Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy, Day 3: What's NOT in the trailer

One of my favorite games when I sit down to watch a new comic-book movie is catching all the little references to the larger body of source material. Little things like Bucky picking up Captain America’s shield in The First Avenger, just as his comic-book counterpart was carrying it around in the comics.
This can't possibly be a reference to that, can it?
So here are a few bits of Guardians of the Galaxy lore that might—or might not—show up in the movie. Apologies in advance if any of this turns out to be spoilers.
The original GotG
You know comics—there’s no such thing as an original concept. The GotG we know is actually the second major incarnation of the team. The first Guardians of the Galaxy first appeared in 1969 and popped up sporadically from the 1970s through the 1990s. They were a 31st-century superhero team fighting a race of alien would-be conquerors known as the Badoon. They played an interesting role in the 2008 GotG series, when they were revealed as one potential future of Star-Lord’s team. They also inadvertently gave the 2008 team their name when Major Victory, a mutant telekinetic who had inherited Captain America’s shield, traveled back in time and joined up with Star-Lord’s gang of misfits. He introduced himself (shortly before passing out) like this:
Hello, my name is Vance, and I will be your mythos for today.
Rocket Raccoon decided he liked the name:
Star-Lord makes his best command decisions based on what will shut Rocket Raccoon up.
And the rest was history. The only member of the original Guardians who’s shown up in the movie so far is Yondu, a blue-skinned archer from Centauri-IV who was sort of a cross between Hawkeye and Tarzan of the Apes. His name shows up as an associate of Peter Quill’s during the lineup scene.
Oh, look, it's a set photo of Yondu. And some dead guy.
The rest of the GotG
What, you thought that was the whole team in that trailer? Please. GotG went through team members like James Bond goes through love interests. Here are some members whom you haven't seen, but who might show up anyway.
Phyla during her Quasar phase.
1. Phyla. A.k.a. Quasar, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, a.k.a. Martyr. Phyla-Vell is a Kree superheroine related to Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel (a big-time space hero of the 1970s whose death from cancer in a 1982 graphic novel is considered one of the foundational storylines of modern comics). She’s gone through a lot of different superheroic identities, but she’s always been very powerful, highly idealistic, and a bit unsure what to do with herself. She dated Moondragon for quite a while (see below) and as a result she developed a father-daughter relationship with Drax after Moondragon’s apparent death.
Mantis knows everything and tells the most irritating bits.
2. Mantis. This storyline is … complicated. Short version? Mantis was a half-Vietnamese, half-German martial artist and occasional barmaid who was identified as the Celestial Madonna, the woman destined to mate with a Cotati (alien—don’t ask) and bear a universe-saving messiah. She did that, and then apparently died, and moved through a couple of other comics companies, and then turned green and grew antennae … even I can’t follow this one. But by the time she joined Star-Lord’s team, she was still an accomplished martial artist and also a talented telepath and precognitive. She got her job by telling Star-Lord’s Kree handlers all about the upcoming sabotage mission before she was briefed. Mantis acted as advisor and support staff to the Guardians, occasionally going with them on missions and occasionally messing with people’s brains when Star-Lord asked nicely. In the new series, she’s still advising Peter, though she’s not officially with the team anymore and she emphatically turns down an offer of companionship. Pete, you’ve really got to stay away from the green girls …
Not Karen Gillan.
3. Moondragon. Drax’s daughter from before Thanos killed the rest of their family, Moondragon holds the interesting distinction of being a cosmic superhero with (at least originally) no superhuman abilities. After Thanos orphaned her, Heather Douglas was adopted by Thanos’s dad, who had her trained by a bunch of monks until she basically kicked butt at everything it was possible for a human to kick butt at. They also helped her develop her latent psychic powers, which got her in trouble when she started mind-talking with the sinister Dragon of the Moon. She served with the Avengers, was passed over for the job of Celestial Madonna, switched sides a few times, slept with a whole bunch of superheroes and occasionally their wives, and finally she ended up in a fairly stable, healthy-seeming relationship with Phyla-Vell. Then she died. Then Phyla and Drax brought her back to life. Then it got way too complicated for me to follow. But if the producers of GotG are looking to up their Bald Women in Armor quotient, Moondragon and Nebula are likely to appear in the same shot.
Nickname: "Loverbug". Not embarrassing at all.
4. Bug. Bug is a bug—and he used to be an action figure. Originally created for the Micronauts toy line, Bug was morphed into a comic-book character, an insectoid warrior who really didn’t look like the toy (and thus belonged to Marvel rather than the toy company). He hasn’t got much of an origin story, other than being assigned to Star-Lord’s original Dirty Dozen for sex crimes. (He got a Kree technician pregnant, and the Kree are basically space Nazis—see below—so they didn’t like that.) Bug is good-natured, sarcastic, and a good hand-to-hand fighter who’s always a little slighted at not being one of Star-Lord’s first-choice team members. Somehow he always gets over it in time for the big fight, though.
Jack Flag and his unofficial battle cry.
5. Jack Flag. Jack began life as a Captain America groupie who accidentally got Cap-lite powers from the superhero equivalent of Dr. Jekyll’s serum. He was strictly a C-list character until the United States temporarily passed a law (in the comics) requiring all American superheroes to register with their government. Captain America opposed that law, Jack backed him up, and Jack ended up stuck in an extradimensional prison with a severed spine. (To be fair, Cap had a tough time, too—he got murdered at the end of that storyline.) When the prisoners started a riot, Star-Lord showed up to try to negotiate a cease-fire, leading to one of my favorite panels ever:
I can't read this panel without giggling hysterically. Only Star-Lord gets captured by bad guys who take his pants.
Jack joined the Guardians not long after he found out that, as much as he hated cosmic spacey-wacey stuff, there was alien tech out there that could restore his ability to walk. His major function on the team, besides punching and shooting, was providing an Earthling’s point of view (something Star-Lord hadn’t had in quite a while) and giving Peter somebody to reminisce with about the bad old days on the old home planet.
Nice accessorizing.
6. Major Victory. As mentioned above, the Major was part of the original Guardians and later joined the 2008 team for some time-bending craziness. A time-lost astronaut who bounced from the 20th century to the 31st and then back to the 21st, his major function in most stories was being confused about what year it was, mumbling vague clues about what was going to happen next, and being a pretty unerring moral compass for the team. This is no small feat when your heroes include several mass murderers and a psychotic raccoon. Everybody pretty much liked Major Victory, though nobody quite understood the ideals he stood for—except maybe Star-Lord, who at least knew what the shield meant.
No explanation would be sufficient, ever.
7. Cosmo. Oh, I hope Cosmo makes it into the movie. This is my favorite batshit-crazy space character. Cosmo is a Soviet space dog who got lost in orbit sometime in the 1960s. Somehow that led him to develop psychic powers, the ability to speak (or maybe just send telepathic messages that sound like it), and enough charisma to become chief of security at Knowhere, the end-of-the-universe space station where the Guardians make their home. And he does all this while speaking in a cartoon Russian accent worthy of Boris Badenov. He and Rocket Raccoon do not get along, for obvious reasons, though they seem to have saved each other’s lives enough times now to agree to a truce.
Peter's thoughts need no translation here, I think.

The Kree rock the underwear-outside look.
8. The Kree. The Kree are one of the major alien species that show up in the Marvel Universe. They are a highly regimented, extremely orderly society run along a strict genetic hierarchy. Blue-skinned Kree outrank pink-skinned Kree, and anything Kree outranks anything else in the universe. Basically, the Kree are Nazis in space. Sometimes they’re useful, as when they produce people like Phyla-Vell. Sometimes they’re a pain in the ass—see Ronan the Accuser and Korath the Pursuer from yesterday. Every once in a while they try to conquer Earth. It never works. They will probably show up in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and Peter Quill will definitely mouth off to several of them if they do.
Star-Lord on diplomacy.
They don't always have wings, but they're always like flying monkeys.
9. The Skrulls/Chitauri. Remember the Chitauri from The Avengers? They might be better known as the Skrulls, a group of shape-shifting green aliens with pointy ears, bumpy chins, and a penchant for purple costumes. The name “Chitauri” first appeared in a Marvel comic that needed a cooler-sounding name than “Skrull” for aliens who were basically Skrulls, so a lot of geeks were surprised when the Avengers version of the Chitauri didn’t do any shape-shifting. Whatever. Whether they’re the same species or not, the Skrulls/Chitauri are major players in Cosmic Marvel, not least because of their centuries-long war with the Kree. Amusingly, the Skrulls are a communitarian race, and that and their shape-shifting, along with their origins in comics of the early 1960s, make them a pretty obvious parallel to the Soviets. Yes, they’re space-commies, and they’re at war with space-Nazis. Oh, and there’s a big breakaway contingent that are fundamentalist religious nutbars. Because life wasn’t interesting enough. Watch for Skrulls impersonating any and every important character in the story.
Adam and Adam. Don't trust the smiley one.

10. Adam Warlock. A big player in the Guardians universe, Adam was both a team member and a major adversary. An artificial human created to be perfect (and superpowered, of course), Adam spent most of the 1970s using his “soul gem” and assorted other nifty powers flying around space and alternate universes as a kind of cosmic messiah. (No connection to Mantis, though. Cosmic messiahs just kind of turned up in the seventies.) He’s died and come back to life a bunch of times, and somewhere along the way picked up an evil version of himself, which he can sometimes turn into if you screw up his timeline. This evil version is basically a silver-tinted Adam Warlock called Adam Magus, and he is big, big trouble. In Adam’s run with the Guardians, he started out as their navigator slash mystic advisor slash big gun, and he ended up (SPOILER ALERT) having to sacrifice his “good” future to save his team and the universe. He turned into the Magus, nearly killed all his teammates, and forced Star-Lord to shoot him in the head in what’s arguably the biggest emotional gut punch of the entire series. “Damn it, Adam,” Star-Lord mutters, as he stands alone on a platform, surrounded by the bodies of his teammates. “Look what you made me do.” If Adam shows up, expect to soil your pants, cry, or both.
Beam me up, Scotty ... er, Cosmo.
Any of the big “cosmic” storylines
I covered this on Day 1, for the most part, but feel free to watch for references to any and every storyline in the Cosmic Marvel universe. Invading antimatter critters and/or bugs? That’s Annihilation. Nanotechnology turning people into zombies? Annihilation: Conquest. Shape-shifting aliens causing widespread paranoia? Secret Invasion (which was pretty much what it sounds like). Conflict between the various alien species who are inexplicably ruled by monarchs? War of Kings. H.P. Lovecraft monsters invading from a parallel universe? The Cancerverse storyline, possibly including The Thanos Imperative. And then there are classics like the thousand-and-one fights over the Cosmic Cube (movie buffs know it as the Tesseract), the Infinity Stones (the Tesseract is one, and you saw another at work in Thor: The Dark World), and Galactus (he eats planets; ignore the stupid space-cloud in that stupid Fantastic Four movie).
Skulls. What a surprise.
Why does he get his own section? Because he’s pretty much guaranteed to show up, even though he wasn’t in the trailer. We know from the advance materials that Ronan is working for Thanos, we saw his bumpy purple face at the end of The Avengers, and if there’s any villain who consistently ruined the Guardians’ day, it was him.

Thanos is a big purple alien who can’t be killed very easily and who is in love with Death. Yes, the skeleton in the robe. He’s got a thing for her. He would get her flowers, except she doesn’t like flowers, so mostly he gets her mountains of skulls. They have a stormy on-again-off-again relationship, and whenever he’s not dead (i.e. spending time with his lady friend), he really wants to be dead so he can be with her. Except he’s really hard to kill, partly because Death gets tired of him and periodically decides she doesn’t want anything to do with him … so he can’t die. This ticks him off. Anyway, Thanos’s major thing, other than being in love with Death, is wanting to kill every living thing in the universe in order to impress her. To do that, he periodically goes after the Infinity Stones, a group of magic gemstones that control things like psychic power, all known energy, or the fabric of reality itself. They can be conveniently mounted into something called the Infinity Gauntlet—a big golden glove with slots for each of the Stones. If you looked closely, you saw it in Odin’s treasure room in Thor. Obviously, the Infinity Gauntlet is just dandy if you want to kill a universe. Which Thanos does.

Here’s Thanos having a fight with his girlfriend. Sums him up nicely:

You thought YOUR breakup went badly? You didn't have a talking raccoon and a space dog in the peanut gallery.
I guarantee you, Thanos will be showing up in the GotG movie. Watch for a bumpy purple dude who really likes skulls. You heard it here first.

Tomorrow: Why I invented the term “nerdsad” for this movie.

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