When you think about, who really saw the Guardians of the Galaxy coming? From the team’s humble beginnings in back-up stories in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, to a sleeper hit in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, to a genuine cultural phenomenon here in the 21st century, the Guardians have had rather the rocket-fueled journey indeed. Obviously, given the team’s fifty-year history, there has been quite the roster in that time. There have been the troopers that have been with the team for years, there are those who only joined for a short tenure, and there are those that some people may not remember or even expect to be a card-carrying Guardian of the Galaxy. It is a big galaxy, after all, and it needs a lot of guarding as it turns out.
In the list that follows, we have attempted to rank the top 25 members of this storied franchise, but we want to make it absolutely clear that every Guardian who has been bestowed with the title is worthy of our respect and awe, having dealt with everything from deadly alien invaders to Halfworlder B.O. So, even if your favorite character ends up near the bottom of the list, that in no way is to diminish the contributions they have made to this book – nay, this universe. It’s just the way things shake out sometimes in this galaxy of ours. Okay, everybody, pop your favorite mix tape into the cassette deck, limber up your Titan-kicking legs, and let’s dive into it!
Scott Lang joined the team after his part in Secret Empire, which put him in an unfortunate double-agent position. Though his actions directly lead to the resurrection of Steve Rogers, his reputation was in such a shambles that he left the entire planet.
Scott’s tenure with the team might be the shortest of all, having only joined up about a year ago and returning to Earth just as the events of Infinity Wars were getting underway. He is a fun character, so his addition to the team was good while it lasted but ultimately kind of a so-what.
Bug started his heroing career with the Micronauts (later changed to Microns in a copyright dispute with the Mego Corporation, truly a war of kings). A planned comeback in the ‘90s was thwarted by the aforementioned dispute, so we were glad to see him return in the 21st century. He just didn’t do a lot of Guardianing is all.
Bug fought valiantly as a Guardian during the War of Kings, even given his predilection to being a wiseguy (er…wisebug). He felt like he should have been made a Guardian sooner, but we remain dubious on that, valiant service or no.
23 JACK FLAG
This poor guy inadvertently got the whole Secret Empire storyline kicked off by getting himself kicked off a plane by evil Captain America. This ranking is no reflection on Jack’s sacrifice here, nor on his service as warden of Prison 42. But again, he didn’t do a whole lot of Guardianing.
During Blastaar’s breakout of Prison 42, Jack found himself not only aided by the Guardians but also cured of his debilitating spinal injury suffered at the hands of Bullseye. Jack surely appreciated that and stuck with the Guardians through the War of Kings, but his storyline just petered out.
22 THE THING
Here we have one of the MU’s most beloved, Benjamin Jacob Grimm. Not unlike Scott Lang, The Thing joined the Guardians just to get off Earth for a while. And again as with Lang, his tenure with the team was rather short indeed.
These parallels aside, Ben brought a little more to the team than Scott: He began as a rocket pilot, after all and, with the Fantastic Four, had already explored some of the farthest reaches of the universe. And it, of course, reminds us of a time when Ben went solo in his own underrated series in the ‘80s.
This one’s involvement with the Guardians is a bit spotty. Early in the modern era of the team, it was revealed that Peter Quill enlisted Mantis’ mental powers to coerce members of the team into joining up. Even at the behest of the team leader, this is still sketchy behavior at best.
Again, this is not to dismiss her sacrifice made during the War of Kings, being seemingly killed by Magus along with some of her other teammates. She has had a much wider and more varied career with the Avengers, and beyond that has been put through her paces.
When this character was first introduced in Spawn, we were intrigued, and we think it’s pretty punk rock that creator Neil Gaiman brought her to the MU after winning his copyright dispute with Todd McFarlane (lotta lawsuits here, so far).
However, her sudden membership in the Guardians has always felt a bit forced, and we frankly find her Battleworld identities during 2015’s Secret Wars – in A-Force and in the Thor corps – to be more fun in general, not to mention her current station as reigning queen of Hel.
19 CAPTAIN MARVEL
With the movie on its way, Captain Marvel fever has been sweeping the nation, which is great and we too are excited. However, Carol has been kind of a difficult character over the years, especially her involvement in the second Civil War.
Even given that, we tend to feel that the current version of Carol is more fun. During her time with the Guardians, she was out in space more but didn’t seem to add much to the team dynamic. Now, however, as head of Alpha Flight, we feel she’s best when she’s between Earth and outer space.
Here we have our first entrant from the 31st century, designate Earth-691. Nikki, through no fault of her own, wasn’t given much at her creation: Steve Gerber created her mostly so the Guardians would have a female member, and Roger Stern filled out the rest of the character from there.
Alas, Nikki spent a lot of time being the love interest of several of the 31st century Guardians. She did bring her hatred of the Badoon and her Merucrian powers to bear in battles against Korvac and the Stark. We hope one day Nikki gets a storyline worth her while.
Joining up around the same time as Nikki is Starhawk, who has a very complicated relationship with the team. It’s revealed years after he joined the team that he had helped manipulate events in order to bring the team together, which again even with the best of intentions is not cool.
Further, Starhawk and his adopted sister Aleta exhibit a stunning case of sibling rivalry, in this case over the same corporeal form. Starhawk’s perceived assault on his sister lead to him getting the boot from his teammates, but he then reverted to infant form again. We said it’s complicated.
Kitty Pryde’s time with the Guardians was mostly a phase (FOLKS, a phase, ya see, because her powers, ah, well, you get it). Shadowcat first met the Guardians when the young, time-displaced Jean Grey was arrested and put on trial by the Shi’ar for crimes her older self committed.
She and Quill began a doomed romance, yet once he became king of Spartax, Kitty became the Star-Lord and leader of the Guardians. Always a headstrong and moral woman, Kitty took to leadership naturally. Kitty’s much better off amongst her first team, but we still think fondly of her space-faring days.
15 AGENT VENOM
At first, Venom seems like the oddest addition to the team in recent years, until you consider that the symbiote itself is no stranger to interplanetary travel. Flash Thompson himself was an unlikely host for the alien costume, so this two-in-one team on the Guardians is makes a kind of sense.
Agent Venom was placed on the team by order of the Avengers, allowing the two teams to better liaise. Unfortunately, his time as a Guardian was a rollercoaster. The schizophrenic nature of Flash’s relationship to the symbiote ended up with him in a coma and the alien running rampant.
14 IRON MAN
At this point, the Guardians is almost like the foreign legion (once could say Alien Legion, if that wasn’t already taken). Sick of Earth? Join the Guardians! Okay, perhaps Tony Stark’s membership is a little more complex than that, but not by much.
After several, life-changing scrapes (what other kind would Tony have?), Stark decides to clear his head among the stars and takes Peter Quill up on his membership offer. While in space, Tony meets 451, a Rigellian Recorder, who shines some very interesting light on Tony’s past. Wild, wild stuff.
Heather Douglas has had, like many others, a long and complicated relationship with Marvel’s other cosmic characters. The daughter of Drax the Destroyer, she has at times loved and hated him, been an Avenger and a member of the Infinity Watch, all while really pulling off the whole Persis Khambatta look.
Moondragon’s stint in the Guardians is almost unofficial; she joined up not long after their reformation as the more familiar Quill-led squad. Her psychic powers were a welcome boon for those of Mantis and Cosmo, but not long after getting killed and resurrected (again), she became much less involved.
This is not actually the more familiar Quasar, Earthman Wendell Vaughn, though now that you mention it, it’s strange that he hasn’t been on the roster. No, this is the somewhat lesser-known Quasar, the half-Titan/half-Kree Phyla-Vell, daughter of Captain Mar-Vell himself.
Another member of the squad whose time was fraught with misfortune, Quasar not only lost her Nega-Bands when she resurrected her former paramour Moondragon, but she also had to become the avatar of Oblivion. Not an easy gig, but people do crazy things for love. Unfortunately, she could not also be a Guardian.
Our first O.G. (Original Guardian) on this list is Pluto’s own Martinex T’Naga, the highly rational man made of crystal. Martinex was the last surviving Pluvian of the 31st century and joined forces with his teammates to prevent further slaughter by the bloodthirsty Badoon.
Martinex eventually became leader since he was the most level-headed (literally and figuratively), and his reluctance to lead only spoke to his ability to do so. Martinex also founded the Galactic Guardians, in hopes to make the team a truly galactic force for good.
This is, of course, the Yondu Udonta of Earth-691, another founding member (wait, is it the first team if chronologically Star-Lord’s team was first? MIND BLOWN), and not the Yondu of Earth-616, who is a distant relative of Udonta and based more on the MCU character.
Not a huge fan of Earthlings, Yondu puts his Centaurian prejudices aside in order to team up with Vance Astro to fight the Badoon, the original Guardians’ nemeses. Their relationship always remained tense until Yondu was reunited with the last of his people, and Vance apologized for his behavior early on. A happy ending!
If this ranking was just on coolest names, Charlie-27 would come in at number one. Charlie is also the Guardians’ first enforcer, with 11 times the strength of the average Earthman, having been genetically altered to live in Jupiter’s stronger gravity.
Charlie-27 along with the rest of the original line-up disappeared after their ‘90s book ended. They enjoyed a brief title again in 2015 with Guardians 3000, and it is hoped that their appearance in the last film will spark interest again soon. Either way, give Charlie his own limited series at least.
8 COSMO THE SPACEDOG
Originally shot into space by the Soviets in the 1960s heyday of the space race, Cosmo eventually landed on Knowhere, a massive port of call at the edge of the universe inside the massive severed head of a Celestial. Irradiated by cosmic rays, Cosmo acquired speech and became head of security.
When Peter Quill put together his own team of Guardians, they used Knowhere as their headquarters, and Cosmo became a member almost by default. Far smarter than Quill but less willing to traipse about the galaxy, he’s been a constant source of ingenuity and stick-to-it-iveness. What a good boy.
I am Groot. I am Groot, I am Groot, I am Groot. I am Groot? I am Groot! I am Groot I am Groot I am Groot, yet I am Groot. I am Groot – I am Groot I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot I am Groot I am Groot.
I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot; however, I am Groot. I am Groot I am Groot, I am Groot, I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot: I am Groot. I am Groot! I am Groot.
6 ROCKET RACCOON
Rocket Raccoon is a founding member of Peter Quill’s Guardians of the Galaxy and probably the team member who came from the most inauspicious beginnings. Created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, Rocket was the star of a couple back-ups and a few one-off stories before getting his own limited series in the mid-‘80s.
Little was heard from Rocket until Annihilation, which saw the beginnings of the current Guardians. Having traded in his rocket skates for much larger artillery, Rocket also was the one to christen the team the Guardians of the Galaxy, after Major Vance Astro’s squad.
The Star-Lord who brought together the current iteration is not in fact the same Star-Lord created by Steve Englehart in the mid-‘70s; at least, that is according to current retconning (Secret Wars was very helpful in this regard, Marvel’s own little Crisis).
Peter Quill has had a lot of ups and downs with his own Guardians, having led them into breaking up several times. He likely is the character most associated with the Guardians – because of the movies, sure, but also he’s just such a likable rake, he really does make the perfect misfit leader for this band of misfits.
If a group needs a wild card, then the deadliest woman in the galaxy should fit the bill. Gamora is another character whose existence in the cosmic section of the MU has been fraught with war and killing; how she’s able to be any kind of team player at all is rather remarkable.
This largely has to do with when the alien race the Phalanx assimilated her into their hive mind. Once freed, she missed that constant companionship. And before that she was a member of the Infinity Watch. These days, she’s back to being a lone wolf.
3 MAJOR VICTORY
Vance Astrovik, also known as Major Victory, is not only owner of the most cosmic name in the MU but also the man who started it all. An Air Force hero from upstate New York, Vance volunteered to help Earth colonize Alpha Centauri. Next thing he knows, he’s in the 31st century with full psychokinetic abilities.
Vance soon teams up with Yondu and the others to fight the Badoon, and the Guardians of the Galaxy are born. Through their own time-travelling, Vance ends up back in his own century, accidentally triggering his younger self’s latent powers. Whoops!
2 DRAX THE DESTROYER
Arthur Sampson Douglas and his family were destroyed by Thanos just on the off-chance that they might have seen his ship pass in the night sky. Luckily(?), Thanos’ father Mentor was able put Arthur’s spirit into a massive body hellbent on destroying Thanos.
Drax spent a lot of time fighting with his estranged daughter Moondragon, which consequently led to him literally losing his mind. Still a powerhouse, Drax served well with the Infinity Watch until Moondragon convinced Kronos to fix him. He may not be as much of a sweetheart now, but he’s certainly the much-needed muscle of the Guardians.
1 ADAM WARLOCK
Adam Warlock has only been a Guardian since the most recent iteration debuted in 2008, but given that his entire existence has been battling such massive opponents as Thanos and the Magus, we think it’s safe to say Adam is the biggest and baddest Guardian of the Galaxy.
Add to that the fact that his team from the early ‘90s, the Infinity Watch, did what the Guardians do now, and they even shared several members. Also, Warlock’s actions as a Guardian led directly to the return of the Magus, so Adam is important on both sides of the equation.