Marvel’s “Next Big Thing” conference call, featuring writer Brian Michael Bendis talking Guardians of the Galaxy, is slated to start a 4 p.m. eastern. Keep refreshing this page; it’ll be updated continuously with the latest. To check out covers from the series, head over here.
Opening the call, Bendis describes Guardians of the Galaxy as the beginning of a “whole new chapter” of Marvel NOW!, and, in his opinion, a surprising one. “For fans who have been yelling and screaming about how awesome this corner of the Marvel Universe, here’s a brand-new #1, the most reader-friendly place to have them without taking away what makes them special in the first place,” he said.
Bendis says even now when you say the words “Guardians of the Galaxy movie” aloud, you can’t believe that it’s actually happening. The comic book series will show a butterfly effects of recent Marvel events — some obvious, like Secret Invasion, and some not so obvious — that the Guardians will deal with directly. “You’re going to see these characters face off with some gigantic villains and concepts,” Bendis says. “To alien civilizations, Earth is this place where the Phoenix Force goes and does not destroy the Earth. Galactus shows up and he doesn’t eat it. The Earth is the scariest place. What happens when Earth joins the cosmic civilization?”
Marvel senior editor Steve Wacker, also on the line, says the book has more “initial thrust” than many other recent launches, and that a lot of the major cosmic players will be present in the series from the start.
Bendis says that he loves Star-Lord so much, that he started writing February’s #0.1 issue without anyone telling him to — an adaptation of the character’s origin story. Bendis calls Star-Lord’s origin a “little gem,” and as good as Superman or Spider-Man’s origin story. “This is why you care about this guy. Look at what he’s been through. He’s got the quintessential Marvel character father issues that make every Marvel character.” Bendis says he’s fallen in love with all of the main characters, but he thinks a lot of people can “absolutely relate” to Peter Quill — being born into a world you don’t belong to.
Marvel marketing’s James Viscardi, moderating the call, asks if there are any Marvel Universe alien races that Bendis is eager to write. Bendis cites Spartax, Star-Lord father’s home world. Like a good Star Trek, Bendis says, “You’ll be able to see the mirror to our society,” in that Spartax is an empire of conquerors. Wacker asks Bendis if he was a science-fiction fan growing up; Bendis says yes, because pretty much every Marvel comic has a seed in sci-fi, and as he was starting on Guardians, he realized there were even more “true” sci-fi comics that he loved, like Star Slammers. “It was always the character and the artwork,” that drew Bendis to the series. “And I applied that philosophy to this book.”
Viscardi asks Bendis about series artist Steve McNiven. “This is a big thing for Steve,” Bendis says. “Steve wanted to come in and design everything. The ship, the costumes.” Bendis says the alien worlds actually look like someone lives in them, not a “set.” (Covers from the series are here.) “I just want everything to look lived in,” Bendis says, citing Firefly as an example.
Here’s a two-page spread by McNiven from the first issue (click to enlarge):
Wacker says that McNiven is “really engaged” with the series, and thinking out every piece of furniture, and every wardrobe. “When [McNiven] joined me on this project it made me feel that we weren’t just crazy people, that he agreed it was worth doing,” Bendis says.
First press question, from CBR: What threat is the team facing in the first arc? “The threat is very specifically the Spartax Empire, an empire of conquerors,” Bendis answers. “Earth is probably the sexiest, most dangerous jewel in the galaxy.” Bendis continues, saying that the fallout of “Age of Ultron” will be picked up directly in Guardians of the Galaxy, and that when people see the second arc, there will be a “scramble” to get the first one.
Next question, from iFanboy: How intimidating is it to write Groot and Rocket Raccoon? Bendis says he can’t wait to get the letter that says “Groot would never say that,” because Groot only says “I am Groot.” “There’s a lot of backstory with Drax and Rocket particularly that will add level of pathos to them, as we figure out what’s making them tick even more than [Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning] laid out there.”
Next question, from us: With the book looking to further integrate the space-faring characters into the larger Marvel Universe with moves like Iron Man joining the team, will the Guardians also have a presence on Earth? “Absolutely,” Bendis replies. “They’re going to be out in space a lot. That’s where they belong, that’s what makes them special. But there’s something about them not belonging here. They’re going to have to protect the Earth, and understand it a little bit more.” Bendis says they’re going to team with the All-New X-Men, and that there is a significant connection between the books.
Wacker adds that you’ll see “pieces” of Iron Man’s connection to the GOTG in the Kieron Gillen-written Iron Man. “We’re working in tandem to make sure each book is entertaining on its own,” Bendis says. “For people excited about Iron Man joining the team, you can thank the generosity of Kieron Gillen,” who “jumped” at the chance to do something new with Tony Stark.
Next question, from IGN: Is there any carryover between this series and the Guardians’ appearance in the Bendis-written Avengers Assemble? Bendis says a bit, in that it’s part of the ongoing chaos that sets the Guardians into motion, and the “little tickle of an idea” that Tony Stark should head out into space for a “working vacation.” “Guardians is a completely different animal,” Bendis says. “They’re the stars of the book and it’s about them, while Avengers Assemble was about the Avengers.”
Next question, from The Beat: How cohesive of a team are the Guardians as the series begins, and how do people see them? Bendis says that they will go back in history a bit, and find out why they stick together, and how they’re something of a family. Bendis particularly cites Gamora and Star-Lord’s relationship as significant, though not a romantic one. “How do people see them? I think they see them as pirates. The pirate life is very sexy and very dangerous, and they’re going to deal with that,” Bendis says, adding that the team doesn’t answer to anybody.
Next question, from Marvel.com: Will more members join the team? Yes. “The team you’re seeing now is not the whole team,” Bendis says.
Going back around, another question from CBR: What kind of connection will the book have to Nova? “We’re going to see members of the Guardians in the Nova book,” Wacker answers. “We’re trying to give each of these books a chance to find their own voice, but share a backdrop.” Further along, the two series will have deeper connections.
Wacker calls the season two episode of Ultimate Spider-Man featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy — written by Bendis — will be a pretty good example of how the writer will depict the team.
Next question, from iFanboy: Will more cosmic books mean the return of ROM Spaceknight? “No one would love the return of ROM Spaceknight more than myself,” Bendis says. “The minute anything like that ever becomes available to us — which is not a character Marvel owns, by the way — it would literally just crash into the story.”
Continuing, Bendis says that he was looking at the Guardians “with eyes wide open” when he first started discussing the characters’ film prospects as part of the Marvel Studios creative committee, and that he sounded like a “mental patient” when excitedly discussing the possibilities of the team before he had that comic book gig. “It wasn’t my initial goal, I was just trying to do the job I was hired to do, which is figure these characters out.”
Next question, from us: Given how many Marvel books have villains showing up in unexpected places, will we see an antagonist elevate to a cosmic-level threat for the first time? “Hell yes,” Bendis says. “And if you notice, they shut me up when I started talking about the second arc — they’ll do it again. Also, there are characters that will seem like minor inventions that will turn into larger inventions,” the writer adds, naming the Badoon in particular.
Next question, from IGN: Does Bendis see “potential” for his X-Men work to interact with Guardians? Not just potential, Bendis says — it’s definitely going to happen, and the cosmic civilization is not happy that Jean Grey is back, given her destructive history with the Phoenix.
Next question, from The Beat: How did Bendis arrive on this core of characters? “These characters, to me, seem to be the ones that were the most emotionally connected, the ones that Peter could count on the most,” Bendis answers, while again stating that the characters revealed thus far won’t be the whole team. Bendis states that he thought what DnA did was “so wonderful,” and that he didn’t want to write the Guardians of the Galaxy until long after they had finished their run on the series. “They’ll be things that I don’t do that they did,” Bendis says. “And it’s not that I think I have a better idea, it’s, I think that should be honored by not imitating it. Much like when I was on Daredevil, we went out of our way to not do Frank Miller.” Bendis also mentions Keith Giffen and Jim Valentino as other important past Guardians contributors.
Last question, from Marvel.com: Will the Guardians have a major role in future Marvel events? Bendis says it’ll depend on the events and who’s working on it, but it seems that it’ll be “very easy to find a place for the Guardians” in the next couple years of major Marvel stories. “If Age of Ultron is any hint for the potential of the Guardians in the Marvel Universe, you’re going to see some gigantic stuff,” Bendis says.
To wrap up: Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 is out in February, #1 is out in March. Bendis and McNiven on both. Covers are here. That’s it, thanks for reading!