How Nebula Differs Between The Comics And The MCU

Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy

When Nebula made her big screen debut in Guardians of the Galaxy, she was presented as a minor character when compared to the rest of Marvel Studio's incredible roster but, over time, she has become a crucial player in the overall story of the MCU, with Endgame having a shot at showing just that. This isn't strange, as she clearly has one of the most tragic and interesting character arcs in this cinematic universe. Karen Gillan's interpretation of the blue, cybernetically enhanced daughter of Thanos has become a fan-favourite, as she has developed the character from a hateful secondary villain to the heartbroken girl, tortured by the Mad Titan throughout her entire life and who "only wanted a sister", all while seeking revenge on her sadistic foster father.

With that said, the MCU is based nearly entirely out of existing comic book characters and Nebula is no exception. Many would assume that both iterations have similar stories, relationships and personality, and in many cases that is true. Nebula, however, is not a good example of this.

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Nebula and Thanos Comic

Nebula was first introduced in The Avengers #257 in 1985 as a merciless space pirate. In that issue, she manages to take over the Sanctuary II. If that doesn't ring a bell, it should, because this is the name of Thanos' massive spaceship that was first seen in the mid-credits scene of Thor: Ragnarok and then reappeared in Infinity War. In the comics it also belongs to the Mad Titan, however, when Nebula seizes control of the ship, he is presumed dead and so isn't present when it happens. This is only part of the plan, though, marking the beginning of her daring attempt to conquer the Skrull Empire.

In the end, she fails, defeated by the Avengers (more on that later). This is all very different to her first appearance on screen, where she is seen working for Ronan, (who in turn is working for Thanos), in his mission to retrieve the Power Stone.


It is common knowledge that Nebula is the adopted daughter of Thanos, at least on the movie screen, which is precisely why she's become such a crucial character. In the world of comic books, though, Nebula has no known connection to Thanos, except for when she claimed to be his granddaughter. However, there was never any evidence to support that claim and to this day it is still not known whether there is any truth to that. For all we know, it might have simply been a cunning tactic to try and gain a powerful ally.

Unfortunately, it was not a successful attempt. Thanos did not believe her in the slightest and so did what all villainous creatures would do in that situation, punished her by brutally burning her alive. Just not enough to kill her, though.


Nebula's character arc is where both versions vary the most. In the MCU, Nebula slowly went from all-out evil villain to vengeful anti-hero, until she ended up joining the Guardians of the Galaxy as a hero (and from the Endgame trailer, her heroic stature may become even more apparent, as it looks like she may share a strong friendship with Tony Stark).

But in the universe of Earth-616, Nebula has maintained more or less the same level of villainy since her first appearance. In other words, the comics show Nebula as nothing but a ruthless villain.


The world recognizes Nebula as an ugly creature. We can't blame Karen Gillan for that, though, as it would be hard to not appear unattractive when playing a bald, blue cyborg for four movies. In the comics, she was depicted very differently. Simply put, Nebula had a very normal look. She was basically a blue Gamora. It was Thanos' merciless burning that drastically changed her appearance, as she had no choice but to be upgraded with cybernetic body parts to survive the attack.

The MCU reveals a more brutal story. In Guardians of the Galaxy, we learn that during her childhood Thanos would replace her body parts with robotic enhancements everytime she lost a battle with Gamora. Which leads us to...


The tragic sisters of the MCU, both taken by the Mad Titan and raised as his own. One, Thanos' favorite, the other, tortured and hated. Marvel Studios makes it seem as if Gamora and Nebula are inseparable, like Ant-Man and the Wasp or Captain America and Bucky Barnes. The truth is, before Guardians of the Galaxy was the title of a blockbuster movie, these two female aliens had had almost no known contact with each other. For a long time, they didn't even know of the other's existence.

It was only a little over a decade ago that Marvel Comics released the Annihilation: Ronan series that saw Nebula meet her MCU sister for the first time and join the Graces, a team lead by Gamora, for the duration of that comic book arc, before leaving soon after. In the comics, they were acquaintances at best and certainly not siblings.


For years, fans everywhere had been eagerly awaiting the day when Guardians and Avengers would finally unite on screen. Infinity War fulfilled that wish and gave us a ton of new meetings. Nebula was among those, as she had the pleasure of meeting Tony Stark, Peter Parker and Doctor Strange in Titan. Funnily enough, in comic book lore, most of Nebula's interactions have been with the Avengers.

In fact, her first appearance ended with her battling the star-studded line-up of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and the Silver Surfer. In the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, arguably her most famous appearance in Marvel Comics, she ended up fighting Adam Warlock, Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Drax, and once again Thor and the Silver Surfer.

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Nebula's interactions with Avengers and Guardians on-screen contrast drastically to what is published on paper. As was previously stated, Nebula and the Avengers share a long-lasting rivalry in the comics, as opposed to their brief meet-up in Infinity War. On the other hand, while live-action Nebula has been spending so much time with the Guardians that she's practically one of them now, her comic book counterpart has never even met them all of them. Ever!

She's only ever had contact with two of them, and even then her only interaction was her short-lived spell as a member of Gamora's team and the Infinity Gauntlet battle, where Drax was present. Besides that, she's never even laid eyes on Star-Lord, Rocket or Groot (or Mantis for that matter).


From what we could tell, until Ronan's death in Guardians of the Galaxy, Nebula was a devout member of his crew. Maybe she wasn't interested in Ronan's objectives, but she certainly didn't mind killing for him, even if it was just a way to one day get close enough to Thanos to deliver a killing blow.

The Annihilation: Ronan comic book series that was mentioned earlier, was Nebula's only interaction with Ronan. In it, Nebula acts out against him, as opposed to her alliance to him in the MCU. It actually forced her to join up with a team of heroes (Gamora's Graces), for her first and only time, just so she could defeat the blue, hammer-wielding foe. Unfortunately, she suffered a loss at the hands of Ronan the Accuser and was severely injured.


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One of Nebula's defining characteristic in the movies is her reluctance to work alongside anyone. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she works alone. She tries to steal batteries by herself, she leaves Taserface's ship with her own vehicle, but with no crew at all, and she refuses to join the Guardians of the Galaxy and instead plans on sneaking on to Thanos' ship and kill him... by herself.

It's ironic, then, that in her first appearance she is introduced as the captain of a large crew of mercenaries. She does end up killing her entire crew, though. The most surprising part of all this is how one of the mercenaries, Geatar, became her lover and still is to this day. It is an unimaginable situation that we will never have the chance to witness on the big screen.


Despite all the distinctions between what's been written and what's been filmed, there is one definite trait that Nebula has shown throughout all these years in both mediums. Her hatred of Thanos, be it heartless foe who mercilessly burnt her entire body until near-death, or abusive father who pulled her eye from her head, her brain from her skull, and her arm from her body.

In the Infinity Gauntlet comic book arc, Nebula ends up stealing the aforementioned gauntlet and almost has her revenge on Thanos, before the Avengers stop her. With us knowing close to absolutely nothing in regards to the long-awaited Avengers: Endgame, there is definitely the possibility that this very scene could be replicated on screen. If not, she need not fear, because Nebula will undoubtedly be a crucial part of Thanos' defeat.

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