The Surprising 'Red Dawn'-Like Origin of the Guardians of the Galaxy

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Guardians of the Galaxy was originally about super-guerillas defending the United States from Russia and China



DC Comics famously had a couple of try-out books in the 1950s and 1960s called Showcase and Brave and the Bold. Some of the titles launched out of those try-out books include the Barry Allen Flash, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern and the Justice League of America.

When Marvel burst on to the scene in the 1960s, they began to do their own version of those try-out books with Marvel Super-Heroes, which began life as Fantasy Masterpieces (a reprint series that reprinted Golden Age stories from Marvel before it was called Marvel) and became a try-out series with #12, when its name was changed to Marvel Super-Heroes. The first character launched from the series was Captain Marvel. The next few try-outs were not as successful, like Medusa, Phantom Eagle and a revamped Black Knight.

In Marvel Super-Heroes #18, the title launched the Guardians of the Galaxy...

The story was written by Arnold Drake and drawn by Gene Colan and Mike Esposito. The set-up for Guardians of the Galaxy was that, in the distant future, the alien Badoon Empire would conquer Earth and Earth's colonies on the various other planets in the Milky Way. Major Vance Astro was an astronaut sent into outer space to colonize a distant planet. He would be in suspended animation for centuries. When he arrived, though, it turned out that people had invented faster space travel in the meantime and had already visited the planet he was headed for on top of also colonizing the various planets of the Milky Way. Not only had they colonized them, but enough time had passed for the people of these planets to adapt to the particular conditions of their planets. The Badoon came in, though, and conquered all of them, killing almost all of the colonizers on Jupiter and Pluto. Two survivors of those planets, though, broke free and began to attack the Badoon, using the abilities that they gained from their specific planets. The two survivors teamed up with Astro and an alien that he had met when he landed named Yondu and the four men fought back against the Badoon...

However, the original set-up for the Guardians of the Galaxy was waaaaaaay different.

Roy Thomas reflected a few years back on how the team's creation occurred...

'Guardians of the Galaxy' started out as an idea of mine: about super-guerrillas fighting against Russians and Red Chinese who had taken over and divided the USA.

So essentially a superhero version of the 1984 film, Red Dawn, where a bunch of young adults have to fight back against a Russian invasion of their Colorado home...

Of course, things went in a whole other direction. Thomas recalled how it all went down:

I got a sort of general approval out of [editor-in-chief] Stan [Lee] (I think), and gave the idea to Arnold Drake, since I had not time to write and research it. Arnold went in for a conference with Stan, and Stan (maybe Arnold, too) decided to change it to an interplanetary situation. All the characters and situations in Guardians were created by Arnold and/or Stan.

It wasn't until Steve Gerber revamped the Guardians of the Galaxy a few years later in the pages of Marvel Two-in-One that the team really caught on, so I guess I can't say that the Thomas idea wouldn't have been as popular, but it's fascinating to think about how different things would have gone had Lee and Drake not changed the concept as they did.

Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed - Was the story for It's a Wonderful Life seriously based on a Christmas card?

OK, that's it for this week!

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