The Guardians of the Galaxy have arrived – the most obscure of the Marvel movies so far – so, who exactly are they and where'd all this stuff come from? Here's a rundown of all the minutia from the film. (Spoilers, dur.)
In case it isn't obvious, here be spoilers, including for the post-credits scene – don't spoil yourself, watch the flick!
Peter Quill's history in the comics is a confusing one (but strangely, the least confusing of anyone on his team). Here's the basic rundown: Peter's dad J-Son of the Spartax (sometimes called Jason of the Spartoi) crashed on Earth 30-odd years ago, hooked up with an Earth woman and fled the planet (apparently to save her from being drawn into intergalactic conflicts). Fast-forward a decade or so and aliens looking for J-Son's progeny came to Earth and killed Peter's mom. The details have changed a lot over the years, but that's the gist. Obviously, what happens with Peter's mom is very different in the film, but these kinds of changes are to be expected (plus, no need to bring in yet another alien race or needlessly tie him to Thanos).
Although J-Son's people are described as something special and unique in the movie, in the comics they just look and act like humans (something that disgusts the human-hating J-Son to no end). For the record, J-Son is something of an ass, and everyone knows it, but he is emperor so whatchagunnado?
Not shown in the movie are two of Star-Lord's most significant possessions: his Element Gun and his ship Aurora. The Element Gun has (like Star-Lord) had a few different origins, but essentially it can shoot out any element, is one of a kind, and isomorphically locked to his DNA. Aurora – usually just called Ship – was a living, intelligent ship that was in love with Star-Lord (not that he'd notice), but she hasn't been seen in years (except for an anomalous appearances in the Avengers Assemble comic).
While they never say where Drax comes from, he claims his people do not have metaphors, so clearly he's not human. In the comics, he's human. Or was. Thanos (not Ronan) killed his family, but Thanos' dad saved Drax's spirit and placed it into the Drax body with the sole purpose of killing Thanos. In the film he says his daughter's name is Kymaera, which is interesting because that's a name from the Atlantean royal family (as in Namor's family). In the comics his most well-known daughter was also saved from death-by-Thanos and later became the hero/villain named Moondragon.
Speaking of Thanos, he's aptly described as the Mad Titan as he's a crazy man from the moon Titan. His family are all good people, but pacifists who would prefer not to get directly involved with stopping him. Thanos loves the personified idea of Death (which is why the line "to court Death" was so good in Avengers), and hates the idea of creating life, so he normally kills all of his biological progeny. He has, however, adopted orphans from time to time to raise them as fighting machines – not unlike Batman. He even celebrated alien Christmas with Gamora once (Lifeday?).
While Gamora could certainly be considered Thanos' adopted daughter, the Mad Titan has always denied any kinship with Nebula, who claims to be his granddaughter.
Groot and Rocket
These two were very different in their first appearances, as Groot was a verbose planet-conquering evil king and Rocket was a goofy, fun-loving animal that accepted being a raccoon. That all changed when writer Keith Giffen took them over after the characters had lay fallow for a few decades. The current incarnations of the pair in the comics is very much like their movie counterparts.
Rocket, by the way, has a creepy origin. Alien psychologists once took thousands of insane humanoids and put them in their own planet-system-sized space station. Realizing the patients were not going to get any better, the doctors gave up and left, but rather than leaving the "Loonies" to their own devices, they genetically and cybernetically uplifted thousands of animals to serve as caretakers. Rocket was something of a chief of security before he was forced to leave Halfworld to prevent one of the patients, an insane god-like human, from using something in Rocket's subconscious to escape and destroy the galaxy.
Yondu and his Arrow
This blue-skinned hunter is almost nothing like his movie counterpart. Yondu was born on a planet in Alpha Centauri about 1,000 years from now. His planet was discovered (re: conquered) by humans, and eventually he believed himself the planet's last survivor. He uses a bow and arrow, but has the ability to control the arrow's trajectory by whistling. In the comics, Yondu is a wise, meditative, honorable warrior – so basically the anti-Michael Rooker.
Kree and Sakaaran Soldiers
There are a lot of alien empires in the Marvel Universe, and the two that cause the most trouble for Earth are the Kree and the Skrulls (who also hate each other). Skrulls are apparently alienate non gratae for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Fox has surreptitiously called dibs on them, but the Kree are science-worshiping warmongers (so much so that they built their own science-god to lead them) and have already had a presence in the MCU (particularly as the source of growth hormone that is keeping Phil Coulson alive in Agents of SHIELD).
Sakaarans are natives (or residents in some cases) of the war-filled planet Sakaar. The planet was conquered and subsequently destroyed as part of the Planet Hulk epic and its sequels. Officially Marvel isn't planning a Planet Hulk film yet, though it would be fun. They probably want another (more critically successful) film on Earth before they send ole Jade Jaws to space.
Ronan and Korath
These two are both Kree, and in the comics both are so fiercely loyal to the Kree Empire that even if their masters do something they didn't agree with, they would begrudgingly follow orders. Except for that one time Ronan killed his god/leader. Ronan, whose hammer is called the Universal Weapon, has most often been a bad guy, but he's actually been quite the galactic hero in recent years, even teaming up with the Avengers.
Xandar and the Nova Corps
The Nova Corps are essentially the most successful space cops in the Marvel Universe. Like their DC counterparts the Green Lanterns, the Novas have been destroyed from time to time, and their most celebrated members tend to be humans from Earth. Interestingly, the Nova of the comics are extremely powerful, easily rivaling Iron Man in potential. Individual power is determined primarily by rank, with Centurions being the most common and usually most powerful. However, the fewer Novas there are, the more power there is to be divided among the remaining Novas, meaning if the Corps was wiped out, the last remaining member would have god-like power. John C. Reilly's Rhomann Dey died in his first appearance, gifting his powers to a human.
The Infinity Stones
The stones – often called gems in the comics – have been referenced in several films, but this is the first time they've been explained directly.
As described, there are six stones of incredible power that, when brought together, bestow god-like power on a universal level. There's also a seventh stone, but few ever reference it, and it's not necessary for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Although the stones have specific assigned colors, these colors often change from story to story, and the same is true for the movies. Producer Kevin Fiege confirmed the Space Gem was the first to appear in Captain America: The First Avenger, although it was inside of a blue cube called the Tesseract. The Aether from Thor: The Dark World is another gem, apparently in liquid or energy form, the gem at the end of Loki's staff is heavily implied to be an Infinity gem. And finally, another gem appears in this film. EDIT: James Gunn confirmed that Ronan's gem was indeed the Power Gem (thanks HufflethePuff!).
At an educated guess, the gems are probably:
- Tesseract, currently in Odin's Trophy Room = Space Gem
- Loki's Staff, currently with Hydra = Mind Gem
- Aether, currently with the Collector = Reality Gem
- Ronin's Universal Weapon, currently with the Nova Corps = Power Gem
That still leaves Time and Soul. It's likely the Soul Gem will be the last to appear, as it is usually accompanied by Adam Warlock, the perennial antagonist and sometimes partner of Thanos.
In the comics, anyone can hold a gem and gain abilities from it, but controlling it is another matter. Interestingly, Drax was once the custodian of the Power Gem (making him stronger than the Hulk for a time) and Gamora was guardian of the Time Gem (though she rarely used it).
Kyln and Knowhere
These two locations are fairly infamous in the Marvel Universe. The Kyln is a prison/mine on the edge of the universe (yes, the entire universe) where prisoners are expected to work or die, and not necessarily in that order. Star-Lord and Thanos once teamed up there. Knowhere is the decapitated head of a Celestial (more on them in a second) turned into an almost lawless space station just outside the universe.
The Celestials and the Collector
Amazingly enough, the movie actually showed a Celestial. If memory serves it was Eson the Searcher, but all of the Celestials are gigantic mute space gods who visit planets to encourage intelligent life or create extinction events. Even if Marvel can't have the Avengers vs. Galactus any time soon, it would be great to have a movie featuring the Avengers vs. the Fourth Host someday. That's when about a dozen Celestials visit Earth to decide if humanity is worth keeping or not.
The Collector is billions of years old, if you can wrap your head around that. Apparently when an intelligent species dies off, Death (the cosmic entity Thanos worships) allows one member of the species to keep living, kind of as a testament of what was. Most of these Elders of the Universe pick a hobby to pass the time, usually something mundane and trivial (not unlike Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged). The Collector decided to collect things. His base on Knowhere was probably just his travelling showcase, as he has a whole solar-system-sized menagerie somewhere in the universe. Groot was once part of his collection.
Cosmo the Dog and Howard the Duck
Rocket isn't the only talking animal in this flick! The dog in the cosmonaut suit is Cosmo, and while Knowhere is lawless now, it's the telepathic Russian mutt who whips the city into shape, serving as the one-dog security team, keeping peace among the outlaws.
Howard, if you only know him from George Lucas' biggest embarrassment after the Star Wars Holiday Special, actually has a long history at Marvel. Created in the 1970s by absurdist extraordinaire Steve Gerber, Howard was a normal duck from a planet of cartoon animals (not unlike where you'd find Duckberg) brought to Earth through shear happenstance. He's spent the intervening time trying (mostly successfully) to blend into this society of talking apes. Recently, he's taken up heroics fulltime as a gun-toting member of the interdimensional watchdog group ARMOR and even more recently realized that his has the natural aptitude of a supergenius.
Personal aside: As a life-long Howard fan, I am psyched that he's officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
You probably caught a ton of these, but some suggest that Peter might've been back to Earth a few times over the years. He name-dropped the Ninja Turtles who had their super-popular cartoon appear in 1987 and Ranger Rick is the mascot of the National Wildlife Federation, and anybody growing up in the 80s could have heard of him.
I'm sure everyone caught Stan Lee's brief appearance in Rocket's scope, but did you guys catch Lloyd Kaufman in the Kyln riot scene?
Lee originally said he wouldn't cameo in Guardians because he didn't create them – apparently he forgot he co-created Groot with Jack Kirby.
Kaufman is the Stan Lee of the Troma universe. Troma makes the schlockiest of schlock films with the raunchiest of aesthetics. If you have a strange sense of humor and a strong stomach, check out the likes Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman, Class of Nuke 'Em High and the James Gunn-written Tromeo and Juliet. Kaufman often cameos in the films he produces, and it seems Gunn honored his old producer by having him in this flick.
Then there's Gunn's little brother, Sean Gunn, perhaps best known as Kirk on Gilmore Girls. He served as Yondu's second-in-command and was the on-set stand-in for Rocket in several scenes.
Other Odds and Ends
Anything else? Anyone notice any cool tidbits in the Collector's place (and no, Warlock's cocoon wasn't there)? Questions?