WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The news may surfaced ahead of schedule thanks to some foreign websites, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 junior novelization confirmed it ahead of the first screenings of the movie: Sylvester Stallone's role is that of Stakar Ogord, better known as the superhero Starhawk. Exactly which character from Marvel's cosmic lore Stallone would be appearing as, and what role he would play going forward hasn't been clear given the character's brief first look in teaser footage played last summer at San Diego Comic-Con but given director James Gunn's interest in telling original stories not simply adapting existing characters whole cloth, it shouldn't come as a surprise that this incarnation of Starhawk is something new.
The director had teased early on that Stallone's cameo would be important to the Guardians story and the larger Marvel Universe, but not necessarily qualify as a "huge" role in this first appearance. That wouldn't exactly be uncommon for Marvel films, since key players have often been teased or outright cameo-ed in mid or post-credits sequences. Thanks to new details, we can not only assume the role Stallone will occupy, but how Starhawk will fit into Marvel's future.
Previous rumors had claimed that Stallone would cameo as a member of Yondu Udonta's Ravagers - which is apparently only partly true. According to the junior novel based on Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which released April 4th and includes a story bridging the gap between the two films, Stallone will be a Ravager.
[Update: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 press conferences and interviews have confirmed new details.]
Apparently, Stallone's take on Stakar Ogord a.k.a. Starhawk had a run-in with Yondu years in the past that led to the older Ravager banishing the red-finned mercenary. In Guardians 2 the two men reconnect after two decades at a space bar known as the Iron Lotus, a spot frequented by the Ravagers. The two have an "intense" meeting, with Stakar playing something of a mentor role to the younger Yondu... and it's time for him to pay up for past deeds.
Aside from Stakar's feud with Yondu, it seems that the blue-skinned, red-finned father figure to Star-Lord is in for a change in Vol. 2, with his role as leader of the Ravagers apparently being swapped for membership among the Guardians. That's the assumption made given the film's marketing, and his apparent opposition of his former forces. But if Starhawk is stepping in, it could offer an explanation... not to mention lay connections to even larger sections of Marvel's cosmic mythology.
While not as famous as his Avengers colleagues, current fans of Marvel Comics will see this inclusion as a no-brainer, since Starhawk debuted as a regular member of the Guardians of the Galaxy in writer Dan Abnett and artist Gerardo Sandoval's Guardians 3000 (2014). That comic series was a return to the original version of the team, set in a different universe from the rest of Marvel's catalogue. In that version of the story, Starhawk-- sorry, Stakar was the child of Quasar and Kismet, caught in a glorious, wisdom-endowing cycle of death and rebirth for all eternity. In other words, he is blessed with powers befitting an ancient, or all-powerful cosmic being... making his rivalry with Yondu bad news for the latter.
Why Yondu has remained the leader of the Ravagers is the obvious question, but perhaps Stakar's return (after another rebirth, perhaps?) is to blame for Yondu's sudden change of fate, after flourishing in his absence. The nature of Starhawk's powers may be the real question here, before fans wonder if he's destined to join the Guardians. In the comics, his powers were derived from characters yet to be introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe - including his mother, known as Ayesha... set to be played in Guardians 2 by Elizabeth Debicki, presumed to be the antagonist of the film.
There are doors opening left and right to explain his appearance, and where in the story he may appear to hint at he story or direction of Guardians of the Galaxy 3. For now, it means one more Marvel cosmic hero set to join the MCU, assuming these reports are as accurate as they seem. Where do you hope to see Starhawk's story lead?
Sources: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: The Junior Novel