So I've noticed in the last several days, as more information and the first theatrical trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy has been released, there seems to be a lot of resistance among io9 and the larger geek community itself over this movie. I'm not going to make a blanket statement and say that all of us are on the hate-train; I certainly am not.
A little backstory: when I was about eight years old, my uncle went out to the local comic shop, bought about a hundred and fifty issues of random Marvel comics and then gave the entire box to me. I was ecstatic. Before then, my only exposure to comics was through Archie and Disney Adventures (the latter being where I first got my taste for graphic novels, as there were brief excerpts from Bone in a few issues).
In this box was Spider-man, Avengers (both regular and West Coast), Daredevil, Wolverine, X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy (not the modern team, the early 90's team consisting of Major Victory, Charlie 27, Yellowjacket, Talon, Starhawk, and Nikki).
Specifically, it was these two issues:
...And those two issues were enough to spark my interest for the non-mainline Marvel universe. I read and re-read those two issues over and over and over again, wondering just how it was that Major Victory had Captain America's shield and why Thor was a bumbling old drunk and just who this crazy Loki guy was in that INSANE helmet. (Caveat: I knew full well who Thor and Loki were already from a childhood of reading classical Norse mythology.)
I began collecting comics on my own shortly afterward, quickly growing to love Spider-Man as a favorite. I was surprised at how great the writing was and how sympathetic and human the characters were. My brother collected DC titles, and I noticed that Superman and Batman never had the basic humility or any of the real-world problems that every superhero from Marvel seemed to face. No DC hero ever seemed to have a hard time getting rent together or dealing with being late to work because, webs and all, New York is just too big and busy to get from Queens to Midtown in 20 minutes in time for class.
Then the Clone Saga happened.
I was a comic collector no more.
I felt betrayed; how could they do this to Spidey? Hasn't he been through enough already? Now you want to make him doubt his identity, put his sanity in jeopardy, make him face the person responsible for the death of Gwen Stacy, make him face Gwen Stacy CLONES, and finally, make him lose both his baby AND the one person on Earth he was able to call brother. (Which, by the way, the shot of him and Ben playing Monopoly, a 'Parker Brothers Game,' in Peter's attic is one of my all-time favorite sequences in comic history.)
So I stopped buying comics... for the next ten years.
Then, in 2006, I moved from South Carolina to San Diego and, as a new hobby, began collecting comics again. I found a local shop that had a great collection of back issues and started thumbing through the stacks. Eventually, I came across Issue 44 of Guardians of the Galaxy, the issue that directly followed the two that I had. I was ecstatic; I could finally read the rest of the story!
I started collecting old issues of GotG whenever and wherever I could find them; it was an obsession. Eventually, I owned, either physically or digitally, every single issue ever published, from the 60's through the present. It was a weird and wacky series at the best of times; GotG frequently served as the wall upon which all of the cosmic concepts were thrown to see what would stick, and as clumsy as it was, it was also completely, insanely RAD.
I even made it a point to collect the origin stories of characters like Groot and Starlord (who is not at ALL the same character that is in the current roster) and Rocket Raccoon; like many Marvel characters, they go back much farther than their books.
So now, here's my defense of the new film.
A lot of the vitriol I've been hearing over the last few days has been that either
1.) No one knows who the Guardians are, and anyone who says otherwise is obviously either a poser or a hipster,
2.) There's no chance in hell that this movie is going to do anything for the Marvel cinematic universe except confuse people who are there looking for a superhero movie, or
3.) This is going to hurt the Marvel/Disney movie franchise going forward.
Allow me to address those points:
1.) Plenty of comic fans know who the Guardians are. They're seriously on a popularity level consistent with the Avengers. If your personal tastes don't run to the cosmic, that's fine, but don't issue blanket statements proclaiming the characters and book to be obscure. The book has been around since 1969. To give some sense of how established they are: They've only been around for a couple of years less than the Avengers or the X-Men themselves. Books that are obscure flops don't stick around for 45 years.
2.) Here's the trailer.
Now. At what point in that trailer does it even remotely look like it's marketed to the superhero-loving crowd? It simply isn't. And that's the point.
This new film is marketed to the sci-fi comedy loving crowd (which, if you didn't know, makes up a fairly huge chunk of science fiction movies in general). It's not marketed to the people who want to see spandex and capes. Go ahead; watch the trailer again. No superheroes in sight. Just assassins and mercenaries and legendary outlaws. And Groot.
To address that it might confuse the loyal movie-going fanbase that isn't versed in Marvel comic history, I say crap all over that. This movie has been set up from the get-go. Seriously. From the very first Thor movie we get little nods to the cosmic continuity (technically, we get our first glimpse of the cosmic universe in Iron Man, with the Ten Rings, but since there was no way of knowing that that movie would be so popular that it would allow them to make an entire cinematic universe, that was simply an easter egg, nothing more). In Thor, we see the Infinity Gauntlet for about an eighth of a second, but that was more than enough time for eagle-eyed viewers to see it and immediately make the leap that at some point we'd see Thanos come into play.
A large part of both Thor and Captain America's plots was the handling of the Cosmic Cube, which has since gone on to be classified as an "Infinity Stone," the movie universe's version of the gems that powered the Gauntlet. In Avengers, we get our first glimpse of Thanos himself, confirming that the Gauntlet wasn't just an easter egg.
In Thor 2, we meet The Collector, as he is given the Aether, one of the Infinity Stones.
The Collector is another link to Thanos; however, the film seems to be portraying him in a slightly more villainous tone than his comic-book incarnation. In the comics, The Collector isn't so much evil as he is... well, a collector. The guy's got about a dozen planets filled with odds and ends he's collected over the millennia (what with him being one of the oldest living creatures in the galaxy itself...)
It's only natural that, as interconnected as the Marvel movies are, you'd want to have several smaller antagonists working for a larger force behind the scenes; if The Collector isn't working for Thanos directly, he's at least going to be a mighty tempting target for Thanos once he starts getting his hands on more of those Infinity Stones... which should lead into Avengers 3 or 4, realistically.
Finally, let me make point number 3: This is NOT going to hurt Disney/Marvel going forward.
Did you watch that trailer? I don't know if you spotted them or not, but the Nova Corps is in this movie... and the 16 or so seconds of screentime they get sells me on the concept of space cops FAR better than the Green Lantern movie did in two and a half hours.
If that's not a set-up for a standalone Nova movie, someone is truly asleep at the wheel.
Secondly, with Starlord in this movie, it's going to open up the can of worms that is Aliens on Earth in a way that I'm hoping will make SHIELD a more legitimate agency than Agents of SHIELD or their appearances in The Avengers has been able to portray them as so far. I won't spoil anything here, but Starlord's human. Born of a human mother. And yet, he's in space. In the current timeline of the movies. When humans didn't know anything about aliens or spaceships or any of that stuff. Suffice it to say, if the movie pulls off his origin story well, it's going to please more than a few people who have wanted to see more of an alien inclusion in the Marvel movies.
So, to sum up: Marvel stands to tell a really compelling, funny, action-packed story that isn't about capes or spandex or magical hammers, that's about spaceships and aliens and things that go pew pew pew, and yet ties directly in to the capes and spandex and other stuff. They stand to attract a whole new audience and further expand their sphere of influence, and they stand to be able to spin a few things off into even MORE great franchises that aren't Shitty Green Lantern movies. (DC, you suck, if you hadn't picked that subtext up yet.)
One final note:
Make Mine Marvel.