Vance Astro…a man thrown out of his own time and wakes up in a future that is laughing at his misfortune. Charlie-27…the last of the Jupiter colony that is built to survive the heavy gravity pull. Yondu…an inhabitant of Centauri IV and a master of the bow and Yaka arrow. Martinex…a genetically engineered scientist built to survive on Pluto. The four survivors find themselves tied together as the Badoon overtake Earth and its colonies in the 31st Century and find that they are Earth’s last chance for survival as the Guardians of the Galaxy!
I grew up in the time of Star Wars and loved Star Wars odd characters the most. With all the eccentricity of the cantina scene, Guardians of the Galaxy was a weird group of heroes in a small comic…it would be years before I encountered them. The team of four first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes (Volume 1) #18 in January 1969 but failed to make a big splash like many of Marvel’s other characters. The team was damned to small guest appearances in comics like Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One.
In Defenders (Volume 1) Giant-Size #5 (July 1975), the Guardians came back to modern day Earth (gaining Starhawk…and Aleta) and in turn spun their Defenders mini-run in Defenders (1) #26-29 (July 1975-November 1975) into their own series. The Guardians took over Marvel Presents with Marvel Presents #3 (February 1976). The series previously had featured Bloodstone who also just couldn’t get an audience and the Guardians didn’t fare much better. After Marvel Presents #12 (August 1977) (and the addition of Nikki…the last survivor of Mercury), Marvel Presents ended along with the Guardians hope of becoming big.
The Guardians next big opportunity was the Korvac storyline in The Avengers. In Avengers (Volume 1) #167-177 (January 1978-November 1978), the Guardians travelled back in time to stop Korvac from reshaping the Earth to his design. This storyline had the Guardians living in space above modern day Earth and officially creating a parallel timeline with Vance Astrovik trying to contact his younger version of himself in Marvel Two-In-One #69 (November 1980). The younger Vance went on to become Marvel Boy (then Justice) and helped lead the New Warriors.
The ’90s gave the Guardians their first real chance. Comics were exploding and this was the first time I was able to get ahold of the Guardians in their own series (I was already aware of them at this point). Guardians of the Galaxy brought the team back in their own self-titled series written and illustrated by Jim Valentino. This was the sister series of New Warriors which featured Vance’s other self Marvel Boy and really allowed the Guardians to have personality. The comic was a dirty pleasure and banked heavily on soap opera like relationships and space battles. You had weird stories like Starhawk (who shared his body with his wife Aleta) and Aleta’s relationship with Vance. The series provided lots of modernized characters in the 31st Century like Firelord, Ghost Rider (Spirit of Vengeance), Mainframe (Vision), Wonder Man (Hollywood), and descendants of characters like Wolverine (Rancor) and the Tony Stark worshipers simply called The Stark. This comic had me going back and getting almost all of the Guardians original appearances.
Ultimately, the writing on Guardians of the Galaxy went down the tube and like so many comics from this time, it had a rather unceremonious ending with Guardians of the Galaxy (1) #62 (July 1995) just as I was ending high school. I however was already hooked on the Guardians and very sad to see them go. I generally don’t like space comics, but something about the Guardians clicked with me and the group rapidly became one of my favorite teams of all time.
Enter: Annihilation! Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett were crafting some of the best space comics and managing to have big events in them without throwing off the flow of the individual storylines (something that few comics can do today and I think is killing the comic book market). Abnett and Lanning introduced a new team of Guardians of the Galaxy into the modern day universe.
Despite shelving the original team (minus Vance Astro who was discovered and rejoined…under the horrible Major Victory name given to him in the original G of G series), I rather enjoyed the relatively obscure team of heroes that were assembled and despite not being on the radar of most readers, I already head almost all of their first appearances. Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon both first appeared in Marvel’s magazines from the ’70s Marvel Preview #4 (January 1976) and Marvel Preview #7 (Summer 1976). Gamora, Drax, and Warlock appeared as Thanos enemies in Strange Tales (1) #180 (June 1975), Iron Man (1) #55 (February 1973), and Fantastic Four (1) #66 (September 1967) respectively, but made names for themselves in the ‘’90s with The Infinity Gauntlet. Lanning and Abnett also added characters like Bug from the Micronauts, Martyr (the former Captain Marvel), Moondragon, the team hating Jack Flag, Mantis, and Moondragon…and it lead to an enjoyable team.
Unfortunately, this comic ended as well and the team was kind of disbanded, but then rumors of a movie begin to stir. With such an absurd concept, I questioned if a movie really could happen and if it would be any good if it did. It turns out that the Guardians of the Galaxy were going to factor in large to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a big screen movie was going to happen with the new team instead of the traditional team…this was a bit sad since I had a love for the old characters.
With the movie in production, a comic relaunch by Brian Michael Bendis (who I think killed The Avengers comic) hit the shelves and reused the Abnett/Lanning team with the addition of Iron Man (who does not work well with the team). The only interesting thing about the new Guardians of the Galaxy team is the addition of Angela, the character created by Neil Gaiman who first appeared in Spawn. With tons of crossover messing with the flow, this is the first Guardians of the Galaxy comic that didn’t work for me.
All of my likes and fears culminated in Guardians of the Galaxy which was released on August 1, 2014. The movie could have crashed and burned but instead was a smart film with a great tone. They did wreck my favorite Guardian however by making Yondu a backwater hick, tough guy alien with a teeny-tiny Mohawk…but he did have a cool modernized Yaka arrow.
Where will the Guardians go from here? I love the characters and a sequel and cartoon TV series does leave the idea open for more original characters to appear. I hope I get a Nikki and Charlie-27 in the future or even a Starhawk. I’m guessing we’re going to get a Warlock at some point (and one of the candidates for Star-Lord’s mystery father)…maybe Howard the Duck who cameoed in the movie will even get a return sometime. Whatever happens to the Guardians of the Galaxy, I’ll be watching!