In the world of superhero movies, Guardians of the Galaxy has a rare advantage. Unlike Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and The Avengers, most audiences know relatively little about Star-Lord’s squad. Though the die-hard fans can tell the difference between the comics and James Gunn’s films, the average viewer has no basis of comparison. Simply do a little bit of digging, however, and you’ll find that the movies have very little in common with their source material.
Outside of the film’s title and its leading characters’ names, the first Guardians of the Galaxy bears little resemblance to the comics. Though the sequel includes more characters and mythology from the Guardians universe, it inverts the timeline and shifts the characters in a totally different way. Think Drax is just your average buff alien? Wrong. He started as a human. Think Yondu has always been a rapscallion? Nope. He’s the good guy in the comics. Think Ego is Peter Quill’s big daddy? Think again. Some guy named J’son is his actual father.
Brace yourself. Here are The 15 Biggest Changes From The Guardians Of The Galaxy Comics To The Movies:
15. Peter Quill Has Cybernetic Implants
Though he wears a fast-forming helmet in the movies, Peter Quill has far more body bling in the comics. During his time at the space prison, The Kyln, he first picked up a number of cybernetic enhancements. Following his fight with the Fallen One, the erstwhile Herald of Galactus, Peter nearly lost his life along with his prized weapons and ship. While serving time, he received careful attention from Kyln doctors, who outfitted him with some serious upgrades, including a state of the art bifocal to see energy in its manifold forms. The panopticon surgeons also added a high-tech computer chip that enhances his memory to god-like levels.
Though he had become part-cyborg on The Kyln, Quill only enjoyed his gadgetry for a brief time. After healing on Aladon Prime, the Kree stripped him of his cybernetics and give him a cool battle suit to keep him happy.
14. Drax Is Human, And Thanos Killed His Family, Not Ronan
Take a look at Drax’s driver’s license and you might be surprised. His actual name is Arthur Sampson Douglas, the yuppiest name in all of Marvel Comics. Though he is a lean, mean, blue-green killing machine in the movies, he started as a normal family guy in the comics. And as for his obsession with getting revenge on Ronan, that’s also a textual tweak courtesy of James Gunn.
First appearing in the 1973 issue of Iron Man #55, Arthur and his family were killed when a spaceship-piloting Thanos attacked their car. In an attempt to protect his identity, the Mad Titan lashed out and destroyed everything in his wake. Arthur’s daughter fortunately survived the wreck and received sympathy from Thanos’ father, Mentor, who adopted her out of pity. Another cosmic god, Kronos, later revived Arthur’s spirit and transplanted it into a warrior’s body, giving rise to Drax the Destroyer, the killing machine built to take down Thanos.
13. Rocket Knows He’s A Raccoon and Runs a Space Asylum
It may seem semantic, but both Guardians of the Galaxy movies refer to the anthropomorphic raccoon simply as “Rocket.” The choice is clear: in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the gun-blazing furball is oblivious to his true animal nature. While adding some comedy to the character (see: trash panda), this choice affirms the absolutely bonkers world where talking animals coexist alongside humans. Though the first Guardians doesn’t shy away from Rocket’s abusive past, it only scratches the surface of his backstory.
In the comics, Rocket knows exactly what he is. He originates from the planet Halfworld, an insane asylum for the galaxy’s most hopeless souls. In this wild-west loony bin, the prison guards aren’t of the policing caliber you’d normally expect. Instead of Nurse Ratched patrolling the grounds, the inmates’ animal companions are genetically enhanced to receive the intelligence of humans. As a result, the asylum is monitored by walking, talking pets, not people. Like his four-legged companions (one of his best buds is a guy named Wal Rus), Rocket serves as The Ranger on Halfworld, proving just how tough the diminutive raccoon really is.
12. Taserface Is Part of the Stark Race
Though he has a seriously ugly mug and a ridiculous name, Taserface is a blank slate in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This Battlefield Earth-lookin’ dude is given very little history or context in the film, but his past is worth exploring. Though you’d never guess it, Taserface has an unlikely connection to none other than billionaire playboy Tony Stark.
It all started when Iron Man abandoned some of his finest weaponry on a distant, nameless planet. While fleeing the Martian Masters and their greedy horde, Stark turned his back on his high-tech designs without realizing he had inadvertently given rise to a militant race. When Taserface and his pals got his hands on the Stark technology, they turned the earthling’s designs into power suits for everyone else on the planet. Now suited up as an army of mech warriors, Taserface and his “Stark” clan destroyed their own planet and set about harvesting countless others.
11. ‘Knowhere’ Is The Guardians’ Home Base
While it is established as The Collector’s home base in the first movie, “Knowhere” is actually the Guardians’ longtime headquarters in the comics. Existing in a coordinate-free and unidentified location, Knowhere is the decapitated head of a former Celestial (perhaps an old friend of Mr. Ego the Living Planet). Part intergalactic observatory, part city, part transportation hub, Knowhere is many things to many people. Most importantly, it’s Star Lord’s Oval Office. Because we only saw the cosmic cranium for a few minutes in the kickoff movie, it didn’t seem to have much significance other than being a nifty location at the edge of the universe.
Though Vol. 2 makes the Guardians group seem like adventurers wandering from one system to the next, the comics anchor them at Knowhere. When word gets out that the floating skull is their primary port of call, Knowhere becomes a frequent warzone and target for the Kree, Skrull, and Shi’ar races.
10. Ayesha Is A Clone of Adam Warlock, Not His Maker
The gold-skinned Ayesha goes by many names. First known as Kismet, this strapping amazon has also been called Paragon, Her, J’Ridia, Starduster, and a few other clever names. Continually bested by Quill and Co. throughout Vol. 2, Ayesha gets fed up with her futile attempts at taking down the Guardians and makes a drastic move. As seen in one of the many post-credits scenes, Ayesha reveals her mega-weapon and says, “I think I will call him Adam.”
The gold queen is talking about Adam Warlock, of course, the superhuman gifted with countless abilities. The movies flip the timeline, however, and diverge heavily from the comics. Initially made by the cosmic cabal known as The Enclave, Adam first emerged as the perfect specimen known as “Him.” Deeply impressed by their own creation, The Enclave then decided to make an Eve to match their Adam, assembling Ayesha in the Warlock’s image and calling their spawn “Her.” Though little is known about how Adam will factor into the MCU, it’s clear that his origin story will have little in common with the comics.
9. Thanos Rescued Gamora Instead of Killing Her Parents
From the comic page to the movie screen, Gamora has changed a lot over the years. In the source material, she is often scantily-clad and fighting in cosmic bikinis. Her sartorial flair is outclassed by her fighting style, however, and she’s known as the “most dangerous woman in the universe.” Gamora may be a force to reckon with in the MCU, but she’s even deadlier in the comics.
The most significant changes have been made to Gamora’s backstory. As revealed in her comic origins, she is the adopted daughter of Thanos, the Titan who pities the orphan girl and takes her under his wing. He even admits to feeling a twinge of pity in his heart, “even [going] so far as assigning her a birth-day and…celebrating certain holidays with the child in order to perpetrate the illusion of family life.” While James Gunn kept some of that story intact, he upped the ante but making Thanos the man responsible for murdering Gamora’s parents in the first place. This changes the whole adoption dynamic and turns their relationship into something far more sinister.
8. Star-Lord Was Immaculately Conceived
Though it took a solid hour to grasp the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it became clear that parenthood was at the heart of the story. Ego (Kurt Russell) presents himself as the living planet who brought Peter Quill into existence, and even Yondu asserts himself as Star-Lord’s “daddy.” Though none of those elements have any roots in the comics, it’s not hard to see why the movies avoided Peter Quill’s initial origin story like the plague.
As it first happened, his mother, Meredith, was impregnated when the planets of the solar system perfectly aligned. It’s an immaculate conception straight out of Biblical times. In the comics, Meredith’s beau got so spooked from the ordeal that he ran off and abandoned the mother and child. It didn’t take long for Marvel to retcon the whole incident, choosing a new father to take the reins of Peter Quill’s heritage (more on that in a bit).
7. Starhawk Has Godlike Powers
A founding member of the original Guardians team, Starhawk is to galaxy-saving as Les Paul is to rock and roll. Though the post-credits scenes in Vol. 2 hint at Starhawk (Sylvester Stallone) reuniting his motley crew, they leave everything else to the imagination. He has a bit of an awkward role in the movie, seen only in two extremes: slighting Yondu’s character in a public setting, then later paying his respects to his blue friend’s sacrifice.
While he might just look like Space Rambo in the film, Starhawk of the comics is a veritable demigod. Part-human, part-AI, “Stakar” was born to superhero parents, one of whom was none other than Ayesha herself. This clearly doesn’t fit in the MCU timeline, given the golden goddess is still in her prime while Starhawk looks to be pushing 70. Beyond that, he has lived multiple lifetimes and has the ability to alter timelines according to his own desires. It’s no wonder, then, that he likes to call himself “The One Who Knows.”
6. Mantis Is Part German, Part Vietnamese
Mantis is a major piece of the Guardians puzzle. Since her comics inception, she has not only fought with The Avengers and battled against Ego the Living Planet, but she worked with Star-Lord to get his Guardians revival team off the ground. Why does she get along so well with Peter Quill? For starters, she’s an Earth-born human being. Far from the antennae-wearing, Ego-assisting space oddity in Vol. 2, Mantis has perhaps the lowliest backstory of all, having previously worked as a prostitute in her homeland of Vietnam. Though she was born half-German courtesy of her father, Gustav Brandt, Mantis wound up working in an alien temple vaguely associated with the Kree.
In the movie, Mantis’ empathic abilities are potent, but they’re arguably weaker than her mental powers in the comics. There, in addition to feeling the emotions of others, she can telepathically communicate with other beings, wield astral projection, and manipulate the minds of others.
5. Groot Is Brilliant and Has a Huge Vocabulary
The famed “Flora colossus” is best known for his dancing, his yelling, and his three-word vocabulary. “I am Groot” not only defined the character, but it became the default tagline for the Guardians as a whole. As it turns out, Groot’s solipsistic sentences belie his true intelligence and command of the English language. When Dick Ayers and Stan Lee created him back in 1960, he wasn’t merely able to communicate, but he did so with graduate-level intellect. Transpose some of his dialogue onto Sherlock Holmes or an equally high-IQ protagonist, and it would fit right in. Even as recently as the 2007 Marvel crossover, Annihilation: Conquest, the truculent tree had much to say. While resting in the paws of his famed raccoon friend, he spouts, “Feckless mammal-thing! You dare?! You will pay for this indignity! When Groot is restored, there will be a reckoning!” He’s a regular Will Shakespeare.
Considering that Baby Groot stole the show in Vol. 2, letting adolescent Groot talk with some vocab flourishes could be quite the welcome twist in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
4. J’Son, Not Ego, Is Peter Quill’s Father
Sometimes, variations on popular names work, like Eddard Stark representing a change-up from Edward. Other times, such semantics strain credulity, like Jason getting converted to J’son (and inadvertently recalling Peter Stormare’s VW commercial). Though the Guardians sequel positions Ego the Living Planet as Peter Quill’s father, that’s yet another interpolation from James Gunn.
Since 1977’s Marvel Preview #11, J’son of the Spartoi race has been Star-Lord’s paterfamilias. He might not have the Celestial charm of Ego, but he’s still the erstwhile Emperor of the Spartoi Empire. As the story goes, J’son literally crashed and burned his way into Meredith Quill’s world. After crawling out of the wreckage from his derelict spacecraft, J’son meets Meredith, strikes up a relationship, and just before jetting out of the Milky Way, leaves her with a parting gift: Peter Quill in embryonic form. Though there are many changes from the comics to the movies, Ego and J’son do have one thing in common: they have both tried to kill their own son on more than one occasion.
3. The Original Guardians Are From An Alternate Timeline
In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, the eponymous squad seems to form out of necessity. A ragtag team of humans, animals, alien, and talking trees band together to save and protect the known universe. Take a glance at the pages of Marvel Comics, however, and you’ll see that the team you’ve come to love is merely the latest in a long line of warriors. It all started when Vance Astro, Martinex T’Naga, Yondu Udonta, and Charlie-27 banded together in Earth 691, an alternate timeline. Each of these team members were the last of their species, but they put aside their differences to take down the Badoon, an alien race bent on subverting the Milky Way.
Fast forward forty years when Star-Lord, Drax, and Gamora collide with Vance Astro. Though he drifts through space in a block of ice, Vance manages to tell the team of his previous squadron, the Guardians of the Galaxy. And just like that, Star-Lord commandeered the name and carried on the tradition Vance Astro had set in stone.
2. Yondu Was Always A Hero (And Even Led the Guardians)
The original Yondu was far from a rambunctious space pirate. Instead of leading The Ravagers and teaming up with seedy individuals, Yondu was nothing but a blue-skinned hero. Though the Guardians movies prop him up as a morally questionable character, the 1969 comics call him the “noble savage.” If people didn’t respect him, he would never have joined the Avengers or led the founding Guardians team as Vance Astro’s right-hand man.
Had director James Gunn introduced Yondu’s good qualities earlier in the series, his quick reversal in Vol. 2 might have made more sense. Instead, he is depicted as an alien with villainous qualities who can be bought and sold to the highest bidder (as Ego evidently discovered). Though fans got to see his signature fin on full display in the sequel (along with his deadly arrow), they didn’t get to see him wield his five-foot-long bow. Then again, when you can whistle while you work, who needs traditional weaponry?
1. A Doctor Made Nebula A Cyborg, Not Thanos
Though she yells a lot in the movie, Nebula finally begins to earn our sympathy in Vol. 2. As she spitefully reveals to Gamora, her cybernetic enhancements are the result of their violent childhood brawls. Worst yet, she admits to enduring endless torture by the hand of Thanos, as punishment for consistently losing to her adopted sister. Hell-bent on turning her into a warrior, he slowly converted her into a machine. It’s easy to see why she wants to kill the Mad Titan.
If it only were so dramatic in the comics. After getting knocked unconscious in a prison, Nebula was flown to the cosmic hospital of Doctor Mandibus, the emaciated alien who specializes in cybernetics. While operating on Nebula, Mandibus resorts to technological means to resuscitate her broken mind and body. He succeeds in turning her into a cyborg replete with artificial eyes, a partially metal head, a terminator arm and more.
What else has changed from the Guardians comics to the movies? Let us know in the comments!