Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, these are the names and characters we associate as the Guardians of the Galaxy – but the truth is that for decades there were other heroes who answered to that name. And some of them even appear in the new movie Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 out this weekend. Meet me after the jump and I’ll introduce you to the original Guardians of the Galaxy.
Nearly five decades ago in 1969 Marvel Comics was looking for new ideas. One could assume that seeing how successful the Legion of Super-Heroes was over at DC Comics, Marvel decided to create its own superhero team in the 30th century. Writer Arnold Drake, who had created the Doom Patrol three months before the eerily similar X-Men, and artist Gene Colan put their heads together to build this first team to go by the name of the Guardians of the Galaxy in Marvel Super Heroes #18.
Drake and Colan posited a future, the 31st century, in which the human race had colonized the solar system and even reached outside the system to Alpha Centauri. Unfortunately the alien Badoon, created the year before by Stan Lee as adversaries for the Silver Surfer, went to war with future mankind, conquering and enslaving humans throughout space. In rebellion, the Guardians rose from the ashes of war to fight the Badoon.
Major Vance Astronik was an astronaut in the 20th century, inspired by the superheroes of his time, volunteered for a thousand year journey to Alpha Centauri. It took so long as NASA didn’t have faster-than-light drive, so Vance was put into suspended animation. His arrival on Alpha Centauri IV in the 31st century, and that’s where he met Yondu, but we’ll get to him in a moment.
In his time in suspended animation, Vance developed telekinesis, but that was a bonus compared to what else the trip had done to him. To preserve Astro from aging on the long trip she was sealed in a full body suit, which he cannot remove. If he does, he will fall to ash. He would later take the name Major Victory and use Captain America’s shield as leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
While blue and skilled in the use of yaka arrows that respond to his whistle, Yondu Udonta is not the Yondu we know from the movies and animated series. He is a spiritual warrior rather than a space pirate. Blue-skinned, with a red fin from his head down his back, and with notably better teeth, this Yondu was a tribesman of Alpha Centauri IV who first encountered Vance Astro in the 3007.
They quickly formed a bond of friendship, but were captured by the Badoon as they swept the planet killing natives and humans alike. The two were taken to Earth where the Badoon were completely in control and placed in a prison camp where they met the other Guardians after their escape.
Each planet that mankind seeded in the solar system had to develop certain attributes to survive on their new worlds. On Jupiter humans were genetically engineered to live in the heavy gravity of the planet. Inhabitants typically had eleven times the body mass and strength of normal humans. A soldier, whose name was only Charlie-27, he lost his family in the Badoon genocide of humanity on Jupiter. Seeking help in fighting the Badoon, he begins teleporting to other colony worlds. Just as Yondu was the group’s spiritual advisor, and Vance their heart and inspiration, Charlie-27 was the tactician and the muscle.
The first planet Charlie-27 goes to is Pluto, where Earthers had genetically engineered themselves to be covered in a crystalline substance to withstand the extreme temperatures of the planet. As a side effect of this, they can also emit heat and cold from their hands. Martinex T’Naga was a scientist on Pluto when the Badoon exterminated everyone on the planet. Found by Charlie-27, they made their way to Earth.
Starhawk was a character said to appear in the next issue of Marvel Super Heroes but never did. What the original idea for this character was, who knows, but he was built into the Guardians backstory when they next appeared in Steve Gerber’s Defenders. Starhawk was Stakar Ogord of Arctaurus, also known as the ‘one who knows,’ and supposedly manipulated events for the Guardians of the Galaxy to form so they could defeat the Badoon. Stakar (incidentally played by Sylvester Stallone in the new movie) is cursed to be reborn in his own embryo, living his life over and over and over again, and thus he knows things before they happen.
For a time he shared his body space with his wife Aleta, who had light projection powers, but that changed over time. Various things came between them, certainly having to share one body was a major one, and eventually they divorced. Lord knows marriage is hard enough without being that close. Both Stakar and Aleta are mutants and possess extraordinary powers both together and separately. Starhawk in particular can fly and survive in space and has gone toe to toe with Thor.
…And the Rest
The Guardians picked up another new member during their war with the Badoon, Nikki from Mercury. Nicholette Gold was born on Mercury where humans were able to withstand incredible heat and ultraviolet radiation. She is bald, but her body must expel the heat her body absorbs, making it appear that she has fire for hair. She was a skilled acrobat and sharpshooter.
The above characters are the team that defeated the Badoon and freed future Earth, along with the Defenders, and later journeyed to the 20th century to battle Korvac with the Avengers, but others joined the team later in a terrific 80s and 90s series first written and drawn by Jim Valentino. Those included Firelord, a Skrull called Replica, the thousand year old Wonder Man, the time tossed female Yellowjacket, a male Phoenix, the future Spirit of Vengeance, and Mainframe, a future version of the Vision, supposedly played by Miley Cyrus in the new movie.
Perhaps the greatest adventure of the original Guardians of the Galaxy was against a foe called Korvac. Michael Korvac was a collaborator with the Badoon conquest of Earth. Bitter at their defeat he gained enough power to travel back in time to the 20th century where he planned to murder Vance Astronik as a child thus preventing the existence of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians followed him back in time, and along with the Avengers, secretly kept watch over the boy.
While in the 20th century, Korvac, alternately called Michael and The Enemy, found a way to tap Galactus’ Power Cosmic and turned his thoughts toward universal conquest rather than just revenge. When the Avengers and the Guardians tried to stop them, he murdered them. Yeah, he was that powerful. Korvac was eventually stopped, but not before making his mark as one of the Avengers’ greatest enemies.
Korvac’s mission in the 20th century, it should be noted, did not prevent the Guardians from existing, but it did create an alternate timeline. The Guardians existed in the Earth-691 timeline, while on 616, the regular Marvel Earth, Vance Astro grew older and became the superhero Justice, a New Warrior and later an Avenger.
So these were the original Guardians of the Galaxy, and as much as I enjoy the new version, when I hear those words, I think of these folks. A few appear in the new movie, perhaps we’ll get more in the future. Who are your favorites?