Top 10: New Guardians of the Galaxy by Jerry Whitworth
Recently, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director James Gunn reaffirmed the upcoming film would likely be his last for the franchise as its lineup will also likely be retired. Initially, the intergalactic anti-hero group featured Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket, Dave Bautista as Drax, and Vin Diesel voicing Groot, but its roster grew to include Karen Gillan as Nebula, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Michael Rooker as Yondu, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Little is known about the plot of the third film in the franchise (as the group is set to appear in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder first) save that Gunn revealed the origin of Rocket will play heavily in the film’s story. This follows a theme that the second film focused on Star-Lord’s origins, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War on Gamora, and Gunn has expressed a desire to do a spin-off movie with Drax and Mantis that likely would explore the Kylosian’s origins. Keeping in mind plot threads left involving the reformation of the original Ravagers (based on the original Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics), the creation of Adam by the Sovereign to seek vengeance against the Guardians, and the search for Gamora in the wake of the events of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, some semblance of what the third film could entail begins to emerge. Lets take a look at some of the characters that could form the new version of the team in the wake of the end of its film trilogy.
A Golden Retriever/Labrador mixed dog, Cosmo was launched by the Russian space program into orbit as part of an experiment to see if human spaceflight was possible. Cosmo’s craft, however, drifted into outer space where he was transformed by cosmic rays to gain significant psionic abilities and a decidedly longer lifespan. Touching down in the city of Knowhere (the hollowed head of a Celestial), Cosmo became the chief of the location’s security and an ally to Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Pet Avengers. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cosmo was portrayed by dog actor Fred and appeared as part of the Collector’s (played by Benicio del Toro) collection in Knowhere in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Having already been introduced in the MCU, the stage is set for Cosmo to make the transition into the Guardians. The only real stumbling block is the character is relatively lesser established than some of the other more notable members of this list.
Something of a sidekick to Adam Warlock, Pip the Troll was the displaced prince of the planet Laxidazia until the threat of the Magus, an evil Adam Warlock of a possible future, forced him to become a hero. Pip and Gamora became steadfast allies to Warlock and were prominent members of his Infinity Watch which guarded the Infinity Gems. Today, the troll is a member of Yondu’s Ravagers. With Adam Warlock all but certain to appear in the third Guardians film, chances are good Pip could put in an appearance sooner rather than later. However, as with Cosmo, with other more notable characters that could join, Pip is one of the lesser known cosmic heroes which works against him.
Covered extensively in “Make It So: Nova the Movie,” Nova the Human Rocket is Richard Rider, a teenage New Yorker randomly chosen by Nova Prime Rhomann Dey to adopt the awesome Nova Force to defend the Earth. Nova faced the likes of Warlord Zorr, Zorr’s daughter Nebula, Sphinx, and the Terrible Trio and was a founding member of the New Warriors. Given the prominence of the Nova Corps in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film (including John C. Reilly as Rhomann Dey) and the destruction of Xandar off screen in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the likelihood of Nova emerging in the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems more of a “when” than “if” situation. In fact, speculation has Nova as being a prominent component of the coming fifth phase alongside Blade, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. Should this prove to be true, it’s more likely Nova will star in his own film trilogy before emerging as part of the Guardians (drawing parallels to Thor’s journey).
Formerly Marvel Boy and Marvel Man, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Wendell Vaughn inherited the prior Marvel Boy Robert Grayson’s light bands (comparable to Green Lantern’s power ring). In time, the light bands were retroactively called the Quantum Bands, a product of the entity Eon to be worn by the Protector of the Universe. Over the years, Quasar became a prominent fixture of Marvel’s cosmic stories and member of the Avengers. With the establishment of S.W.O.R.D. in Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) and the upcoming WandaVision, the set-up is in place for Vaughn to emerge. But, as with Nova, the issue becomes that there maybe bigger plans for Quasar in the overall fabric of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Created by Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane for the latter’s creator-owned series Spawn, Angela was an angel and close ally and lover of Hellspawn Al Simmons. However, due to a falling out between Gaiman and McFarlane, Gaiman secured the full rights to the character and sold it to Marvel. Retroactively, Angela was made to be Thor’s elder half-sister thought to be killed as an infant but was instead raised by angels in Heven. A fracture in space and time displaced Angela into the primary Marvel universe where she joined the Guardians of the Galaxy and later founded the Asgardians of the Galaxy. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hela (portrayed by Cate Blanchett) was revealed to be Thor’s elder sister. As such, should Angela be introduced, her origins will likely have to be changed unless they decide to make the character the Hela of a parallel universe (as it appears the multiverse will be the overall theme of the coming arc for the Marvel films). Angela could be a strong fit for the next phase of the Guardians of the Galaxy but the Thor franchise might want to keep her for itself (considering one of the subplots of the coming Thor: Love and Thunder is Valkyrie taking a queen with Angela a prime choice for the role).
Created by the Korbinites to be their champion against the fire giant Surtur, Beta Ray Bill mistook Thor for a foe and defeated him in combat, taking the hammer Mjolnir and becoming the new Thor. When Odin forced the two warriors to fight again to determine who would wield the hammer and remain Thor, Bill won a second time due to the machinations of Odin. This lead to Bill receiving the hammer Stormbreaker and becoming a second Thor. A founder in the Thor Corps and Annihilators, Bill eventually joined the Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s rather amazing how much Beta Ray Bill has thus far emerged in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without actually appearing yet. An oversized sculpture depicting his face was seen in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) as a former Champion of the Contest of Champions, Stormbreaker debuted as Thor’s ax in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Gamora and Nebula lead the massacre of the Korbinites in Avengers: Endgame (2019). There’s little doubt Beta Ray Bill is on the horizon for the MCU and the Guardians seems to be a perfect fit.
The daughter of Drax the Destroyer, Moondragon was nearly killed by Thanos but subsequently raised by the Mad Titan’s father Mentor. Trained by the monks of Shao-Lom, Moondragon was turned into a living weapon with a brilliant scientific mind and who tapped into the psionic power latent in all people. When Thanos again uprooted her life by wiping out the monks, she came to Earth seeking a force to oppose him. Becoming at times an ally and other times a foe of the Avengers, Moondragon went on to join Infinity Watch and the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Drax’s origins consistently relate to his desire for revenge against Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser (and later Josh Brolin’s Thanos) for the death of his wife and daughter. Its been speculated James Gunn’s proposed Drax and Mantis film would address the revelation of his daughter being alive but only time will tell. Irregardless, Moondragon is undoubtedly on the short list for addition in the team.
Created by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden for Marvel’s adaptation of the Micronauts toyline and based on the Galactic Warrior figure, Bug was considered distinctly different enough from his counterpart that he became a Marvel-owned property (along with Arcturus Rann and Marionette). A thief from the planet Kaliklak in the Microverse, Bug joined the Micronauts in their struggle against Baron Karza. Bug ended up displaced from the Microverse during a confrontation with Annihilus inevitably leading to his joining the Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn has gone on record that he’s wanted to adapt Bug since the first Guardians film, the character present in the team nearly until the final script was approved. With a second team on the horizon, Bug will almost undoubtedly be included.
A rather notorious character in the history of Marvel Comics, Howard the Duck was a parody character used for social commentary of his time nearly canceled by the Walt Disney Company for allegedly infringing on Donald Duck’s appearance. Howard experienced a design overhaul and was inevitably adapted for his own feature film by Lucasfilm and Universal Pictures in 1986. A dud at the box office, the movie appealed to kids in its appearance but was decidedly made for an older audience (miraculously having a PG rating though PG-13 seemed more appropriate). It’s challenging to properly describe the character save that he’s something of a chameleon, Howard being comical in nature but has had infrequent superhero team-ups with Spider-Man, Defenders, and She-Hulk. The character has appeared repeatedly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first in the Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) voiced by Seth Green as part of the Collector’s collection in Knowhere and subsequently seen alongside the Ravagers in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) and Avengers: Endgame (2019) where he was supposed to be voiced by Ken Jeong but was cut for time. Howard’s addition to the Guardians seems more like a foregone conclusion.
Created by the Enclave to be the perfect human, Adam Warlock became a messiah-esque character in the vein of Jesus preaching peace and benevolence despite often being forced to resort to violence. Warlock went on to find sidekicks in Pip the Troll and Gamora while gaining foes such as Man-Beast, Magus, and Thanos. Often, Warlock is depicted with the Soul Gem as he went on to found the Infinity Watch, a group protecting the Infinity Gems from being used for evil. Largely, Warlock is considered the most prominent cosmic hero in Marvel (save perhaps the Silver Surfer). It’s fitting then he will almost undoubtedly lead the second wave of cosmic stories told in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Adam Warlock’s emergence was teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) when Ayesha (portrayed by Elizabeth Debicki) is shown gazing upon a cocoon, claiming it contains the next evolution of the Sovereign which will destroy the Guardians of the Galaxy and whom she has named Adam.
Honorable mentions: Monica Rambeau, Jack of Hearts, Genis-Vell, Captain Universe, Wraith, Gladiator, Darkhawk, Starfox, Ganymede, Liberator, and Xenith.