A Comic Loremaster’s Delight—’Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating Marvel’s Spacefaring Super Heroes’

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Cover Image courtesy of Insight Editions

How does a motley crew come together? With good writing, of course. But that’s not always enough. Sometimes you get a team that is so dysfunctional that they are perfect together. Sometimes, you have to resurrect the past, and other times you must travel 1000 years into the future. The Guardians of the Galaxy have gone by many names, with dozens of famous faces, before becoming one of the most recognizable teams of heroes in the Marvel Universe. Thanks to Marc Sumerak’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating Marvel’s Spacefaring Super Heroes, readers can explore nearly 50 years of their beloved but bizarre history.

Cover art from Guardians of the Galaxy (Vo. 3) #1, May 2013
Image courtesy of Insight Editions

Thanks to the monstrous success of the 2014 film directed by James Gunn, “I am Groot” is now one of the most memorable one-liners for fans of comics. Die-hard comic fans may roll their eyes at the thought of the movie being more famous than the rich volumes of the comics, but let’s face it: There are many kinds of Marvel fans. Some folks like the crisp feel of mint-condition pages, and the smell of plastic sheathes. Lots of fans read their copies until they fall apart, knowing that they got the true value of their comics in reading them. Recently, fans have been able to download comics on a feed. Some fans wake up early on Saturday morning, anxious to see their heroes. Yet others (many, many others) cannot afford the cost of comics, and/or cannot pursue their heroes on television because of the time commitment. All of these fans might enjoy the theater, and that’s why silver-screen hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers are so successful.

By the same token, when a new part of the Marvel universe hits the screen, it taps into the millions of hero-hungry fans waiting to discover a new passion. With the Guardians of the Galaxy motion picture, Marvel was taking advantage of this. They saw an audience craving more heroes, more team-ups, and more heroic feats. Who better than the dozens of combinations of Guardians ready to be tapped? But the passion of new fans comes with a steep angle of curiosity, and a demand for more information. Marvel was prepared for the Guardians’ return to prominence, bringing them back into print in 2012, preceding the announcement of the movie by mere weeks.

Now, with the Vol. 2 heading to theaters, Marc Sumerak has penned Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating Marvel’s Spacefaring Super Heroes, due to hit the shelf on April 4th. This comic book legend has written and contributed to countless comics, heroes, and stories. Now his wit, passion, and long memory have hammered out the origins and evolution of the Guardians from 1969 to today. Hundreds of comic book covers, sketches, and full-page art populate the mammoth tome.

The Guardians have had many looks and makeovers.
Images courtesy of Insight Editions

Marc first introduces us to the first Guardians of the Galaxy, a team in the thirty-first century, written at the height of the space race. In 3007, Yondu (as portrayed in the films by Michael Rooker) is a member of a team composed of four men, each the last member of their respective races. These first Guardians were an isolated team of survivors, living in a world of little hope and many dangers. The roster was hardly stable, however. Team members came and went over the years, introducing gender-bending aliens, anthropomorphic heroes, and living elements. The Guardians met the Avengers, X-Men, and other notable characters, and were joined for periods of time by the likes of Venom, The Thing, Iron Man, and other epic heroes. Seeing their history unfold as written by Marc Sumerak was a joy ride, to say the least.

Star Lord and Rocket Starred in solo adventures before joining the Guardians.
Image courtesy of Insight Editions

My favorite part of the book is easily the origin stories. Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord, for example, began their adventures alone, and Drax the Destroyer was originally an angry green man wrapped in an enormous purple cloak, for all intents and purposes a Space-Hulk. When these characters were brought together with Mantis, Groot, Bug, Captain Universe, and Deathcry, they became the first incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy we’re more familiar with.

Drax maintained his vicious battle skills, despite his revamp as a more intelligent character. Image courtesy of Insight Editions

While most characters were redesigned, Drax in particular received a total overhaul. Not only did his look change (he dropped the obnoxious cape, thank goodness), but with his redesign, his personality was revamped to better reflect his origin story. In Marc’s recounting of Andy Schmidt’s creative team rebuilding the Guardians, I’ve discovered a passion for Drax, but you’ll have to read it to find out why. Let’s just say it takes a bold mind to recreate a character, and clear vision to make it feel natural.

After reading Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating Marvel’s Spacefaring Super Heroes, I’ve realized the piles of references I missed in my initial viewings of the first movie. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 due to hit the silver screen in May, readers will have just over a month to absorb the lore available in the book before watching the next installment in the film series. I expect it to be a much richer experience, personally. If nothing else, who remember that Yondu Udonta was a member of the original team? I sure didn’t! But I was glad to be reminded, that’s for sure. With Mantis joining the team, I’m anxious to see which parts of the teams rich history will be catching up to them with her.

You can preorder Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating Marvel’s Spacefaring Super Heroes on Amazon.com. It’s only available in hardback, but I’m glad it has substantial binding—it’s a monstrous book weighing several pounds. Bonus: This hardcover book also includes an exclusive print form Dale Keown, the original art which became the cover of the book.

Which are your favorite Guardians, and who do you hope to see pop up in future installments? Tweet @GeekDads and @TerminallyRory and let us know!

Insight Editions was kind enough to provide a review copy of Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating Marvel’s Spacefaring Super Heroes for review purposes.

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