The Guardians of the Galaxy are a band heroes tasked with protecting the vast Marvel Universe and the alien races that call it home. It's a proud heroic tradition that was started in one of the Marvel U's many possible futures by a team of freedom fighters from the year 3000. Then -- because of the twisting nature time travel -- a ragtag band of misfits and scoundrels now operate as the present day incarnation of the Guardians. But what if the legacy of the Guardians stretches back even further into the past? What would that team be like?
This December, Dan Abnett (one of the architects behind the modern Guardians and writer of the recent "Guardians 3000" series) and artist Carlo Barberi will begin to explore those questions and more in the all-new ongoing series "Guardians of Infinity." The series, part of Marvel's "All-New, All-Different" initiative, brings together members of the 2000 and 3000 era Guardians with the all-new Guardians 1000 team for a grand, millennia-spanning cosmic saga. Additionally, the series will feature back-up tales by a rotating team of creators that spotlight Guardians members from the past, present and future incarnations of the team.
CBR News spoke with Abnett about the different philosophies that govern the various team members in "Guardians of Infinity," the inspiration for the Guardians 1000 and how the series will be a vehicle to tell a wide variety of science fiction tales.
CBR News: So Dan, let's get the big question out of the way: what exactly is "Guardians of Infinity"? The cover for issue #1 indicates that this new series will allow you to explore all incarnations of the Guardians while also doing something new and different. Is that a fair description?
Dan Abnett: I think it is, yes. Obviously I have an ongoing willingness to write the "Guardians" characters in whichever era they're in. Marvel came to me and asked me if I would be interested in writing the lead story in this and I thought it was a great idea, because it's a way of taking all the characters who have been Guardians of the Galaxy and mixing and matching them, putting them in interesting combinations and playing around with them. So I suppose it harkens back to the previous team-up book, but in a less formal way. This is less of a team-up and more of a case of, "Okay, can you do a story that takes some Guardians from each era and puts them together?"
Inevitably that always involves time travel because the two teams are a thousand years apart. I came up with a notion on how to achieve that link, though, without it being yet another time travel story. So there is a time travel component, but it's not the classic, cliched trope of "travel back in time, change the past, change the future."
Once I presented that to the editors they went, "Oh, this is a really cool idea. There's more we can do with this in terms of other things we can introduce." So it all sort of grew organically in a real interesting way, but the starting point was them asking, "Can you do a story that has two or three of the coolest current Guardians and some of the Guardians 3000 working together to accomplish a goal?"
It was also an opportunity to show that they're all Guardians of the Galaxy, but the teams are quite different n terms of team personality
It looks like things get rolling in "Guardians of Infinity" #1 with Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Drax. How does it feel to return to them for another story, and what do you find most interesting about the dynamic between the three characters?
I think that they're an interesting sort of triple act to any Guardians story because of the way they play off each other. I think that's one of the things that cemented the team. They all existed previously as individual characters, but put them together and you've got something really entertaining.
Drax has been a favorite character of mine for a long time. I love the way he's got this sort of wonderful balance between incredibly ruthless, powerful, warrior and a sort of grudging conscience. He knows there is a right and wrong thing to do. He has, I guess a sort of Ron Swanson way of looking at things. [Laughs]
So I thought putting him together with Rocket and Groot was a really cool thing to do. There is a companionship, but also a rivalry between Rocket and Drax. I think Drax really disapproves of Rocket's waywardness, but Rocket is more sort of intuitively in step with the right thing to do. He realizes Drax can be sort of a loose cannon.
So there's an interesting sort of checks and balances system to them and to place them into the mix with our the Guardians 3000 characters -- in this case we've got Vance Astro, Nikki Gold, Martinex and Charlie-27 -- is great. They are equally a bunch of misfits, but to me because the Guardians 3000 are freedom fighters who came together in a war time setting they're much more conventionally heroic than the present day Guardians. They're much more of a super team dedicated to fighting a great fight. Nikki can be a bit of a rascal, but they're much more of a proud, defiant, noble and heroic body.
So basically we're putting them together with a bunch of pirates [laughs] and I think even if they're working together on the same agenda, they've got different ways of doing things. That was something that I noticed writing the issues of "Guardians 3000" where they met, and I think that is even more profound here because this is not, as it was back then, two teams meeting. They are one team formed out of bits of the other two and they're kind of obliged to get used to each others different philosophies.
What can you tell us about the status quo of the Guardians 3000 members when we first meet them in this series? Are they still feeling the effects of the time anomaly that plagued them in their most recent series?
That will be touched upon, but it's not the main way into the story. When we meet them in issue #1, Rocket's group is essentially dealing with a problem heroically. They kind of see it as an opportunity to do their usual rascally things as well though. I think Rocket sees it as a money-spinning venture. He feels, "We could end up earning really well on this, but if we save the universe at the same time? Hooray!" They then meet the Guardians 3000 in this very odd situation and they've already been investigating this problem from their end. They've already run into the problem too.
So when the two groups meet, the Guardians 3000 are already deep in it and know more about what is going on. Rocket then has to rapidly revise his idea that this is a great scam/heist that he's going to have fun doing. Suddenly this isn't "Ocean's 11" at all; they're caught up in something bigger. From that point on there's a momentum that carries them all along and obliges them to work together -- because if they don't, they're not going to survive.
Helping you bring to life the main stories of "Guardians of Infinity" is Carlo Barberi, an experienced and versatile artist with a great kinetic style that I think is perfect for this space opera. Have you and Carlo worked together before?
I don't believe we've ever worked together on anything before. He was selected by the editorial team and I thought it was a fantastic choice. The pages I've seen coming in are amazing. He's a great storyteller and he really gets the sort of tech feel as well. The opening sequences on a space ship feel like an incredibly well-designed set from a great movie, so I couldn't be happier.
I have a feeling he's enjoying himself as well, and we've had some great input from Jim Cheung, who is doing our covers and some of the character designs. There's some lovely art going on there.
I understand the other ingredient to your mix of characters is the Guardians 1000. What can you tell us about the team? Are they the characters featured on the cover to issue #1?
Yes, there are several of them shown there. I love it when you're working on a project and you're sort of brainstorming with an editor, and in this particular incident we were asking, "How do we bring parts of the 2000 and 3000 teams together so they can have an adventure as one unit?" So I came up with this time travel related notion, rather than an out-and-out time travel story, and that gave us some wonderful fabrics.
It wasn't just an excuse for why they meet. It's part of the problem they're trying to solve, so it's organically part of the same thing. Once I got that, Nick Lowe and the editorial team went, "That's really cool and essentially it allows us to bring in other things if we want too." Then from that conversation came the notion that if there's a Guardians 2000 and a Guardians 3000, is this a reoccurring motif? Are there other Guardians guarding different eras of the galaxy? So Nick said, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a Guardians 1000?"
What really appealed to me about that is everything cosmic is usually so far future. So it would be much more obvious to ask what do the Guardians 5000 look like? Or Guardians 10,000? You think Guardians 1000 though and it's a thousand years earlier. Seeing as how the creation of these various teams involves going back in time: originally it was the year 3000, then we have the Guardians of now, it only felt right to go back another step. And because the Marvel Universe is full of many races that have been around for millennia, there were of course high tech races with spacefaring ability with agendas at a time when we think of Earth as a comparatively simple place.
It's 1000 A.D. We were obviously low tech and not in space. So the idea would be that a team from that era would surely be sort of primitive and old fashioned team. I said, "No it wouldn't, because they would draw from other species that would be much more evolved by that point." So the question was, "What could we do?" And sort of as an exercise I devised a sample team of Guardians 1000 and I thought in exactly the same way we put the other two teams together they could be involved too. We could realize that they also are coming at the same problem from yet another direction.
How do the three Guardians teams differ?
They have a completely different group philosophy. Rocket's group is sort of misfits, rascals, rogues, and renegades who save the galaxy anyway even if they get no credit for it. Vance's team are noble, proud, heroic freedom fighters who will defend the galaxy because they're the last team standing. Then we loved the slightly Medieval or Elizabethan idea behind the Guardians 1000 being, "Yes, they are galactic defenders, but they're also attuned to the exploration and wonderment of the universe." It's, "The universe is a wonderful place that we should all learn more about by exploring it. And if there's a problem we'll deal with it."
Since the Guardians 1000 are from a millennia ago, will there be any humans on the team?
There is a human character on the team. He's the one on the left of the cover, but he's obviously been enhanced by technology that he's encountered in his era. I think if you don't know Marvel Cosmic they're a fun team. If you do know Marvel Cosmic, I think you'll have fun working out where the different team members come from in terms of their relationship to the Marvel Universe and its various cosmic races. So we've got three groups trying to work together and all of them have a different approach to the way this problem needs to be solved.
So the Guardians 1000 are all new characters then? And the way you talked about them reminded me of sort of classic "Star Trek."
Yes, they are all new characters. And absolutely! They are boldly going! They're primarily about discovering the wonders of the universe and communicating, greeting and making contact. If that contact leads to a problem, they are capable of backing that up and being defensive in the same way the Enterprise always was. So they do have that optimistic spirit.
What can you tell us about the villain that pushes the stakes up to this level?
I don't want to give too much away about who the bad guys are, but for the people who care about this, it's weirdly something I seeded during my "Guardians 3000" run. In building the future Marvel Universe of "Guardians 3000," I made reference to all sorts of different things to give it color and flesh that I never expanded upon on at the time. So I thought, "These guys need a name. Why don't I connect it there?"
There's a sense of continuity, which is why the Guardians 3000 are sort of the first ones on the scene. It's sort of coming from their end of time, and then you realize it's reaching back and bringing everybody else in.
Going forward, after this initial adventure will "Guardians of Infinity" feature a regular cast or more of a rotating one?
At this stage we want to find out how people respond to the book and how cool they think things are. I believe the basic idea is we'll mix and match as each story comes. So we may have some characters that carry over from the previous story and bring others in from different places. I think that also depends on the audience's reaction and how much they like what's going on.
I suppose if the book is a wild success we could have some stories that just focused on one of the three teams. We might do a Guardians 1000 story, Or a Guardians 3000 story, or a current Guardians story. At the moment, though, this is an opportunity to explore sets of questions like, what is the concept of the Guardians of the Galaxy? Is it a complete coincidence that they keep popping up in different eras with the same name? We know that Rocket sort of ripped off the name and that was sort of a borrow. But why does it keep happening? Is there some kind of greater structure to this? I suppose it looks at them as an institution as well as having adventures.
With explorers, scoundrels, and freedom fighters to draw from it feels like "Guardians of Infinity" is a vehicle to tell almost any kind of sci-fi story.
Absolutely, yes. It really is. I think Marvel Cosmic does lend itself to big stories because big stories always emphasize the sheer scope of what you're dealing with in the cosmic. That's part of the reason why people love the Cosmic, but I think being able to focus in on what are technically smaller personal stories, or smaller threats that are nevertheless really important, they just happen to be happening over here rather than on Earth, are also interesting.
We've got a back up story in each issue by different creative teams and they're an opportunity to look at that scale difference. They focus in on specific characters doing specific things.
It seems like the anthology aspect of this series would be especially interesting for you as both a writer and fan of the characters. It gives you a chance to see how other people interpret the Guardians.
It absolutely does. These little short stories are wonderful snap shots of individual characters, which I think is a good thing to do. With this book, the characters who qualify as being members of the Guardians of the Galaxy is now quite large. It's not quite Avengers large, and it's certainly not Legion of Super-Heroes large! We've still got a large line up, though, and these are characters who very rapidly reach a wider audience.
I think that's fun and every time we introduce new characters into the Guardians fold it then sort of multiplies the possibilities in terms of combinations. I really relish the day when a writer comes in and says, "I want to take Gamora and that guy from Guardians 1000! Let's put them together and see how that works!" That's when the creative elements of the Marvel Universe, the idea of a shared universe that we're creating and working in, really becomes cool. Because it's somebody coming in and seeing something that somebody else hasn't seen, and playing with the same toys and expanding things for the thrill of the audience.
I am delighted to be writing Guardians again, obviously! I have a very, very warm spot in my heart for the Guardians of the Galaxy. I'm delighted to be combining these eras of Guardians in an exciting way. I'm also delighted to be able to introduce some new ones, and more than anything else I think this is a book that I would really recommend because the cover and the interior art is going to be so good! It's the sort of stuff that any comic fan, Cosmic or not, would want to look at. It's going to be gorgeous!
"Guardians of Infinity" #1 launches in December.