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Abnett Races Against Time in “Guardians 3000”

by  in Comic News Comment
Abnett Races Against Time in “Guardians 3000”

In 1969, Marvel Comics readers were introduced to the original Guardians of the Galaxy, a band of super powered freedom fighters that hailed from a possible future. These fans were also introduced to the future team’s war against the Badoon, a conflict that continues to rage to this day in the pages of “Guardians 3000.” The new ongoing series by writer Dan Abnett and artist Gerardo Sandoval has revealed that the Guardians have been fighting the Badoon for even longer than they thought thanks to a mysterious time anomaly that rewinds the war back to its beginning every time the Guardians win it.

The titular team, along with their new ally Geena Drake, have set out to try and end the temporal anomaly and keep time itself from collapsing. This journey has brought them face to face with a number of strange and dangerous characters, including some familiar to longtime fans of the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. We spoke with Abnett about these characters, the dangerous nature of the temporal anomaly, the Guardians’ upcoming time travel adventure and the level of impact that “Secret Wars” will have on “Guardians 3000.”

CBR News: The big problem the Guardians are dealing with in this series is the unravelling of time. So far we’ve only seen the time collapse phenomenon work in their favor by allowing them to almost hit a temporal reset button when they run into an enemy or problem with fatal consequences. Is that the sole way the time collapse works?

Dan Abnett: No, there are larger and potentially much more negative things going on there. Issues #6-8 are where we really start to see what the implications of the phenomenon are. So far they’ve been managing it. It’s worked to their advantage on several situations, but it is disconcerting. The time collapse phenomenon has led to things that confused and bewildered them. They don’t know who they can trust.

There are certain things that have happened where if they would have known that time had reset they would have done things differently They would have coped with things better. It’s quite useful for them to be able to tell when things happened, but — for example — in issue #6 they’ll encounter a character who they’ve met before, but this character doesn’t remember them, so they get into serious problems with that because they’re assuming that this person knows what they know and they don’t.

So the phenomenon is beginning to manifest in more negative ways. We’ll see that as things go along. Plus there are certain places like in issue #6 where both things are happening at once. To use a completely hypothetical example to illustrate how that will work, a character will meet another character and they’ve both met before, but their memories of what they’ve done together are not the same, so there’s a sort of a continuity conflict. You have one character saying they were always allies and another claiming that they were always enemies, so it’s polarizing. It’s not just a case of not recognizing someone or them not recognizing you. It’s that they might recognize you in a way that you’re not expecting. There will be more to that as we build to the big opening out of everything.

Abnett Explores the Marvel Universe via Prose & Comics

Is it also possible that the temporal resets could undo the team’s positive accomplishments and goals they’ve achieved?

Yeah, right from the word go there’s a sense that not only have the Guardians already defeated the Badoon in 3014, but they’ve done it several times over. Each time they do it time resets itself and they find themselves fighting the war again. They’re locked in this stage of constant battling and trying to overcome that. That will also happen on a smaller scale. They’ll discover that things they think they have done are now undone.

It appears that Guardians member Geena Drake, a new character that you co-created with Gerardo Sandoval, is the key to understanding the strange phenomenon brought on by the temporal collapse. Does this mean Geena has super human abilities or is she just an everywoman adventurer?

No, it won’t be a case of her powers suddenly manifesting and wham! She’s now in a cape and is Time-Seeing Girl. [Laughs] Her understanding of her nature is growing as we go along. I think there’s no other way of looking at it than to say, “Yes, she’s clearly got quite refined powers that allow her to do this,” but why and where they’ve come from are an ongoing mystery; both to her and everyone else.

When I introduced her into the series she was playing two roles. I wanted the everywoman adventurer, the sort of reader’s P.O.V. touchstone, so she was the character you could understand because they were kind of ordinary and didn’t know anything, so we could follow her into this quite complex, pre-existing continuity and begin to explore it from her point of view. We would learn with her. I also thought it was quite a useful thing to make her more significant than she realized so she’s not only our P.O.V., she’s also essential to the way things work. Geena is really serving several roles at once in the book.

We’ve seen a lot of fun and fascinating things through Geena’s eyes in these first five issues of “Guardians 3000.” Some of these things are futuristic versions of established Marvel characters like Gladiator and the Kree Supreme Intelligence, and some are new creations like the aliens we only got a brief glimpse of — the Sadistain.

In that first issue I wanted to set up that there are at least half a dozen key powers in the future universe in the same way Brian Bendis has done in his [current] “Guardians of the Galaxy” series. He’s shown meetings of the current great and good of the universe and we wanted to establish that there’s also a political landscape of different powers and agendas in this [future] time as well, so I wanted to show that there were still galactic great powers in the year 3014, but there may be different players involved. Some had disappeared and some were new.

I also wanted to do something where I was setting up some real estate that wasn’t necessarily directly attached to things going on now. There are lines of continuity to characters like Gladiator and the Supreme Intelligence which go way back, but there are other things like the Sadistain, which are concepts that are part of the local color and things I certainly intend to examine. They were part of the council meeting in our first two issues because they had a vested interest, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff attached to them that’s going to be fun to look at. The same is true of Stormfront, who also has quite an important role to play.

So yes these aren’t just interesting characters who popped up and won’t appear again. They are part of this continuity.

In the brief glimpse we got of the Sadistain, they’re referred to as “Night-Vowed” and describe themselves as undead. Are they vampires?

[Laughs] I think it’s a looser term than that. I don’t think they’re specifically vampires. A better way to describe them is that they represent a more supernatural element of the future. The nature of the supernatural has changed or possibly renewed itself in the year 3014, but it still exists. It’s not a case of here’s a bunch of Night-Vowed and one is werewolf and another is a vampire. It’s that there are a bunch of these post-mortal beings whose essences derive from what we might refer to as magic rather than science or alien biology.

Abnett Heads Back to the Future with “Guardians 3000”

I also like the idea of them being shunned, because historically speaking they were always the outsiders. Even in the future they’re very limited in the way they can interact because they’re not understood and people are fearful of them. Their representative says, “You’ve ignored us for thousands of years and now you want us to get involved?” I think that’s a source of grievance for them. It’s also indicative of how important things have become. Things have gotten so desperate they’re now even talking to the sort of taboo outsiders.

Another new race that you’ve introduced in this series is the machine beings known A-Sentience. I thought it was interesting that they’re not exactly villains. What inspired their creations?

I was playing around with the Stark, which were created in previous continuities, and taking that idea a little bit further. And you’re right — they’re not villains at all. They have been created with a very positive outlook to achieve a particular goal, so their agenda is high-minded, founded on high principles and for the greater good. Unfortunately, when they implement that agenda it doesn’t look that great to the people on the receiving end. It looks very heavy handed and brutal. Also there’s the idea that because they’re a technological race there’s been a sort of degrading of their principles that they’re not aware of. They still think they’re following the same basic instruction when in fact that instruction has become blurred, so the way they interpret it ends up being more dangerous for the people on the receiving end as well.

In the beginning it very much looked like these were the bad guys, but no — they’re not the bad guys. I didn’t want the “Guardians 3000” universe to have that sort of very binary sense of, “These are the good guys over here, those are the bad guys over there and there’s no gray area at all.” In fact, almost everything falls into a gray area. It’s a matter of how those things end up playing off of each other, so I think there’s some unlikely alliances to be had there and that should prove interesting.

You’ve also given us some new takes on established Marvel cosmic characters like Star-Lord and Rael Rider, the new — and perhaps last remaining — member of the Nova Corps. How does it feel to return to these characters in the aftermath of the “Thanos Imperative” and the recent revelations about them in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” tie-in arc to “Original Sin?”

It’s fun. I was also looking at what’s come to the public’s attention through the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. The Nova Corps was very important there and I thought it was a nice, strong bastion of the Marvel Cosmic universe and it would be nice to see it persisting in some way in the future to give us an anchor point. Obviously I’m very fond of the character having written “Nova.” I also thought it was nice to see that torch was still being carried even if it’s by one remaining Nova who wants to try and do what’s good and what’s right.

Then with Star-Lord, I’m very familiar with the original incarnations of the character. The character has changed so much over the years and I’ve had a hand in that change. It’s weird in that times change and the points of view of readers and creators about our ideas of what the future is and what makes something futuristic has changed. So back in the ’70s, Star-Lord in his original incarnation was sort of this epitome of high science and a streamlined, sleek, unimaginable future. Now Star-Lord has become much more of a gritty gun-slinger who uses makeshift pieces of tech and things like that.

Obviously his continuity has played out where he was this beacon of wonderfulness and he’s went through a series of tough times that have transformed him into the rebel that he is today, so the idea struck me that the old Star-Lord seems much more futuristic than present day Star-Lord. So wouldn’t it be kind of funny to take the template of the original Star-Lord and say, “Yes, Peter Quill might have started off as that, but what happens if the future version of Star-Lord is much more like his original version than his current incarnation?” — to actually play on that idea of the future. I think that can be sort of excused by the idea that time is messed up because it’s not our Peter Quill. It’s definitely a descendant, if you like. As a descendant, he resembles that early version of the character much much more.

That’s similar to what’s been done with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The name and the concept was firmly embedded in the future. They were a future concept that visited the past. They had visited the past so many times by the time the 2008 book came along their name got borrowed by the present team even though the name was created in the future! So I love the idea of which came first? Chronologically, the 2008 Guardians are the first team in history to use that name except there’s a team 1000 years later who used it first, so that’s a conversation that’s going to happen between the characters of who ripped off who and where it starts. [Laughs]

I like the idea that the future could look like the past or the present, so things are appearing in orders that we’re not quite expecting. Star-Lord is a great example of that. I wanted there to be a Star-Lord and I didn’t want him to just be a futuristic version of the current version, that sort of rash pirate. I thought returning him to sort of his majestic state was an interesting thing to do even though in character he’s almost like the present day Star-Lord wearing the original costume. He’s got the roguish attitude with a super hero look. That’s going to be another confrontation when it happens.

The end of “Guardians 3000” #4 set the stage for the return of a fan favorite member of the original future team, Nikki. What made you want to wait to introduce her now? And what can you tell us about your take on her?

There were a number of things there. I started out with what I considered to be the absolute core of the original team; Charlie-27, Martinex, Yondu and Vance. Plus, although he arrived later, I added Starhawk. To me that’s the core cast of the Guardians. I would say, though, that Nikki is the most important other member ever to be added to that mix in Guardians continuity.

We set up “Guardians 3000” with a ten page story in “Guardians of the Galaxy” #14. In that story we introduced our core cast and Geena as our focal point. I guess I could have squeezed somebody else in there, but I thought I would reserve it and not have the team members all arrive at once, so to have Nikki turn up slightly later and to have her not be instantly recognizable to readers or the characters in the story because of the machinations of time was a fun thing to do. Also I wanted to define her more. If you look up her Marvel Handbook entry she’s meant to be a great pilot and tactician. In many respects she has a skill set that resembles Rocket Raccoon’s. Like him, she’s sort of the tactical minded person in the middle of the team who’s very pragmatic, takes no crap from anybody and deals with things in a very straight forward way, so she’s very much a gun-slinger and has been on her own for a while and has needed to look after herself.

I think part of it was getting a character design that physically manifested the things that have always been understood about what she is as a character and to bring her in like that. She’s hot headed quite literally and metaphorically, so to make her like that was a fun thing to do. It was quite satisfying to get a few issues in and then say, “There’s a Guardian we’ve not got to yet.” So this I felt was more fun rather than having them all there up front.

In addition to Nikki, issue #5 also focused on what happened to Galactus who has become a hibernating being known as the Old Hunger in the time period of “Guardians 3000.” Time isn’t the only thing out of whack then in this series then, because Galactus is a natural and essential part of the Marvel Universe. Is a future where he’s not devouring planets indicative that something is awry?

Absolutely. From a Marvel readers’ perspective, that should certainly signify that things are not the way they should be. That gets looked at quite seriously in issue #6 — the fact that Galactus is a survivor from one universe that’s ended and came into ours and in this future apparently he’s gone into an almost dormancy because he’s become aware of the fact that this universe is in dire peril because he’s literally coming apart at the seams. If Galactus decides, “Hey, I’m going to sleep for a while and let this universe end so the next one can start,” [Laughs] that’s a pretty big sign that you’re in a bad place. So there’s some fun stuff with the Old Hunger that will appear in issue #6 and will have implications further down the line particularly with Geena, so it’s a strong line-up of stories.

What inspired the creation of Stormfront, the Old Hunger’s Herald in “Guardians 3000?”

Clearly the Old Hunger needs a Herald and what I really wanted to do was create an alternate to the Silver Surfer, Frankie Raye and Terrax. Sometimes these Heralds are sort of sublime and beautiful cosmic beings who possess great power but are also benign or at least wise and calm unless they’re fully unleashed, and sometimes they’re quite ferocious beasts who are very, very dangerous. I wanted to do something that was a bit of both, so the look of Stormfront is Surfer-esque in that he’s impressive and somewhat unreadable, but he’s also clearly a very dangerous individual to encounter.

That was interesting to play around with, so he’s a combination of previous Heralds that we’ve seen, but more than that he’s more of a Guardian now than a Herald. He’s no longer traveling the stars finding planets because Galactus has gone into a sort of exile and self-containment, so he needs a very powerful being to sit and watch over him whilst he’s in his sort of sleeping state and to me, Stormfront was that. He’s more of a door keeper and custodian. It’s almost like he’s watching over the grave while King Arthur “sleeps.” Therefore he’s a much more threatening character with a much more narrow perspective. He’s not open to the wonders of the universe and exploring. He’s not like the Silver Surfer who empathizes with things that he finds and wonders what he can do to help them. Stormfront has got this very rigid duty. I’m hoping we can do a lot more with him because he’s a character with huge potential.

The Guardians want help from Stormfront and his master to confront the time collapse phenomenon, which they believe has its roots in the past. I understand that in April’s “Guardians 3000” #7, the team will travel back in time and encounter the present day Guardians of the Galaxy. How does it feel to return to the team? Will their newest members, Venom and Captain Marvel, be part of this encounter?

It’s great fun to be returning to the present day Guardians, and to be honest if we hadn’t I think we’d be shirking our responsibility to bring these two teams face to face. We’re working up the lineup of which members of the present day Guardians will be involved, but it certainly is great fun to be writing them again and not only to be able to tackle how those characters interact with each other, but also their interplay with the other team. There’s a lot of corresponding and contrasting characters on the two teams. There’s a lot of characters who are sort of variant versions of each other, and of course in the wibbly wobbly timey wimey scheme of things, the original Guardians have met the present day Guardians — or some of them have — at different times in their history.

So again, there’s these questions of which version are you? How much of our history are you aware of? So there’s lots to play with there and seeing them interact and fight alongside each other, provided they don’t kill each other first, is going to be a great, fun thing to see.

As the artist of “Guardians 3000,” Gerardo Sandoval has created a lot of new characters and new takes on existing Marvel concepts. It seems like he’s relishing these opportunities, especially the character design work.

Yes, I’ve had no complaints from him whatsoever and he’s hitting it out of the park every time. I ask him for a new take on this or to create something new here and there’s such amazing energy in everything he does, which adds an almost breakneck speed to the series. It’s fantastic. He has not in any way disappointed me with any of his work or designs. He’s doing a fantastic job. I’m very happy with the collaboration.

Finally, is it a coincidence that the title characters of “Guardians 3000” are arriving in the present day Marvel Universe right as it’s being changed forever? Will “Guardians 3000” connect to or be impacted by “Secret Wars?”

That’s a very interesting question. If this is the “Last Days” of the Marvel Universe and time is running out as the promos have suggested, that would certainly seem to be a very good reason as to why the future is so screwed up and it would certainly seem like immaculate longterm planning on our part to have crafted a story line that weaves its way in and connects in to that. [Laughs]

None of Marvel’s publications are going to be left untouched by what’s happening there, so it would be foolish of me to say that there is not going to be some kind of connectivity. I think what that is and how it will work is something that’s going to be announced very soon, so I am aware of things that are happening and have seen opportunities to both engage with the big event, but to also take what I was doing and make it fit against it.

What I think would be unfortunate is if one book was pursuing a story line that plays out alongside something else and not be enriched by it. I think the idea that everything ties together — ultimately in the Marvel Universe everything ties together somewhere down the line — is something to be relished and enjoyed, so watch this space…

Earlier I used the word breakneck. The book feels like we’ve been running towards certain things as fast as possible, which I think is great. It feels different from my work on the other “Guardians” book where there was a sense of incrementally trying to build things and establish them. This is more of a case of being fired like a bullet into this story line and trying to make sure that we haven’t forgotten anything along the way, which has been creatively energizing. I hope the readers are enjoying it and will continue to enjoy it because there’s a lot more coming.

“Guardians 3000” #6 arrives on March 25.

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