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Why Guardians of the Galaxy Has Captured Our Hearts: Saying Goodbye to Our Beloved Heroes

Guardians of the Galaxy: from misunderstood comic book characters to movie superheroes

Why Guardians of the Galaxy Has Captured Our Hearts: Saying Goodbye to Our Beloved Heroes
Álvaro Arbonés

Álvaro Arbonés

The cycle of life is inevitable. Fashions come to an end. Living things pass away. Even franchises we all love need to end, or at least take a break. So while it may be disappointing to many, the end of Guardians of the Galaxy is here. And while it’s true that if there’s one thing the comics and the MCU have shown us, it’s that you never say this story is over or this character is already dead, it’s not a bad time to reminisce about everything the franchise is so beloved for. Even assuming the comics weren’t exactly popular or well known.

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First appearing in January 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, the Guardians of the Galaxy were created by Arnold Drake on script and Gene Colan on pencils. Consisting of Vance Astro, Martinex T’Naga, Captain Charlie-27 and Yondu Udonta, the group had fairly solid sales in this first issue, but would not appear again until five years later in June 1974 in Marvel Two-In-One #5. The writer of the story, Steve Gerber, liked them so much that he introduced them in a joint story with the Defenders in his issues between June and November 1975, something that eventually earned them their own collection in February 1976.

Ironically, the series was a complete failure. With barely ten issues to its credit, neither Gerberg’s first run nor Roger Stern’s last issues managed to make a collection that did not arouse any interest among the public.

Over the years there were several attempts to resurrect them, using them here and there, but they never really caught on with the public. At least until May 2008, after the events of Annihilation: Conquest, they relaunched the collection with a team with a completely different line-up. After an unprecedented war, Star-Lord decides to create a team of interstellar heroes to prevent a similar situation from happening again. To do so, he recruits Adam Warlock, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Phyla-Vell, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, with Mantin as a supporting member. Being particularly popular during the Brian Michael Bendis era, this formation will be the one that will shape the composition we see in the movies. Which drink much more from these comics than they have generally been recognized.

What James Gunn did with the comics is to take the Brian Michael Bendis stage and dye it in his colors. The director came from making moderately successful, irreverent, and rock ‘n’ roll independent films, and his intention in making the film was to look very much at the science fiction of the 70s and 80s, while respecting at all times what the comic book series were doing at the time. That is why it should not surprise us that among his main influences he declares films like Flash Gordon, Farscape or Star Wars, the video game Mass Effect, or within the undeclared influences, the movie Barbarella. With all this, along with doses of eighties music, he wanted to play with a particular idea: to give the feeling that Guardians of the Galaxy is a classic adventure film, more distant from modern superhero movies. Even if it followed closely what they did.

In fact, it’s more having to be an MCU movie than James Gunn’s artistic identity that takes the films further away from what happens in the comics. While Peter Quill is essentially the same character, Gamora in the comics has the same character, but has more facets as a character, having a softer side and a much more violent and savage side, making her a more layered character than what we’ve seen in the movies. Similarly, Drax in the comics is a more complex and less humorous character, who actually had powers like the ability to fly or the ability to detect Thanos, but over time he lost them to match the comic book character and the movie character.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that the movies know how to do their bit. Guardians of the Galaxy is a charming adventure about how a ragtag group of misfits with nothing in common except having a pile of traumas that prevent them from trusting anyone, eventually learn to trust each other. The second, while focusing perhaps too much on the particular conflicts between the members of the group for comic effect, delves into the history of Peter Quill to develop an interesting and iconic story from the comics, where we discover his origins and why his own ancestry can be a problem for him and the entire galaxy. All this accompanied by a nostalgic factor that has always been talked about in musical terms, for how it makes use of the music of the 80s for the mixes that the mother made for Peter before being abducted, but that are also in the more than obvious references and parodies that are made to the science fiction cinema of that same era, as we have already pointed out above.

The success of the franchise has been such that it has even had its own video game. With a moderate critical and public success, it is a good adventure game, fun, that closely follows the ideas developed in the movies and that, to some extent, manages to better preserve the identity of the Guardians of the Galaxy than Volume 2 of the movies.

Similarly, on November 25 last year, a television special written and directed by James Gunn called The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special premiered on Disney+, where the Guardians attempt to prepare for Christmas, creating a real mess in the process. Charming, funny and following in the wake of the previous two films, this special doesn’t do anything special with the characters, but tells a funny Christmas story that would have fit perfectly as the classic Christmas special of any 80s or 90s sitcom from which this particular TV special drinks from, and lovingly parodies.

Now with James Gunn in the distinguished competition, it’s hard to see how it’s possible to see a fourth installment of Guardians of the Galaxy without him. The director’s colors and identity are all over the franchise, and it’s something that has been evident even in his DC projects like Suicide Squad and Peacemaker. Which is why it’s hard to believe there will be more Guardians of the Galaxy after this third installment. Or not in the short or medium term.

So what should we expect from this third installment? Probably exactly everything we’ve already said. To follow much more closely the Guardians of the Galaxy comics of Bendis’ era than he’s ever been credited for, to make an endearing parody of the sound and visual culture of the 80s with all the elements of the movie, and to give this ragtag group of psychopaths and victims of circumstance the ending they deserve. The hero recognition they reap at the end of each of their adventures. The reminder that they are a family, despite improbable circumstances. Because that’s what Guardians of the Galaxy is all about. That despite everything, that no matter what happens, we are family and we have each other. Because when you’ve survived as many cancellations as this group has, how can you believe that they won’t come back sooner or later?

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Álvaro Arbonés

Álvaro Arbonés

Cultural journalist and writer with a special interest in audiovisuals and everything that can be played. I'm not here to talk about my books, but you can always ask me about them if you're curious.

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