I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited and as scared at the same time as I am for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Not just because the movie so far has all the elements in place to be a flying touchdown of awesomeness that raises a jubilant middle finger to the notion that you just can’t translate some things to film, but because it could just as easily be an unholy disaster that completely validates that same notion.
No mistake, Guardians is Marvel’s riskiest project to date, not just because of the subject matter, but also because…who the fuck are the Guardians of the Galaxy? People say Iron Man was an obscure character before his own breakout movie, but there’s obscure and then there’s being obscure, and the Guardians are definitely that second, bolder one.
Even to casual comic fans, a cursory glance at the few pieces of art, production stills or that 30 seconds of glorious comic con footage you can find on YouTube if you look really hard often yields more confusion than anything else. Who are these people? What’s going on? Is that a raccoon?
Well, as always, consider me your tour guide to this strange new cinematic world about to be unleashed upon us like a cenobite on an unwary occult/S&M freak. Just how much director James Gunn has changed most of the characters that make up the world of Guardians is still largely unknown, but assuming they bear at least -some- resemblance to their comic counterparts, this helpful rundown should make things less confusing.
Short version: Space adventurer with bitchin’ mask
Long version: Star-Lord, real name Peter Quill, was first introduced in the 1970s as a space-faring adventurer in the mold on Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. A Human/Alien hybrid (though, for all intents and purposes, functionally human), Quill spent some time living the dream of bombing around space having daring space adventures and wooing the occasional space princess, before an encounter with a character called The Fallen (who would take waaaay too long to explain here) caused him to renounce the Star-Lord mantle and become imprisoned in a space jail called The Kyln.
Like almost every character in Guardians, Quill came back into the spotlight in the mid-2000s in a crossover event called Annihilation, Marvel’s successful attempt at relaunching the more space-centric side of its universe. After spending some time as plain ole Peter Quill, he finally re-assumed the name Star Lord, trading his original and pretty damn lame costume for a new, more military looking outfit and an awesome helmet/mask, only part of which is making it to the screen, because it’s apparently very necessary that we see Chris Pratt’s hair.
By all accounts, the film is playing Quill less as a daring space adventurer and more as a smart alec bumbler who -wants- to be a daring space adventurer, though hopefully not in a Lone Ranger or Green Hornet kind of way.
Drax the Destroyer
Short version: Muscle-y, green space man with a penchant for stabbing things
Long version: Ok, so remember that purple smiling guy at the end of Avengers? Ok, that guy’s Thanos, and the short version is he’s a big purple space despot. Not doing the long version on him. That’s basically half the damn column right there.
Drax was a normal human (with the much more boring name of Arthur Douglas) who, along with his family, was killed by Thanos and later remade into a being capable of killing Thanos by Thanos’ own father.
For reasons never properly explained, Drax got another makeover in the early 2000s, ditching his purple cape and skullcap for some knives and combat pants, because someone apparently saw Pitch Black and thought Marvel needed its own version of Riddick, just green and only marginally less interesting.
Short version: Sultry green space lady with a penchant for stabbing things
Long version: Gamora is the last surviving member of a species called the Zen Whoberi, taken in by Thanos and trained as his personal assassin after her race was exterminated by a species called The Badoon (or another group called the Universal Church of Truth, though that was later written out of continuity) and gaining the title of Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy.
Gamora actually has a fairly long and involved history, being a central player in writer Jim Starlin’s many space-centric Marvel comics in the 1970s and 80s, but like I keep saying we’re on limited time here. What you really need to know is that she’s basically Red Sonja in space, a sword-wielding, often skimpily dressed warrior princess type, who by the looks of things will be trading in the swords and swimsuits for much more sensible guns and outfits for the film.
Short version: Angry Space Tree. No, really.
Long version: Groot is actually the oldest character to appear in Guardians, originally appearing in 1960 as a villain in Tales to Astonish as The Monarch of Planet X, a fairly generic tree monster who menaced the Hulk once or twice before more or less being forgotten by everyone involved.
But, again, during the second Annihilation crossover event, Groot resurfaced as part of a covert commando team lead by Peter Quill, a team which would largely form the basis for the Guardians. For reasons that were never really explained, somewhere along the way Groot went from fairly eloquent to being mostly incapable of saying anything other than “I am Groot!” Vin Diesel recently signed up to voice Groot in the movie, though given that he’s played at least one mostly monosyllabic soft-hearted giant before, how varied his vocabulary will be in the film is still up in the air.
Short version: Gun toting space raccoon. No, really!
Long version: Rocket Raccoon, also called The Guardian of the Keystone Quadrant, is one of many genetically manipulated animals created as companions for the inmates of Halfworld, a colony planet partially used as a home for the mentally ill. Yeah, that’s his origin. He was basically created to be a small, fuzzy version of Nurse Ratched, but went on to serve as Halfworld’s sheriff before leaving to pursue a life as a space adventurer.
Alongside Groot, Rocket later reappeared as part of Peter Quill’s commando team during the second Annihilation crossover, proving himself to be a master tactician and heavy weapons expert. Ever play the Ratchet and Clank games? He’s like Ratchet, but with a personality more akin to Leonardo from the Ninja Turtles.
Rocket’s Origin will likely receive a huge overhaul for the movie, eliminating Halfworld and having Rockett be the result of someone else’s demented genetic tampering. But then again, director James Gunn has put crazier things on film, so you never know.