The Guardians of the Galaxy deal with an awful lot of freaky stuff. As Marvel’s premiere ragtag super-team that’s based in space, these unlikely heroes fight for those who can’t fight for themselves — just on other planets instead of Earth. When they can stop fighting among themselves, that is.
The original Guardians came from the 31st Century and were a very different group than moviegoers are familiar with. But like their modern counterparts, they were a motley group of wildly differing characters who sometimes found it hard to get along. It didn’t help that outer space is an unpredictable place. For the Guardians of the 21st Century, things haven’t gotten any less complicated.
Whichever creative team is at the helm of the Guardians of the Galaxy comics, you can always expect the unexpected. It’s almost as if the title was intentionally designed to allow its writers and artists to let their imaginations go to the weirdest places they could dream up. And boy, do they ever. From the team’s origins back in the 1960s to the characters in the comics being published today, they always seem to find themselves smack in the middle of the crazy. (Just look at that picture of Groot fighting Rocket over a slice of pizza in a Winter Soldier variant comic cover. This is a regular thing in Guardians comics.)
As we celebrate the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, take a look at the 15 most out there, the most ludicrous, and the most baffling moments from GotG comics.
15. Vance Astro’s depressing origin
Imagine this. You grow up a normal kid, in our time; you enter the astronaut program when you become an adult, become a celebrated hero, and everything’s coming up roses. You’re selected for the first-ever voyage from Earth to another solar system. It’s a great honor.
You’re placed in suspended animation and the ship is launched. Things go wrong. You land at your destination one thousand years later, and upon waking up, you discover that your entire mission was pointless because while you were asleep, human technology advanced to the point that the planet you were going to visit has already been colonized by mankind.
This is the story of Vance Astro, the original leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, a man out of time on a scale Captain America couldn’t even begin to fathom. When the alien Badoon attacked our solar system, Vance had little choice but to team up with other refugees and try to set things right. But his fight with his own time-displaced demons would last a lot longer.
14. Cosmo the Russian Space Dog
In the 1960s, Russia sent a dog named Cosmo into space as part of its spaceflight test program. Because this is comics, Cosmo’s ship drifted off course and somehow wound up at Knowhere — that space station seen in the 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy movie that’s made of a dead Celestial’s head.
Also somehow, Cosmo mutated, became self-aware, and gained all sorts of mind-related powers, including telepathy and telekinesis, even though he remains an ordinary Earthly dog in appearance. First appearing in the pages of Nova, the titular space cop encountered Cosmo on Knowhere, where the pup was in charge of security.
Cosmo later met the Guardians of the Galaxy during an invasion from the Cancerverse — a universe where death is extinct and life spreads uncontrolled, like cancer (see #1) — and became a member of the team. He chose to remain on Knowhere, acting as a custodian of their home base and frequently sending them mission details and coordinates.
13. The History of the 31st Century
The alternate Earth known to the original team of Guardians of the Galaxy was a bleak place. It started with the collapse of the environment in the ’90s, followed by the “Bionic Wars.” That conflict led to a nuclear bomb being dropped on part of North America. This disaster gave the world enough pause and compassion to finally create a single government in 1995.
The peace didn’t last. In 2001, Earth was invaded by Martians, who killed most of mankind and enslaved the rest. For reasons that have never been explained, the tyrannical Martians pulled up stakes and left in 2075. After another 500 years of in-fighting, Earth united again. Humanity pushed outward, colonizing the rest of the solar system.
This age of peace and scientific advancement came to an end in 3007, when an overwhelming reptilian alien force called the Badoon invaded our solar system and destroyed all of the extraterrestrial colonies. Millions of humans were killed and the rest enslaved (again). It was into this scenario that the first Guardians of the Galaxy were born, determined to bring the Badoon occupation to an end and free the human race.
12. Iron Man joins the team for the heck of it
When Marvel decided to reboot Guardians of the Galaxy in 2013 to capitalize on James Gunn’s movie, writer Brian Michael Bendis used the same five-member crew that starred in the film — Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. But Marvel and Bendis then took things a step further, by having none other than Tony Stark join the team.
Why? Did they not believe that this unique group of characters would be enough to hold the interest of comic book readers? Did they fear that the comic incarnations of the Guardians would be too different for movie fans to handle? Were they simply afraid to relaunch the franchise without at least one familiar Marvel superhero in the mix?
Whatever the reason, Iron Man kitted himself out in a space-worthy suit, claiming he needed a break from the pressures of Avenging and Stark Industries. In reality, him signing on had very little to do with storytelling and everything to do with a blatant publicity stunt. Put simply, Marvel doubled-down on its biggest character when he was reaching the peak of his Robert Downey Jr.-fueled renaissance.
11. Vance Astro’s obsession with Captain America
Vance Astro may need to talk to someone about his Captain America fetish. Steve Rogers is Vance’s idol (remember, Vance is from the 20th Century) to put it mildly, and he references the first Avenger at every opportunity. He quotes Cap’s lines, he relies on Cap’s philosophies to guide his own moral compass, and he darn near drives his teammates crazy with endless references to Steve Rogers.
Vance names the Guardians’ first vessel the Starship Captain America. Years after it was destroyed, he dubbed another vessel the Starship Captain America II. A prophecy in a book found by the Guardians convinced Vance that the shield of Captain America still existed, having survived the last millennia, and that he was meant to have it. He led his teammates on an obsessive quest to recover it, and was eventually successful.
Another adventure found him finally able to shed the metal body suit that protected his thousand-year-old body from the ravages of time. So he adopted a new uniform, inspired by (you guessed it) Captain America’s, and renamed himself “Major Victory.” He even managed to meet his hero on a few occasions, thanks to the wonders of time travel.
10. Star-Lord coerces his team into signing on
In the wake of yet another interstellar crisis, just when it seemed that the Guardians had prevailed and could celebrate their victory, a bombshell was dropped. Peter Quill, in his haste to bring a team together — which included Gamora, Drax, Rocket, Groot, Mantis, Quasar, and Adam Warlock — asked Mantis to use her telepathy to make the group more amenable to joining.
When you think about it, it’s not that crazy of an idea. At the time, this disparate group of lonely warriors, all with differing ideas, methods, and goals, had no real reason to become a team. And Peter was quite unapologetic about it when they found out, reasoning that the entire galaxy was falling apart fast and he didn’t have the luxury of taking the time to ask nicely and convince them to sign on. Considering how long these things can take, innumerable lives would have been lost while they argued.
But the team still saw it as a betrayal and disbanded. Also understandable. How could they trust a team leader who would resort to manipulating their minds? They worked things out later, but this damage took a while to undo.
9. The Punishers
In a 31st Century storyline, the original Guardians returned to post-apocalyptic Earth, only to wind up in the middle of a turf war between two opposing vigilante groups. One was called the Commandeers, and this group is who the Guardians wound up aligning with — despite their tactics, which were more extreme than the Guardians’.
But they were far preferable over their opponents, the Punishers. This group was comprised of former criminals who modeled their purpose and methods after Frank Castle, even appropriating his costume and signature weaponry. They were merciless killers, and they seemed to exist solely to put down the Commandeers.
That wasn’t the whole truth about them, of course. First, it was revealed that the Punishers were a tool of the Badoon, who were plotting revenge against mankind. Several issues later, it turned out that Doctor Doom (see #2) had been manipulating the Badoon, and therefore the Punishers, into doing his bidding.
8. GotG turns into a soap opera
When events took the X-Men into space, they met the Guardians, and Peter Quill took an instant shine to Kitty Pryde. It wasn’t long before they began a long-distance relationship. Peter was kidnapped by some baddies, so Kitty hopped on a Quinjet to space to rescue her man. Then there was a crossover event called Black Vortex which ended with Peter popping the question to Kitty. She said yes, and they lived happily ever after.
Kidding! Immediately after she said yes — because this is comics and no one’s allowed to enjoy a simple romance — Peter was selected as the new king of his father’s world. Kitty vowed to support him if he agreed to do it, and he eventually did. She stayed with him for a while, but got bored and lonely and decided to join the Guardians as the new Star-Lord, even adopting Peter’s old uniform.
Events brought her and the Guardians back to Spartax and Peter, where hijinks ensued and the ex-lovers were conveniently left alone in a powerless ship, floating in space, where they talked things out and reconciled. Peter was ousted as king, Civil War II brought the Guardians back to Earth, Peter had some issues, and Kitty left him without explanation.
7. The aliens named “the Stark”
The history of the 31st Century — which is actually an alternate Earth — is seriously messed up. (See #13.) Martians invaded Earth not once but twice, and it was during the second time that things took a thoroughly bizarro turn.
Way back in 2001, the Iron Man of this universe came up with a kooky plan to send a huge arsenal of technology into space to repel the Martian invaders. We’re not sure how that was supposed to work, but the plan went awry when his rocket got sucked into the sun’s gravity and did a Star Trek IV slingshot around it, hurtling it out into the unknown. Many years later, it crashed on a world inhabited by primitive aliens who took possession of the technology.
Hundreds of years passed and the aliens assimilated Stark tech into their culture. They even named themselves “the Stark,” after the “god” who’d bestowed this advanced technology upon them. Every being on planet Stark got his or her own armored Stark suit. Unfortunately, the need for ever-more resources corrupted them, and the Guardians had to smack them down.
6. Star-Lord is made ruler of an entire planet
Who thought this was a good idea?
No sooner than his relationship with Kitty Pryde had begun did Peter Quill find out that he’d been elected to become king of Spartax in his treacherous father’s place. He wasn’t interested, but despite himself, he felt the pull of responsibility to help his father’s people, who were by blood, his own. Kitty encouraged him to follow his heart and promised to support his decision. So he took the plunge and returned to Spartax. It was an unexpected turn of events for the Guardians, to say the least. Rocket in particular was all kinds of bitter about it.
Peter’s tenure as ruler was fraught with endless problems. He tried to do right by his people, but grew frustrated with their impossible expectations. Rocket assumed leadership of the Guardians. Kitty became the new Star-Lord. A conflict with a Kree named Hala brought the band back together when they were forced to rescue Peter. When all was said and done, the Spartoi saw him as a liability, having brought damage and destruction to their world. He was deposed and fled, rejoining the Guardians.
5. Vance Astro alters history (and maybe created Earth-616!)
In an issue of Marvel Two-in-One, the 31st Century Guardians traveled back in time to current-day Earth, where Vance Astro quietly slipped away from his colleagues. Starhawk went to the Fantastic Four for help, having correctly guessed Vance’s intention: he planned to find his younger self and prevent his own history/future from happening.
Vance’s thousand-year trip being proven pointless left him a lonely, isolated guy. So he tracked down his younger self and convinced the teenager, Vance Astrovik, to never become an astronaut. He also inadvertently activated his younger self’s mutant telekinetic powers early. As any good time traveler knows, this created a paradox that should’ve destroyed the fabric of the universe.
Thankfully, the universe resolved the paradox on its own. Vance’s actions didn’t change his own past, they created an alternate timeline, separating the elder Guardians from the rest of the Marvel universe. Since in Marvel continuity, the 31st Century Guardians come from Earth-691, it could be argued that Vance’s actions in this comic actually created the primary Earth-616 universe!
4. The Guardians visit a planet full of crazy people
In a plot that could’ve been ripped out of a Star Trek episode, the crew of the Starship Captain America were forced to
beam down teleport to the surface of an unknown alien world in Marvel Presents #5. They found themselves in a replica of New York City, with a weird mishmash of cultures and eras that included everything from gangsters to religious cults.
But instead of humans, it was inhabited by all manner of extraterrestrial beings. Not only did none of this strike the team as odd, even Vance Astro, who alone among them recognized their surroundings from his history on Earth, took it all in stride. First, Vance and Yondu visited a store to buy a part needed to repair the ship. Then Charlie-27 and Nikki got into a fight with a motorcycle gang. Yondu later learned about politics, while Vance encountered a group of hippie yoga practitioners.
The team also adopted old Earth slang terms as if they’ve been saying words like “on the lam” and “the slammer” forever. On the final page, a scientist appeared to explain that the entire planet was a mental institution for “the hopelessly neurotic.” Vance protested about the similarities to 20th Century Earth, but the scientist said the residents themselves were allowed to create their society. So the whole New York City thing was entirely coincidental.
3. Starhawk merges with his wife
You could say that Starhawk leads a complicated life. That’s just how it is when you fall in love with your adopted sister, marry her, accidentally merge bodies with her, and then spend years wrestling her for control.
When they merged, they became Starhawk, and were significantly more powerful than either of them combined. Empowered by the Hawk God, their joining allowed only one to control their body while the other’s essence was kept in Limbo until they traded places. They managed to get separated long enough to have children, and then re-merged. It went downhill from there, as the two fought for control, wanting different things. They wound up undergoing a vicious struggle and eventually divorced.
Starhawk is also known as Stakar Ogord, and in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, he’s played by (spoiler alert) Sylvester Stallone, in what’s basically a glorified cameo. His comic book wife, Aleta Ogord, is played by Michelle Yeoh.
2. Fighting Doctor Doom in the 31st Century
So there was that one time that the first group of Guardians of the Galaxy — the ones from the 31st Century — tangled with Doctor Doom. Wait a minute, you say. How do a group of heroes from a thousand years in the future fight a villain from today? In the wackiest way imaginable.
Doom survived for a millennium thanks to his unholy knowledge of science and magic. His body decomposed the way that all bodies do, but his brain was another story. Somehow, Victor managed to kill Wolverine (which until recently was thought impossible) and took possession of Logan’s adamantium skeleton, claws and all. After enhancing it with new technology, Doom somehow inserted his brain into it.
That’s right, the Guardians of the Galaxy fought Doctor Doom in the distant future because Doom preserved his own brain and put it inside Wolverine’s skeleton. But hey, there was no time travel involved this time, so: points for creativity!
1. The Guardians destroy an entire universe
One of the many parallel universes that exist in Marvel continuity is known as the Cancerverse. Weird name, right? It’s called that because it’s a place where death has been eradicated, so life grows unchecked, filling every available space. It’s dominated by a race of beings called the Many-Angled Ones, which are sort of big, ugly space squids.
In a crossover event called The Thanos Imperative, the Guardians teamed up with other cosmic heroes to fight back against the Cancerverse, which was trying to bleed into the 616 universe because its rampantly growing life had run out of room. The only solution they could find to save the 616 was an extreme one: they decided to destroy the entire Cancerverse itself, killing the countless living beings in it. That’s about as extreme as extreme gets.
So how do you bring death to a deathless universe? You call upon the avatar of death — a big purple guy you may have heard of named Thanos. He’s known for being utterly obsessed with Death personified, and remarkably, he agreed to allow the heroes to kill him in the Cancerverse so he could be with his one true love. They did, the Cancerverse was destroyed, and the new Guardians of the Galaxy — the ones led by Star-Lord — are now forever known as the destroyers of an entire universe.
What other wtf moments have you come across in GotG comics? Let us know in the comments.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is in theaters now.