1960)

Portrayed by: Vin Diesel (Voice)

“I am Groot.” The only words this alien tree-like creature ever speaks, and yet Rocket Raccoon understands him perfectly. Originally created as a monster seeking to capture humans for experimentation, Groot is reimagined as a more heroic figure. On a planet of tree-like beings, Groot is ostracised for caring about mammals. Found arrested by the Kree alien race for mysterious reasons, Groot is freed and joins Star-Lord in the battle against Annihilus. It is there that he begins his deep friendship with Rocket. He nearly dies, but survives as a sapling which has to be nurtured to maturity in a pot. During this time he joins the Guardians, alongside Rocket.

• Ronan the Accuser

First appearance: Fantastic Four #65 (1967)

Portrayed by: Lee Pace

Appointed Supreme Accuser of the Kree Empire, Ronan is the first of his race to venture to Earth. After defeat at the hands of the Fantastic Four, the Kree becomes constant thorns in the side of the Earth-based superhero population. He defends the Kree Empire during the Annihilation War, and winds up as its ruler.

• Nebula

First appearance: Avengers #257 (1985)

Portrayed by: Karen Gillan

A space pirate and mercenary who seizes control of Thanos’s ship, claiming that he is her grandfather. Insulted by her claims, Thanos nearly kills her, regaining control of her ship and leaving her a burnt and disfigured undead figure. She is able to recover her life, but is later converted into a cyborg. In the Annihilation War, she battles as one of Gamora’s followers, taking on Ronan the Accuser.

• Korath the Pursuer

First appearance: Quasar #32 (1992)

Portrayed by: Djimon Hounsou

An agent of the Kree Empire, Korath is a cyber-geneticist. He gains superhuman powers using cyber-genetic technology he designs. He has attacked the Avengers and faced off against Captain America individually. He becomes assimilated into the Phalanx shortly after reuniting with Ronan the Accuser.

• Yondu

First appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (1969)

Portrayed by: Michael Rooker

A founding member of the original future-based Guardians of the Galaxy, which was created to battle the Badoon, Yondu is a primitive being on the first planet colonised by humans with inherent empathic powers. He has a special bow that shoots sound-sensitive arrows that can change direction in response to certain whistles.

• The Collector aka Taneleer Tivan

First appearance: Avengers #28 (1966)

Portrayed by: Benicio del Toro

One of the Elders of the Universe, the Collector is billions of years old. He has spent countless years maintaining his hobby — collecting interesting artifacts and life forms from around the universe. Using the power of prophecy, he is able to foresee the threat that Thanos would be for the Elders. He has had several run-ins with other Marvel heroes.

• The Nova Corps

First appearance: Fantastic Four #204 (1979)

Portrayed by: Glenn Close (Nova Prime Irani Rael), John C. Reilly (Rhomann Dey), Peter Serafinowicz (Denarian Saal), others

A space militia from the planet Xandar, Nova Corps is powered by the Nova Force generated by a living computer, the Worldmind. They are defenders of Xandar primarily, but they often aid in other galactic wars and battles, serving as a peacekeeping force. The Nova Corps has been destroyed multiple times, but always manages to recover and return.

• Thanos

First appearance: Iron Man #55 (1973)

Portrayed by: Josh Brolin (performance capture, voice)

Born on Saturn’s moon Titan, Thanos grows up a pacifist. By adolescence, though, he becomes drawn to darker things, eventually falls in love with the physical embodiment of death. To impress her, he kills millions of his own race. Always seeking more power, Thanos makes his way to Earth, where he inadvertently aids in the creation of Drax the Destroyer. Throughout the years he has battled against and alongside the heroes of Earth and the Marvel Universe, becoming one of its most prominent characters. He aligns with Annihilus during the Annihilation War out of which springs the Guardians of the Galaxy.

— Reuters.

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