The Guardians of the Galaxy are a misfit bunch of universe-saving renegades brought together by fate — and a penchant for being a bit good and bad. After the colossal success of their first movie, the Guardians have made a resurgence in the comics world, but, as the team’s quickly learned, being a hero isn’t exactly all unicorns and sunshine.
With two versions of the team and decades of adventures to draw on, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot — not to mention Mantis, Starhawk, and the rest of the team’s revolving roster — have seen their fair share of terrible things. And, tangling with the more cosmic elements of the Marvel Universe as they do, some of those terrible things are really weird to boot.
So what were the baddest of the bad? What memories haunt their dreams at night? Let’s take a look at the 15 Worst Things To Ever Happen To The Guardians Of The Galaxy.
15. The Original Guardians Got the Shaft
Premiering unceremoniously as a backup story in the reprint-heavy Marvel Super-Heroes #18 in 1969, the original Guardians of the Galaxy consisted of Vance Astro, Martinex T’Naga, Captain Charlie-27, and Yondu Udonta — most of whom are recognizable for not being recognizable at all. The team was basically ignored for twenty years, appearing sporadically in team-up titles and as guest stars in a couple issues of Defenders and The Avengers.
The Guardians didn’t get their own title until 1992, and that only ran for three years before being canceled. The classic version of the team didn’t show up again until 2008, when they appeared as — you guessed it — guest stars in the new Guardians of the Galaxy, asking for help from the more well-known team of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot.
As an added kick in the pants, the new team wasn’t even called the Guardians of the Galaxy yet; they stole the name from Vance Astro after thawing him out from a block of space ice. That’s cold, guys.
14. The Guardians Weren’t Part of Marvel Continuity Until 2008
As if the last entry wasn’t bad enough, it turns out the original Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t even exist in the Marvel Universe proper.
The Guardians were from the 31st century of an alternate timeline known as Earth-691. (The “true” Marvel Universe is Earth-616.) In that possible future, the alien race known as the Badoon has taken over the solar system — and by taken over, we mean “killed almost everyone.” In fact, most of the OG Guardians were the last of their kind. Not being horribly murdered was what brought them together.
Both Yondu Udonta and Vance Astro are present in the current Earth-616, but neither of them are the same versions that were part of the old Guardians. The first Yondu was a stone-cold hero and an honorary member of the Avengers, while the current Yondu was only added to Marvel continuity in 2016, as a space pirate modeled directly off his movie counterpart.
Vance Astro, a.k.a. Major Victory, meanwhile, is both the frozen, timeline-traversing space-Captain America (he even has a shield!), as well as the hero Justice — a younger version of himself he talked into not becoming the older version of himself. Comics, ladies and gentlemen.
13. Starhawk Is A Walking, Talking Headache
Starhawk — the child of Quasar and Kismet, who was then kidnapped; adopted; had those adoptive parents murdered before being adopted again by the guy who killed them; gained the powers of the Hawk God; shared a body with his adoptive sister, Aleta; fell in love with her; and then petitioned the Hawk God to separate them so they could be together — can also never die, as he’s cursed to re-inhabit his infant body and relive his life over and over again. He remembers everything, though, eventually referring to himself as “One Who Knows.”
He uses this knowledge to manipulate events and bring together the original Guardians, before joining them and overthrowing the Badoon in the 31st century. Later, he time-travels back to the present to destroy the new Guardians, because, according to his future, they’re not supposed to have existed yet. Starhawk loses the first time around, so he comes back again as a woman, then changes her mind and sacrifices herself to save the Guardians, but not before telling them to go kill Black Bolt.
Starhawk is set to be played by Sylvester Stallone in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. We kind of hope he’s not going to be comic-accurate.
12. Drax Drunk-Dialed Ronan
After stealing a poorly-guarded Infinity Stone, breaking free from space prison, and holing up in Knowhere, the floating trading post built inside a severed Celestial’s head, Drax, Rocket, and Groot take some much-needed me time, gambling and drinking and starting fights. Drax, though, enjoys himself a little too much and summons Ronan the Accuser to the outpost, where he plans to kill the Kree and finally avenge his family. Instead, Ronan easily whoops the alien’s butt, nearly drowns him, and then has his fleet chase the rest of the Guardians into space, where they almost kill both Gamora and Star-Lord.
Meanwhile, Ronan steals the Power Stone and heads off to go blow up the planet Xandar. They stop him, but not until most of the Nova Corps has been decimated, leaving the galaxy decidedly un-guarded.
11. The Guardians Fought Galactus (and Two Primordial Gods)
Galactus, the giant purple planet-eater, isn’t a lot of fun on a good day, what with his eternal hunger for populated planets and all. But, to the big man’s credit, Galactus rarely uses his immense power for petty reasons. Except, of course, when he was imprisoned by Annihilus and turned into a galaxy-ravaging weapon.
You see, one day, B-list bad guy Annihilus decided to get himself an armada of warships — the Annihilation Wave — and destroy the universe. Along the way, he helped two primordial gods, Tenebrous and Aegis, escape from the Kyln, a maximum-security space prison, where they had been locked up by Galactus “when the universe was young.” Having almost all of recorded time to nurse their grudge, the gods helped Annihilus incapacitate and enslave Galactus.
The Guardians of the Galaxy, naturally, stepped in to try to stop this. Though the team wasn’t actually officially formed yet, Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax all found themselves fighting against the Annihilation Wave, then exchanging emails and promising to get in touch the next time the galaxy needed guarding.
10. Star-Lord Accidentally Infected the Kree with a Techno-Virus
Shortly after the Annihilation Wave kerfuffle, the cybernetic alien race known as the Phalanx decided to capitalize on all the confusion and enslave the Kree army. They accomplished this by tricking Star-Lord into bringing the Space Knights to the Kree homeworld of Hala, where the majority of the population was quickly assimilated and enslaved via the techno-organic virus that created the Phalanx in the first place.
Most of Marvel’s outer space-themed superheroes flock to Hala to try and free the Kree, only for several of them — Gamora and Drax included — to be infected by the Phalanx instead. A galaxy-spanning war erupts, with lots of deaths and mind-control along the way.
Shortly after everything’s settled, Star-Lord officially forms the Guardians of the Galaxy, a team with the sole purpose of keeping this kind of nonsense from happening again — even though it was all kind of his fault in the first place.
9. Star-Lord Was Tortured by Ultron
During the aforementioned “Annihilation: Conquest” storyline, it was revealed late in the game that none other than Ultron was the mastermind of the whole shebang, floating through space as energy waves before forcefully taking control of the Phalanx and using them as his puppets, the conquest of Earth being his ultimate goal.
Now, obviously, Ultron owed a big debt of gratitude to Star-Lord for getting him his techno-virus-infected Kree army in the first place, but it turns out that robot overlords aren’t big on thank yous. Instead, as punishment for leading the resistance against the Phalanx, Ultron captured and tortured the crap out of our pal Peter Quill. Ostensibly, he was searching for information on the resistance, but, mostly, he was having a bad day and figured hurting Star-Lord might make him feel better.
In the end, Star-Lord managed to escape with the help of Bug, Mantis, and Rocket, while Quasar and Adam Warlock took down a newly-constructed, giant version of Ultron and saved the day. Or whatever unit of time they use in Kree space.
8. Groot Lost His Ability to Talk
Groot, everyone’s favorite extraterrestrial tree, first appeared way back in 1960, in Tales to Astonish #13, as a human-stealing monster from Planet X. He was eventually defeated by termites, because the ’60s were a simpler time.
Groot popped up a handful of times after that, including a brief stint as a member of the Howling Commandos when they fought the wizard Merlin. His next appearance wasn’t until the “Annihilation: Conquest” storyline, though it was later explained that that Groot was actually a different Groot from the first Groot. Nonetheless, both Groots were able to talk straight through the “Conquest” storyline.
It wasn’t until the new Guardians of the Galaxy title that Groot’s speech was changed into variations of “I am Groot,” explained away as a symptom of his species’ hardened vocal chords. Now, only a few non-Flora colossi are able to understand him — mainly Rocket Raccoon and the Inhuman Maximus the Mad, or telepaths like Jean Grey.
7. Rocket Was Genetically Manipulated and Experimented On
While not as old as Groot, Rocket’s been around since the 1970s, first appearing as “Rocky” Racoon in a filler story in the back pages of Marvel Preview #7. Rocket as we know him, though, didn’t show up until 1982, in The Incredible Hulk #271. The storyline — entitled “Now Somewhere in the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Name of Rocket Raccoon” — was kind of a throwaway gag built around Beatles lyrics, but Rocket proved popular enough that he started showing up more and more, with his backstory getting darker and darker.
Turns out, Rocket was a therapy animal in a space asylum, artificially-enhanced to speak and walk upright, before becoming the colony’s chief ranger, in charge of guarding the patients. After curing them all, he took off on his own, eventually finding himself at Star-Lord’s side during the Annihilation Wave boondoggle.
Apparently, that origin wasn’t traumatic enough though, so later it was revealed that Rocket had also been experimented on by the Stranger, a cosmic scientist who may or may not be the fourth face of the Living Tribunal.
6. Gamora Was an Orphan (And Things Didn’t Get Better)
Gamora is the last of the Zen-Whoberis, an alien race exterminated by either the Badoon or the Universal Church of Truth, depending on the timeline. Either way, Thanos found the lonely, abandoned infant and decided, “I bet I could use her to kill somebody.”
Thanos, who’s about as good a father as could be expected from someone called “the Mad Titan,” raised Gamora to be an assassin, earning her the rather long-winded nickname “The Deadliest Woman in the Whole Galaxy.” At one point, she even time-traveled backward to kill every member of the Universal Church of Truth, getting revenge for the genocide they hadn’t yet committed.
Eventually, due to shenanigans, Gamora is absorbed into the Soul Gem, only to be released back into the real world after Thanos gathers all the Infinity Gems and needs to be stopped. She’s almost immediately erased from existence, before her half-sister Nebula steals the Infinity Gauntlet and undoes Thanos’ universe-spanning genocide. Afterward, Gamora settles down with Adam Warlock in a pocket dimension to raise Atleza, the guardian of all existence, before abandoning them to become a mercenary and reclaim the title of “Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy.” It’s good to have goals.
5. Star-Lord’s Dad Tried to Kill Him (as a Baby)
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, the father of Star-Lord (nee Peter Quill) is revealed to be Ego the Living Planet, an actual living planet that sometimes looks like Kurt Russell. Ego manages to impregnate an Earth woman at one point, before later sending space pirates to kidnap his son back.
Comic-wise, the currently accepted parentage of Peter Quill is that his dad is J’son of Spartax, an alien king who bailed on Pete’s Earth mom years earlier to go join a war. Eventually, Mrs. Quill is killed by members of the Badoon, who are then killed by Peter, who then joined NASA, got stranded in space, and eventually joined up with the second Yondu’s Ravagers.
Originally, though, Peter’s dad was just some dude who straight up tried to murder him when he was born. Apparently, Peter was immaculately conceived by a planetary alignment, and, as such, didn’t look like his dad. This cheesed off Papa Quill, and Peter was only saved when dear old dad had a heart attack. This was later retconned into a different timeline, for obvious reasons.
4. Drax Has Been Killed A Lot
Drax only became Drax after saxophone-playing real estate agent Arthur Douglas was killed by Thanos, and Kronos (a cosmic meddler and grandfather to Thanos) took Arthur’s soul and shoved it into a newer, stronger, angrier body.
A few years later, Drax teamed up with the Avengers to take down the power-mad, mind-controlling Moondragon — Arthur Douglas’ kidnapped daughter — only for Moondragon to telepathically remove his life essence from his body.
Another few years later, after Thanos was resurrected, Drax was resurrected too, and given even more power, although he was kind of messed up from being mind-murdered by Moondragon. Eventually, the Destroyer, on an interstellar prison ship that crashed in Alaska, died again, only for a newer, slimmer body to emerge from his old one.
After escaping back into space, fighting Annihilus, killing Thanos, and joining the Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax confronted a once more resurrected Thanos and, once more, was killed himself.
But don’t worry, a short time later, Drax reappeared with the Guardians with absolutely no mention made of his most recent death. Apparently, it’s just a given at this point.
3. Groot Has Also Been Killed A Lot
Let’s have a look at all the ways Groot has died, shall we?
As mentioned earlier, after his first appearance, Groot was eaten by termites and killed.
After reappearing as an all-new, all-different Groot, he died not once, but twice during the “Annihilation: Conquest” storyline. The first time, he sacrificed himself to the Phalanx, allowing Star-Lord and Rocket to escape. But a twig survived, allowing Groot to regrow and re-sacrifice himself to the Phalanx a short time later — this time by growing through the interior of the Phalanx’s Babel Spire and exploding.
Rocket, though, kept a sprig of Groot with him, allowing Groot to regrow and die for a fourth time during “Secret Wars,” as he and Rocket were both victims of the Children of Tomorrow.
Meanwhile, in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Groot envelops his friends within himself and dies saving them, protecting the team as the spaceship they’re on crashes hard into the planet Xandar.
Look, we’re not psychics, but maybe don’t get too attached to baby Groot in the new movie.
2. The Guardians Had to Destroy an Entire Universe
Earth-10011 is an alternate reality affectionately referred to as the “Cancerverse,” where death has been defeated and life grows so unchecked — like a cancer — that the entire universe has been filled up and choked off. Every living being there has basically gone crazy and evil from not being able to die or stretch their legs.
After the Guardians of the Galaxy fail to heed Starhawk’s warning and let Black Bolt detonate a bomb that tears a hole between realities, the Cancerverse’s version of the Avengers — known as the Revengers — decide to invade Earth-616 and kill that reality’s version of Death. Because the Lovecraftian Many-Angled Ones told them to.
Since every part of that is terrible, the Guardians team up with Thanos and sneak into the Cancerverse to stop them. Thanos lets himself get captured and killed, an act which summons Earth-616’s Death to the Cancerverse. Death then murders the entire universe.
1. Mantis’ Entire History
A young Mantis is abandoned with a Kree cult that believed she might be the Celestial Madonna, whose sole purpose is to mate with a telepathic alien plant and birth the Celestial Messiah. Instead, her mind is wiped and she becomes a prostitute. Eventually, she falls for the Swordsman and then joins the Avengers. There, she realizes she is the Celestial Madonna after all, and runs off to make babies with the plant-alien that’s taken over the corpse of the Swordsman.
At this point, Mantis’ real-world creator, Steve Englehart, brought her along to DC, Eclipse, and Image Comics, before returning to Marvel and inflicting even more damage on the character.
Mantis — now green, invulnerable, and dating the Silver Surfer — explodes, splitting her psyche into multiple fragments. One of these fragments joins the West Coast Avengers, tries to find all her other selves, then decides to go and raise the space-baby she abandoned instead.
Later, after Thanos kills most of Mantis’ other selves, she rejoins the Avengers, bones Vision, and then disappears again, only to show up as a Kree prisoner during the “Annihilation: Conquest” storyline. She then joins the Guardians of the Galaxy as a psychic and counselor — although, really, she’s probably the one who needs counseling after all this.
Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments.