Marvel took one of its first major risks with “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), but it paid off big time. The film told the story of Peter Quill, a human who had been abducted by space pirates as a young boy. Now a grown man, he teams up with other cosmic scoundrels to save the universe from Ronan and the forces of Thanos, who are trying to gather the various Infinity Stones.
The biggest challenge the film faced was that, unlike the other Marvel movies, it wasn’t based on a comic that had been around forever. The current version of “Guardians of the Galaxy” had only been around a few years at that point, and wasn’t one of the company’s major sellers. Fortunately, this gave the filmmakers tons of freedom, and boy did they use it! Here are all of the changes that actually improved on the source material.
15. DRAX’S PERSONALITY
Leading up to the movie, Marvel made it clear that “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) was going to be full of crazy characters, like Groot and Rocket. Drax, however, was never really showcased during the advertising, which made it such a nice surprise when he ended up being one of the funniest characters in the movie. As Rocket explained, Drax’s species doesn’t understand metaphors. When that was combined with his extremely violent and aggressive nature, it made for some hilariously awkward moments.
Another reason why this version was so surprising is because the comic version of Drax typically isn’t a comic relief character. He first appeared in “Iron Man” #55 (1973) by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin as the human father of a family that was killed by Thanos. He’s usually a serious character, and doesn’t seem to have any trouble with metaphors, often using them himself. This change made the movie version of Drax stand out, as opposed to just being a somewhat generic tough guy.
14. PETER QUILL’S LOVE OF MUSIC
When Quill is brought to the Kyln after being arrested by the Nova Corps, all of his items are immediately confiscated. The one possession he seems to have a bizarre connection with is his old Walkman and mix tape of classic rock hits. At first, this just seems to be one of his weird quirks, and when he risks his life to retrieve it while escaping, the moment is played for laughs. It’s later revealed, however, that the tape was a gift from his mom, and that it serves as his last connection to his family on Earth.
This entire concept was invented specifically for the movie. The comic book version of Star-Lord doesn’t raid ancient planets while listening to Redbone and David Bowie. While this plot device served as a good excuse to fill the movie’s soundtrack with classic hits, it was also a unique way to give Quill more depth and show just how much he still missed home and his mom.
13. NO EARTH HEROES
While the Guardians are an intergalactic team, they always seem to have a lot of humans on the team. While Star-Lord might be from Earth, he’s never really been an Earth hero. Iron Man, Venom, Captain Marvel, The Thing and Kitty Pryde are from Earth, and they’ve all been Guardians, not to mention the fact that Drax is a human spirit in the comics. While it’s fun to take characters out of their element, the downside is that it makes the team feel like they’re just the outer space Avengers.
In the movie, the only character from Earth is Peter Quill, which is a huge improvement. First, it really amplifies how far from home Quill is. If humans are running around all over the galaxy, especially super-powered ones, that makes him a little less special. Second, it just makes more sense that an intergalactic team wouldn’t be 20 to 40% human.
12. LESS HUMANS IN GENERAL
In the Marvel Universe, aliens always treat Earth like it’s a backwater planet that’s isolated from the rest of the universe. That’s ridiculous, because the universe is full of humans who left Earth to live in the stars. Aside from the Guardians of the Galaxy, there are a ton of humans who are high-ranking Novas (like Sam Alexander’s father, Jesse). In Star-Lord’s new expanded origin, detailed in “Star-Lord” (2016) by Sam Humphries and Javier Garron, his first adventure involved saving a crew of astronauts from space pirates. Even Knowhere, a hollowed out Celestial head, is commanded by Cosmo, a Russian cosmonaut (also, he’s a dog).
Humans leave Earth and encounter aliens all the time. Which is fine in the comics, but it was smart for the movie to make Quill the only human known to be traveling across the galaxy. What’s the point of telling a story in outer space if every other character is from Earth? Instead, the movie focused almost entirely on alien characters and making it believable that humans are still considered an isolated planet.
11. NO MATCHING UNIFORMS
After the Guardians decide to team up with the Ravagers to protect Xandar from Ronan, there’s a montage of each team member getting ready. Drax is shown getting dressed, and when he picks up the shirt that was provided to him, he briefly looks at it before tossing it aside in disgust. The joke was obviously about Drax never wearing a shirt, and when the team finally assembled, only Star-Lord and Gamora are wearing the provided uniforms. Drax and Groot all appear as they normally do, and Rocket seems to be wearing a variation he modified himself.
In the comics, the Guardians spent a period of time all wearing matching uniforms (for the most part). Even Rocket and Groot dressed the same, which was weird. There’s just something unsettling about seeing Groot wear pants. The movie decided not to go with this look, which worked so much better. The Guardians are a ragtag team of intergalactic misfits, and keeping them out of uniform is an easy way to let their individual personalities shine.
10. GROOT’S DESIGN
The success of “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) shot each of the characters to stardom from relative obscurity. While this isn’t the first time that’s happened, a lot of new fans were surprised to learn that one of the breakout stars of the film, Groot, didn’t have that rich of a comic book history. Originally appearing as a villain in “Tales to Astonish” #13 (1960) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Groot didn’t make many appearances in the Marvel Universe until he was reintroduced in “Annihilation: Conquest” (2007).
The movie didn’t have a lot of history to deal with, so aside from having him say nothing other than “I am Groot,” the filmmakers were essentially free to create the character as they saw fit. One of the biggest improvements was the physical design. The comic Groot, while still a tree, had a lot more spines and jagged branches, giving him an almost sinister look. The movie version toned this down, giving him a friendly appearance that likely made it easier for mass audiences to accept him.
9. AN ACTIVE NOVA CORPS
Back in 2006, Marvel decided to reboot their entire cosmic line of comics with the “Annihilation” crossover. In “Annihilation: Prologue” (2006) by Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins, Annihilus leads his army to Xandar and destroys the entire Nova Corps, except for Richard Rider. Star-Lord would help Rider defeat Annihilus, and then form the current version of the Guardians of the Galaxy during the sequel, “Annihilation: Conquest” (2007). The team stayed together to help protect the universe.
While the Guardians of the comics aren’t the same outlaws as the team from the movie, they still don’t necessarily get along with law enforcement. Unlike the movies, however, there is no Nova Corps for them to deal with or work around. By having the Nova Corps around, the movies made the Guardians feel more like adventurers, as opposed to just another galactic police force. The corps forces the Guardians to work around the law, whereas in the comics, the Guardians are free to come and go wherever they please.
8. NO MEGA-POWERED CHARACTERS
When it comes down to it, the movie version of the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t all that powerful. Peter Quill is essentially a regular human (as far its been shown so far), and Gamora and Drax are strong, but there are definitely stronger aliens. Meanwhile, Rocket has to rely solely on his brains and skills. Groot seems to be the most powerful, but even then, he’s just a super tree. The team doesn’t have a Hulk or a Thor or any other cosmically-powered character, which actually makes them more interesting.
Unlike the comics, the film Guardians have to rely on their skills to win. Star-Lord defeated Ronan by confusing him with a dance-off as opposed to just out-fighting him. The comics team usually has a character like Adam Warlock or Moondragon, or even Captain Marvel, who’s essentially indestructible. It’s not a bad thing, and creative writers always come up with interesting scenarios for those characters. It’s just that there are enough heavy hitters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s nice to see a team that has to be creative to win.
7. ROCKET’S ROCKET-SKATE-FREE ORIGIN
When it was announced that Marvel was making a “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie, the first question most fans asked was “will it include Rocket Raccoon?” To many surprised fans, Marvel found a way to bring Rocket to life in a live action setting. The version that appears in the movie, voiced by Bradley Cooper, stays fairly true to the current comic book version. He’s a bad tempered, but brilliant engineer and pilot who loves a fight.
Part of the issue with bringing Rocket to life is that he’s a talking raccoon, and Marvel didn’t want the movie to be too cartoony. Luckily, they found the right balance and it worked. One of the best decisions they made was to ignore Rocket’s early comic appearances, dating back to “Marvel Preview” #7 (1976) by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen. These appearances included rocket powered skates and a partner named Wal Rus (guess what type of animal he was).
When people refer to the “Guardians of the Galaxy,” almost everyone thinks of the team led by Peter Quill. They’re actually the second group to use that name. The original team first appeared in “Marvel Super-Heroes” #18 (1969) by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, were actually from the 31st century and had a respectable run of comics. Since the movie was based on the more recent team, most of the characters from this version did not appear, except for Yondu.
While the comic version in the 31st century was the last surviving member of his species with a giant fin on top of his head, the film portrayed Yondu as the space pirate responsible for abducting Peter Quill from Earth. He later spent the movie chasing after Quill and trying to retrieve the Infinity Stone that Quill had stolen first. The only real similarity that the movie version had to his comic counterpart is the ability to control arrows by whistling.
5. KNOWHERE NOT BEING THE BASE
On the edge of known space and time, in an area known as the Rip, the seemingly decapitated head of an ancient being known as a Celestial serves as one of the universe’s biggest mysteries. Instead of examining it, however, various species have hollowed it out and turned it into a base of operations. It first appeared in “Nova” #8 (2008) by Abnett and Lanning and Wellington Alves, and eventually became the home base of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
While Knowhere appeared in the movie essentially the same way it did in the comics, there was one notable difference: the Guardians were just visiting. They stopped by just to visit the Collector and then left (or ran away from Thanos’ forces). By keeping the team on the move, it makes them feel more like adventurers. While the Guardians were stationed on Knowhere, they had to deal with the station’s politics and often felt like a security force and less like guardians of the entire galaxy.
4. PETER QUILL’S DAD
In the comics, Star-Lord has had a pretty complicated history. His origin has been retconned several times since he first appeared. Most recently, in “Guardians of the Galaxy” #0.1 (2013) by Brian Bendis and Steve McNiven, it was revealed that Peter Quill was the son of an Earth woman and J’Son, King of Spartax, who had crashed on Earth. After a brief relationship with Quill’s mom, J’Son returned to the stars.
By the time the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series picks up, Quill is fully aware of who his father is. Not only that, but Peter had actively refused to join his father’s side as prince of Spartax. In the first movie, the only thing that’s known about Peter’s father is that he’s something ancient, as revealed by the Novas. Whatever the status of his father is, he’s definitely not the king of a major galactic empire, which makes Star-Lord’s status as a pirate seem like less of a choice and much more desperate.
3. STAR-LORD’S NICKNAME
As previously stated, Star-Lord has a complicated comic book history. After several retcons and revamps, he’s almost nothing like how he originally appeared. Initially, he started calling himself “Star-Lord” after encountering an entity that also went by that name. The entity needed a human, and when Quill volunteered, he was taken to meet the Master of the Sun, who made Quill the next Star-Lord. Since then, that origin has been completely discarded, leaving the name Star-Lord as a bit of a dated sounded name.
In the movie, Peter Quill wanting to be called Star-Lord is a running joke. Nobody takes it seriously, and Quill is either met with confusion or laughter. It isn’t until the very end of the film that it’s revealed that his mom called him Star-Lord when he was little. Suddenly, the silly nickname took on a whole new meaning, and it’s actually touching that Quill would take on the identity in memory of his mom.
2. STAR-LORD’S GUNS AND “SHIP”
Another aspect from Star-Lord’s first origin that’s been dropped was his technology. When he first became Star-Lord, Peter Quill was armed with an element gun, which was capable of firing each of the four elements, and a sentient space ship, appropriately named “Ship.” These two items were part of Star-Lord’s story until “Ship” was destroyed during the lead up to the “Annihilation” cosmic revamp. Since then, Star-Lord’s only notable piece of technology is his helmet and face mask.
Thankfully, this is the look the movie went with as well. While Star-Lord carries two unique looking guns, they both seem to only fire regular blasts. To be honest, considering all of the crazy technology in space, an element gun doesn’t seem to be that impressive, so skipping it was no big loss. His ship is named the Milano, after Alyssa Milano, an actress young Peter Quill apparently had a crush on. It isn’t sentient, and Star-Lord treats it more like a car than a companion.
1. NEBULA’S ORIGIN
After Gamora defects, Thanos sends his other adopted daughter, Nebula, after her to retrieve the Infinity Stone. Portrayed by Karen Gillan, Nebula is as deadly as Gamora, only she seems to lack any of the compassion that her adopted sister has. She’s a cyborg, and it’s unclear how much of her is still biological and how much has been replaced by robotic body parts. She apparently has little love for Thanos, as she easily betrays him late in the film.
Not much is known about her past, which is good. If it’s anything like the comics, then it’s best to leave it mysterious. First appearing in “Avengers” #257 (1985) by Roger Stern and John Buscema, Nebula was a space pirate that had taken control of Thanos’ space ship after the titan had seemingly died. She claimed to be his daughter, which upset Thanos when he returned, so he used the Infinity Gauntlet to turn her into a zombie of sorts. Keeping out the whole “pretending to be Thanos’ daughter until he caught her” aspect of her story was probably a good idea on the filmmaker’s part.
Do you think GOTG improved on the comics? Let us know why or why not in the comments!
“Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2” hits theaters May 5, 2017.