When James Gunn brought the Guardians of the Galaxy to life in the 2014 live-action movie, it took us to a whole new corner of the Marvel Universe that had yet to be discovered on the big screen. Although the Marvel Cinematic version of the team only showcased five members, there have been at least 10 times that amount of team members in the comics. Like many superhero groups in the comics world, each has been through many different lineups and the Guardians have been no exception.
No matter what iteration of the team put forth in the comics, it’s always included characters with a great mix of attributes and skill sets, from powerful humanoid characters like Groot and Drax to animals like Cosmo the Space Dog to normal human beings such as Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord. With the release of the first “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” trailer last weekend, we wanted to take a look at, and rank, the top 20 most memorable members of the cosmic-based group.
20. Iron Man
When Marvel began pushing the original Marvel NOW! line of comic books in October 2012, many changes had taken place for Tony Stark, including a shiny new black and gold suit. It was quite a different look from the typical red and gold color palette we’ve all come to know, but as is usual for ol’ Shellhead, it wasn’t his only change, costume and otherwise. Also designing a new space-faring suit, which was more in-line with his classic color scheme, though radically different in appearance otherwise, Iron Man changed his team affiliation, joining Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven’s new “Guardians of the Galaxy” series, which was released to herald the first “Guardians” film.
With the Guardians, Iron Man had a few interesting story arcs including the time he was framed for the murder of the Phoenix, only to find out afterwards that he had a half-brother, Arno Stark. After thwarting the Builders’ attack during the “Infinity” story arc, Tony decided he would rather protect Earth than the cosmos and left the Guardians. Even though Iron Man is one of the shortest-tenured Guardians (having appeared alongside the team in just nine “Guardians of the Galaxy” issues), he’s really the first A-list character to join the space bandits prior to the debut of their live-action counterparts in the MCU. For that reason, Iron Man cracked our list of most memorable Guardians of the Galaxy.
19. Kitty Pryde
Kitty Pryde, also known as Shadowcat, has been a mainstay in the X-Men books for the overwhelming majority of her existence as a Marvel character, and it remained that way until she was named as a new member of the Guardians after the events of last summer’s mega-crossover “Secret Wars” event.
Although typically known for her relationship with the mutant Colossus, Pryde started a long-distance relationship with then-Guardians leader Peter Quill after “Secret Wars,” eventually taking over his role as Star-Lord. Although one of the newest members of the Guardians, Kitty remains on the team in the current “Guardians of the Galaxy” run and will continue to be a part of the team, as Quill will be grounded on Earth in his new solo series by writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Kris Anka. With only 14 issues of the current “Guardians of the Galaxy” run released as of the writing of this article, we haven’t necessarily seen Kitty get her chance to shine, but being Kitty, she of course earns a spot on our list.
18. Captain Marvel
While she isn’t quite the biggest name on this list per se (we’re looking at you, Iron Man), Carol Danvers should certainly be in discussions as one of the most powerful characters to ever be a part of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Alongside Venom, Captain Marvel joined the team to help fill the void left by Iron Man after the events of the “Infinity” storyline. Another character who has spent a relatively short time with the Guardians, Danvers was featured as a part of the team in 11 issues and was an instrumental part of the team during the “Original Sin” and “Black Vortex” events and tie-in issues.
Although she left the team in a post-”Secret Wars” world to assume the post as Commander of the Alpha Flight Space Station, she teamed up with the Guardians once more as they joined her side in the latest “Civil War II” conflict.
Originally intended as one of Spider-Man’s primary antagonists, Venom has been transformed throughout the years as either an anti-hero or as a straight-up hero, especially courtesy of his time with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Starting with his 2011 relaunch by Rick Remender, Tony Moore, Tom Fowler and Lan Medina, it was revealed that Flash Thompson was the new host of the Venom symbiote and the government was using him as a black ops specialist. After joining the Secret Avengers, Agent Venom, as Thompson’s alter ego was then referred to, was sent to gather more information on the Guardians for the Earth-based heroes.
Eventually joining the team full-time after the departure of Iron Man, Venom appeared in 10 issues of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” run pre-”Secret Wars.” After the conclusion of “Secret Wars,” Flash and Venom became a unified Agent of the Cosmos and took on a cosmic-based form as Venom: Space Knight and continued to save the galaxy with the Guardians until the symbiote found a new, more ghastly host in 2016’s new “Venom” book. While it appears Venom’s time with the Guardians is coming to an end after leaving Flash for a new host, it’s been quite a ride seeing Venom among the stars.
16. The Thing
If there was one character from the first family that Marvel needed to keep active in a post-Fantastic Four world, Ben Grimm, more commonly known as the ever lovin’, blue eyed Thing, has got to be the first choice, right? In the reboot of the Marvel Universe following “Secret Wars,” it appears that Ben Grimm has found a new family as he joined up with the Guardians in “Guardians of the Galaxy #1” from 2015.
While the team isn’t all too serious to begin with, Grimm brings an old-school style of humor and a no-nonsense attitude to the wily group of outcasts. So far in the adventures of Grimm & Co. among the stars, we’ve seen The Thing go up against some of the meanest aliens in the universe, not to mention falling in love with a blue-skinned, tentacle-wielding alien the Guardians rescued during an adventure. Ben Grimm clobberin’ aliens all across the cosmos… who woulda thought? Not us, but his inclusion on the team has definitely been a memorable one!
Firelord is the first character on this list to not appear in the current group of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Making his comic debut in “Thor #225,” by Gerry Conway and John Buscema, Firelord is a cosmic being of Xandarian descent. After growing up as a poor orphan on Xandar for the majority of his youth, Firelord was accepted into the Nova Corps, eventually rising to the rank of Nova Centurion, the highest rank one can achieve in the Nova Corps without being a special ops team member or Nova Prime.
After accepting a position as a Herald of Galactus, Firelord was granted additional powers including heat vision and fire breath. Firelord eventually joined the 31st-century era Guardians of the Galaxy in the fourth issue of 1990’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” by Jim Valentino and Steve Montano. Firelord, whose real name is Pyreus Kril, appeared as a member of the Guardians in 14 issues before joining Martinex, Hollywood, Mainframe, Phoenix and Replica in the four issue “Galactic Guardians” mini-series from 1994. Firelord has also been closely associated with Adam Warlock and the Infinity-based storylines of the early ’90s.
Moondragon, also known once as Heather Douglas, is a powerful telepath and master martial artist. If the name rings a bell, that’s because you should know her father by now: Arthur Douglas, a.k.a. Drax the Destroyer. While her origin was retconned in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as she was killed by Ronan the Accuser, it was actually her father who was initially killed in the comics.
After a great storyline in the “Annihilation” crossover event where Moondragon was brought back from the dead by Phyla-Vell, she unofficially joined the Guardians after her resurrection. It wasn’t until the pages of Abnett and Lanning’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2008 that she became an official member and fought alongside her father in 11 issues. With additional appearances alongside many Marvel properties such as Adam Warlock, Quasar and the Infinity Watch, it’s not entirely out of the question that we may see a live-action version of the character in an ever-expanding MCU post-”Avengers: Infinity War”.
Martinex T’Naga, or Martinex for short, was one of the founding members of the original Guardians of the Galaxy team in the 31st century. Hailing from Pluto, Martinex was the last surviving member of the planet after an attack by the Badoon, one of the primary adversaries of the Guardians team, no matter what iteration of the team we talk about. Being from the furthest planet from the Sun, not only can Martinex see in complete darkness, he can also fire heat blasts from one hand and ice blasts from the other.
One of the four Guardians team members to appear in Arnold Drake and Gene Colan’s “Marvel Super-Heroes #18” — which was the origin story of the first Guardians group — Martinex has been a mainstay on the 31st-century team ever since. He appeared in 34 issues in the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” run before leaving for a short while to join the Galactic Guardians. After further space adventures with the Galactic Guardians, Martinex re-joined the 31st-century version of the team for the 2014 run of “Guardians 3000;” at the same time, he appeared in all but one issue of 2015’s “Guardians of Infinity.”
So far on the list, we’ve seen several members of the current-era Guardians team and a couple of the guys from the 31st-century version of the Guardians. However, a team from the 11th Century was recently introduced in “Guardians of Infinity,” and we’ve decided to include one of its members on this list. Al-Hasan, also known as the ancient superhero Astrolabe, made his comic debut in the first “Guardians of Infinity” book by Jason Latour and Dan Abnett
The main reason Astrolabe is such an interesting character is that he comes bearing a sentient star in his mind, from which he’s able to draw power and, in turn, shoot energy blasts from his hands. Unfortunately for us, writer Dan Abnett’s “Guardians of Infinity” was canceled after just eight issues, so we were unable to get a true origin story about Astrolabe, or any other members of the Guardians 1000 for that matter. Perhaps with “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” coming up in just a few months, we might see more Guardians-feature books hitting the shelves, but as of this writing, no Guardians 1000-centric titles have yet to be solicited. Still, here’s hoping that Astrolabe gets a second life elsewhere soon!
11. Adam Warlock
It may not come as a surprise that Adam Warlock, a cosmic being who at times has been trusted to be the keeper of the Soul Gem, has been a member of the group in charge of keeping peace among the stars. After Warlock was done saving the Multiverse as we know it from the likes of Thanos and the Magus in “Infinity Gauntlet” and “Infinity War,” the character recognized the Guardians of the Galaxy as a necessary group to maintain order in the universe.
Warlock subsequently joined the current-era team in “Guardians of the Galaxy #1” (2008) and appeared as a member of the team in a total of 16 issues of that run, and three issues of the “Guardians of Knowhere” 2015 mini-series. Speculation of Warlock joining the MCU has been rampant since we were introduced to a cocoon in a case at The Collector’s facility in the first Guardians film, one that looks eerily similar to the one he uses to regenerate himself and maintain stasis in the comics. It would be great to have Warlock as an official member of the MCU; just as great that he was such a fantastic member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
While Yondu Udontu is apparently leaving the Ravagers to join the Guardians in the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2,” he’s always been a member of the Guardians in the comics. Alongside the previously mentioned Martinex and two characters yet to be named in this list, Yondu is one of the four founding members of Guardians 3000.
He was originally a hunter and warrior of the primitive Zatoan tribe, the first people to settle on a planet outside of our solar system; that is, of course, until the Badoon nearly wiped his entire race out. Unlike the other founding members of the team, Yondu doesn’t possess any physical powers, so he’s one of the Guardians who has always provided a more grounded point of view to their cosmic adventures. Still Yondu was a bonafide badass — with or without his scythe-hand — and was one of the main players in the original “Guardians of the Galaxy” 1990 run. An Earth-616 version of the character made appearances in the “All New, All-Different Star-Lord” series that launched in 2015.
9. Drax the Destroyer
Believe it or not, Drax the Destroyer was once a human named Arthur Douglas. After being killed in an attack by Thanos, the celestial being named Kronos transferred the spirit of Arthur Douglas into a powerful new body more fitting to avenge his family and kill Thanos.
Starting out as a member of the Infinity Watch, Drax didn’t join the Guardians until the introduction of the current-era team in 2008. Over the span of his time in comics, Drax has been host to a variety of powers, including flight, Hulk-level strength and being able to project concussive blasts to stun enemies. Since his death in “The Thanos Imperative” from 2010, and his subsequent resurrection, Drax’s primary powers now include (a lower-level) superhuman strength and an expert-level of knowledge combat, particularly in wielding knives.
Much like his live-action counterpart, Drax brings a bit of seriousness to the group and certainly isn’t afraid to stand up to the biggest aliens he runs into across the galaxy. Drax is still an active member of the team and he even received his own solo series last year co-written by Cullen Bunn and CM Punk, with art from Scott Hepburn.
The third of four Guardians 3000 founders, Charlie-27 is one of the few members who has been a consistent member since the beginning. Charlie-27 is a human who has been genetically engineered to survive on Jupiter. Because of the experimentation on him, he has superhuman strength, stamina and durability.
The 6’0, 555lb. Guardian has demonstrated how tough he is by surviving numerous long falls, a run-in with an industrial press and even being shocked by kilovolts of electricity. Because of his years of experience in the military, Charlie-27 is a skilled pilot and often serves as the tactical leader of the 31st-century Guardians of the Galaxy. He appeared in 60 issues of the original “Guardians of the Galaxy” run, which is second highest among all Guardians. He also recently appeared alongside the other Guardians from the future in “Guardians of Infinity,” to help the current-era Guardians and the Guardians 1000 battle a gigantic threat that would have destroyed all of space and time.
Perhaps one of the most interesting characters on this list is Stakar Ogord, more commonly known as Starhawk. Born in the Earth-691 timeline to Quasar and Kismet/Ayesha, Starhawk is half human and half of the same synthetic race of Adam Warlock. After coming across the ruins of the Hawk God on the distant planet Arcturus IV, Starhawk was endowed with the Hawk God’s powers including being composed of pure light, which allows him to fire blasts of photonic energy and light beams.
To make his powers stronger, he’s able to merge into a single entity with his sister, Aleta, and create solid constructs of light. He’s the self-proclaimed “One-Who-Knows” and shows some precognitive traits such as seeing the future, a power that comes about as he’s forced to live his same life over and over again. Of course, every time he tried to change the future, he created an alternate reality, because time travel. After he joined the 31st-century Guardians, it was later revealed he actually manipulated the events of the timeline to ensure that the Guardians of the Galaxy ended up together.
6. Rocket Raccoon
A talking raccoon — what’s not memorable about that? Even though he may be the smallest member of the Guardians on record (well, depending on how big Groot is at the time), Rocket may bring along the biggest mouth and attitude out of the bunch… not to mention guns. Prior to fighting crime and even before being a space pirate himself, Rocket resided on Halfworld, a planet full of anthropomorphic animals.
While he doesn’t any have powers per se, Rocket still has the characteristics typical of raccoons on Earth including quick speed and an enhanced sense of sight and smell. In addition, Rocket is an expert marksman with his wide array of weaponry and a master tactician, planning out the perfect way to get out of pinches he finds himself in all too much.
Rocket formally joined the team in the 2008 relaunch of the team alongside his partner in crime Groot and remains a member today (and for the next foreseeable future, given how popular he has become in the films). Believe it or not, the little guy is the team’s leader as of its current run and he has a second solo series debuting later this month from writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Jorge Coelho.
If you see Rocket in a panel or a scene, it’s a pretty clear indicator that you’re about to see the walking tree, or a Flora colossus as he’s scientifically called in the Marvel universe, known as Groot. Hailing from Planet X, Groot originally came to Earth to capture members of the human race to use in his “experiments.” Apparently, it was all just one big misunderstanding of what “I am Groot” really meant, because the character has been shown as a hero ever since his comic debut in “Tales to Astonigh” #13 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers.
Even though the only three words he can say are “I,” “am,” and “Groot,” don’t automatically think that he’s a dummy. Characters like Maximus the Mad and Jean Grey have both been able to telepathically access his mind, only to find out that his thoughts are very complex and that he attempts to carry on intellectual conversations. He’s just unable to articulate further because of his species. Because of this, the most lovable Guardian on the list typically has his buddy Rocket interpret what he’s saying.
Much like Rocket, Groot joined the Guardians in the 2008 reboot and is a current member of the team to this day, even appearing in his own solo series “Groot,” by Jeff Loveness and artist Brian Kesinger. Did we mention he’s also going to be one of the most adorable things ever in “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2?”
4. Vance Astro
The fourth and final founder of the Guardians 3000 iteration of the group, Vance Astro is the leader of the Guardians beginning in the 31st century. The character, who also goes by the nickname Major Victory, is a psychokinetic mutant with the ability to move things with his mind. What makes Astro unique is that he’s only able to move things by producing “psyche-blasts.”
Astro is a superb athlete with an excellent sense of hand-to-hand combat. A great strategical mind, he’s also able to pilot space ships and has been referenced as one of the best team leaders across the entire Marvel Universe. Did we mention he searched for, found and used Captain America’s iconic shield in the future? How cool is that?
Astro is credited with the most appearances in the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” run and most recently appeared with Charlie-27 and Martinex in 2015’s “Guardians of Infinity.”
A long-time ally and helper of the Guardians, Mantis worked her way into being an active member of the team in the 2008 reboot of the series. She is an expert when it comes to martial arts, demonstrating her skills as one of the top fighters in the Marvel Universe, having only lost combat fights to Moondragon and her father, Libra.
Along with her literally out-of-this-world martial arts skills, Mantis has also demonstrated psychic empathy, an ability that allows her to feel what others are feeling. Most notably, this power was featured at the tail-end of the recently-released “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” trailer. She’s also been shown to practice astral projection and has been able to have her spirit travel interplanetary distances, only to re-create her physical body on a different world.
Mantis has appeared with the team in over 24 comic books and is debuting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as she joins the team in next May’s follow-up to “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
If there’s anyone who should feel a general conflict of interest by joining the Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s Gamora. The last of her species, Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos, one of the primary antagonists of the group. After finding the rest of her species, the Zen-Whoberis, extinct because of the Badoon, the Mad Titan decided to use Gamora as a weapon. He began to train her, giving her the skills needed to kill the Magus, an evil alternate version of Adam Warlock. And boy, did Thanos train her well.
Gamora is both a highly-trained assassin and master martial artist, to the point where she’s commonly known as “The Most Dangerous Woman in the Universe.” Apart from her training, her species has increased strength and durability, alongside an accelerated healing factor. Eventually, she made the realization that her adopted father was a psychopath hell-bent on world domination, so she joined the Infinity Watch to fight him.
After her time in the Infinity Watch, Gamora joined the current-era Guardians in 2008 and has been with the team since. She’s still active with the group in the current comics, and she’s even getting her own solo ongoing series from writer Nicole Perlman.
At the top of our list is Peter Jason Quill, the Legendary Star-Lord. Quill is the lovable loser that got everyone together and assembled the movie-based team in the 2008 comic reboot. In the comics, he is the son of human Meredith Quill and J’son, ruler of Spartax, a fact that will be changed come May as director James Gunn has confirmed that the MCU version of Star-Lord will instead be the son of Ego the Living Planet.
Half-human and half-Spartoi, Star-Lord lacks any physical powers. However, he is a master marksman and pilot and, as we’ve seen both in the comics and in the first Guardians movie, he’s able to strategically get himself out of sticky situations. You know, like that time he almost got killed by Thanos’ henchmen for being in possession of an Infinity Stone. Additionally, he has a trusty suit that allows him to breathe while flying through space.
Although he’s taken a more reserved role in the comics recently, after serving as the group’s leader for quite some time, he’s still the glue the holds the team together and for that, we thank him.
Who is your favorite Guardian of the Galaxy? Let us know in the comments!
Directed by James Gunn, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” hits theaters on April 25, 2017.
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