It wasn’t a surprise to see Marvel Studios confidently announcing “Phase Two” of the Marvel cinematic universe during the Iron Man 3 panel at Comic-Con 2012, although some would argue that it was surprising to see Guardians of the Galaxy confirmed among the newly-titled Captain America and Thor sequels.

Guardians of the Galaxy and the idea of venturing deeper into the cosmic side of Marvel Comics is something studio president and producer Kein Feige has never been shy to speak about and multiple reports indicated that the project was closer to becoming a reality than many fans thought possible. When Rocket Raccoon appeared onscreen during the panel, everything changed.

With The Avengers becoming the third highest-grossing film of all-time at the worldwide box office, and earning the love of fans and critics, Marvel Studios and parent company Disney have solidified their heroes among the pop culture zeitgeist and have earned the ability to get more creative and take risks in attempting to expand the brand, by introducing characters unknown to mainstream moviegoers.

And trust us when we say these characters are unknown; even comic book readers may be unfamiliar with the Guardians of the Galaxy, a team consisting of unique aliens from various worlds – one of which is a heavy weapon-wielding raccoon, and another being a walking, talking tree. Let’s meet the five confirmed stars of the film, as listed and revealed via Charlie Wen’s beautiful concept art at the Marvel Studios Comic-Con panel.


From left to right: Drax the Destroyer, Groot (looks like an Ent from middle-earth), the dual-wielding Star-Lord, Rocket Racoon and the sword-wielding Gamora.

And a closer look at the five confirmed Guardians of the Galaxy characters:

The Guardians of the Galaxy team first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1969 and lasted through several runs, mini-series and guest appearances – as recently as last month in Avengers Assembled (coincidence?). The film draws its characters and inspiration from the rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy books by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning from 2008.

While not confirmed yet, characters including Adam Warlock and Nova could appear in the film as well – personally, I’m counting on it – so expect a lot more news in the coming months as casting rumors and details are unveiled. We’ll have more on Guardians of the Galaxy soon, so stay tuned and check out our Comic-Con 2012 landing page for more on what we learned and saw at this year’s big event.

After writing about how Guardians of the Galaxy was a realistic possibility a year ago, it’s exciting to see Marvel exemplifying confidence in their ability to realize and sell such an obscure property.

Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014 and Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.