March 27, 2013

Here's a real look at the [early] Guardians of the Galaxy

In anticipation of their coming silver screen debut, Comics Alliance's Andrew Wheeler takes a ... well, "look" at a history of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. But he tries so damn hard to be "cute" you won't get the real picture. So, I'm here to give you the lowdown on the original crew (because after that, with few exceptions, they pretty much sucked IMHO).

As Wheeler notes, the team's first appearance was in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 written by Arnold Drake and drawn the master Gene Colan. The first GoG were highly appealing to me because of their hard science fiction feel. Their first appearance is about all Wheeler makes plain, though. He says the team was composed of "four men from different worlds who banded forces to fight the Badoon," but doesn't say that these worlds ('cept one) are all planets in our own solar system. Nor does he mention that two of the team from worlds not Earth are actually genetically engineered humans.

  • Charlie-27 "was permanently stuck in the wrong aspect ratio" (writes Wheeler) because he was genetically engineered to survive in Jupiter's gravity. Hence his prodigious strength, natch.

  • Martinex (who Wheeler does mention was genetically engineered, but forgets "human") was "made out of hard candy" because he was constructed to live on Pluto.

  • Vance Astro is the lone Earthman on the squad, a man out of time from the 20th century. He took off from Earth in 1988 heading for Alpha Centauri, and during his 1,000 year journey humans developed faster-than-light travel. Astro landed on Centauri-IV to find Earthmen waiting for him. His body was preserved by a combination of a special copper-alloy suit and preservative in his blood, and by spending the vast majority of his journey in suspended animation. During his long sleep, his inherent psychic powers manifested themselves. It was on Centauri-IV that Astro encountered ...

  • Yondu. The only alien member of the Guardians, he was an archer who possessed arrows made of the miraculous "yaka" metal, a sound-sensitive alloy. When the aforementioned reptilian Badoon attacked Centauri-IV, Yondu escaped with Astro en route to Earth, but were captured. They eventually escaped, and teamed up with the only survivors of the Badoon's attacks on Jupiter and Pluto -- Charlie-27 and Martinex, natch.

This original incarnation of the Guardians had many cool adventures throughout the 1970s, most of which included time travel. (Of course! How else could they interact with the Age of Marvels?) An excellent chronological history of this team can be seen in Defenders #26, when they journey back to the 20th century and acquire the aid of Dr. Strange and the "strangest NON-team of all" in their [future] battle with the Badoon. In addition, Captain America and the Thing also ventured forward in time to help out the GoG as seen in Marvel Two-In-One #5. Speaking of Marvel Two-In-One, it was in #69 that the 1,000 year old Vance Astro encounters his younger version. (Which, if you read the above-mentioned Defenders #26, you realize Vance can't be that young here as he'll be jetting off to the stars in a mere eight years from the time of this ish.) Old Vance tries to convince his younger self not to get on that rocket ... but the old adage about no two things can simultaneously occupy the same space (or something) begins to wreak havoc on the planet!

In the late 70s, Jim Shooter had the GoG travel back in time to help the Avengers battle Korvac, aka Michael. If you want to read an all-out battlefest issue, as well as some heart-wrenching Shooter dialogue, get a hold of Avengers (vol. 1) #177.

One of the neat things I'll always recall as a teen was in the GoG's [brief] regular appearance in Marvel Presents, specifically #3, where new teammate Starhawk lectures the GoG and humans in general that “Harsh though it may sound, your race’s period of oppression cannot be permitted to excuse whatever excesses it may commit.” The human race had just overcome near extinction at the hands of the Badoon, and were pretty damn bloodthirsty as a result. Starhawk warned the Guardians that, having possession of FTL travel, humanity must not carry this negative emotion to the stars. This was written as pages of text, not word balloons.

Years later, Starhawk appeared as one of the "Cosmic" Avengers alongside Thor, Commander America (descendant of you-know-who), Jhen the Gammazon (She-Hulk's successor), Tachyon Torch (Human Torch's descendant) and Irondroid (employee of Stark Interplanetary) in volume 2 What If? #19.

Most recently (according to the "Hube Calendar," which incorporates cessation of new comics purchases effective around 2004), the Centaurian Yondu's race was featured in the opening sequence of the spectacular Avengers Forever. The "Galactic Avengers Batallion" led by Earth Emperor kin Jonz Rickard (descendant of perpetual sidekick Rick Jones) swarms Centauri-IV and annihilates a substantial portion of the populace in retribution for planning an uprising against the Terran Empire.

Amazon has several editions of the Guardians of the Galaxy stories noted above in trade paperback format.

Posted by Hube at March 27, 2013 08:59 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Sadly, I've only read the recent series, which was OK but like a lot of modern comics was mired in crossover after crossover and I just gave up. I'll have to find the trades of the originals, because it looks like I'm missing out on some great stories!

Posted by: Carl at March 27, 2013 10:38 PM

Carl: Yeah, their first appearance and the Defenders arc were really, really good. I only read a few issues of the Marvel Presents stuff ... I may have to track down that trade. I am wary of Al Milgrom's art, although his work on issue #3 is actually considered some of his best stuff. I wonder if it holds up for the rest of the run ...

Posted by: Hube at March 28, 2013 07:57 AM

Didn't Milgrom also do artwork on West Coast Avengers? And I think Vance Astro's younger self went on to become Justice of the New Warriors and during Busiek's run, the Avengers.

Posted by: Carl at March 28, 2013 01:37 PM

Yep, Milgrom did WCA.

Young Vance did become Justice. However, the Vance from the original Guardians is now officially from an alternate timeline. Justice, I believe, is the 616 Vance.

Posted by: Hube at March 28, 2013 01:51 PM

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