Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk -- the four headliners of "The Avengers" movie -- were at least somewhat well-known entities when they landed on the big screen. Now, they're all sure-fire blockbusters, blazingly popular. Even your grandmother knows who Iron Man is now.
Come Aug. 1, the latest Marvel Comics property will hit the big screen: "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Perhaps the least known property in the Marvel Comics cinematic universe, "GotG" takes the Marvel movies to space with five "heroes" that are probably only known to fans who read the comics. But the Guardians are no new property. They actually pre-date characters like Wolverine, having first appeared in 1969, created by writer Arnold Drake and artist Gene Colon in issue 18 of "Marvel Super-Heroes." The team was set far in the future in the 31st century and featured a completely different cast of characters. They appeared for a few short runs in anthology titles and guest spots in various Marvel Comics.
Fast forward to 1990 and the team is brought back, for the first time in their own title. The comic, also set in the future, ran through 1995 for a 62-issue run. The characters are then largely ignored again.
In 2006, Marvel Comics does a big crossover storyline called "Annihilation," which brought a lot of the company's cosmic characters back. "Annihilation" spawned a sequel, "Conquest," and from there came, in 2008, a new "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic, this one set in contemporary times with an entirely new cast of characters, written by a pair of British writers, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. That series ran for 25 issues, and yet another "Guardians" book that launched in 2013, and currently is still being published monthly.
The upcoming film is based on the 2008 version of the team. Despite having been re-launched more than five years ago, the characters are still unknown to many of the Marvel cinematic fans.
But, as usual, amNewYork has got your back. We do know these characters, and we're going to help you get up to speed before you see the film.
Played by: Chris Platt
Created by: Steve Englehart and Steve Gan
First appearance: "Marvel Preview" No. 4 from 1976
Meet the closest thing the Marvel movies have to a Han Solo. Star-Lord is a half human/half alien adventurer who left Earth when he was a kid. He’s a self-proclaimed legendary outlaw, though that reputation might be exaggerated. He’s the guy who brings the team together. The film is built around Star-Lord stealing an orb that the evil Ronan (Lee Pace) wants to get his hands on. There is a comic book, “The Legendary Star-Lord,” available now from writer Sam Humphries and drawn by Paco Medina.
Played by: Zoe Saldana
Created by: Jim Starlin
First appearance: “Strange Tales” No. 180 from 1975
OK, to explain Gamora we first need to talk about someone else. Remember the guy in space from the end-credits scene in “The Avengers?” That’s Thanos, who also will be in “GotG,” voiced by James Brolin. Very little has been explained as to his character in the films, but in the comics, he’s an incredibly evil guy from Saturn’s moon Titan. He’s most famous for wielding the powerful Infinity Gauntlet with six gems that give the person wearing it god-like power. He’s also in love with the living embodiment of Death. And just so you know, the Infinity Gauntlet was on display in Odin’s vault in “Thor.” Back to Gamora: She’s the adopted daughter of Thanos, trained to be an assassin and she’s quite successful at it. She’s now on the side of good, but with a need for revenge.(Credit: Marvel Studios)
Voiced by: Bradley Cooper
Created by: Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen
First appearance: “Marvel Preview” No. 7 from 1978
The character originally was created with a nod to the Beatles song “Rocky Raccoon,” and he’s really what he sounds like: a raccoon with guns and a bad attitude. In the films, he’s got genetic alterations and cybernetic enhancements, and he works as a bounty hunter and mercenary. He’s also buddies with Groot. A new “Rocket Raccoon” comic by the insanely talented Skottie Young is available now.(Credit: Marvel Studios)
Voiced by: Vin Diesel
Created by: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers
First appearance: “Tales to Astonish” No. 13 from 1960
Let’s talk, for a moment, about unlikely characters. Groot, created in 1960 by the dream-team above — who would go on to create seemingly half the Marvel Universe just a few years later — was the villain in a monster comic. He is a sentient alien tree who communicates by saying “I am Groot” with different inflections. So, he’s this’s group’s Chewbacca. He had a handful of appearances before being plucked from obscurity in “Annihilation.” He died in “Conquest” and subsequently was regrown from a sprig that still remained. Groot is voiced by Vin Diesel, who now can proclaim that he’s provided the voice of the Iron Giant and a wood giant. You can try to not love Groot, but you will fail.(Credit: Marvel Studios)
Drax the Destroyer
Played by: Dave Bautista
Created by: Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin
First appearance: “Iron Man” No. 55 from 1973
In the comics, Drax was Arthur Douglas, whose family was killed by Thanos. A Titan god named Kronos took Arthur’s spirit and put it into this brutish body to face off against Thanos. He’s kind of been all over the place since, mostly combating Thanos and protecting the Infinity gems. You can forget most of that for the films, though the gist of his origin remains. In the films, his family was killed by Ronan — who is working with Thanos — and it appears that he’s always been in this body. Sorry Arthur.(Credit: Marvel Studios)