Steve McNiven Gives GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY a Visual Update

Artist Steve McNiven and writer Brian Michael Bendis have worked together before, but never like this.

The pair — who collaborated on the second-ever arc of New Avengers back in 2005 — are reuniting for a new Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing series, which starts in February 2013 with an introductory "Point One" issue detailing Star-Lord's unique origin story. The story continues from there starting in March, with the familiar cast of Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Groot and Rocket Raccoon joined by Iron Man — with more team members to come.

Like its fellow Marvel NOW! series Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy looks to put a new spin on Marvel's cosmic characters by integrating them more into the Marvel Universe at large, thus Tony Stark's role on the team. And that shift is personified in the creative team of Bendis and McNiven, neither of whom have been closely associated with Marvel's more strictly space-faring characters.

"It is a surprising project for us," Bendis told Newsarama last month. "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."

Newsarama talked with McNiven about his approach to the series, redesigning and updating the main cast, balancing this and the second volume of the creator-owned Nemesis with Mark Millar, how the comic book series might relate to the 2014 Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy film, and definitive word on the future of Star-Lord's helmet.


Newsarama: Steve, much has been made of Guardians of the Galaxy being something of a departure for Brian Michael Bendis, but it's also something of a change of pace from what folks are used to seeing from you. Do you see it that way? And how much of a cosmic Marvel fan were you before this gig?

Steve McNiven: Could be a departure sure, but I'm a horrible judge of my own work, unless it's to point out where things have gone horribly wrong. Honestly, I'm just trying to get Brian's great story here across to the readers as clearly as possible.

As far as being a cosmic Marvel fan, well I've always been a huge fan of science fiction, reading it almost as far back as I was reading comics, and I'm still going strong. I've never delved into the cosmic Marvel though, either through my reading or drawing. The chance to explore what is new territory for me Marvel wise was very interesting to me. Throw in the sci-fi and I'm there!

Nrama: Based on the art released thus far, it looks like several characters are getting at least slight designs, and Iron Man especially has a unique armor. What was your approach in rendering the new looks? How much does the philosophy of bringing the characters closer to the rest of the Marvel Universe extend to their visuals, as well? And has there been any carryover with designs for the Marvel Studios GOTG film?

McNiven: I'm trying to re-design the whole team here. My approach to the designs was to match them to the characters and to update the look. Double-breasted jackets and outer space adventure don't really fit these days.

As far as bringing them closer to the Marvel U, I think that hopefully they will stand out rather than blend in.

Guardians of the Galaxy movie

concept art.

I have been in touch with the movie studio guys and we are all tossing design ideas around, so hopefully we can have some unity between the movie and comic looks.

Nrama: On the same note, something that seemed to be a real hot-button issue at New York Comic Con last month was Star-Lord's helmet, as that accessory evidently has some passionate defenders. Though it looks like he'll be mostly helmet-less, he'll still use it in some instances, correct? And in general, how important is it for Star-Lord to be the human "face" of a team that also includes a tree person and a talking raccoon?

McNiven: Was it really? I hadn't noticed but I'm glad there are big fans of the characters out there!

Helmet-wise, even Vader pulled the thing off on occasion so I don't see it as a stretch to have the helmet off when he's not in combat. It is important to me to have Star-Lord without a mask when we need some acting from him.

One of the great things about Spidey is that he can do a tremendous amount of acting through body language, but most characters, such as Star-Lord, don't have that ability so we need the facial expressions.


I like the contrast between Tony Stark and Iron Man. The smiling martini sipping Tony changes immediately when the armor is on and the faceplate is down. I want to have that for Star-Lord.

Nrama: Guardians of the Galaxy is starting right around the same time as the scheduled debut of the second Nemesis volume. Schedule-wise, are they pretty much separate workloads for you? And are you eyeing Guardians of the Galaxy as a long-term run?

McNiven: I’m here for as long as they’ll have me. It's a lot of work juggling the two books for sure! I have partnered up with 3 other guys and formed a studio to help with Nemesis.

You can see one of the guys' work, Simon West, on the colors of the recent Amazing Spider-man covers I just did.

Unfortunately it's also a bunch of work — boring lawyer and accountant stuff — to get a studio up and going, but I think it'll pay off in spades.


Nrama: This isn't the first time you've worked with Bendis, but it is the first time the two of you have collaborated in a while. How has that working dynamic evolved in the years since your New Avengers arc together, back in 2005?

McNiven: Just like old times really! He's a great guy to work with. Anyone who has met Brian will encounter the same guy that I know, very intelligent, hardworking and immensely fun to be around. And that goes for his scripts as well.

Nrama: And finally: You wrote and illustrated a Captain America vs. Gambit story a few months back in AvX: VS. Do you have any further writing plans at this time?

McNiven: Just let me get this studio up and running will ya?!

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