Just a few short years ago, the Guardians of the Galaxy were an obscure group to those who weren’t Marvel Comics diehards. With a rotating lineup throughout the years, the team served as an intergalactic version of the Avengers, stopping powerful threats while trying not to kill each other. When it came time to adapt them to screen, the more roguish group from the mid-aughts were chosen, with writer and director James Gunn seamlessly weaving rakish charm, swaggering action, and lots of music into a cosmic and comic adventure.
In a few weeks, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will bring back Marvel’s most dysfunctional family, complete with new friends and foes. By all accounts, it’ll be funnier, more thrilling, and far more colorful than its predecessor. In anticipation, fans are likely burning through cartoons and comics featuring the Guardians just to get a fix.
As such, we thought we’d highlight some other media that might be up your alley ahead of the release of Guardians 2. Here’s 15 Shows, Movies, And Comics To Check Out Before The Movie.
15. Cowboy Bebop
While a little lighter on the comedy, Cowboy Bebop is almost a perfect match for Guardians. Airing in 1998, the anime found cult fandom when Adult Swim picked it up as part of their inaugural block of shows in 2001. Featuring a band of rogues who earn a living as intergalactic bounty hunters, the show is packed full of action and plenty of wry humor. It’s got planet-hopping adventures, a cool ship, and even a furry little companion. While all of that would certainly make it fitting for any Guardians fan, it’s the music that really made the show unique.
Featuring a mix of kinetic jazz and moody blues, the show wove its soundtrack throughout the series in interesting ways, with everything from long, introspective shots paired with pensive blues establishing the show’s noir feel, to fast-paced sequences set to raucous free jazz that mimic that erratic fights scenes and space battles. There’s no telling if Gunn studied the show, but they both share a similar love for music and how it can inform story and action.
14. The Fifth Element
Luc Besson has created a number of iconic films over the years, and his upcoming Valerian adaptation looks to be in a similar vein to Guardians. It’s his 1997 film The Fifth Element that he’s likely best known for, however, and will appeal to any Guardians fans who haven’t seen it. With a colorful cast and a dour lead, the movie has a lot of fun putting Bruce Willis in all sorts of absurd situations. Throughout, Besson crafts an incredibly vivid future set of worlds and Gary Oldman turns in one of his best performances ever as the eccentric villain.
Besson started writing the movie at 16, with it finally being made two decades later. That youthful energy infuses the project, which blends action and sci-fi, with some music and comedy thrown in as well. It’s also Milla Jovovich’s breakout and most iconic role. It’s easy to belief that this movie, and especially Chris Tucker’s off-the-wall MC, inspired Gunn and his work with Marvel.
13. Venom: Space Knight
If you read any of the recent Guardians comics, you’ll get to know Flash Thompson’s Agent Venom quite well. After gaining the Symbiote in a government program, Flash eventually worked his way from a lone hero to a Secret Avenger before heading off to space to join up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. From there, he accompanied them on a number of missions and even returned to the Symbiote homeworld of Klyntar to have the murderous Venom cured.
Venom: Space Knight sees Flash going solo for a bit as an Agent of the Cosmos, using the Klyntar Symbiote to protect those in need. The series features some amazing art by Ariel Olivetti and sees the Symbiote learning to exist outside of Flash. There’s also lots of fighting, space travel, and colorful aliens, making it a must-read for any Guardians fans. There’s no telling if Flash will ever make it to the cosmos in the MCU, but Venom: Space Knight is a film just begging to be made.
12. Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra
While Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra lack the element of space, they both share a lot in common with Guardians. The teams of both shows are a bit less roguish, but feature plenty of non-traditional heroes and villains who turn to the light side. They’re also two of TV’s best examples of blending all-ages humor with exciting action sequences. The music is quite special too, elevating the fight scenes and intimate moments with a unique blend of Eastern instrumentation and freak jazz (in Korra’s case).
Instead of planet hopping, the characters travel around a version of Earth where various nations rule based on elemental powers. Based on real world martial arts, the bending allows the directors and choreographer of the show to translate fight moves into an animated medium for one of the most most creative-looking shows ever to hit TV. The adventures of both shows have even been followed up with comics- just make sure to avoid the terrible film adaptation which bears little resemblance tothe show.
11. Men In Black
Most people might not be aware, but the Men in Black film franchise is actually based on a series of comics from the early ‘90s. While the comics weren’t a huge hit, the premise of a shady government organization who secretly covers up and fights aliens proved to be perfect film fodder. While the two subsequent sequels dip in quality, the original 1997 movie is a blast.
Thanks to the premise, some fun effects and action sequences are created, all paired with the odd couple humor of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. The movie also features some stellar music by Danny Elfman, and the whole film has an interesting palette that perfectly captures the sci-fi style of the ‘90s. Best of all, Vincent D’Onofrio stars as the villain, in a role that leaves him almost unrecognizable despite him looking ostensibly human.
10. Captain Marvel Comics
Until the Captain Marvel movie lands in theaters, her comics will have to hold over fans. Luckily, there are some pretty spectacular ones. While the adventures of the original Captain Marvel or Carol’s time as Ms. Marvel feature some great stories, Colonel Danver’s update a few years back has led to some of the character’s best arcs. Almost any Captain Marvel run from the past few years is worth grabbing, as they mix strong character work with plenty of action and humor.
Even better, Carol has spent a lot of time with the Guardians recently. In between her adventures with the team, she’s had solo battles in space, become the head of the all-new Alpha Flight, and helps lead the new Ultimates. She’s also a member of A-Force, meaning there’s no shortage of titles both solo and team-based that feature Carol Danvers and her outerspace exploits.
9. Legends of Tomorrow
Though DC has a number of comic book teams, the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow is the closest to the Guardians there is on TV. Thanks to the time-traveling aspect of the show, the gang regularly end up in different countries, and even in space from time to time. It’s less cosmic than Guardians, but features lots of locations and colorful characters. It’s also packed full of superheroes, offering a nice companion to Guardians.
With less episodes than the other CW shows, it also functions more like a mini-series, allowing for a slightly bigger budget and flashier effects. Like Guardians, it’s also packed full of nostalgia, with the team regularly encountering the likes of George Lucas and J.R.R Tolkien.
Though all of the CW shows bear their comic roots proudly, Legends is allowed to do the wackiest and wildest arcs thanks to its premise and ensemble cast. There’s even a few rogues, thieves, and assassins on the team, which will make Guardians fans feel right at home.
8. Suicide Squad Comics
From the first trailer, DC and WB’s Suicide Squad proved it was trying to follow in the footsteps of Guardians of the Galaxy. Sadly, much of that energy was absent from the final product on screen. Luckily, the comics featuring Task Force X make up for it. While the original team was more of a war comic, John Ostrander’s reboot in the late ‘80s morphed the team into the villainous heroes we know and love today.
Over the years, just about every supervillain from DC Comics – and more than a few heroes – have joined the team to run covert missions for the government black ops group. Thanks to their proclivities, any Suicide Squad team is going to resemble a darker version of the Guardians. From thieves to murderers to world-dominators, the Squad features an interesting dynamic with lots of action and comedy in every issue. In the end, you’ll have a hard time not loving the sociopathic rogues that make up this team.
7. Big Hero 6
While Big Hero 6 started life as a somewhat obscure Marvel comic, the animated film does a much better job of capturing the energy and comedy of Guardians. Revolving around a number of robotic geniuses, the story focuses on a young Japanese boy named Hiro and a lovable modular robot named Baymax. Together, they and a group of other geeks turn themselves into superheroes in order to stop an evil threat.
While some elements remain from the comics, the 2014 film is merely a loose adaptation. In that way, it shares some things in common with Guardians. Though it’s much more family-friendly and lighthearted than Guardians, it hits a lot of the same beats. The film proved to be a hit, and a TV series is all set to follow-up the movie, with much of the original cast returning. Similar to Guardians, we wouldn’t be surprised if the team from the comics started to resemble the one from the movies.
6. Firefly and Serenity
Even more than Cowboy Bebop, Firefly is the perfect TV series for fans of Guardians. It’s got the rogue crew in a ramshackle ship, the Western elements, bizarre aliens and planets, and lots of fights scenes and comedy. Crafted by Joss Whedon, it will be quite familiar for fans of the director’s work in the MCU. Though it didn’t last long, it’s got a huge cult following and the depth of story and character fans of Guardians will appreciate.
Even better, there’s a movie to dive into once you’re done with the show. After the show aired for one season on FOX in 2002, Whedon created a film in 2005 called Serenity that picks up where the show left off with much of the cast returning. While the bittersweet lack of content can be a bummer, both Firefly and Serenity are essential viewing if you need more things like Guardians in your life.
5. Howard the Duck Comics
Created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik for 1973’s Adventure into Fear, Howard the Duck is one of Marvel’s more unusual creations. An alien from another reality, Howard is a put-upon everyman (err, everyduck) stuck in a world he’s just plain fed up with. Like with Avatar: The Last Airbender, it’s best to stay away from the live-action film. While there’s charm to the 1986 movie, which George Lucas helped bring to life, it’s best to just stick with the comics.
Howard has popped up all over comics (and newspapers, briefly) over the decades, so there’s plenty to choose from. His more recent adventures, however, will likely appeal to Guardians fans wondering who the cigar-smoking duck from the end of the first movie was.
Back in 2014, writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones began their work one the first of several Howard the Duck comics for Marvel. In his adventures, he frequently encounters She-Hulk, Squirrel Girl, and Rocket from the Guardians. Though mostly comedic, there’s a surprising amount of action and cosmic adventure in the books. If you loved the irreverence of Guardians, Howard is your duck.
4. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!
One of the best action/sci-fi cult comedies of all time, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! bears many of the same hallmarks as Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s an Earth-based hero who takes to the stars seeking adventures, a whole bunch of aliens and eccentric villains, and plenty of music, comedy, romance, and action.
Focusing on Peter Weller as Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, movie is about a rockstar/physicist/pilot. He soups up an old pickup truck with a jet engine, turning it into a spaceship, and heads out on an intergalactic adventure to fight an evil group of aliens.
He also has to battle the scenery-chewing John Lithgow in one of his most enjoyable performances. Rounding out the cast are Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd, increasing the sci-fi and comedy pedigree of the movie. While never a big hit, the movie is a beloved cult film and a likely inspiration for Guardians.
3. Doctor Who
If you’re looking for something to binge while you wait for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the BBC’s Doctor Who is one of your best bets. Thanks to its multiple series that have aired since the ‘60s, there’s no shortage of episodes to dive into. If you’re not keen on one, the frequent rotation of the Doctor and his companion means there’s something for almost everyone. Even if you just stick with the modern incarnation of the show, there’s still ten seasons to get through, plus a number of Christmas specials and multiple spinoffs, from Torchwood to the recent Class.
Thanks to the premise, the show regularly deals with space, aliens, time travel, and lots of comedic and action-packed adventures. It’s got one of the all-time great lovable rogues as the lead, and it has the heart, pathos, and non-traditional family structure to align it perfectly with the Guardians franchise.
2. FF by Matt Fraction and Mike and Laura Allred
Created by Jonathan Hickman in 2010 for FF, the Future Foundation are an updated take on the Fantastic Four. Featuring their coolest costumes yet and Spider-Man as a member, the comic saw them diving even deeper into science and the problems of the future. Then, the team went off to space and left some backups in charge.
Matt Fraction had taken over on the main Fantastic Four comic, and was joined on the new FF title by artist Mike Allred and colorist Laura Allred. The Allreds, known for their unique pallet and style, brought Fraction’s zany story to life.
Focusing on Ant-Man, Medusa, She-Hulk, and popstar Darla Deering in a Thing suit, the team watches over the kids of the Future Foundation while the Four are off in space. Its focus on a young group of genius and heroes and lots of irreverent storytelling makes it one of Marvel’s most unique comics and something begging to be adapted to the screen. In the meantime, the run is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys the weirder side of the Marvel universe.
1. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
More than any other film to date, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World not only matches Guardians of the Galaxy, but tops it in many ways. While it lacks the space element, it’s got a lovable jerk as the lead who navigates his colorful ensemble of friends in a world mixed with absurdity, superpowers, video game physics, and tons of music. Thanks to the likes of Beck, Dan the Automator, Broken Social Scene, and more, Scott Pilgrim has one of the best original soundtracks of any film. Even better, but the music is a core part of the story and the action.
Like a few other entries on this list, Scott Pilgrim can be consumed in multiple formats. Based on a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, many of the elements of the movie begin life on the page. Both are recommended, but Edgar Wright’s translation to the screen has the neon-drenched kinetic action-comedy that fans of Guardians will greatly admire.
What comics, TV shows, and movies do you recommend checking out before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? Let us know in the comments.