Welcome to “Before You Go,” the sometimes column where I unveil the secret origins behind whatever big-budget nerd movie is opening tomorrow.
When you first heard the next Marvel Studios movie was going to be “Guardians of the Galaxy,” your reaction was probably: “Who of the What?”
You are not alone. I’ve been reading Marvel Comics for around 40 years and like most comic fans I’ve had little interest in the Guardians of the Galaxy before the movie announcement. I first encountered them in the ’70s in an issue of “The Defenders.” These Guardians, created in 1969 by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, bear no resemblance to the characters coming tomorrow to a theater near you.
The original Guardians were from the 31st Century caught up in an interstellar war with lizard-like aliens called The Badoon. The team initially consisted of Vance Astro of Earth, Martinex of Pluto, Charlie 27 of Jupiter and Yondu of Centauri-IV.
Yondu is the only original Guardian to appear in the film and the only thing the movie version has in common with the comic version is blue skin and a preference for the arrow as a weapon. It’s comforting to know that even in the 31st Century people are still fighting evil with bow and arrow.
The Guardians made several visits to the past –our present — to have adventures with the modern Marvel superheroes. They play a key role in one of the great Avengers stories of the ’70s. The Guardians were given their own series in the ’90s which ran for 62 issues.
In the 2000s, Marvel published a number of comics set in the “cosmic” sector of the Marvel Universe — in other words, way outside New York City.
One of those comics was a complete revamping of Guardians of the Galaxy. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning put together this new team from some of Marvel’s more oddball space characters — Star-Lord, Adam Warlock, Quasar, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer and Groot. Warlock and Quasar did not make the cut when Hollywood came calling.
Now I know what you’re thinking: This is like X-Men, yes? The original book wasn’t that popular and was eventually canceled, then they rebooted it with an “all new, all different” team and it went on to become Marvel’s most popular comic. That’s what happened with Guardians, right?
No. Not at all.
Guardians 2.0 lasted a whopping 25 issues before being canceled. The moral of the story, however, is that you don’t need thousands of fans to get a movie deal, you only need one. Provided that one is Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios.
Feige saw something in GotG that few others did, and put the team in Marvel’s movie lineup, which brings us to where we are now. Was it a good call? We’ll know shortly.
Meanwhile, in the time leading up to getting the film off the ground, Marvel has gone all out to promote the new Guardians — putting them in the “Ultimate Spider-Man” and “Avengers Assemble” cartoons, video games and toys. A third volume of the Guardians comic book was released last year and seems to be doing pretty good — for now.
And that’s all you need to know — before you go.