Before exploding into the public consciousness with their out-of-this-world trailer, the Guardians of the Galaxy spent a few decades quietly building a name for themselves as solo characters before fate thrust them together. And with mile long rap sheets, as summarized by John C. Reilly’s Rhomann Dey in the trailer’s most memorable sequence, getting to know each one of the Guardians may seem like a daunting task to those just starting to become acquainted with the team.
Considering that all five characters debuted in the 1970s or earlier, and that the majority of their first appearances don’t give away their origin stories, we figured new readers might like a hand tracking down each of the Guardians’ key back issues. With that in mind, CBR presents a rundown of each Guardian’s origin appearance, along with some interesting details about each one.
First Appearance: “Marvel Preview” #4, January 1976, by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan
Origin: “Guardians of the Galaxy” #0.1, April 2013, by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven
Peter Quill made his debut as a swashbuckling space mercenary in Marvel’s magazine-sized anthology series “Marvel Preview,” where he hopped around the universe inside his sentient spaceship. The character had a few far-out adventures in the ’70s, eventually fading into obscurity until his reappearance in 2004’s “Thanos” series. While his first appearance did include his original origin story, it was recently retconned to kick-off the latest “Guardians of the Galaxy” ongoing series, revealing his heritage as the sone of Jason of Spartax, a galactic emperor who actually held the title of Star-Lord before Peter.
First appearance and origin reprinted in “Star-Lord: The Hollow Crown”; new origin reprinted in the “Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers” hardcover
First Appearance: “Strange Tales” #180, June 1975, by Jim Starlin
Origin: “Warlock” #10, December 1975, by Jim Starlin
Gamora was introduced as a mysterious femme fatale in the middle of writer/artist Jim Starlin’s massive interstellar epic involving cosmic messiah Adam Warlock. In her brief appearance in “Strange Tales” #180, the deadliest woman in the galaxy immediately found herself at the center of Warlock’s ongoing struggle with his evil future-self, Magus. Soon, she revealed her role as Thanos’ personal assassin, and “Warlock” #10 made the pair’s connection even stronger; in one of Starlin’s classic monologues, Thanos revealed that he had adopted Gamora following the slaughter of her people, raising her to be an instrument of death.
First appearance and origin reprinted in the “Warlock by Jim Starlin: The Complete Collection” paperback
First Appearance: “Iron Man” #55, February 1973, by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich
Origin: “Captain Marvel” #32, May 1974, by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich/”Drax the Destroyer” #1-4, 2005, by Keith Giffen and Mitch Breitweiser
Drax the Destroyer and Thanos the Destroyee both made their debut in “Iron Man” #55, which also kicked off Starlin’s nearly decade-long space opera. In his first appearance, it was revealed that the gods of Titan created Drax for the sole purpose of killing Thanos. Later, in “Captain Marvel” #32, Thanos unlocks Drax’s memory and reveals that the Destroyer was originally a human named Arthur Douglas, who died in a car accident caused by Thanos. Following years as a supporting character possessed of varying powers and intellects, Drax received a complete makeover in his first miniseries. The tattooed, knife-welding Drax seen in the upcoming film got his start there.
First appearance and origin reprinted in the “Avengers vs. Thanos” paperback; new origin reprinted in the “Drax the Destroyer: Earthfall” paperback
First Appearance: “Marvel Preview” #7, June 1976, by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen
Origin: “Rocket Raccoon” #1-4, 1985, by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola/”Annihilators” #1-4, 2011, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Timothy Green II
After debuting as “Rocky” Racooon in “Marvel Preview” #7, Rocket took the lead in his own limited series as guardian of the Keystone Quadrant. There, it was revealed that he hailed from the planet Halfworld, where he believed he was a raccoon, genetically engineered for bipedal movement in order to assist in a colony for the mentally ill. As if that origin wasn’t complicated enough, the 2011 series “Annihilators” featured a back-up story that revealed much of the original tale to be false — or maybe even all of it. As of now, Rocket’s not so sure about where he comes from, and neither are readers — though that hasn’t stopped him from developing into a true fan-favorite character.
First appearance and origins reprinted in the “Rocket Raccoon & Groot: Complete Collection” paperback
First Appearance: “Tales to Astonish” #13, November 1960, by Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby
Want to know an odd bit of trivia about Groot? He actually pre-dates the modern Marvel Universe by a year! The tree that walks like a man debuted as the one-off “monster from Planet X” in an issue of proto-Marvel’s “Tales to Astonish” anthology. If not for 1976’s “Incredible Hulk Annual” #5, which featured the jade giant squaring off against a number of pre-Marvel monsters, Groot might have remained in the back issue bins. As it is, after his introduction into the Marvel Universe proper, Groot had to wait another three decades before appearing again in “Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos” and “Annihilation: Conquest — Star-Lord.” Considering how little he’s been used since his debut over 50 years ago, it’s no wonder that Groot’s definitive origin has yet to be told.
First appearance reprinted in the “Rocket Raccoon & Groot: Complete Collection” paperback