Friday Flashback: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy 1

At the conclusion of the recent Annihilation: Conquest mini-series from Marvel Comics, we saw the formation of a new team. This team now has their own monthly adventures as the Guardians of the Galaxy, a task force meant to keep another Annihilation-level event from ever occurring. This is not, however, the first time a team in the greater Marvel Universe has used the name.

The original Guardians first appeared in 1969’s Marvel Super-Heroes #18. Marvel’s answer to DC’s Legion of Superheroes in a way, this team was a group of super-powered beings from a “possible future” of Earth, all the way in the 31st Century.

They appeared in several books over the next two decades, teaming up in both the 20th and 31st Centuries, with such heroes as Captain America, Benjamin “The Thing” Grimm, and Thor, as well as the rest of the Avengers and The Defenders. With the new volume having started up we thought we could use a flashback to the first Guardians of the Galaxy #1, from 1990.

Jim Valentino was both writer and artist on this future-cosmic book from Marvel. The property was over two decades old, but hadn’t yet had an ongoing. However, with one Vance Astro appearing in the pages of New Warriors as Marvel Boy at the time, it seemed like a decent opportunity to give the GotG their own series.

The story was a solid introduction, showing us each character, with a brief bio explaining where they came from and what their powers were. Towards the middle of the book, five full pages recap every major adventure the team had in the previous twenty year. They use this to fill new readers in, which is a lost art in modern comics, and also to set up more crossovers with the 20th Century.

The characters themselves were certainly interesting. First up to bat is Starhawk, who has light-based powers. You can think of him as a super-hero version of manga mainstay Ranma. He shares his body with a woman named Aleta, and swaps back and forth with her. This was a pretty common device in the 80s and 90s, especially with cosmic characters (the whole regular-person-containing-full-might-of-cosmic-entity deal), so it makes sense to have one of these on the team.

Next is Nikki, a survivor of a colony on Mercury. She has enhanced agility and marksmanship, and her head is constantly on fire for no reason explained in this particular comic; probably just because it looked cool. Oh, and she does have a fiery wit, so maybe that’s what replaced her hair with fire.

Charlie-27 is from the colony on Jupiter. That’s right, he lived on a colony on a gaseous planet. Ah, simpler times, when suspension of disbelief was at ridiculously high levels, and gas prices were at low ones. Charlie-27 is the clear inspiration for the X-Men movie version of Juggernaut, and gains his super-strength from being engineered to handle 11 times Earth’s gravity.

Martinex hails from Pluto, is made of silicon, and has one hand that shoots fire, and one that shoots ice. He leads this rag-tag bunch. Also, he’s shiny.

Yondu is a big blue guy with a red Mohawk, from Centauri IV, Earth’s only colony outside the solar system. Why they called it Centauri IV if it’s the only one, I’m not entirely certain. He fires “yaka-arrows” and whistles to control them mid-air. Also deeply spiritual, his version of the Bible is what drives this team in its inaugural adventure.

Finally, we have Major Vance Astro, or, the only guy you’ve probably heard of. This Vance is in fact 1,000 years old, and still has his power of telekinesis (or “psychokinesis” as it was commonly called then). He lives in a Captain Atom-style metal suit that has kept him alive for a millennium.

So that’s the cast of the original GotG team. Now of course, for any number 1, you have to introduce a killer, amazing villain for your team to fight. Valentino didn’t disappoint, with perhaps the best-named, most influential villain ever created in comics. Beware, all ye super-heroes, the menace of TASERFACE! As he says, “There is a REASON I am called TASERFACE!” and he in fact has the ability to shoot a beam of energy from his face. He also wears slightly familiar looking armor, encased in gold and red, with other weapons scattered throughout. The Guardians begin by getting their collective butts kicked, but manage to use teamwork to band together and take down Taserface. I can’t possibly stress enough, the villain that was to be taken seriously was actually named Taserface. After the fight, Vance makes the connection to the suit of armor just in time for Taserface’s (I can’t say that name enough times) co-horts to show up and threaten our heroes. They are all armor-clad, and announce that the Guardians’ “lives are FORFEIT for having the TEMERITY to harm a member of… THE STARK!”

This issue is a testament to the time it came from, and clearly embodies everything that early 90s comics would be. The two things that were pretty cool, were the giving of background both in the story, and after. During the story, we had the recap/trip down memory lane, then after, Valentino took the time to write out the history of the Guardians, giving new readers a very clear idea of who they were reading about, complete with a suggested reading list. Aside from similar reading lists in the back of Wolverine: Origins, and after the hero and villain bios in 52 and Countdown, this art has been lost. However, we also no longer get villains with names/powers like Taserface, so I guess you win some and you lose some.

Is this a trip down memory lane worth taking? Well, I’d venture to say you can find these back issues at your local comic convention or on ebay on the cheap. The series wound up lasting just over 5 years (62 issues), and went good on its promise to cross into 20th Century Marvel a few times. It certainly never became earth-shatteringly good by any means, but if you can stop laughing at Taserface long enough to just read the book, it’s never short of entertaining. Will the new Guardians ever mix with the Guardians of old (/future…isn’t time travel grand?)? Maybe, maybe not. I just hope if it does happen, it’s to team up against the menace of TASERFACE!

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