Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy, Day 2: The Trailer


1. DAY 1.
Background information that will help make Cosmic Marvel (as it’s sometimes called) make sense. Highlights include Oblivion’s pants.

2. DAY 2. Stuff that’s in the trailer—who all those people are, what you ought to know about them, and what they might be doing in the movie. Highlights include steampunk in space.

3. DAY 3. Stuff that’s not in the trailer—other notable GotG characters and storylines and miscellaneous stuff that might show up in the movie. This post will contain potential spoilers, natch, though I won’t know what is and isn’t a spoiler until the movie comes out. Highlights include a talking dog with a Russian accent.

4. DAY 4. Why I invented the term “nerdsad” for this movie. There’s one thing in the trailer that bugs me … and while it probably won’t bug you like it does me, I’ll try to be entertaining as I whine. Highlights include my secret theory on why the movie might not suck after all.

5. DAY 5. The dreaded bibliography, including capsule descriptions and what to read in order to catch up on the different bits I’ve talked about. Highlights include descriptions like “This is the book where Rocket shoots everything.” [Rocket shooting]

Today’s blog entry is all about people and things you’ve seen in the trailer, and how they connect to the comic-book GotG. To refresh everyone’s memory, here’s the trailer in question:

So who are these crazy people, anyway?

1. Peter Quill / Star-Lord. This one will take some explaining, not least because Star-Lord is one of my favorite characters and the reason I started reading GotG in the first place. Plus there are five different versions of him, more or less.

Peter Jason Quill is the son of an alien prince and his human one-night stand. Peter didn’t find out about his dad until a gang of reptilian aliens showed up to murder his mom. Orphaned Peter grew up bitter, antisocial, and determined to get out into space and show those aliens a thing or two. He did manage to make it as an astronaut, despite having a personality like a chainsaw, and he lied and connived his way onto a space station, where he then lied and connived his way into getting selected by the Master of the Sun (God? An alien? We don’t know) to be a new superhero called Star-Lord. Version One of Peter Quill is Asshole Peter. The writer who created Star-Lord was going to write a long, drawn-out space epic transforming Peter into a true hero and cosmic messiah … but then he quit Marvel, and Peter kind of stayed an asshole.

The 1970s rolled along, and Star-Lord starred in a series of pretty decent science-fiction stories. With his element gun (it fires fire, water, earth, and air), his ability to fly and survive in space, and his sentient starship (cleverly named Ship), he zipped around the galaxy saving people from themselves and having a very strange romance with his mode of transportation. Yes, he was in love with Ship … or at least, she was in love with him, and toward the end there it seemed like he was reciprocating. The relationship was good for him; he ended up almost human. Version Two of Peter Quill is Hero Peter. The series trailed off around the mid-eighties.

And then this happened!
Then the 1990s came along, and award-winning science-fiction novelist Timothy Zahn ended up writing a four-issue Star-Lord series (1996-1997) in which Peter has disappeared, Ship is wounded and amnesiac, and she finds herself teaming up with a lonely telepath who’s willing to impersonate a missing superhero for the greater good. That guy’s name is Sinjin Quarrel, and so version three of Peter Quill is Not Peter. The series was well-written and good fun, but there’s been no sign of Ship or Sinjin since 1997. I’m a bit sorry about this, as it was the series that got me into Star-Lord in the first place. Seeing how much Ship missed Peter made me want to meet him as well as her. But you’ll hear more about Ship later in this entry.
Peter in prison, doing his Snake Plissken impression.
Around 2001, Peter reappeared without explanation in the Thanos monthly comic book as a cyborg inmate in the worst prison in the galaxy, The Kyln. While his reason for being there was not immediately revealed, it eventually came out that he had, as Star-Lord, stood up against a big cosmic monster and nearly gotten killed because he was too proud to call for help. Never one to learn from his mistakes, he picked himself up and went after the guy again … and in the ensuing fight, had to destroy a planet with a few thousand sentient life forms on it in order to save several million others. He claims Ship died in the confrontation, though he might be lying or misinformed. In any case, his personal code required that he surrender himself for trial, and he was sentenced to the Kyln for mass murder. He left the Kyln somehow during the Annihilation War, and offered his services as tactical advisor to Richard Rider, a.k.a. Nova. The two became friends as Peter guided Richie through a galactic catastrophe, and Peter redeemed himself enough to help rebuild the galaxy after the war … which resulted in the Phalanx invasion. Whoops.

Much shooting ensued.
But Pete’s nothing if not stubborn, and he eventually takes his strike team from the Phalanx war, who were basically a space version of the Dirty Dozen, and turns them into the Guardians of the Galaxy. Much butt-kicking ensues, some of it due to Peter’s still-prickly personality and the fact that most of the people who meet him either a) don’t recognize him and write him off as a freaky Earthling; b) recognize him and hate him for blowing up a planet; or c) recognize him and try to tell him he made the right decision. Pete hates all of these scenarios. So version four of Peter Quill is Antihero Pete. This period ends with the Thanos Imperative storyline, in which Peter and Richie apparently die to stop Thanos from destroying the universe. GotG was canceled at that point.

Death = costume change, but only for Pete.
Except Peter mysteriously pops back up again, first in the Avengers Assemble comic series and then in a new GotG series that’s still running and has not yet explained how he escaped from the Cancerverse. The closest we’ve gotten is this panel from Avengers Assemble #8:
Would somebody please tell Pete that a pregnant silence is not an answer? Aargh. *fanrage*
The new GotG Peter is pretty similar to Antihero Pete, but a bit dumber. Now written by Brian Michael Bendis rather than Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (the guys responsible for Antihero Pete), Peter spends an inordinate amount of time trying to pick up green women in space bars, and he’s not even bright enough to figure out when his drink’s been spiked. So I tend to think of this version as Idiot Pete.
Also Worst Costume Ever Pete.
Overall, though, you might have noticed that none of these versions of Peter Quill is a petty crook and sex offender (well, maybe Idiot Pete), unlike the guy you see in the trailer. I’ll address that little problem on Thursday.

One more note on Peter Quill—yes, I know his hair changes color. His early appearances were mostly in black and white, so all we know for sure is that his hair wasn’t meant to be black. I’ve seen it both blond and brown, and once even orange. As a general rule, Asshole Pete and Hero Pete were blond, Not Pete had brown hair (because he was Sinjin, remember?), Antihero Pete had brown hair, and Idiot Pete is back to blond again. Just go with it.

2. Gamora. This character is pretty much as she was portrayed in the trailer. Routinely described as “the most dangerous woman in the galaxy” or “the most dangerous woman in the universe”, she’s the ultimate badass. She’s got the usual comic-book enhancements to her strength, speed, and constitution that enable her to pretty much kill anything and, because she’s female, wear practically no clothing if that’s what the artist wants. And she’s green. Most importantly, though, she’s the adopted daughter of Thanos, the purple guy from the end of The Avengers. He found her after her species was wiped out, raised her to use against one of his enemies, and then lost control of her. She bounced around from comic to comic for a few decades as one of her foster father’s most implacable foes. He’s still got a soft spot for her, though; he’s been known to avoid invading and/or destroying planets she’s on. Their relationship is complicated.

Oh, and she goes through male partners even faster than Captain Kirk; she’s most notably linked to Adam Warlock (more on him later) and Nova—Richie. Comics still has quite the double standard where sex is concerned, but Gamora comes closer than most to breaking that particular glass ceiling.

3. Drax the Destroyer. Another guy who seems to be pretty much the same in the movie as in the comics, although he’s got more layers in the comics. Drax began life as a human named Arthur Douglas. He and his family were murdered by Thanos, after which one of Thanos’ enemies put Douglas’s spirit into a new, amped-up body and programmed him to kill his own killer. He used to be able to fly and shoot energy blasts out of his hands, but now he’s just really strong, really tough, and really vicious. He makes a good tank in a typical GotG fight, despite a near-permanent attitude problem and an obsession with killing Thanos (which is an issue on the rare occasions when the Guardians need Thanos to stay alive for five minutes). A couple of years ago, after dying and being resurrected, he reunited with his human daughter, Heather, a telepath who survived Thanos’ attack and joined the Guardians under the name Moondragon. Drax’s daughter, or girls who remind him of her, are his major weakness. If you want Drax to go postal, threaten a little girl.
4. Rocket Raccoon. Oh, where to start? Rocket’s had a bunch of different origin stories, but the one that’s probably current is that he was the chief of security at a planet-wide insane asylum called Halfworld. Rocket left the planet against his will because something in his biology was altered to make him the only “key” that could release a particularly dangerous inmate. To avoid inflicting that inmate on the galaxy, he became a permanent exile. Rocket understandably has some unresolved anger issues—being a little furry alien surrounded by people who keep calling you a “raccoon” will do that to you—and he mostly deals with them by using unreasonably large automatic weapons on anyone foolish enough to tick him off.
It's a coping mechanism.

The other interesting thing to know about Rocket is the reason he was recruited to Peter’s Dirty Dozen in the first place. He’s got a set of instincts that border on precognition; he always knows the right thing to do, or almost always, even if he doesn’t know why. Rocket is a nearly infallible guide to when and how the situation is going to go south. He’s also an understandably lonely guy; his only friends in the world are Groot and Peter, and he’s had his issues with Peter. He might have a case of OCD; he’s been seen compulsively hand-washing objects he’s given, and he keeps the cleanest arsenal any of his teammates have ever seen.

5. Groot. Obviously, Groot is a gigantic walking-and-talking tree. Normally he says exactly one thing—“I am Groot”—though there are a few comics where he’s quite a bit chattier. There are different explanations for why he sticks with one sentence, but the most popular is that his species’ vocal cords stiffen up as they age, so eventually their range of expression is quite limited. People around Groot can usually understand whatever he’s saying, even though it’s just “I am Groot” in the speech balloon. Rocket can always understand Groot, and everyone else’s understanding comes and goes according to the writer’s taste. Groot is big, strong, tough, and unfortunately flammable, so he gets blown up or burned quite a lot. Luckily for him, he can grow back from just a splinter, though it takes a while. So you can expect to see a tiny Groot sitting in a pot at some point in the movie.

The Monarch of Planet X enjoys his sprinkle-baths.
Groot originally appeared as a supervillain, capturing humans for experimentation, but he’s been reinvented several times in the comics. He now claims to be the last of his species and the “Monarch of Planet X,” his homeworld, though some comics have indicated that he’s lying about all of that and he’s actually an escaped sapling—the equivalent of a joyriding teenager claiming to be President of the United States. And as for “I am Groot” meaning lots of different things, that might be a hallucination, too—the character who gave us that explanation of Groot’s speech, and claimed to understand his explanations of complex scientific phenomena, was the unironically named Maximus the Mad. Groot was part of Peter’s original Dirty Dozen and has hung around with the Guardians (whom he apparently calls “Groot and Branches”) ever since.
Richie. Looking more competent than usual.
6. The Nova Corps. These are the guys discussing the prisoners in the trailer. They’re pretty much space cops and Marvel Comics’ answer to DC’s Green Lantern Corps. They get wiped out on a fairly regular basis; at last check, there were only a couple of Novas zipping around the universe, and at one point Richie was the last Nova standing. Novas are strong, fast, durable, and blessed with energy blasts that got Richie nicknamed “the human rocket”. They’re also very rule-oriented, as space cops should be, and don’t take kindly to the Guardians’ chaotic rannygazoo. Expect at least one Nova to get blown up, and possibly another to get pantsed. That’s sort of what they’re for.

Oh, and did you catch that line in the trailer about how the characters were “arrested on Xandar”? Xandar is the home planet of the Nova Corps. That means that either the speaker picked up a group of prisoners who’d been arrested by the Novas and held temporarily on Xandar (which seems like an odd procedure) or the Novas arrested a bunch of loonies who were trying to cause trouble on Xandar itself. Right now it amuses me to imagine Peter and the Guardians trying to break into Nova Prime’s office for some reason. Maybe she took Pete’s coffee.

7. Ronan the Accuser. Blink and you’ll miss him, but he’s the big hooded guy with the hammer holding Drax up by his throat. According to advance materials for the movie, Ronan is the main antagonist of the story, a general working for Thanos who’s after the Guardians because Peter Quill stole a macguffin identified only as an “orb.”
But really, sometimes you just want to choke Drax.
That’s not quite square with Ronan from the comics. The comic-book Ronan was a major straight arrow, a warrior and jurist of his people, the Kree. Basically, he was judge, jury, and executioner all at once, and he used that giant hammer for a lot of his work. He eventually ended up ruling the Kree Empire for a while, and although he didn’t see eye to eye with the Guardians very often, the two parties didn’t usually have a problem with each other unless Ronan was being unusually rigid or Peter was being unusually assholeish. Sounds like movie-Ronan is quite different.
8. Korath the Pursuer. To save you time, he’s the guy who arrests Peter early in the trailer and doesn’t seem to have heard of this particular “legendary outlaw”. Korath was another super-agent of the Kree Empire, and his thing was making cybernetically enhanced super-warriors. No idea what he’s doing arresting a petty thief, or turning him over to the Nova Corps; the Kree tend to stick to their own justice system rather than calling in the Novas.
9. Nebula. Hello, Karen Gillan! Nebula is the bald blue woman with the metal bits on her face. All the filmmakers have said about her so far is that she’s the major female villain and has a “complex relationship” with Gamora. I don’t know what that’s about, because in the comics she was a space pirate, mercenary, and all-around psycho who fought the Avengers and who once claimed to be Thanos’ granddaughter. We’re pretty sure she was lying about that, though. Oh, and she and Ronan beat the stuffing out of each other during the Annihilation War. Ronan won.
10. The Collector. Here’s an oldie but a goodie. By pure coincidence, the Collector was one of the first supervillains I encountered in one of the first comics I ever read, so I remember him quite well. You last saw him in the credits scene from Thor: The Dark World—he was the spacefaring Liberace guy played by Benicio del Toro. He’s one of the Elders of the Universe—one of the most powerful beings in Cosmic Marvel, though not quite up there with Oblivion and his pals. The last of his species, the Collector is just what his name suggests—an obsessive collector of anything rare or valuable. Naturally, he’s tried to collect Earth superheroes a few times, partly because he’s sometimes focused on preserving life forms, especially unique ones, in order to protect them from Thanos. Imagine the ultimate fanboy, obsessed with having one of everything, mint in the box. Now give him cosmic power, near immortality, and the ability to see the future (sometimes). Scary? Oh, yes. But he still dresses like a disco.

There are a few planets of note that show up in the trailer—Xandar, of course, is mentioned by name, and the prison scenes match up well with comic-book depictions of The Kyln. The presence of two important Kree characters (Ronan and Korath) suggest that the Kree homeworld, Hala, may be important at some point, so look for a shiny, futuristic, obsessively master-planned city-planet with a lot of spires and people with blue skin. The presence of Rocket and Groot could pull in Halfworld or Planet X, though those are less likely. And Thanos, a major villain and a common threat among many of the characters who appear in the trailer, has been known to hang out on Titan, a moon of Saturn.

I could be here all day talking about the tech that shows up in that trailer, but there are only a couple of pieces that interest me. The first is the scene that shows a masked and helmeted humanoid stomping toward the camera, carrying two guns. Not long afterward, you see his back as he faces a door. That figure looks a lot like the version of Star-Lord that was running around with the Guardians from 2008 to about 2011, right down to the two guns. Those guns were not his trademark element gun from his Hero Peter phase—they were a pair of pretty ordinary space-age blasters that had a few different ammunition settings, most notably “knock people out” and “melt your face off”. So we might have Peter’s adjustable guns showing up here.

Let's just look at those again, shall we?
The piece of tech that interests me most, however, is this ship:
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... a cookie?
See that ship? See the gull-wing design, the zipping around, the dodging? See the round, glowing port on the front? It’s even on the poster. Does that ship remind you of anybody?

Look behind his right shoulder.
That’s right—it looks like there’s a version of Ship, capital S, in this movie. Advance materials for the film say it’s Star-Lord’s ship, and it’s called the Milano. Why Peter would name his ship after a) an Italian city, b) an actress, or c) a cookie is beyond me (though I’m betting on the cookie). There’s no word on what, if anything, Milano does, but if she’s anything like Ship, she might have the ability to change her shape at will, send out versatile remote-controlled drones called “widgets”, take on humanoid form, and/or develop a romantic relationship with her pilot. Not too creepy or anything.


Obviously, there are a billion and one crazy costumes on display in this trailer. But here are the bits that stand out to this particular GotG nerd:

1. Hmm, that’s a grittier-looking version of the Nova uniform.

2. Gamora is wearing clothes. Hooray!

3. Drax still has no shirt. Ho-hum.

4. Helmet and Mask Boy (who I’m guessing is Pete, based on the concept art where the helmet and mask go with the old Star-Lord insignia on his chest) looks a lot like the steampunk-inspired GotG uniform of 2008. While it wasn’t my favorite space-hero uniform ever, I did like the fact that the team uniforms actually looked like uniforms, and that Pete kept his face covered a lot. This aligned nicely with his desire to avoid awkward conversations with people who recognized him and a sort of passive-aggressive desire to get back at the people who took out his cybernetic implants. Because this is what they said about it at the time:

This is why you should never try to dictate fashion to Peter Quill. Much as you'd like to try.
Tomorrow: A bunch of stuff that’s not in the trailer, but might be showing up anyway.

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