Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guardians Of The Galaxy!

A few days ago I found two rather high-priced trades which nonetheless proved irresistable. Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow's Avengers collects the late Silver and Bronze Age saga of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians debut in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, dated January 1969, at the time a combination book with offered reprints and served as a "showcase" for possible future series.

The debut story is by writer and co-creator Arnold Drake and exquisite artwork by fellow co-creator Gene "The Dean" Colan and Mike Esposito (under his "Mikey Demeo" disguise),  and relates the 31st Century future in which the Earth has colonized the solar system and beyond thanks to "Harkovian Physics" (move over Einstein), and finds a motley gang of aliens and hybrid humans joined to battle the deadly Badoon, a warlike lizard race from space.

Major Vance Astro is a 20th Century man sent into deep space to Alpha Centuari in 1988 only to find his long journey and the 1000 years it took unnecessary when he finally arrived at a fully settled colony on a planet in deep space. After realizing he is trapped inside his life-preserving copper foil suit, he joins up with Jovian militiaman Charlie-27 and Pluvian scientist the crystalline Martinex along with Yondu, a finned alien native from the Alpha Centauri system.

This unlikely gang of four battle the Brotherhood of the  Badoon in 3007 A.D. for one brief shining issue then disappear into the comic book mists.

They reappear many years later in the 1974 pages of Marvel-Two-In-One and enlist the time-traveling Ben Grimm and Captain America to help them in their ongoing future war with the deadly Badoon. These stories were written by Steve Gerber and drawn with precision by Sal Buscema.

That battle continues in the 20th Century in the pages of Giant-Size Defenders #5 with vibrant Don Heck artwork . Some of the Guardians are now sporting ginchy new costumes designed by Dave Cockrum.

Then the saga shifts back to the future in four issues of The Defenders regular comic again written by the  Gerber-Buscema team. The Badoon are ultimately defeated and the Guardians meet a new member, the enigmatic Starhawk.

These Defenders issues were a try-out of sorts for the space team of the future and it worked, with the Guardians next showing up in their very own comic under the official title of Marvel Presents. With scribe Steve Gerber and artist Al Milgrom in control, the Guardians at long last would find their way forward.

The team adds yet another member when Nikki, a firebrand from Venus hooks up with the Guardians. I'm of two minds about the addition of Nikki and Starhawk because I always felt that the original core group of four, Astro aside, were not developed sufficiently before these additions. Nonetheless the team pressed on.

One curious issue of Marvel Presents was a fill-in which featured some of Silver Surfer #2, the 1968 comic which actually debuted the Badoon battling the "Sentinel of the Spaceways" a few months before they show up in the future to conquer our solar system.

The run in Marvel Presents ended with the twelth issue and after this brisk brisk outing the Guardians were once again an itinerant team.

The second volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow's Avengers tells how the Guardians encounter Korvac and how that menace would develop into one of the Assemblers greatest epic struggles, one in which the Guardians were along for the ride.

After being featured early on, the Guardians take something of a back seat in what is called "The Korvac Saga" today, but their role is nonetheless pivotal.

In the collected Korvac Saga, a few extra pages were added by Mark Gruenwald to fashion a coda ending to the epic. Those extra pages are in this latest collection.

The Guardians are rejected from Avengers affiliation after the battle with Korvac, but they are still in the 20th Century. That leads to a number of guest appearances.

Major Astro meets Miss Marvel.

Most of the team encounters the ubiquitous Spider-Man.

Starhawk becomes involved with The Thing again and helps to deal with the aftermath of the death of Adam Warlock.

Finally the team shows up in an issue of Marvel-Two-In-One to deal with the offbeat consequences of their presence in the here and then, since Vance Astro exists in two forms. That conundrum is dealt with, but after that the Guardians are largley forgotten in the Marvel Universe, until many years later when Jim Valentino relaunches them in their fist self-titled run. But that is another story indeed.

These two collections reflect what made Marvel so fine back in the day. The story of the Guardians unfolded over time slowly and in a meandering way touching first one port of call then another over the years as we learned more and more about these fascinating characters. They became increasingly woven into the larger fabric that was the sprawling Marvel Universe, but in a manner which seemed natural and less contrived somehow that what we chance upon these days with persistent events dominating the flow of the storytelling. 

My affection for the original Guardians (not the gang soon to be featured in a theater near you alas) is largely because of the large impression they made on me as a youngster of ten who had just happened across a copy of Marvel Super-Heroes #18 just before my folks headed on an impromptu trip to Georgia to help my Aunt and Uncle with something, and my siblings and I were dropped off at our grandparents' house for a week or so. I still remember clutching that cherished comic and reading it to literal shreds as this was that softly glowing time of innocent youth when I sucked out every mote of joy from any comic book I could get my grimy mitts on.

Great memories! A great team! Two great collections!

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  1. This is a real mitzvah because the korvac saga tpb was impossible to find when I was looking for it a couple of years ago

    1. Well they've got the whole shebang in the second volume of this collection including the Thor Annual which stated it all, which I'm not sure is in the original collections. What's weird is that the Guardians are not in a lot of the issues contained.

      Rip Off

  2. Rip --

    I have the material from the first trade in the two Marvel Premiere Harcovers, "Earth Shall Overcome" and "The Power of Starhawk". I really need to make time to read the Marvel Presents stories and get some reviews posted on the BAB.

    Thanks for all the cover scans -- love seeing them all in one place!


    1. Me too. It really makes the collections seem rich and inviting. These are pricey, but I think they offer good value.

      Rip Off


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