There have been near infinite roster changes to every major superhero team. The Avengers, the Justice League and even the Power Rangers have seen significant changes since their inception. The Guardians of the Galaxy are no different, seeing numerous character join or leave the team. Much like the other mainstays, the Guardians too have a core definitive lineup.
Many consider the first line up of a team to be the definitive version. The opposite is true with the Guardians. Originally, the team appeared in 1969’s Marvel Super-Heroes #18. Created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, the team consisted of Major Vance Astro, Charlie-27, Martinex and Yondu, each the last of their species, fighting the Badoon threat in the 31st century. This incarnation of the Guardians showed up from time to time, their lineup changing slightly. It wasn’t until 1990 that they received their own title written and drawn by Jim Valentino. The roster was the same, with a few additions.
Spilling out of Annihilation: Conquest in 2008, a new team was formed by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Unlike the previous version, this team was in present day Marvel, making it more of a definitive version. It’s this incarnation the 2014 movie takes its inspiration. While this team had the most members, the core group, thanks in part to the movie, are Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Racoon and Groot. All had middling to small roles in the Marvel Universe until being revitalized in Annihilation (2006).
Star-Lord, Peter Quill, is half-human and half-alien. His father, J’Son, before becoming the ruler of planet Spartax, crashed to earth. Quill’s mother, Meredith cared for him while healed. A year later he left, leaving her pregnant, and with a firearm. Ten years later, Badoons came to Earth, looking for J’Son. Using the gun, 10-year old Peter stopped them, though he lost his house and mother. The gun is known as the Elemental Gun, capable of projecting one of the four elements. Quill was created in 1976 by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan in Marvel Previews #4. He was mostly a small character.
Both Gamora and Drax are connected by a common element, Thanos. Gamora is Thanos’ adopted daughter. The last of her species, she was raised since birth by him to be an assassin (to kill the Magus, Adam Warlock’s evil personality… it’s a thing). She’s known as “the deadliest woman in the galaxy.” She first appeared in Stranges Tales #180, created by Jim Starlin. She had a prominent role in early 90’s space comics like Warlock and the Infinity Watch.
Drax the Destroyer was a human named Arthur Douglas, trapped in a body of a killing machine with one purpose, to kill Thanos. Arthur was driving with his family when their car was attacked by Thanos’ ship, who thought they saw him. Mentor, Thanos’ father captured Arthur’s spirit, putting it in a new body. Drax was a 1973 Jim Starlin creation, much like everyone else, appearing in early 90’s space comics along with Gamora. Drax’ original design was goofy, looking like a cross between the Hulk and Green Goblin. He’s introduction in Annihilation was via a prison ship crashing in Alaska. He’s seeming killed, emerging from the shell of his old body in a new, smarter one. His daughter, Heather, survived Thanos’ attack as was raised by Mentor, becoming Moondragon.
Groot and Rocket Raccoon round out the team, being inseparable allies. Groot was created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers in 1960. Originally a quickly defeated villain, Groot didn’t appear again until Annihilation. Groot is the prince of Planet X. Groot is only capable of saying “I am Groot,” though the other members of the team can understand him easily by his tone and inflections. As a tree, even if he’s destroyed, so long as a splinter survives, he can regrow his body.
Finally, we have Rocket Raccoon. Much like Groot, Rocket appeared early in Marvel’s history, in Marvel Preview #7, 1976, originally has Rocky Raccoon. Created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, his next claim to fame was a mini-series drawn by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. Oh, and don’t call him a Raccoon.
In 2013, Marvel relaunched the series three years after the Abnett and Lanning one was cancelled. This volume, written by Brian Michael Bendis (Avengers, House of M, Secret Invasion) primarily focused on these five, with no explanation as how half of them were alive after the last series ended. A few notable characters have cycled on and off the team, such as Iron Man, Captain Marvel and Agent Venom. Also included (deep breath) is Angela, the Neil Gaiman creations from early Spawn comics he wrote who after being reacquired via lawsuit was dumped in the Marvel Universe at the end of Age of Ultron and as per Original Sin is apparently Thor’s sister. Yep.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun team, free from many of the trappings of the normal Marvel Universe, safe in their own corner. Start with Annihilation, and read everything through The Thanos Imperative. You won’t be disappointed.
Which lineup is your favorite? Think the current version is meh? Comment below!
“I am Groot!”