When Guardians of the Galaxy opened in August 2014, no one knew what a Gamora (Zoe Saldana) or a Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) was. Well, a couple thousand of my fellow geeks did, but the general public couldn’t tell their Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) from their Skywalker. Three years later, Groot (Vin Diesel) is a household name. Think about that — “I am Groot” is a cultural catchphrase. After three Fantastic Four movies, “My sweet Aunt Petunia” still elicits shrugs, but “I am Groot” brings smiles to devout fans and comic book neophytes alike.
Of their many successes, one of Marvel Studios’ greatest accomplishments is their proven ability to thrust relatively obscure characters into the zeitgeist with grace, glory, and glee. If you think about it, even Iron Man was considered a B-lister until Robert Downey Jr. occupied his skin. However, none of their franchises has been quite as impressive at this feat of zero-to-hero recognition as Guardians of the Galaxy.
This weekend, the Guardians will once again take to the stars in James Gunn’s highly anticipated sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. All your favorites will be returning, with characters like Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) receiving expanded roles. It wouldn’t be a Marvel Cinematic Universe sequel without the introduction of at least a few newbies, though, and Vol. 2 is set to acquaint audiences with a slew of new faces. And if you thought a sentient tree was a strange creature, just wait until you meet the living planet at the center of the sequel.
There’s something to be said about going into a movie without a lick of foresight into who the fresh additions are, but having a bit of awareness about them is a nice way to impress your friends. It’s also fascinating to see how filmmakers have managed to adapt decades of comic book history into one two-hour feature, something you can’t do without knowing a thing or two before buying your ticket. So with that, we present you with an introductory breakdown of the most prominent newcomers to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and the MCU, where we’ll examine who the characters are in the comics and who they look to be in the movie.
A bit of a spoiler warning before we get into things: Some of the information presented in the following pages might give away more than some want to know about Vol. 2 although it’s nothing you couldn’t learn with some quick googling. That said, if you want to go into the movie without any direct expectations, we’d suggest avoiding the “In the Movie” section of each entry. But to learn something about where the new heroes and villains of Guardians of the Galaxy originated, click on.
Ego, The Living Planet
Played by: Kurt Russell
First Appearance: Thor #132 (1966)
Good or Bad?: Bad
In the comics: Physically, the character couldn’t be more accurately described than by his moniker: He’s a giant, sentient planet with major egomania. Birthed from the Black Nebula, Ego looks like if Tim Curry’s face were the size of Mars. One of the Elders of the Universe, the Stranger, gave the creature life to do battle with the world of another Elder, the Collector (Benecio del Toro in Guardians of the Galaxy). (Jeff Goldblum’s character in Thor: Ragnarok, the Grandmaster, is also an Elder). As his super-intelligence grew, however, so did his desire for power and conquest. With the ability to control every aspect of his form — a “bioverse” in which his central consciousness commands the weather, the landscape, his own density — and vast psionic powers, Ego is one of the most unstoppable beings in all the Marvel cosmos, even becoming an Elder himself. Feeding off the energy of anything he consumes, he’s destroyed entire systems, fleets of starships, and even once took over the Nova Corps. What it comes down to is he’s a flarking planet; how do you fight that?!
In the movie: From what we’ve seen so far, Ego will take on a Kurt Russell-like visage for much of Vol. 2. Still, the character in the comics has been known to create humanoid forms out of his mass as “antibodies” to battle intruders on his surface or emissaries to interact with lesser beings. It’s possible this is what Russell really is, but his appearance isn’t even the biggest deviation from the comics. In the MCU, Ego is actually Peter Quill’s dad. That honor goes to J’son of Spartax, Emperor of the Spartoi Empire and all-around jackass, in the source material. Though trailers have held back on exactly what role Ego plays in the plot outside of his parental status, it’s a good bet he’ll be up to some no-good deed that turns Star-Lord against him, much as J’son has done numerous times in the books. (Fun fact: The film rights to Ego actually belonged to Fox as part of their Fantastic Four deal, but Marvel regained control of the Living Planet by allowing Fox to change Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s powers in Deadpool.)
Played by: Pom Klementieff
First Appearance: Avengers #112 (1973)
Good or Bad?: Good
In the comics: Though her birth name is unknown, Mantis was born to a German father (Gustav Brandt, later the Zodiac-themed super-villain Libra) and a Vietnamese mother (Lua Nguyen). Believing her to be the one to fulfill a prophecy involving the birth of the Celestial Messiah, her father left her in Vietnam with a sect of Kree aliens known as the Priests of Pama. During her training to become the Celestial Madonna, she was gifted immense telepathic and empathic abilities, as well as instruction in martial arts, at which she became a master. After all that work, the Priests decided she needed more understanding of human interaction to properly mother the Messiah, so they wiped her mind and left her to wander Earth alone. Through a series of events, she wound up meeting and joining the Avengers. However, her destiny called to her, and she eventually left Earth to mate with an ancient member of the planet-like Cotati race in hopes of bearing the Messiah. It wasn’t until decades later that she first became a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but she’s now as associated with them as she ever was with the Avengers. In fact, it’s her telepathic abilities that allowed Star-Lord to form the team in the first place, as he convinced her to use her gifts to psychically coerce the group to stay together.
In the movie: It seems much like Drax (Dave Bautista), any trace of Mantis’ earthly origin has been replaced with a more straightforward extraterrestrial one. Perhaps ironically, the filmmakers erased her green skin in the process and gave her a paler complexion. (Just as well; it’s not like there aren’t enough green characters in GotG already, and she originally had a human skin tone anyway.) Her empathic powers are still present, though her intelligent detachment appears to have become more a brainy naïveté. Instead of being raised by Kree, she’s been brought up by Ego as essentially an envoy. It actually makes sound sense that an egotistical mega-being would find an empath useful in negotiating with lower lifeforms. Incidentally, this kind of makes Mantis the Silver Surfer to Ego’s Galactus, a character who has come into conflict with the Living Planet in the comics — as you’d expect a sentient world and someone nicknamed the Devourer of Worlds to do.
Played by: Elizabeth Debicki
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk Annual #6 (1977)
Good or Bad?: Bad
In the comics: Paragon, Her, J’Ridia Starduster, Kismet, She Whose Trail Dusts Hope — over 40 years, Ayesha has gone by all of these aliases. She’s the product of experiments by a group of Earth scientists known as the Enclave who sought to use technology (and the help of Doctor Strange) to create the perfect human. As is generally the case with cabals like this, their end goal was, of course, benevolent world domination. The problem with creating a pure being when you’ve got evil intentions, however, is that said creation is going to figure out your plans and turn on you — which is exactly what Ayesha did. When she discovered she wasn’t the Enclaves first attempt at creating a super-being and that the prior try was a man (Him, a.k.a. Adam Warlock), she determined her destiny was to procreate with Him in order to birth a superior race. In fact, much of her drive in the comics is to find a suitable mate, which is often what brings her into conflict with Marvel’s heroes. Still, she’s not really a bad person, but if you were a genetically designed super-human with a plethora of super powers plus the ability to manipulate/fire cosmic energy and had had minimal interaction with actual people, you’d probably have trouble dating, too.
In the movies: She’s essentially an alien Nazi. Ruler and High Priestess of a race known as the Sovereign (who, as far as I can tell, have no basis in the comics), Ayesha is a xenophobe who believes her people are superior to all others. That said, she’s apparently too superior to get her hands dirty, as she hires Guardians to take down a creature sucking the lifeforce out of her home planet (that tentacle creature seen in the trailers). She also appears to merge some attributes of another cosmic Marvel character, the Goddess, who sought to “take away the pain and suffering” of the universe by eliminating free will, which is likely what causes her to turn on her contractors. What’s more intriguing to fans, though, is what her presence means for the probability of Adam Warlock showing up. Warlock plays a major, major role in the Infinity Gauntlet story in the comics, and with that looking likely to be where the Avengers franchise is heading, it would only make sense for him to show up in the MCU sooner rather than later. We’ll have to wait just a bit longer to see if it’s as soon as GotG Vol. 2.
Played by: Sylvester Stallone
First Appearance: Defenders #27 (1975)
Good or Bad?: Good … ish
In the comics: Referred to primarily as Starhawk, Stakar is the son of Ayesha and Quasar (a human S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who wields the Quantom Bands as the Protector of the Universe) from the 31st century of an alternate Earth. (The main Marvel universe is 616, and Starhawk hails from 691… comics, amiright?) After being kidnapped and raised by mutants on the planet Arcturian, he was taken in by Ogord, a member of the anti-mutant military force the Reavers. While exploring ruins with his adoptive sister, Aleta, they awoke the Hawk God and the pair were granted immense powers with one caveat: They were merged to occupy the same physical space, meaning when one was “present,” the other was trapped in “limbo.” Making matters more complicated, Starhawk was cursed to reincarnate back in the body of his infant self, meaning he was forced to relive his life over and over again with all his memories intact. Each time he was reborn, he attempted to use his foreknowledge as “One Who Knows” to course-correct his timeline in ways he thought best. This brought him into conflict with many characters over his many lives, but it also led to the formation of and his joining the original Guardians of the Galaxy — and through some interdimensional time travel, their modern 616 counterparts with Star-Lord and the gang.
In the movie: Um, well, we don’t really know. He’s played by Sylvester Stallone, and the fact we even know that is something of a spoiler, as Marvel never officially announced whom he was cast as. It appears he’ll be a rather mysterious member of Yondu’s Ravagers, which makes sense — Yondu himself is actually one of the 691 GotG in the books. In fact…
MAJOR, EXTRA SPOILER WARNING
… If you trust the Vol. 2 IMDb page, it appears many of the 691 Guardians will be making appearances in the film. Ving Rhames plays Charlie-27, a genetically engineered human soldier raised on Jupiter with 11 times the muscle mass of a normal Earthling; Michael Rosenbaum is Martinex, a silicon-based, crystalline human from Pluto; Michelle Yeoh plays Aleta, Stakar’s adoptive sister; Krugarr, a wormlike creature who is essentially the Doctor Strange of space, is entirely CGI; and Mainframe is an android who evolves from Vision (Paul Bettany in the MCU) and is voiced by — wait for it — Miley Cyrus. Like many characters in Vol. 2, it’s likely these heroes will be markedly different from their comic equivalents, but the fact that they’re appearing in the film at all is sure to please longtime fans.
Taserface, Brahl, and Tullk
Played by: Chris Sullivan, Stephen Blackehart, and Tommy Flanagan, respectively
First Appearances: Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (1990), Thor Annual #6 (1977), Annihilation: Ronan #1 (2006), respectively
Good or Bad?: Both
In the comics: Most of these characters are pretty minor E.T.s in the comics, save for Taserface. Part of the 691 universe, Taserface is a member of a race of aliens known as the Stark, whose evolution was quickened when a bunch of technology dumped in space by Iron Man (Tony Stark — get it?) crashed onto their planet. They came to see Stark as a God, naming their own species after him, but their continued use of his technology ravaged their fertile world. They then turned to conquering other planets in order to sustain their race, which of course pitted them against Yondu and Starhawks’ Guardians.
Brahl, meanwhile, also hails from 691 and is an Achemonian, a race with the ability to make themselves intangible at will. Tullk is the only one of the trio from the 616, but he’s also the most insignificant of them all. He’s a bounty hunter who was at one point employed by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace in the first GotG) and only survived for three issues before getting devoured by a wave of extradimensional insects.
In the movie: All three of the aliens are members of the Ravagers, which is surely going to bring them into some sort of conflict with Yondu when he decides to defect to the Guardians. It’s possible the mutiny will lead to split ranks. Although it’s hard to say which character will end up on which side of things, it seems apparent Taserface is going to be Yondu’s main opposition in the group. It doesn’t appear he has access to any Stark tech, however, but wouldn’t it be neat if they actually tied him to Iron Man and the Avengers even subtly? Much like giving these guys names of relatively inconsequential comic characters, it’s little nods like that that keep super-geeks happy.