Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movie saw the nefarious Nebula team up with the bad guy to take on the title characters, but next time audiences see her in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, she’ll be teaming up with the good guys. Comic book fans already know that Nebula has always been something of an opportunist; she was actually more of a space pirate when she made her comic book debut. Considering that Nebula has no problem chopping off her own hand and throwing her enemies out of spaceships, interacting with the heroes this time around should be an interesting time for her.
With witty one-liners, killer fight moves, and a nearly indestructible body thanks to some high-tech advancements, Nebula was, despite her small amount of screen time, quite the standout in the first film. With Doctor Who fan favorite Karen Gillan in the role, audiences have been hoping for a lot more of the character, and they’re in luck, because her role is much larger in the upcoming film. The character also has a comic book history that spans more than 30 years, though the Nebula audiences see on the screen and the Nebula on the comic book page have as many differences as they do similarities.
Before she graces the silver screen again, see what the adopted daughter of Thanos gets up to on the comic book page and behind the scenes of the movie with 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Nebula.
15 Nebula's Debut Was A Subtle One
While she's not a character with quite as long of a history as some of the other Guardians, Nebula made her comic book debut just over 30 years ago. Her first appearance was in Avengers #257 in 1985, and she looked very different than how most Marvel fans think of her now.
Instead of her bald head and metal plates, Nebula had long hair and smooth skin. She hadn’t yet undergone most of the cybernetic enhancements that she has in the comics (and the movies). Not much is known about her character history before her debut, either. Roger Stern and John Buscema brought her to the page in the middle of a job - stealing the Sanctuary II and planning to take over the Skrull Empire.
Nebula was akin to a space pirate, traveling with a loyal crew and taking things as she saw fit. Taking over the Skrull Empire was a lofty ambition for her, and one that didn’t exactly go as planned, as the following issues had her going up against Avengers, and later, taking on the Silver Surfer.
14 She Commanded a giant letter H
The Sanctuary, created by Jim Starlin 10 years before Nebula made her comic book debut, wasn’t just a spaceship, it was the base of operations for Thanos and looked essentially like a three-dimensional 'H'. As Thanos attempted to get closer to Death (the entity, not the state of being), he built more ships, dubbing them Sanctuary II and Sanctuary III as they were wrecked or abandoned. It’s after he’s abandoned Sanctuary II that Nebula seeks it out.
Though the ship could hold thousands, Nebula sent a small crew to repair it and teleport it out of its location so that she could use it in her quest to dominate her little corner of space. When her team did that, the ship came with an unexpected person on board - Captain Marvel. The ship also became Nebula’s, for a time anyway.
Interestingly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a very different version of Sanctuary. Instead of a spaceship, Sanctuary is the name given to the rock in the middle of an asteroid belt in Chitauri-occupied space. It’s there that Thanos sits on his throne and takes meetings with both Loki and Ronan the Accuser.
13 Captain Marvel Was Nebula’s First Foe
In the same issue where Nebula first appeared, taking over the Sanctuary II and planning to rule the Skrull Empire, it was Captain Marvel whom she went up against. Mind you, this wasn't the Carol Danvers version of Captain Marvel modern comic book readers are familiar with, nor the original version of the hero; this version was Monica Rambeau.
Monica was hit with extra-dimensional energy while working her day job as a member of Harbor Patrol, and it was the media who dubbed her Captain Marvel. When she met Nebula, she was a card-carrying member of the Avengers waiting to rendezvous with Earth's Mightiest Heroes out in space. Nebula immediately pegged her as an Avenger, even though the crew members working for her didn’t realize who she was. To buy herself some time, Monica went along with Nebula’s plan to take over the Skrull Empire, secretly helping Skrulls escape as she did. When the Avengers finally caught up to them, Nebula decided to blow up the Skrull outpost and the planet Xandar rather than be defeated by the defenders of Earth.
Monica and the Avengers took on Nebula in a few more of her appearances in the 1980s, but Nebula more frequently went up against the Silver Surfer.
12 She's one of the last surviving members of her race
Though Nebula debuted in the 1980s, the race of beings she belongs to debuted in 1976 in the first issue of Nova thanks to Zorr the Conqueror. Luphomoids have a humanoid appearance except for their blue skin, and with only four members of the race ever appearing in Marvel Comics, just how different they are from human beings remains to be scene.
Characters like Zorr and Nebula were both space travelers who appear to possess above average strength and stamina. While Nebula is greatly augmented in modern comics, when she first appeared, she didn’t have many cybernetic enhancements. Neither did Zorr, but he could still throw a human being across the room in a fight. According to Marvel’s numerous encyclopedias and reference books for their comic book universes, Luphomoids could grow to be as tall as 12 feet.
Other Luphomoids in the comics include Kraa and Xira, siblings of Zorr. Nova defeated all of them, and though Nebula has always claimed to be related to Thanos, many fans have theorized that Zorr is her father. According to the characters themselves, their home planet was destroyed, which is why only four Luphomoids have been introduced (so far) - they were all off-planet when it met its end.
11 Thanos Burned Her Alive
While Nebula was busy getting access to the Sanctuary II and setting out to rule the Skrull Empire, Thanos was temporarily out of the picture. When he was reborn, the Mad Titan came to claim his ship. Nebula attempted to appeal to him by explaining that she was his granddaughter, something that was never officially confirmed in the comics, but Thanos didn’t believe her. (The movies have instead made her his adopted daughter.)
What’s a Titan to do when his starship base has been taken over by someone he doesn’t trust? He decided to burn her alive and leave her on the ship. Nebula didn’t actually die from her injuries, and though she eventually had several surgeries performed to augment her strength, and later, to repair her damaged mind. Before any of those surgeries, she used the Infinity Gauntlet to heal her burns and get back at Thanos. More on that in a bit.
10 Nebula Killed Her Entire Crew
During a Silver Surfer story arc, Nebula found herself without a crew because everyone who had previously run the Sanctuary II with her was in a space prison. Determined to get them back, she showed up, held a military leader hostage, and went toe-to-toe with the Silver Surfer to claim her crew.
In the ensuing fight, her first officer (Geatar) was seriously injured, and though she managed to get him on board a confiscated cargo ship, in order to escape, she had to start the engines of the ship inside the cargo bay, killing everyone inside that didn’t have the abilities of the Silver Surfer to protect them.
While her first officer was horrified at her actions, Nebula considered Geatar to be more valuable than the thousands of pirates and mercenaries she had worked with in the past. He had been one of the only people in her employ who was there for her, even breaking her out of prison when she was catatonic and getting her the surgeries that would improve her abilities.
9 Nebula Temporarily Possessed The Infinity Gauntlet
When Thanos achieved his goal of possessing the Infinity Gauntlet, Nebula was still grievously injured from him burning her, but he’d never locked her away or disposed of her, so she spent her time sitting and waiting on the Sanctuary II as a sort of zombie. Some of the crew members had attempted to help her heal, but she was still essentially a walking corpse. Nebula bided her time, and eventually, she was able to make her move.
Thanos spent a lot of time fighting off those who would take the Gauntlet from him, but after defeating Eternity, he actually left his body, sending his mind out into the universe. His body, however, was still in possession of the Gauntlet, so Nebula took her chance and stole it from him while his body was comatose. She was able to restore her body, though she did eventually lose the Gauntlet to Adam Warlock and ended up being imprisoned.
Might this be a preview of what’s to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Adam Warlock was intended for a spot with the Guardians, though James Gunn decided to hold off on using the character (though that long holdout will soon come to an end).
8 She Was A Member of Gamora’s Graces
The Guardians of the Galaxy members all appeared in different continuities across the comics, but in the prime Marvel universe, known as 616, their appearances were spotty right up through the '90s and into the 2000s. In 2006, Nebula and Gamora actually surfaced as members of the same team. Gamora led a team of warriors up against Ronan in a story arc that involved Galactus, Silver Surfer, Nova, and various members of the Guardians. It set the bulk of the action on several different planets movie fans haven’t been introduced to yet.
The team made their only appearances for a story arc in Annihilation: Ronan, appearing in a few issues of the mini-series. The squad also included Stellaris (who first appeared as an ally to Thor), the feathered Cerise (a member of Excalibur), Tana Nile (the longest appearing member of the team, who made her debut in the 1960s as a space colonizer), and Xira (the only other female Luphomoid introduced to comic book readers).
7 Nebula Appears In Three Marvel Animated Series
She might not have as much television screen time as some other comic book characters, but Nebula has been animated for three different projects, all with very different storylines.
In 1998, Nebula appeared in the two-part “Learning Curve” episode of Silver Surfer. In the short-lived animated series, the titular Surfer, Pip the Troll, Mentor, and Drax the Destroyer are all looking for the Universal Library of the Watchers. So was Nebula, though she and her crew of space pirates had been transformed into a group of jello-like organisms with a hive-mind. It was her only appearance on the show.
Nebula appeared in a few episodes of The Super Hero Squad Show in 2010, and was even voiced by comedy legend Jane Lynch. The series put a new spin on character, making her the older sister of Thanos, at one point being held prisoner by him after he took away her ability to talk.
The 2015 Guardians of the Galaxy series sees a Nebula that's more in line with her live-action movie counterpart. The character is a rival of Gamora’s and aligns herself with Ronan the Accuser, frequently going up against the Guardians during her different schemes. She’s also a recurring antagonist, giving her more screentime than her previous animated appearances.
6 Gal Gadot Auditioned for the character
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe expanded to include space-faring heroes and villains, there were many women who were interested in getting the roles of Gamora and Nebula, adopted sisters with serious trust issues. One such actress was future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot.
While she never publicly named the character, in an interview conducted around the time Guardians of the Galaxy was casting, Gadot acknowledged that one of the roles she was up for would involve her being painted blue and shaving her head. Sound familiar? When fans asked James Gunn about the possible casting decision later though, he didn’t remember whether or not she auditioned, saying she wasn’t someone who was in consideration for the role.
It sounds like she didn’t make it very far in the audition process, but we can’t feel too badly for her. After all, she’s getting to kick butt and take names in the DC Extended Universe.
5 James Gunn Wants A Nebula Movie
A lot of fans have been clamoring for a female-centric Marvel movie for years. Most of the attention goes to Black Widow in those conversations, but writer/director James Gunn would be interested in seeing Nebula get the spotlight.
In October, Gunn responded to fan questions on Twitter, and revealed that Nebula is one character he’d love to see get a solo movie. It’s no surprise that fans want more of her, considering that she didn’t get a ton of screen time in the film, as she was mainly there to fight with Gamora and provide a look at the bad guys for the audience. Her role will be expanded in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, even if she isn’t set to steal the show there, either.
Marvel’s first female-led movie will be Captain Marvel, out in 2019. Marvel’s television front has given audiences female leads in Agent Carter and Jessica Jones though, on ABC and Netflix, respectively.
4 Nebula’s Makeup Job Took Five Hours
While a science fiction movie like Guardians of the Galaxy has a lot of CGI (since we can’t actually film actual movies in space or on another planet), the team involved in the original production, and its upcoming sequel, employ a lot of practical effects as well, which means a lot of makeup applications.
In the first movie, actress Karen Gillan shaved her head, as she revealed at Comic Con, to make makeup application easier on the team. The process to apply her makeup though took a whopping five hours. The application process involved a lot of blue paint and prosthetics to make her look like the cybernetically enhanced Luphomoid.
This time around, however, Gillan doesn’t have to spend nearly as much time in the makeup chair. The team has managed to streamline the process so much that she only spent about 2.5 hours becoming Nebula. She also didn’t have to shave her entire head, but only the underlying layer of her hair. By the next film, she might even spend less time in the chair if the makeup artists continue improving, and maybe she’ll even be able to keep more of her hair.
3 Thank Gamora For Nebula’s MCU Enhancements
In the comics, many of the cybernetic enhancements Nebula has are a result of her being injured after being held as a prisoner. She undergoes numerous surgeries to repair herself, which end up giving her things like the ability to lift two tons. In the movies, however, those enhancements are a result of several encounters with Gamora.
As revealed in the prequel comics, one of the biggest sources of Nebula’s injuries was actually a sparring match with Gamora. The two were once sent to retrieve an object for Ronan as part of a training exercise, but it was actually a competition rather than a chance for them to work together. In order to make sure she achieved the objective, Gamora threw Nebula off a cliff, and it was that experience that left Nebula in need of her cybernetic enhancements that allow her to simply push her bones back into place, which audiences saw in the first film.
In another scenario, Nebula actually rushed into a mission ahead of Gamora and wound up trapped. Rather than allow Gamora to save her, Thanos requested that she be left behind with nothing by a knife to help herself. Nebula wound up having to cut off her own arm to escape, leading to her having a robotic arm in the first film. She's had a rough go of it in life, to say the least.
2 Nebula Will Appear In Infinity War
Since Nebula was a villain in her first MCU appearance, there were some doubts as to whether or not she’d be involved in the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Of course, since her adopted father Thanos is the big bad, it seems only natural that she’d get at least a handful of scenes.
We don’t exactly know how Nebula will be involved in the fight - will she be a good guy or a bad guy this time around? - but Karen Gillan has been teasing fans with her involvement in the movie, and many of the MCU veterans have already begun filming scenes for the showdown in Georgia and Scotland.
Also appearing in the film?...Nearly every MCU hero who has appeared on screen so far. We’ll be seeing Rocket and Thor fighting side by side according to concept art, but Captain America, Iron Man, the rest of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy teams will appear along with new additions like Captain Marvel. Marvel has yet to confirm if any of the characters in their television series will be involved.
1 Guardians of the Galaxy Cut A Final Nebula Scene
The first movie had a lot of characters and scenes that wound up on the cutting room floor. Most famously, James Gunn opted to have a new cameo for Stan Lee. Instead of being a member of the Collector’s collection at the end of the film, he appeared in an earlier sequence in the movie. That was hardly the only change in the ending scenes, though.
There were three scenes that Gunn originally had in mind for the end of the film involving Peter Quill’s grandfather, the Collector, and Nebula. While the scene involving the former character, as Gunn explained to the UK’s Telegraph, was too sad to include because it involved the audience realizing that he knew Peter was abducted decades earlier; Nebula and the Collector were cut simply because there were the bad guys.
Nebula’s scene gave the audience an idea of just what happened to her after she cut off her own hand and stole a ship to escape. In it, she was angrily marching through a field, upset that her plan had been foiled, with the remains of a wrecked Ravager ship behind her. Gunn actually named it as one of his favorite Nebula scenes, but it just didn’t make the final cut.
We hope you got to know Nebula a little bit better! Did we surprise you with some of these? Or did we miss out on a little-known fact? Let us know in the comments!
Catch Nebula on the big screen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on May 5.