Note: For a cut-out scorecard for the Uninitiated scroll down to the bottom. Otherwise, read on!
Comic book movies make money, in most cases they make a lot of money. We’re talking money of Uncle Scrooge McDuck proportions. If you had the kind of money a comic book movie generates, you could swim around in a money bin full of gold coins. You’d probably get pink eye though. Who knows where that money has been? Gross.
Now that Hollywood has been making so much money off of the comic book films, it makes sense that EVERY DAMN CHARACTER WILL GET THEIR OWN MOVIE! Well, maybe not every character, but some titles and characters that are obscure to the average movie goer are going to find a home at the Box Office nearest you. As far as movie rights, the Marvel characters are tied up in weird and somewhat unprecedented legal red tape that creates rather interesting situations. (Well interesting for I, the Nerd of Mass Distraction) You see, the film rights for the Marvel Characters aren’t all held by Marvel Studios (A branch of Disney, with some initial co-operation by Paramount Studios). The rights to various Superheroes and their related characters are held by different studios.
20th Century Fox has the rights for: All X-Men related characters (X-men, X-Force, X-Factor, X-Babies), The Silver Surfer, All Fantastic Four related Characters and Scarlet Witch and Quick Silver (They’re X-Men related, but remember their names because that’s where things get weird….)
Sony Pictures has the rights for: Spider-Man and all Spider-Man related characters (Sinister Six, Morbius the living Vampire, Venom and Spider-Ham…oh, he’s real.)
Marvel Studios holds the rights to: Well, everything else. Any character not held by Fox or Sony is fair game for Marvel Studios. Here comes the weird part….Since Marvel Studios holds the rights to the Avengers and Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were in the Avengers in early issues of the comics, both Fox and Marvel hold the rights. So that’s why we saw Quicksilver in X-Men Days of Future Past (Fox) and SPOILER>>>>>>>>>> That is why Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were in the post credit scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios).
While confusing, all of this film rights mess is actually a good thing. If Marvel Studios had the rights to all of the big franchises like Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four, they would never make films about the more obscure characters like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
For that, I am thankful for all the legal red tape because I have loved the Guardians of the Galaxy since I was a kid. Although, that’s where things become a little confusing. The Guardians that I used to read in the 90’s are very different from the Guardians of today. In fact, there are actually three majorly different incarnations of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Future Guardians
The Original team of Guardians of the Galaxy actually began way back in 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes issue 18. The book was essentially Marvel’s version of DC’s Legion of Super Heroes, the stories were set 1,000 years in the future. The original stories featured:
The original team popped in and out of specials one shot books and sort of faded into obscurity. They did not get their own book until 1990 when Writer/Artist Jim Valentino launched the first issue of Guardians of the Galaxy just 21 years after their debut.
I loved the 90’s book because it really embraced the roots of Marvel History. Jim Valentino and crew seemed to have a lot of fun with the idea of these characters living in the future of the Marvel universe. Major Victory used Captain America’s shield. There was an alien version of Dr. Strange. Wolverine had feral, warrior descendant named Rancor who searched for his adamantium skeleton. The Vision had evolved from an android to become Mainframe, a planet sized Artificial Intelligence. Wonderman (Simon Williams) had become an immortal hero known as Hollywood and went on to form a spin-off team, the Galactic Guardians. A cult of Punisher obsessed maniacs roam New York killing everyone in their path. Perhaps one of the coolest homages in the 90’s book were the Stark, an alien race who worshiped Iron Man and Tony Stark. The book went on for 62 issues and the characters pretty much vanished.
The Annihilation Wave Guardians
In 2007 Marvel launched a sequel to their popular science fiction epic, Annihilation called Annihilation: Conquest. The book created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning gave us the new incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. This team was a ragtag group of cosmic heroes all brought together to defeat the threat of the Phalanx, an alien race of robot like beings whom assimilate organic life into cyber beings. (Pretty much a rip off of the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation). Unlike the original team, the adventures of this group were based in the contemporary Marvel Universe. After defeating the Phalanx, Star Lord gathered the team together to create a force that stops threats before they even have a chance to start. The book debuted in 2008. This new team featured:
The stories were very fun, cosmic tales about a team of losers who shouldn’t even be working together. The team dynamic was fun and structured very well. Rocket Raccoon was the wisecracking wacky guy, Groot was the strong silent type (And sort of served as Rocket’s closest friend, he kept him in a flower pot for a portion of the story) Drax and Gamora were the distant warriors who were trying to reconnect with their all but lost compassionate sides, Adam Warlock was the world (Universe) weary traveler who was sort of crotchety and upset that not everyone knew as much as he did, Quasar was the fresh hero who was trying to live up to the legacy of her slain predecessor and Star Lord was the reluctant leader trying to bring all of these unstable forces together for the greater good. The stories had a military vibe to them and read like a cosmic version of Kelly’s Heroes.
The book went on for 25 issues and actually inspired Marvel Studios to get the production rolling for a film version. As the film was being produced, Marvel had a problem…there was not a Guardians of the Galaxy comic on the shelves to amp up publicity for the movie. So, Brian Michael Bendis and Steve Mcniven launched a third volume.
Marvel Now! Guardians
As part of the Marvel Now! relaunch of books (Marvel took almost all their comics, canceled the current runs and re-launched every issue as a new #1 ) the newest incarnation of the Guardians pretty much featured the movie line up of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, Gamora, and Groot. While the new book is still a pretty good and enjoyable read, it is pretty much just a tie in for the movie, existing to build early interest in the movie.
And now a quick scorecard for the uninitiated (Print this, cut it out and bring it to the movie):
The Good Guys:
Star Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldona), Rocket Raccoon (Voice of Bradley Cooper), Groot (Voice of Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista)
The Bad Guys:
Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace): The deadly, near indestructible enforcer for the Kree Alien race.
Thanos (Josh Brolin): An alien being from Titan whom is obsessed with death and seeks to destroy half the universe…you may recognize him from the end of the Avengers movie where he flashes a terrifying smile of evil.
Yondu (Michael Rooker): One of the original Guardians of the Galaxy in the comic books, this version of Yondu is more of a greedy, manipulative bounty hunter. He is more of an Anti-hero and may actually be on the side of good in the end.
Nebula (Karen Gillian): The cosmic powered step-daugher of Thanos.
Nova Corp: A military organization that polices the galaxy, using Nova officers such as Corpsman Dey (John C. Reilly) and Nova Prime (Glenn Close). In the comics, Corpsman Dey comes to Earth and trains Richard Ryder, a young man who eventually becomes Earth’s Nova. Richard Ryder is rumored to play a role in the movie, at least in a cameo. Look for the Nova Corp to play a big part in this and future movies.
Quasar: The female version of Quasar was a member of the 2nd incarnation of the comic book guardians and there is a rumor that her predecessor, Shield Agent Wendel Vaughn will play a role in the Marvel Movies. Perhaps he will have a cameo here….
The Collector (Benicio Del Toro): A strange alien who is collecting powerful cosmic artifacts. He was featured at the end of the Thor: The Dark World film. In that movie, the Collector comments on gathering “Infinity stones”. In the comics, Thanos gathers infinity gems and uses them to power the infinity gauntlet which he uses to wipe out half the universe.
The Kree: A race of technologically advanced warrior aliens, the Kree have a strange hierarchy led by the Supreme Intelligence, a giant green alien head floating in a massive tank. The super hero Captain Mar-Vel was a former Kree warrior turned protector of Earth. He would later empower Carol Danvers who would become Ms. Marvel.
The Knowhere: A strange massive headquarters for the Guardians of the Galaxy that is in the nexus of multiple realities. The headquarters is more than a space station it is actually the giant head of a dead cosmic being called a Celestial. It is rumored that the Knowhere will be featured in the film.
Howard the Duck: There is a rumor going around that the humanoid Duck from another universe is going to have a cameo. While the Howard the Duck movie is universally hated….I really liked it when it came out. I was just a kid though when I last saw it. I opened with Scrooge and I am closing with Howard….
As you can see, the Guardians have a really rich history and this movie could draw on that and either be really great….or it could forsake its comic book roots and just be terrible. From everything we’ve seen, it looks to be a fun homage to the comics. I’ll give a review when I watch the film tomorrow. Let me know what you think.
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