If there is one thing Marvel has proven time and again, it’s that they can take less well-known characters and turn them into box-office gold.
Even Iron Man — a fan favorite now, thanks in no small part to Robert Downey Jr. — was considered a B-grade hero before the 2008 movie established him as the snarky, wise-cracking heart of the Avengers universe.
Marvel’s amazing track record notwithstanding, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a gigantic risk for the studio. Where Iron Man, Captain America and Thor were at least familiar names (if not hugely popular), "Guardians of the Galaxy" was so obscure a property that even a lot of comic fans had to do a quick Google search when it was announced there would be a movie.
However, it’s a risk that looks like it's going to pay off in a big way. On the strength of the overwhelmingly positive buzz it’s gotten so far (including a ridiculously high Rotten Tomatoes rating), the studio just announced a sequel is in the works with director James Gunn set to return, as reported by Deadline.
With that in mind, here’s a brief introduction to Marvel’s newest superhero team, including its publication history and some of its major characters with the help of the Marvel Comics Database and Comic Vine.
Even though they’re not exactly well known, there has been a team called the Guardians of the Galaxy for a long, long time in Marvel comics. The original group bearing that name first appeared in “Marvel Super-Heroes” No. 18 way back in 1969.
The creation of writer Arnold Drake and artist Gene Colan, the Guardians belonged to an alternate timeline version of the 31st century where they were freedom fighters in a struggle against a genocidal race of aliens known as the Badoon.
Members were the last survivors of their race.
After several small appearances in other comics, the team finally got its own self-titled series in the early ‘90s, which saw them crossover with more established Marvel characters (via complicated time travel mechanics) like Captain America, Spider-Man and the Thing.
The original lineup created by Drake and Colan, however, was completely different than the version of the Guardians that shows up in the new movie.
As they first appeared, the roster was as follows:
Vance Astro (aka Major Victory): A human astronaut from the 20th century who spent a thousand years in suspended animation after volunteering for the first long-term interstellar space voyage to the Alpha Centauri system.
Charlie-27: A member of a human subspecies genetically engineered to withstand the conditions of Jupiter.
Martinex T’Naga: A scientist from Pluto with organic crystalline skin that protects him from the low temperatures of his home world.
Yondu Udonta: A blue-skinned, Mohawk-sporting alien warrior from Centauri IV.
Several other, equally obscure heroes, with names like Starhawk and Hollywood, the Man of Wonder, were added to the lineup over the years.
Of all the original team members, though, Yondu is the only one to pop up in in the new movie — albeit in a substantially rewritten form — played by Michael Rooker of “The Walking Dead” fame.
(Keep an eye out for how the filmmakers updated Yondu’s weapon of choice, a bow and arrow made of a sound-sensitive metal called Yaka.)
Four decades after they first appeared in print, the Guardians of the Galaxy got a massive overhaul courtesy of writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.
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