It's hard to imagine these days with their second movie on the way and Peter Quill's abs liberally splayed across comic pages, but there was a time not long ago when the Guardians of the Galaxy were just a no-name, has-been Marvel team.
Image: Marvel Comics. Art by Paul Pelletier, Rick Magyar and Nathan Fairbairn.
That changed with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's decision to revive the team in 2008, and we have an exclusive look at a new book that covers how the team that eventually formed the basis of the smash-hit movie came to be.
Released today form Insight Editions, Marc Sumerak's Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating Marvel's Spacefaring Super Heroes charts the history of the team, from their origins in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes to their revival in 2008, and on to their roles as high-flying, big-name Marvel legends in both the comics and on the silver screen today. It features a ton of art as well as new interviews with the creative teams that have worked on the Guardians over the years, and if you're looking for something from the Marvel cosmic to read while you wait for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to hit theatres, this is an excellent choice.
Check out our exclusive look at the book below. It covers the moment Marvel decided to bring the Guardians of the Galaxy back after the success of Abnett and Lanning's Annihilation: Conquest miniseries — and how the book that would go on to inspire the team members and framework of James Gunn's 2014 film was nearly going to be a solo series about Phyla-Vell, the new Quasar, instead. Don't forget to open the images in a new tab to see them at their highest resolution. You can also read an extract from the included pages below.
IN THE FALLOUT of Annihilation: Conquest, Marvel's cosmic universe was clearly in desperate need of protectors. But if things had gone as originally planned, the Guardians of the Galaxy as we know them today might never have blasted their way onto the page. At first, it was Phyla-Vell — the newest hero to don the mantle of Quasar — who was supposed to take center stage after the crossover.
"Our intention was to launch Quasar out of Conquest, but that wasn't working," says Bill Rosemann. "I saw how people were responding to [Star-Lord's team], and it was my favourite part of the whole event. I thought, I want more of this. So then the gears shifted. We were going to try to launch Quasar? No — let's do a team book."
Fortunately, the groundwork for the team who would soon become known as the Guardians of the Galaxy was already solidly in place.
"The construction of the team, their remit, and their purpose all grew organically out of the Annihilation: Conquest event," says Dan Abnett. "Them becoming a team made sense, like the best comic stories do. And I think combining those 'forgotten' characters into one unit, where they could act off each other, strengthened them all."
And it wasn't just the characters that made for a strong team. Rosemann brought in the masterminds of Annihilation: Conquest, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, to write the group's continued adventures as they spun into their own monthly title. In addition, Paul Pelletier, who had been drawing Abnett and Lanning's Nova series, was tapped as penciller for the new series.
"No one draws super heroes and super heroic action like Paul," says Lanning. "Having him on board gave the book the best start it could have."
Artist Clint Langley, who was known for his work on 2000 AD and Warhammer Monthly, was also brought on board to provide covers for the project.
"Clint's approach was not what you'd consider traditional for Marvel Comics," says Lanning. "It paid off because Clint's covers were distinctive, exploding with energy and vibrant detail. They caught the eye and demanded you take a look inside the book!"
With the creative team in place, the next step was to find the visual identity of the characters themselves. During Conquest, members of Quill's squad had donned matching jumpsuits for their mission, a design element that Pelletier carried over to the new series.
"It was a natural extension of the designs Tim Green created in the Conquest: Starlord miniseries," says Lanning. "That was where Peter's signature mask first appeared and the team he put together wore the first version of the uniform."
"It made sense to give the team some visual unity," says Abnett, "because they were such a motley bunch. I think it really helped sell them as a unit."
That unit also needed a base of operations, and an ideal option was already appearing in Abnett and Lanning's Nova series: Knowhere, a deep-space observation station that just happened to be built inside the head of a dead Celestial.
"That was just one of those weird ideas that cropped up and became too cool not to use," says Lanning. "The idea that people could inhabit the decapitated head of a cosmic god was irresistible, as was the notion that it was being used as an intergalactic scientific outpost to observe the very edge of the known universe, kind of like a Marvel Cosmic International Space Station."
The heroes may have had matching uniforms and a place to call home, but the group's roster was far from stable. More than a dozen cosmic heroes would rotate through the ranks over the course of the new Guardians of the Galaxy series, but a few members always seemed to be at the team's core.
"Peter [Quill] was the heart of the team," says Lanning, "along with Rocket and Groot and Mantis, acting as team liaison. We filled out the team with other characters that were featured during Conquest — Warlock, Drax, and Quasar — so we could continue their stories and create a team that was diverse, eclectic, and decidedly 'motley'!"
Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating Marvel's Spacefaring Super Heroes is available now.