As Marvel Comics' proverbial Marvel NOW! train chugs forward into the New Year, one of the most highly anticipated series debuts is Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven's "Guardians of the Galaxy," introducing Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot and Rocket Raccoon to a new set of readers ahead of James Gunn's film adaptation of the team. Bendis and McNiven's "Guardians" series was announced last year, and while a brief Star-Lord story appeared in the "Marvel NOW! Point One" issue, not much is known about Bendis' take on the Galactic team except they're set to be a major part of Marvel's plans for the coming year.
In a special press conference call, writer Brian Michael Bendis, alongside Senior Editor Steve Wacker, discussed his work on the February-launching book and what readers can expect from the new chapter in "Guardians" lore.
Marvel Sales and Communications Coordinator James Viscardi kicked off the call by introducing Wacker and Bendis, who gave a brief overview of the series as fans head into comic shops this March.
"They're getting themselves into a whole new chapter of Marvel NOW!," said Bendis, who stated the chapter was, in his mind, the most surprising. "We've found a way to bring the cosmic elements of the Marvel Universe to the center of the playing field. ... Here's a wide-open, brand new #1 that starts these characters on the most reader-friendly place you could ever hope to have them without taking away anything that made them special in the first place."
The writer went on to note that he's most excited about including all the major events of the last few years in the Marvel U, saying the Earth's events have incited a butterfly effect into the rest of the galaxy. "Things that have been going on, like the constant abuse of time travel ... these things have a cost. These things matter," he said. "A lot of the butterfly effect that's reached out over the galaxy are now head back to the Earth. Those of you following this will get a big pay off. Those of you just coming on board will get a look at some huge villains and concepts."
Bendis characterized the Earth of Marvel Universe -- at least to outsiders -- as "an insane asylum" and teased, "What happens when Earth joins the galactic civilization?"
Wacker stated that all the big players will be on the board from the very beginning, which led Bendis to recall his experience writing the Guardians in "Avengers Assemble" and said he wrote "Guardians of the Galaxy" #0.1 without anybody telling him to because he wanted to so much. The issue explores the origin of Star-Lord.
"This is why you care about this guy. He's got the quintessential Marvel character father issues that make Marvel characters," Bendis said. "Peter is anchoring a book that deals with what a lot of us go through -- which is, 'I don't like the world I was born into.'"
Stating every Marvel Comic is science fiction on some level, Bendis said that while working on "Guardians," he pulled out "every science fiction comic" he could remember and went into them to look for what appealed to him about them. "It was always the character and the artwork. I applied the philosophy right toward this book."
The cast has had a redesign of their uniforms, something that Bendis stated was "a big thing for Steve [McNiven]," who wanted to redesign everything. "I'm a big fan of in comic book artwork that alien worlds look like people live in them," he said. "They don't look like sets. These worlds look lived in, they look thought out, they look like everything works. I'm applying all of that to the character. What these people wear in space isn't just form for function, it's a representation of who they are as people."
"You look at 'Firefly,' 'Serenity,' everything looks lived-in," he continued. "This is their home, this is their apartment."
At this point, Wacker asked for a preview of Steve McNiven's artwork be sent to reporters.
Bendis stated the threat of the first arc will be the Spartax empire, which is ruled by Peter Quill's father, stating that the Earth is "the most sexy, dangerous jewel of the galaxy and whoever gets their mitts on it is the winners of all things." The empire will likely try to manipulate the Guardians into helping them take Earth. "When you see what's coming in the second arc creatively and physically as the fallout of 'Age of Ultron' falls directly into 'Guardians of the Galaxy.'"
"Stop, stop!" said Wacker.
"When people see the second arc, the scramble to get the first arc is going to be astonishing," Bendis said.
As for some of the other characters on the team, Bendis will dive into all of them in some manner. "Groot will always say, 'I am Groot,' and someone will write me saying, 'Groot would never say that,'" he joked, but went on to say there would be a huge backstory with Rocket Raccoon and Drax the Destroyer, stating that he enjoyed exploring the price that comes with being one of the deadliest beings in the universe.
"There are some Rocket moments that had me laughing for a good long time," said Viscardi.
Bendis said readers will "absolutely" get to see the Guardians on Earth and re-iterated that with Iron Man joining the team, editorial is cementing the Guardians as "the cosmic Avengers team." While they will visit Earth, "they'll be out in space a lot." The writer further cited he would be stealing a page from "Star Trek" and stranding the Guardians on Earth for a little bit. He also confirmed the Guardians would be teaming up with the "All-New X-Men."
Wacker elaborated, saying "Iron Man" will touch off "Guardians" and vice-versa. "The same way Iron Man and Avengers books were breathing the same air," said Bendis.
The writer particularly noted that "Iron Man" writer Kieron Gillen was entirely onboard for the character becoming part of the Guardians, and Iron Man wasn't initially a character Bendis thought he could get for the team. He further said there would be the slightest bit of connection with his "Avengers Assemble" arc, but "Guardians" is "a completely different animal" than the Avengers.
The first issue will see the Guardians fully assembled. "We want to show you what they're like as a team," said Bendis. "But we're going to quickly backtrack and see how they got together, why they stay together -- they've been through a lot. When you realize how much of a family they are and they're each other's only family -- a lot of characters don't have anything outside of this team."
The writer said he felt the greater universe saw the Guardians as pirates. "That makes them very exciting as some people and very dangerous to others," he said. "I think what I like about them is they don't answer to anybody. That makes them very dangerous."
Bendis said the team readers see in the first issue will not be the full team.
Wacker spoke about the connections between "Guardians" and Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' "Nova." "We're going to see members of the Guardians in the 'Nova' book," said Wacker. "I think what Jeph and Brian have worked most diligently on is creating the context for what's going on there, for what has happened to the Novas, what has happened to the various alien races. As you read the books, you'll get a better idea of the bigger picture, but we've worked very hard to ensure those books stand alone. You don't have to read 'Guardians' #3 to understand 'Nova' #4. ... I think as the year goes on, you'll see some points where they really bounce off each other strongly, but that's for other calls."
Bendis recalled his experience writing a "Guardians of the Galaxy" episode on the "Ultimate Spider-Man" animated series, which Jeph Loeb works on as head of Marvel TV, something Wacker characterized as a pretty good idea of how Bendis will be handling the characters.
Bendis said the minute he was able to legally insert the words "Rom: SpaceKnight" into a script, he would come crashing into whatever book he was writing.
The writer couldn't go too deep into whether smaller villains will become bigger threats other than a vehement "Hell, yes," but he did tease a little bit. "If you'll notice, they shut me the hell up when I talked about the second arc, they'll do it again," he said. "There are characters who seem like minor characters that will [expand into bigger threats.]" Bendis cited specifically the Badoon and said he's also be getting into what's happening in Jason Aaron's "Thor: God of Thunder."
The cross pollination with "All-New X-Men" was also teased, with Bendis stating that not everyone was happy Jean Grey was back in the galaxy -- those who saw her fly by as the Phoenix.
Bendis said the characters on the team that are in the book at its debut are the characters that had the biggest emotional connection and those that Peter could rely on. He made a comparison to the Avengers trinity -- Cap, Thor and Iron Man -- to the core of the team he begins with on "Guardians."
He also took the opportunity to express his gratitude to Keith Giffen, Jim Valentino and Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning for their extensive work on the characters. "I cannot express to you how much imagination and passion and craft went into the work they had done that got [the Guardians] here," he said. "There are going to be some things I don't do that they did. That should be honored by not imitating it."
Wrapping up, Bendis said that the Guardians' involvement in future Marvel events will depend on who's doing the events. "With Guardians already what I know about what's coming in the next couple years at Marvel, but it seems like it will be very easy to find a way to include the Guardians," he said. "If 'Age of Ultron' is any hint of the potential of the Guardians and their situation is for the Marvel Universe, you're going to see some amazing stuff."
With that, the call wrapped. "Guardians of the Galaxy" #0.1 hits in Febraury with the first issue on shelves in March.