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Guardians of the Galaxy: Which Comic Books Inspired the Movie?


As the whole world is abuzz about the movie The Guardians of the Galaxy, it is worth taking the time to track down and read the material that inspired the bulk of the movie.

In 2008, Marvel Comics made the steps to revitalize the cosmic part of their universe.  In the Annihilation storyline, the farther out space part of the Marvel universe came alive and it was continued into the follow-up Annihilation: Conquest.  (For my money, Annihilation: Conquest would be an amazingly interesting storyline to adapt for the upcoming Avengers-Guardians team-up movie.  Spoiler alert: the main villain of the series: Ultron!)

Out of that storyline, creators Dan Abnett and Andy Landing created the Guardians of the Galaxy series that served as the basis for the movie.  (When they were a team, fans of Abnett and Landing frequently referred to them as DNA, which is why you frequently see this run of comics talked about as the DNA run of Guardians.)

Guardians had existed before but in nothing like the form you see in the movies.  There is an interesting plotline in the DNA story where the current team meets the team from the future, which is really the “first” Guardians.  (Comics and timeline confusion are the best! Trust me, if you read the story, it isn’t nearly as confusing.)

The run has a larger cast, that would have been unwieldy in the film but that works well in the series.

In addition to the characters you see in the film, you have the additions of:

  • Mantis, an alien telepath,
  • Bug, a holdover hero from the Micronauts universe,
  • Cosmo, the Soviet era cosmonaut with telepathic and telekinetic powers (and who had a cameo in the movie),
  • Major Victory, a space traveler from the future,
  • Quasar/Martyr, whose background is too long to explore here,
  • A revived Adam Warlock,
  • Moondragon, a Marvel hero created in the 70s with the bizarro backstory to match (and shouldn’t be confused with Nebula, another bald female warrior from Titan and the movie),
  • Jack Flag, a street level hero that gets thrust into the cosmic world with hilarious results.

DNA do some remarkable storytelling and I can’t recommend the run enough.  GARGAL015_DC11

Here are some of the notable parts of the run:

  1. Early on they use a system of telling the story through interviews with characters post-events.  It does a great job of allowing characters to have commentary in process.  It is impressive how well it is done.
  2. They deal with the Marvel problem of crossovers flawlessly. One of the unfortunate parts of modern Marvel comics is that they are constantly creating events that every series has to then include.  DNA should teach the class on how to deal with that without it completely derailing the story you are telling.  Notable especially are the Skrull centered Secret Invasion issues.
  3. They deal with heavy, serious issues through the comics.  In a post- 9/11 world they tell a very interesting long play story on religious fanaticism and what some of the consequences of that can be.
  4. The diversity and size of the character base allows them to try and do different things.  You see real character evolution and changes over time in ways that aren’t possible with more established, iconic characters.
  5. The art of the series is great, with the occasional odd shift to allow for a fill-in issue.  It can be a bit of a distraction but the storytelling allows you to power through it.

The DNA run of Guardians is currently on the Marvel Unlimited app, as well as available for purchase on Comixology and in a collected trade which was recently released.

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