In generally expected, but nonetheless singificant New York Comic Con news, it was confirmed during Marvel chief creative officer Joe Quesada's Cup O' Joe panel on Saturday that Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven are collaborating on a new Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing series as part of the Marvel NOW! revamp.Guardians of the Galaxy starts in February with a #0.1 issue, before getting a proper #1 the following month. The announcement caps months of rumors dating back to at least the Guardians' recent appearances in the Bendis-written Avengers Assemble, and intensifying after official word that Marvel Studios is producing a live-action Guardians of the Galaxy film. Newsarama talked with Bendis about how the new series will both respect the work of previous Guardians of the Galaxy writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning while departing from there, the role Iron Man plays on the team and making cosmic Marvel a little more down to Earth. Newsarama: Brian, it was announced at New York Comic Con that you’re writing Guardians of the Galaxy, which is probably the most surprising announcement from this year’s New York Comic Con.
Brian Michael Bendis: Who saw this coming? [Laughs.]
Nrama: But how long has this been in the works? When you put the team in Avengers Assemble, was it always a prelude to you doing Guardians of the Galaxy as an ongoing series?
Bendis: Everyone knows they’re making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie now, but for a while, in secret, the creative committee has been helping out Marvel Studios. For the last year or two, we’ve been going over the characters, and talking about them, and thinking about “What kind of movie would it be?” With that conversation comes, “What kind of comics should they be?” We’ve seen the DnA comics, which were really great and pushed the characters forward in such a powerful direction, but what else can you do with them?
As we were doing our research and due diligence, I had read a lot of it, but I read it as a fan, and not with the eyes of a writer. Stumbling across Peter Quill’s origin, and really getting to know what makes the characters tick, I got very excited about them. We would talk about them, and I guess I was getting more and more excitable. When the time came, they said, “Along with making this movie, we want to put these characters back into the Marvel Universe and really give it our all.” I think [Marvel publisher Dan] Buckley asked me, “Would you do the comic if it was you and someone like Steve McNiven?” I was like, “Well, if you get Steve McNiven, I’ll do it!” It’s a very exciting project for us, because, jokes aside — it leaked out like a year ago — it is a surprising project for us. It is kind of wonderful how much Marvel’s letting us do with the characters, and looking at the Marvel Universe from a different angle. It’s a real high-quality book, and I’m pretty proud of it.
We talked about what hasn’t been done with the Guardians so far, and why, no mater how good the DnA book was, it always seemed like it was separate from the Marvel Universe in a way, even though there were chunks of it that were connected so strongly to Secret Invasion and stuff, it still feels like it’s out in its own little world, like someone else publishes it. It does seem to keep some readers away. We were like, “Why can’t we bring those characters closer to the center of the Marvel Universe?” and “What kind of sci-fi could we bring to Guardians?” There are so many different kinds of sci-fi.
It’s going to be a much more character-based book. I think these characters are amazing. They have a really unique place in the Marvel Universe, so we’re going to explore that, explore what their relationships are with each other. Our Point One issue is Peter’s origin that very few people know. Once you read it, you go, “This is as good as Spider-Man’s origin.” I told this origin at the Marvel retreat, in a room full of Marvel writers — nobody knew it. Even Dan Slott was like, “Really, where was this?”
Nrama: That says something for sure.
Bendis: There’s going to be people who think I’ve made this up, but it’s an adaptation of something that happened in Marvel Premiere in a two-page story back in the ‘70s. But it’s good stuff.
With that, the Guardians are going to have a very specific agenda that’s much more Earth-based, even though there’s still going to be them in a spaceship guarding the galaxy, but they’re guarding the galaxy for Earth. And that’s what brings Iron Man to the team.
Nrama: That’s a very concrete way of bringing things to the wider Marvel Universe. What made Iron Man the right choice to join the team?
Bendis: We were talking about the character for a while. When I had the Guardians guest star in Avengers Assemble, people were like, “Well, Tony’s been in outer space before.” OK, let’s say you’ve been in outer space five times. Wouldn’t each one of them be shocking? I’ve been to Hawaii a couple of times, and each one of them was awesome!
He’s a futurist and an inventor, and it ties to the premise of the book — which is, to the galactic civilizations, Earth is getting more and more scary. There’s a lot of abuse of the space-time continuum, there’s Phoenixes, there’s Asgardians. It just looks like a cauldron of madness. For the rest of the societies like the Kree, and the Skrull, and the Badoon, it’s a very tempting thing to try to invade, because there’s a lot there. It’s kind of like the Middle East and oil; you want to just put your soldiers on it and keep it, or you just want to blow it up so no one else has it.
It’s decided, by the leaders of other societies, that the Earth is about one generation away from joining the cosmic civilization. Either they’re going to be part of the cosmic civilization a positive way, or they’re going to come at it with the Hostile intent. We look like apes with machine guns to them, y’know? It’s decreed that no one’s allowed to touch Earth anymore. The real problem with Earth, it’s decided, is that other species keep poking it. The Kree come down and start experimenting, and there’s Skrulls tried to take it over — there’s too much alien agenda on Earth, and Earth is not ready for it. The galaxy is not letting them evolve in a peaceful way. So the Guardians are protecting Earth from all galactic whatnot, but they’re not allowed to touch it. To make more of a statement, there’s going to be an Earth person on the team, and that, for now, is Tony Stark.For those who don’t know, Peter Quill, star lord, is half-human and half-alien, and his father is the King of Spartax. His father is just about as big of an asshole as Thanos is, and he doesn’t really trust him. Peter takes the gig to guard Earth, but he’s doing it with his team in his own way, because he thinks he’s also guarding it from his father.
Nrama: So it sounds like Peter Quill will be central character of the series?
Bendis: There’s always a leader of the team. He’s Captain Kirk, he’s Nathan Fillion on Firefly. There’s always a guy that sits at the front of the ship. But each one of them is a very strong character, with a very strong agenda. They all have issues with their fathers, which makes them fantastic Marvel characters — that’s how you become a great Marvel character; you have a father that is either a complete asshole fuck-up, or is dead. Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos, and she’s trying to rise above all that. While they wouldn’t seem like they have a lot in common, they do.
Nrama: So other than Iron Man, the lineup is pretty much exactly the same as the team you wrote in Avengers Assemble?
Bendis: Nope! There’s going to be some new additions coming. There are a couple of established Marvel characters that will be coming in and out of the book, and some new Guardians.
Just because of the nature of the Marvel Universe, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be full Marvel Universe involvement in the Guardians, just like there is in Avengers. I’ve tackled this book with the agenda that this is “the cosmic Avengers.” For those who already missing me on Avengers, even though it’s still going, this will be my Avengers book, and I’m handling it with the same focus on character and team. There will be some surprises along the line, just like there were in New Avengers, when you were like, “Wow, I never saw these characters in that light.”
Nrama: And there’s even Iron Man in the book, providing a very direct bridge from your Avengers run.
Bendis: There’s a lot for him to get out of this. Tony needs to discover new things about himself. People who are very, very intelligent get very, very frustrated about their surroundings. And in a completely Tony Stark moment, he’s up here for green ladies. Who doesn’t want to live the William Shatner Star Trek fantasy? But that fantasy will blow up in his face.
The good news for me as a writer is that he is the fish out of water. Whereas Tony is always in control during the Avengers stuff and his Iron Man stuff, in space, he is way out of his league on every conceivable level.
For those who are worried, Kieron [Gillen] and I have been planning this for so long in private, so he also is going to get a lot of juice out of this in his book, as well.
Nrama: Though you’ve dabbled in this territory a bit in stories like Secret Invasion, there’s still definitely a sense that this feels like a departure for you. Would you agree?
Bendis: It does, but now this book is coming off a lot like, to me, the Illuminati miniseries. It’s feeling a lot like that to me as it’s being produced, which I think is good news — I quite enjoyed working on that book.
This is stuff about the Marvel Universe that I love dearly, but my instincts sometimes are always to go back to street-level or crime-related, character-based stuff. But — I do like taking the part of me that offers that, and bringing it to the characters you least expect. And I think Rocket Raccoon is the character you’d least expect.
Nrama: So since there is a live-action Guardians of the Galaxy film coming in 2014, has there been much integration with Marvel Studios in the development of this comic series?
Bendis: There’s a lot of design integration that McNiven’s having fun with, they’re using him to do both at once. But what makes me really relieved, constantly, is that there’s never been a time where Marvel says, “Alright, stop your story, we’re doing this movie, so you have to do this.” There’s that which publishing can do, and that which the movies can do, and they both have things they can do better than anything. Instead of making each one mirror the other one and do exactly like that, which at the end of the day I think would be boring for fans, let them be separate, but at the same time have a similarity that’s comforting. There are things that I really, really love about how the movie’s being developed that I’m absolutely going to pursue thematically in the book, but there are wild differences and things that I’ll be able to do and they won’t be able to do, and vice versa — so why not celebrate that?
But literally, since the Daredevil movie, I’ve always worried about that phone call, where someone tells you, “Just do it exactly like what’s in the movie,” and that’s never happened, all the way through the Avengers movie. It’s a huge relief, because you hear these horror stories. The agenda is, let’s just make these characters as cool as possible, and give the Marvel readers the opportunity to buy a Guardians book prior to the movie, and then when the movie comes out, you can be a dick in line and go, “I’ve been reading this. Whatevs. You don’t know who Groot is?” Who wouldn’t want to stand in line and be that guy? That’s what we live for.
Nrama: On the series, you’re reunited with Steve McNiven — for the first time since your Avengers arc together.
Bendis: We haven’t worked together since the second arc of New Avengers. Steve was the pretty girl who everybody was stealing from the other guy. I had viciously stole him from the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy from Warren Ellis, and just as we were getting in our groove, he goes off to Civil War.
I was waiting in line for my next turn, and here he came. I was thrilled he said yes. I really sold him on it. What I discovered a lot about artists like Steve and Stuart Immonen is that they certainly seem to want to put their stamp on a book that’s their own from the get-go. That’s what was appealing to Steve here: The idea that he would be able to design everything towards his strengths.
Nrama: Instinctively he feels like a good fit, even if he really hasn’t done a book like this before.
Bendis: That’s kind of what’s appealing about it. He hasn’t done this before. What will it be like? Having seen it, it is something to look at. There are two sides of Steve, and this is being tailored to both of them — the dynamic design work that he does, and really amazing character acting. It’s him and John Bell and Justin Posnor, who colors Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. It’s going to be gorgeous.
Nrama: A new Nova series is also being announced at the con. Is there any planned interaction between the two titles?
Bendis: Once they’re set up, absolutely. You’re going to see some of the Guardians pop up in the Nova book as well. That’s a book Jeph Loeb has so much passion for — I’m looking forward to it coming out.
Nrama: It’s notable that both the new Guardians of the Galaxy series and the upcoming film seem very specifically influenced by the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning run on the series.
Bendis: Of course. What you don’t want is to just repeat it. You want to take it into another direction, build on it, that is still faithful to what came before, not unlike we did on New Avengers. It’s still the Avengers, but here’s just another angle, and here’s some other people to play with.
Their book was very hardcore sci-fi. That’s what was cool about it, and I said, I’ll come at it from more of a original Star Wars, Firefly — that’ll be my touchstone. Much more character-oriented, and a little more the way I like my sci-fi. Though that will seem like a big change, it won’t be. It’ll still be the same characters dealing with the same things they’re dealing with, bonded together by the same things they’re bonding with. And the Rocket Raccoon/Groot joke will continue unfettered. Except that Groot’s going to seem a lot more jewey now.
Nrama: So in Marvel NOW! you’re writing two team books with large casts — All-New X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Bendis: And they couldn’t be more wildly different. And wait until you find out the connection between All-New X-Men and Guardians.
On Earth, there’s a lot of space-time continuum abuse, and the butterfly effect doesn’t always reveal itself on Earth. So someone’s bouncing back and forth in time…
Nrama: The original X-Men, maybe?
Bendis: Maybe! Somewhere else in the galaxy, someone else is feeling the ramifications of that decision, and that’s going to be coming full force. How about them apples?More from Newsarama:
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