Abnett Heads Back to the Future with "Guardians 3000"

When studying the complex and often twisting nature of time and space in the Marvel Universe, you come across more than a few conundrums. A big one is that while the ragtag band of intergalactic misfits that make up the current incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy are the earliest team in history to use that name, but they are not the original Guardians. Rather, the original Guardians of the Galaxy, a band of interstellar freedom fighters created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan in 1968's "Marvel superheroes" #18, hail from the 30th Century, and when one of their members -- who just so happens to hail from an alternate reality -- was stranded in the past, he inspired the present day Guardians to adopt the future team's name.

Abnett, Sandoval Deliver "Guardians 3000" in October

Dan Abnett penned that moment in the 2008 "Guardians of the Galaxy" series he co-wrote with Andy Lanning, honoring Drake and Colan's original creations. Recently, in Issue #14 of the current volume of "GotG," Abnett and artist Gerardo Sandoval returned to the third millennium with a short story that set the stage for a new era of original Guardians stories. In October, that era officially begins when "Guardians 3000," an all-new ongoing series from Abnett and Sandoval, continues the adventures of the original Guardians of the Galaxy.

CBR News: Dan, this October you return to Marvel with "Guardians 3000," an updated version of the classic team whose namesake you and Andy Lanning helped redefine. How does it feel to be writing characters you loved as a kid and whose legacy you helped redefine?

Dan Abnett: I'm incredibly pleased and very flattered to have been asked to do it. Creatively it's a strange place because they are the original team, but they're from the future and the one I helped redefine is from the present day. [Laughs]

I'm deliberately playing on those confusions because I want all of the continuity to make sense. I want the odd sense of which one inspired the other, if any, to happen.

I remember reading the original 1968 Guardians story in the early '70s when it was reprinted over here, when I was a kid. I thought they were great. That fondness for them lead to the 2008 "Guardians" book, even though it was primarily a different batch of characters. So to go back to the originals and bring them into the mainstream now is a terrific opportunity.

This isn't your first time writing a superhero book set in the future. You and Lanning also worked on DC Comics' "Legion of Super-Heroes." Did some of the lessons you learned from writing that book apply here? Or is "Guardians 3000" a completely different animal?

It is very different in many respects. There are some similarities because of that sense of a cosmic superhero team that is detached from the main body of continuity that inhabits in the Legion's case the DC Universe and in the Guardians' case the Marvel Universe. I think books thrive from being in that surrounding where you know the universe and the characters around them, and if they're detached from that, you've got to find ingenious ways of providing that sense of a properly rounded universe for the readers.

I'm doing all sorts of different things in "Guardians 3000" to try and do that. There will be extrapolations of the Marvel Universe of today as to how it got there and what it looks like there. I think some of those things will be really fun for readers to pick up on; the references to how things have developed and changed.

Plus, the original Guardians team has a very long legacy of time travel. Many of their classic adventures involve them coming back to the present day and interacting with heroes. So I think it's fair to say that something along those lines is going to happen, sooner or later. What's interesting now is the opportunity to come back to the present day and not just meet the Avengers, but to also meet the other Guardians team. That may be something we manage to artfully construct somewhere down the line.

What do you find most interesting about the original Guardians of the Galaxy? If I remember correctly, they're all super-powered humans with the exception of Yondu.

That's correct. Charlie-27 and Martinex have been transformed to allow existence on other worlds in the solar system. There's something really lovely, and, I mean this in a good way, old fashioned 1940s-1950s sci-fi about the original concept. Vance is obviously a man out of time because he's been in hibernation for 1000 years. Starhawk is this mystical being, and Yondu, as you said, is from Centauri. Technically speaking, he is an alien.

They're all very interesting. I think they're super-powered but non superheroish in some respects. They're very much science fiction characters, and I need to find ways to make them fit into the context of what we expect and like in superhero characters today.

I've noticed some comments online already. The original core team of four characters -- others were added later on by Jim Valentino and other creators -- were all male; originally, there were no female characters on the team. From a modern perspective, I think that's a shame and it's certainly something that I'm going to rectify. Whether I add new team members to the group or, as I certainly want to do, build a proper supporting cast and a world around them, there will be several very strong female characters in the book to address that balance and make sure the book has some relevance for today.

I don't want to modernize, reboot or deny previous continuity with this book. I think some of the previous time-related issues I'm dealing with in the storyline will allow for everything. I'm not expecting people, particularly long term fans of the original Guardians, to say, "Everything is being scrapped and this is remake." Like the 2008 Guardians, this is delving into the continuity of the team; taking things and saying, right, we're restarting, but we're restarting with an awareness of that continuity and respect for it, but without bogging it down with so much continuity that new readers go, "I don't know what the heck is going on!" [Laughs]

It's a fine balancing act, but it's actually a very rich playground. There's a lot we can do and I've churned out a huge amount of ideas. When the project first came along and they asked, "What would would you like do?" Marvel got really excited about a lot of those ideas. There's huge potential there.

Going back to what you said about female characters, Starhawk was originally a sort of composite being that could be both male and female. Can you comment at all on if Starhawk's Aleta persona is part of this book? Or would that be telling?

Yes, I believe I made a reference that there appeared to be five male characters on the cover, but there is a hidden female character there, and it's something I did with Starhawk in the 2008 series. I think it's interesting. I think it's a very cool idea and certainly something that can be revisited. I think I devised a strong new way of dealing with that, which does not deny continuity. You'll see it before long.

In your short story in "Guardians of the Galaxy" #14, which serves as a sort of prologue to "Guardians 3000," we met Gina Drake, an Earth girl who is an homage to creators Gene Colan and Arnold Drake. It looks like she'll serve as the reader's entry view point to the world of "Guardians 3000." What can you tell us about that world? Is this a series that will initially take place on a Badoon conquered Earth? Or will we see the Galaxy?

We're making that allowance for all previous continuity, but I wanted to do a story that took the characters right back to where they originally started; as freedom fighters battling alien oppressors who have conquered not only Earth, but sort of the entire united planets commonwealth of man. Our 10-page story really was an homage to the very first Guardians story, but I used it as an opportunity, at the encouragement of my editors, to seed ideas that I could then run with provided they greenlit the idea of an ongoing.
Gina is crucial to that. She's a POV character. She's a very useful tool to introduce these characters to new readers, because they're new to her as well. She's also going to be one of the strong female characters in the book. She's pivotal to what's going on, but she's unaware of the crucial role she has to play.

That was definitely a neat prologue. You don't need to have read it in order to understand the first book, but it's a nice lead in.

We know the Badoon are still around in "Guardians 3000," but do any of the other familiar Marvel galactic empires still exist and will they play a role in this series? Is this primarily humans and Badoon at first? Or will we see cultures like the Kree, Skrull, and Shi'ar as well?

Yeah, I think I would be making a terrible, terrible mistake if I didn't acknowledge the fact that there are these great civilizations out there in the Marvel Cosmos and they will have endured. They have endured for tens of thousands of years, some of them for longer than that, so they'll be around in a thousand years time.

Like I said though, I want to twist things around, so they may not exist in the form you expect them too. Some of these empires may have also lost to the Badoon and be in a similar state. Also, I want to throw in some ideas about both new galactic super powers that have arisen and some that may have been there all along that we didn't know about. Plus I want to show that some things may have changed drastically. I don't want to spoil anything but there are some concepts out there that are directly or indirectly linked to classic Marvel Cosmic themes.

I hope the changes will be interesting and cool and you can see where the linkage is. This is a universe oppressed, though. The primary menace appears to be the Badoon, and they certainly are, but in many respects the Badoon are simply opportunists. Because of their strength, they're taking advantage of a situation that is deeper and more dangerous on a much more metaphysical level, so the Guardians have to keep fighting for freedom and keep the Badoon at bay while they try to figure out what's really wrong. The Badoon are almost a symptom of something much darker and deeper, which is the thrust of the major opening arc.

So it sounds like "Guardians 3000" is a series that involves the mysteries of both space and time.

Yes. I know it's been done before in all sorts of other strips, and indeed, I've played with it before. It was one of the strands in the 2008 series.

This serves a lot a lot of purposes. One, I think it's a really cool idea. Two, it gives the opportunity to draw the Guardians back through history. Not just towards the present day, but what's happened in the intervening thousand years between their period and ours. Also it allows me to accept and embrace all the continuity that exists and at the same time explain why there may be some discrepancies.
The last thing I want to do is banish, for example, Jim Valentino's stories and say they never happened. Those things all exist and all can be drawn upon. Starhawk has deduced, and we see this in the ten pager, that causality is somehow wearing out. There's even a possibility that they are refighting the war against the Badoon over and over almost like a horrible version of "Groundhog Day." [Laughs] Every time they get to a successful conclusion where they win, and we've seen that happen before, things sort of reset because time is not stable. That is the underlying problem and something they need to find out about.

Does this also allow you to tie into the larger Marvel Universe? Because as we know from "Age of Ultron" the time-space continuum is broken.

Yes, that's a very good example, but there are several big things that have happened particularly in the last few years in Marvel stories where you can see things that have will have repercussions cosmically in terms of time and space. So we're actively looking at those, but again we don't people to disappear into wibbly-wobly timey-wimey nonsense. [Laughs]

There is a cause and effect in the Marvel Universe and the opportunity to write a book set 1000 years in the future is a great way to reflect on that and show that things that are done in the present day might have huge consequences. It's an idea that's been played with many, many times by many talented people. I'm trying to find ways to apply that specifically to "Guardians" in a way that works for the book and hopefully is fresh and serves all those purposes. It's fun. It's complicated. I have maps and diagrams. [Laughs]

What hints and teases can you offer up about some of the antagonists the Guardians will run up against? I know in terms of larger bodies we have the Badoon, but are there any individual villains you can talk about?

I can't really offer up too many hints or teases at the moment because we're still in the process of refining them. We've got a great artist on the book and I want to work with him to create some things he's going to enjoy drawing and readers will enjoy looking at.

But yes, there will be powerful representatives of major alien races that we either know or are new to us. There will also be appearances by what might be described as supporting cast characters who come along in opposition to the Guardians or are working with them. Because it occurs to me that if the universe is fractured by an alien invasion there are going to be characters resembling the Guardians on other worlds. There are other champions and superheroes who are fighting the same sort of fight and they need to build alliances with them in order to hopefully win the day. So there are going to be a few surprises.

I was delighted that my editor encouraged me to introduce new things. There are things that are unique to "Guardians 3000," and that's going to be fun as well.

Will we meet some individual Badoon?

Absolutely. They shouldn't be a faceless enemy. There are things to pursue with the Badoon, and because they are opportunists, they are the nominal villains, but they're as much caught up in this disaster as everyone else. I think when they get to a point where they realize that it's going to be very interesting. The only way to really explore that is to have Badoon characters rather than the Badoon as a whole going on about everything.

When the Guardians debuted, it was a much more simple universe compared to the modern day Marvel Universe. It was a team of superheroes on Earth fighting alien oppressors who had defeated everything else. I want to reset to that point because it's so pure and simple and you get a very simple dynamic, but then I want to explore out from there rather than keeping it in a binary state of one group of superheroes against one foe. It's not the Empire versus the Rebel Alliance. It's going to be more complicated than that.

It's more like "War of Kings" where there's lots of fighting, but there's also diplomacy, negotiations, alliances and rivalries. Because it's Marvel Cosmic, it's a world full of invasions spread out on a cosmic scale. Therefore, there would be all sorts of things going on. It's not just fleets of flying saucers turning up to zap another fleet and that's the end of the story. It has that sense of a political structure existing between the races that Brian Bendis is providing so nicely right now in the "Guardians" book set in the present day.

Seems like a good television example of that would be "Star Trek: Deep Space 9" with it's Dominion War plotline.

Yeah, that's a great example, actually. "Babylon 5" would be another great one. People aren't just invaders. They have agendas and they have needs. They have fears and ambitions, and there are different ways of dealing with those elements when you're dealing with other races; especially when you're dealing with races you don't understand, you're not familiar with, or you're suspicious of.
So there are many shades at work, here. In many respects, that makes the Guardians 3000 as a team comparatively simple and straightforward in a way that I suppose the Avengers or the FF are. But they aren't simply courageous people standing ready to make sure that things don't go wrong; they have got to have a greater awareness of the differing needs and relationships of the people around them. For instance, if a Kree-Skrull war erupts, it's not a matter of standing in between them and saying, "Stop fighting." They have to understand why they're fighting and maybe try and negotiate something.

It's going to be interesting. I'm trying to strike a very nice balance between making a good, exciting character driven book that I hope people really enjoy and feeding some of those bigger ideas into it without making it sound like a history of 19th Century European warfare. [Laughs]

Your short story also established a large and rich supporting cast of characters for "Guardians 3000" in the form of the resistance network.

Yeah, that was one of the things I threw into that 10-page story. The refugees wonder, "How can five people possibly guard the galaxy?" They reply, "We don't. The moment you are free, you become part of the Guardians of the Galaxy. We are just figureheads." Their importance is almost more in propaganda than anything else. It's the idea that there is a flame kept alive, that they are trying to free things up, and everybody needs to stand together to do that.
So yes, we have some potentially very interesting characters coming from that. One of the things from my point of view is starting off with that very simple premise of, you have a team of five against an alien race and thinking immediately, "Right, I need to give more color, texture, and context to this by introducing other characters so that it is a fully-realized and really interesting universe."
We've got so many possible places to go to for interesting characters, I'm going to have to be very selective. Otherwise, people will pick up the issues and go, "There are too many people in this -- I don't understand what the hell is going on." The Guardians are still very much the core of the book, and it is very much their adventures and lives that we follow, but, yes, there is a greater context.

Let's talk a bit about artist Gerardo Sandoval's work on "Guardians 3000". What do you feel he brings to this book and the world you're creating?

I love his work. He did a fantastic job on the 10-pager. There's enormous dynamism and energy in what he does, which I think is terrific. The characters all seem very likable. They all seem very appealing. Even though it's a bleak future, I don't want it to be a depressing book. I want it to be energized and full of vitality and vigor, and the idea of that despite everything they are friends and are doing everything they can.

I think Gerardo has got exactly the right style to do that, and some of the design work that he's done is extremely exciting. I couldn't ask for a better artist, really. I think his work looks great, and that cover was amazing.

We've talked about your overall plans for "Guardians 3000," but what can you tell us about the book's inaugural arc?

It is about the Guardians, having become aware of this greater menace, still having to deal with the threat of the Badoon, but also rallying people and trying to make them understand what's going on to see if they can get assistance and support. Inevitably, that's not easy, and starting with issue #1, there will be dreadful obstacles in their way. I like the idea of throwing in characters that, you think are going to be very useful, but for some reason, they're not, or they're reluctant, or they're dead. [Laughs] Then there are other characters who appear to be in an antagonistic role, but you you realize they could be remarkably helpful if you could only persuade them you're on the same side.
The set up in the first issue is very much like that. It's their intention to gather people together and try and talk to them, but obviously the Badoon and other dark forces are really looking for any movement by the hidden resistance so they can jump on it and crush it the moment it appears.

I also hope it's a great introduction to the principal characters. They each get a moment to shine and we showcase the characters themselves and those main themes. We establish them and propel them into the adventure taking the reader with them I think.

It is sort of those four main ideas. Who are these characters, and why should we like them? I'm going to go out of my way to make sure you get that. You also get the menaces of the Badoon and time coming apart, and the establishment of a complex universe that has color and interest and is worth guarding, really. [Laughs] We show you there's a value there that makes their efforts worthwhile. When the Avengers stand up in the present day and guard against Thanos, for instance, you know what's at stake because you understand the world they're coming from. You understand there will be other characters in it, and you recognize it because it's your own world. That's something that's going to be established in this new book.

I hope it's something people want to see. It's a different view of the Marvel Universe, but it has very strong connections to stuff people are reading about now. It's a great opportunity, and I'm just delighted that Marvel thought, "Let's do this. Let's put it out along side the 'Guardians' book. Let's celebrate the cosmic!"

For a long time, the cosmic was not celebrated. So let's celebrate it and enjoy the cosmic stuff. I'm terribly pleased by the responses so far. People really seem excited and pleased by the announcement, so I'm furiously making sure that I can do the best job that I can!

"Guardians 3000," by Dan Abnett and Gerardo Sandoval, kicks off in October.

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