The Guardians Of The Galaxy debuted fifty years ago today in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, though they bear little resemblance to today’s team. Maybe you’d recognize founding member Yondu, on the far right?
The concept was that they were each the last of their kind. The original team consisted of (left to right) Major Vance Astro, Charlie-27, Martinex, and the aforementioned Yondu.
Their first adventure was drawn by Gene Colan and written by Arnold Drake, co-creator of Doom Patrol and Deadman, and his Guardians Of The Galaxy were no less strange. Sadly, it only lasted one issue.
That could’ve been the end of it. Luckily, they were revived in the mid-’70s by Howard The Duck co-creator Steve Gerber, with costumes redesigned by X-Men‘s Dave Cockrum.
After Marvel Two-In-One, Gerber brought them into his Defenders run, then spun them off into an ongoing feature in Marvel Presents. Gerber left the feature partway through, but not before introducing two (and a half) new characters, including the team’s first female members. Starhawk was two heroes in one, a man named Stakar and a woman named Aleta who took turns inhabiting the same body. Nikki was a Mercurian co-created with Mary Skrenes.
Roger Stern took over from there, but the team was cancelled with issue #12. They continued making cameos throughout the ’70s, but faded into obscurity as Marvel entered the ’80s.
Before co-founding Image Comics, Jim Valentino revived the team with a ’90s edge in their first official ongoing series.
Valentino separated Stakar and Aleta so they could be their own characters, and also added a Skrull called Replica and an Inhuman called Talon. Before going to Image, Valentino introduced a spin-off team called the Galactic Guardians.
Michael Gallagher, better known for his run on Archie’s Sonic The Hedgehog comic, took over until the book was cancelled in 1995. The series went into limbo for another decade.
Guardians Of The Galaxy was rebooted at the tail end of the ’00s by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, but with an all-new all-different team.
The new roster consisted of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Drax, Quasar, and Adam Warlock. They were later joined by Groot, Mantis, Bug, Jack Flag, Cosmo the Spacedog, Moondragon.
They were even joined by original founding member Major Vance Astro, now going by the name Major Victory. The rest of the founding members (plus Starhawk) eventually got their own spin-off series entitled Guardians 3000.
But the biggest moment in the history of Guardians Of The Galaxy was the hit movie that made them a household name, and the sequel that indulged in the comic’s tendency to continually expand the team.
Founding member (in the comics) Yondu even got to be part of the team before his dramatic death (spoilers!). In an ultra deep cut, his heroic sacrifice inspires the movie incarnations of the original team to consider getting the band back together. Remember Sylvester Stallone’s cameo? He was Stakar (aka Starhawk), Michelle Yeoh was Aleta, Michael Rosenbaum was Martinex, and Ving Rhames was Charlie-27.
But will this thread be continued now that James Gunn is no longer at the helm? Will there even be a third movie?
In a weird way, it feels strangely fitting to celebrate the Guardians’ 50th birthday by cancelling them. But I’m sure they’ll be back again in ten years, tops.