by Vaneta Rogers
After the epic story Annihilation: Conquest
comes to an end in April, fans of the Marvel cosmic universe will get more stories of the characters in a new ongoing with an old name: Guardians of the Galaxy.
Launching in May with Conquest
writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning at the helm, the Guardians of the Galaxy
series will spin out of the Conquest
story much like the writers' current ongoing Nova
series was launched after the Annihilation
mini-series last year.
Newsarama spoke previously to Marvel editor Bill Rosemann
to get the basics of the series, but to find out more, we called up Abnett and Lanning for their take on the title.
(And if you're wondering about that shield on the cover of Guardians of the Galaxy #2
, read the interview all the way to the end, 'cause we asked.)
: You guys just keep coming up with more cosmic stories to tell. Is this something that you particularly enjoy as writers? The sci-fi side of superheroes?
: I can't speak for Andy necessarily, but we both read cosmic fiction when we were younger. Obviously we were both fans of Jim Starlin's work back in the '70s. That's the bedrock that we're building on. So yeah, it's something that we really both are fans of.
: We obviously came onto the Marvel stuff having done a five-year run on Legion of Super-Heroes
for DC. There again, we had been working very much on the area of cosmic superheroes and bringing a degree of science fiction feeling to the storylines. It was great for us to get the Marvel cosmic heroes and do the same sort of thing.
: The Marvel Universe right now has a very realistic feel to it, and with Civil War
it could even be argued that it's become a darker realism, yet it seems like the cosmic books that you two are writing stand apart from all that. Annihilation
was injected into the Marvel line-up about the same time that Civil War
was starting, offering readers this more sci-fi, larger-than-life, almost unrealistic universe out there in the stars -- a contrast to what is happening on the 616 earth. Would you say that's true?
: Yeah, absolutely. I think the main tone of some of the stories are very different. Even more realistic characters like Nova or Star-Lord. They're very much like policemen or soldiers. They're characters who may wear a costume and have superpowers, but that doesn't necessarily make them a superhero. It's just a tool really for them to do their job. But the scope is very big. I do think that's part of why the books have grown in popularity with Annihilation
. The cosmic books, however, I think have also reflected the slightly darker and slightly more serious feel that's been brought into the main Marvel earth-based stories, so that there is less of that sort of fantastic science fiction feel, which I think sometimes puts people off from cosmic stories. They're much, sort of, grittier. They're grittier cosmic stories. So I think there is an interesting comparison there.
: And also, another thing in interpreting the cosmic stuff, we're a lot more fantastical with the settings and the characters, obviously, and I think that contrasts nicely against the superhero stuff that is, as you say, grounded in a more realistic feeling. It just makes it a little bit more exotic, I think.
: With your stories, it does seem that the characters have a more grounded feel even within this larger, unrealistic landscape. That's important for today's storytelling, though, because people feel that need to identify with the characters. Isn't it tough to find that element with which people can identify when you're talking about aliens flying around in space?
: Yeah, that's true. I mean, Nova
was obviously a wonderful place to start because he is human and we can identify with him very, very easily. He's this sort of lens through which we can see the Marvel cosmic universe and understand how weird and wild it is. But as we've gone on, I mean in Conquest
, we're expecting people to feel for some of the other cosmic characters who aren't of human origin, even if they look human, like Quasar and some of the other characters who are definitely from a completely different cosmic background. I think the best sci-fi, and the same thing with fantasy, but the best SF works when it's treated quite seriously and with respect. It's got to work properly. It's got to obey certain rules, and it's got to feel like it's functioning within a real universe rather than just sort of making things up as you go along.
So whenever we deal with characters, we deal with them as realistically as we possibly can. And when we deal with the causes of some of the wars and that kind of stuff, there is, I suppose, a political component, and we think about why things are happening and how people would react. There is wonderful spectacle and scope in cosmic stories, but I think that has to be counterbalanced by taking an approach where you really
believe in the people.
: With Guardians of Galaxy
, is this going to be a more serious and realistic book, more of a funny book, or is it a balance?
: Well, I would categorize it as an adventures book. It's going to be cosmic storytelling that will have a sort of rip-roaring pace to it. We've definitely got wise-cracking characters in there. We've taken what Keith Giffen ably established as the background for the Conquest: Star-Lord
mini-series, the characters in there like Rocket Raccoon and Star-Lord. And we've picked up the reins of what he developed in Conquest
, and that has actually progressed into the Guardians
. And so it's very much got a flavor of fun, but it's counterbalanced by us creating a real sort of danger and momentum to what they're doing.
: It's not going to be a solemn book. We want you to enjoy reading it. It's going to be great big, rip-roaring adventures, and with the characters who are in it, there is great potential for genuinely humorous things all along. But ultimately, it is quite serious. The nature of their undertaking and the sort of problems they're going to face will be very serious and will have huge implications. So it's not solemn, and it's a lot of fun, but it's quite an epic story.
: It's more Star Wars
than 2001: A Space Odyssey
: Let's talk about the team, because you've mentioned some of the more wise-cracking characters. Star-Lord, Adam Warlock, Quasar, Drax, Gamora and Rocket Raccoon are the ones we've been told. How did you guys put that team together?
: Well, we got to play with these characters during the Conquest
event, and some of them have become favorites of ours. And we, at first, said we'd love to do a cosmic team to sit alongside the cosmic solo hero Nova. We'd like to explore what it's like to have a cosmic team and those sort of dynamics. And realizing that we have quite a roster of people who could be invited to join, there were lots of people who could make the cut. And it really was a matter of picking not just some of our favorites, but the ones that made logical story sense to be in the cut and the ones that had performed in Conquest
in ways that lined them up for selection in terms of the story.
Star-Lord is really the center of the team because he feels very much that the Conquest invasion was in part his fault. Therefore he wants to make amends for that and make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen again. So he calls upon the various characters that have served with him -- the ones that he thinks would make the best team members, even though they are a very strange mix. I mean, Drax and Gamora in particular are not your regular heroic types. And those are the sort of things that we'll get to explore.
: When Star-Lord pulls this team together, what is their main purpose?
: In Star-Lord's point of view, he's recruiting them on the simple understanding that the cosmos needs a sort of proactive first line of defense, to stand ready to go into action if something like the Annihilation wave or the Conquest invasion happens again. They're basically peacekeepers, firemen standing ready because he thinks the cosmos has been through two huge events and both times, they sort of improvised in the way they fought and managed to do something about it. When something else inevitably happens, he wants there to be a team ready to face it rather than desperately trying to dig their way out of it.
: Being proactive instead of reactive.
: And also the other thing that sort of cements that approach is that Adam Warlock then comes up with an actual reason, something they concretely have to be fighting. Because of those galaxy-wide events that have just happened, the universe itself is reeling from that and has been weakened by that. And there's a hidden agenda and something else that has been going on in the background that Adam Warlock has been privy to, and so he needs the Guardians to be his first strike force as well.
: They're working together. You can imagine Star-Lord as sort of being King Arthur and Adam Warlock as his Merlin, guiding him on exactly how best to deploy this thing. Because they're both concerned with making sure the galaxy doesn't suffer anymore.
: Now when editor Bill Rosemann gave us the list of characters who were on the team, the way he worded it was "the team is initially composed of.." and that sure sounds like it might change. Is this team going to evolve as they go forward? Will that happen pretty quickly?
: I think it's fair to say the team might grow a little bit as we go along. As I said, there are so many great characters in the cosmic line-up. The list you've got is definitely the core of characters we've got very closely tied into the storyline. But there will be two or three other characters that will sort of enter the frame and be a very important part in the story.
: Earlier, when I asked you about the team line-up, you said the idea at first was that you wanted to do a cosmic team. Does that mean this was your idea to do this comic? Was it something you sort of pitched to Marvel? Or was this something Marvel came to you and said they wanted to do?
: I think it was something we put the idea forward about doing a cosmic Avengers team, due to the fact that we were enjoying writing these characters. And it came out as we were working on Conquest
that Marvel realized that they wanted to create another book out of the event in the same way that they created Nova
out of Annihilation
. They wanted to use the invasion to launch another book. And the team idea seemed to be the dynamic that obviously we wanted and also something that they were thinking about.
: And you guys chose the name Guardians of the Galaxy
, yet this sounds very different from the old comic of that name, which took place in the distant future. Is this tied to it at all?
: Yes. We won't spoil things by explaining how that works, but we're both actually very fond of the classic Guardians, and they've obviously played an important role down the years in the background of Marvel continuity, even though they were an alternate future. They weren't just the future, they were an alternative future. But we will in a couple of very devious ways create thematic linkage between what has gone before and what we're doing now.
So it's not just arbitrarily a brand new team who happens to have the name of another team. You'll see something that's more than just a tip of the hat, a story direction that will link the two together in quite an important way. So fans of the old team, rather than being disappointed that it's the same name with a completely different line-up, will actually be able to see a bit more about how these things fit together.
: Will this cross over at all with things going on in the earth Marvel Universe? It's obvious we'll see Nova show up some, but do you have any plans for the Guardians to affect anything else going on in the Marvel Universe, or is the intention to have it function on its own out in space?
: I think at some point, it's got to. I think something very important at the beginning of Nova
's run was that we took him back to earth during the initial fallout of Civil War
. It was an enormously useful thing to do, not only from our point of view, but from the readers' point of view, to sort of ground him in the Marvel Universe -- to see his relationship with the rest of the Marvel Universe. I think it's one of the best things we did in strengthening the way the book worked. But I think that to have the Marvel Universe acknowledge the Guardians of the Galaxy in some way, shape or form is going to be a really important thing to do. Exactly how that happens, it will happen further down the line, but the Guardians will sort of be engaged in stuff that will be affecting larger bits of the Marvel Universe. Their storylines will touch upon things that are running through other books.
: Like Secret Invasion
: Well, let's just say there will be a sense of them being in the same universe and dealing with the same problems.
: Will this be a book where, if you pick up #1, you'll have to know what happened in Conquest
to understand what's happening?
: No. If you've been a regular reader of the cosmic books and you follow Nova
and things like that, then I think this is the sort of book you will really delight in because it continues and develops the sort of things that have been seen in other places. It draws together quite unlikely bits and pieces in interesting ways.
But it would be insane of us to write a book that requires everyone to go back and buy two years of continuity just to understand what was going on. We just actually finished the first issue, and we spent an awful lot of time and effort making sure that you can understand it by itself. You don't need to read anything else. If you've read something else, then that's a great bonus. You'll get lots out of it. But it's an ideal book as a jumping on point, because the characters are sort of explaining what they're about to do. It's not been dumbed down for new readers and therefore going to spoil it for old readers. But neither did we start in the middle of the story and hope people could catch up. It's a really good way to get into the cosmic universe.
: We're hoping that we're going to write these stories in such a way that once you pick up the issue, you will be armed with enough information to know the characters and know what they're about and want to read more. I think
we've done it properly. [laughs]
: [laughs] You feel pretty good about that?
: Well, I know who they are and what they do. [laughs] But then we have
been forced to sit down and read two years worth of continuity. More years of continuity, actually, than I care to mention.
: But the case with the Guardians
is the case with most things at Marvel, particularly Nova
, that you try to find a really good balance that seems to be struck in some of the core Marvel Universe. I think that's something you can see, for example, in the Avengers books at the moment. There are stories where you bring in lots of continuities, and there are stories that are driven by things that have happened in the past that are very interesting for long-time readers, without making them so continuity-heavy that unless you've been reading for years, you don't get it. It's a very fine line to walk, and we're trying to keep that balance.
: You've worked with your artist, Paul Pelletier, before, but how does he fit with this cosmic team?
: We're just getting pages coming from him now from the first issue, because we just got the first issue polished and sorted. And Paul's actually now started in on drawing it, and the pages look great.
: It's an amazing combination what he can do. He does great superheroes, but he also does great sci-fi. So he's the really perfect guy to have on it. He was originally going to be the Nova
artist on a long-term basis, and we just did a two-issue story with him that was basically the beginning of his run, and it's just amazing the amount of detail on the page with these astonishing things he's drawing, some of it on the most stupendous scale. We give him things that we think will take him a week to draw and even visualize it, and he does it almost instantly. We're amazed at how he was able to create some of this stuff. I think he's going to be absolutely perfect. He's got a great take on the characters.
: He's dealing with a large cast of characters, but he's able to take what's happening on the page and make it very clear and actually make it work splendidly. He's absolutely brilliant.
: The emails he sends with the artwork, he makes all these comments about the difficulty of the things that he's drawing. He'll say this was a really difficult page to do, yet there is no sign in the art at all
that he has even broken a sweat. So I dread to think what we're going to come up with in a script that actually makes Paul Pelletier say, "I can't draw that." Because, really, he's not been phased by anything.
: Then just as a last question about Guardians of the Galaxy
, in a general sense, what kind of reader is going to be attracted to this series?
: First of all, I hope it appeals to readers of cosmic adventures. I think it's got all the raw ingredients that I hope will make it the sort of story that people who read cosmic stories will love and will have them begging for more.
However, I'd also like to think that anybody who's entertained by fast-paced and amusing stories would enjoy it. And I would also really
like to hope it's an opportunity for people who think that cosmic stories are not normally their cup of tea to really rethink that attitude by looking at this. I'd like them to open it up and say, "Wow! It's an adventure that happens
to be set in space, but it's just as accessible as things I like to read that are set on earth." I think cosmic stories are sometimes seen as less important than earth-bound stories.
: It's a great chance to pick up something and try something new. Again, if we've done this properly, you can pick up any of these issues and get right into the story and understand the characters. It is taking stuff that's been around for a long time and saying, look! How cool is this stuff? It's always been cool. We've picked it up and dusted it off and it's time to say, this is really great stuff that the Marvel cosmic characters have got. And maybe it's time to have a look at it and see what you think.
If we can maintain the readership that we've got with things like Conquest
, which is brilliant, because those people enjoy what we're doing and we're doing more of the same here, then that's terrific. But we'd also like to get people to pick it up for the first time and say, wow, this stuff is great.
: We try to write stories that we would want to read as fans of cosmic stories, but we also try to write stories that remind us of the very best stories we remember when we were younger and were just starting to read these things. So anybody who's got a snooty attitude towards the Marvel cosmic universe, than maybe this is an opportunity to show them that there is stuff there that they would like.
But just give it a go. I think people who are a bit snippy about cosmic stuff will be really, really surprised, and everybody else will love it.
Right after this interview was conducted, Marvel released the cover to Guardians of the Galaxy #2
, which has a few surprises on it. So we quickly followed up with a few more questions for Abnett and Lanning, who answered them together via email as "DnA," the moniker they use to indicate both Dan and Andy are talking.
: Is Groot part of the Guardians of the Galaxy? We haven't heard his name as part of the team before, but this cover sure looks like he's working with Rocket Raccoon...
: Groot has been a bit poorly, due to events in the last issue of Conquest
, but with the proper mulch and pruning, he will soon be back to his old self, and given his relationship with Rocket, it will be hard to keep him out
of the team. It’s tough arguing with a giant walking tree when it’s made its mind up.
: Is that Cap's shield that Groot is holding?
: Gosh! It looks like it, doesn’t it?
: Knowing that Major Victory had Cap's shield in the original version of Guardians of the Galaxy
that took place in the future, does this mean this new series ties into that part of the former series more than we've realized? Or is this something completely different?
: As we suggested, the ties between this version of the Guardians and the "classic" version are going to be bigger than would first appear. This isn’t simply a case of a different line-up borrowing the name. But as to the true nature and origin of the shield, we’re afraid we’re going to have to keep you guessing.
: Will the shield show up in the first issue? Does it tie into their first mission?
: The shield shows up early on, as part of an ongoing mystery.
: Anything else you want to tell us about the cover?
: It’s cool, isn’t it? [Cover artist] Clint Langley has done a great job again. And doesn’t it make you want to read it?
and from Bill Rosemann…
“Here it is, Newsaramians, the cover that Tom Brevoort said I wasn’t allowed to publish! That’s because he’s a Skrull and doesn’t want the truth exposed! But you can’t contain Groot and Rocket Raccoon! See them! Fear them! Join their revolution!”