Monday 8 May 2017

COMICS TO SCREEN: Guardians Vol. 2 Continuity Capers

Who is Star-Lord's father?

Star-Lord goes back to the 1970s and there have been a couple of versions of his backstory, but generally the comics agree that the father of Peter Quill is J'Son of Spartax, heir to and later ruler of the Spartax Empire, who crashed on Earth in the late seventies and was taken in by Meredith Quill. The MCU has gone down a different route, with James Gunn setting up some mystery at the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie by questioning Quill's parentage.

In this version of events, Quill's dad is Ego the Living Planet, an enormously powerful entity that caused trouble across the Marvel comics universe. In the film he calls himself a Celestial (see below), but in the comics he's said to be one of the Elders of the Universe, a group of extremely ancient and amoral beings that includes the Collector an the Grandmaster (as played by, respectively, Benicio del Toro in Guardians 1 and Jeff Goldblum in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok). There doesn't seem to be any reason he can't be both, though, as far as I can see.

Ego's enormous power and his control over matter and energy explain why Quill was able to handle the purple Infinity Stone without being vapourised. Until he severed his link with Ego, Quill displayed some remarkable powers, but now he's presumably a relatively normal mortal (then again, we shall see). Although Ego is killed in the course of Vol 2, there's not really anything stopping him slowly piecing himself back together again. It'll probably take him a few million years though.

Given his description of his development, I'd say Ego in the film can best be described as a Boltzmann Brain.

How did Marvel get to use Ego in the film?

It's actually quite surprising that Ego was able to appear in the movie. Although he was introduced by Jack Kirby in Thor i#132, as a character he is normally associated with the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and the X-Men, the film rights for his appearances lie squarely with 20th Century Fox. However, James Gunn was insistent on using the character, and Marvel Studios negotiated his use by allowing Fox to completely change the powers of Negasonic Teenage Warhead, whom they wanted for Deadpool. So the new question is, why did Fox need to negotiate that, considering everything they were allowed to do to Doctor Doom over three films?

Who are the Celestials?

The Celestials are a group of extraordinarily huge and powerful alien beings that date back billions of years to the early days of the universe. Their origins are mysterious, although recently The Ultimates suggested that they were created by the First Firmament, the sentience of the very earliest primal universe. They resemble impossibly tall armoured humanoids, and were responsible for the creation of the human offshoot races the Eternals and the Deviants. All of these beings were created by Jack Kirby for Eternals #1 in 1976. I'd strongly recommend reading Neil Gaiman and John Romira Jr's 2006 Eternals minieries, which is a work of art.

To give a rough idea of how powerful they are, the Celestials are considered gods by the Eternals, and the Eternals became several of the pantheons of gods of the human race. They are gods to gods. Thanos is also an Eternal, so there's an interesting link that may be explored in the MCU. So far, the MCU has given us a brief rundown of the Celestials thanks to the Collector's informative film in Guardians of the Galaxy, where we learn that they were responsible for the creation of the Infinity Stones. The planetoid Knowhere from that scene is constructed from a Celestial's severed head; in teh comics, the Guardians use this as their base.

Who are Sly Stallone and his friends?

Stallone is the big name cameo for the movie, playing an old Ravager named Stakar. This character, also known as Starhawk, was part of the original Guardians of the Galaxy team, created by Arnold Drake for Marvel Super-Heroes in 1969. The original Guardians made on-off appearances over the years before getting their own title in 1990. Set in a different timeline to mainstream Marvel series, it ran till 1995. Dan Abnett revived the title in 2008 with a new team of his own invention, featuring characters cribbed from various sources for the Annihilation storyline, and it was this team that became the focus of the movie Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. Through the complications of time travel, the original Guardians made appearances in the new title, before getting their own title again, Guardians 3000 in the follow-up to the movie.

As with many characters in the Guardians films, Stakar and his cronies have much more complicated backstories in the comics, and this has been avoided by just making them assorted aliens in the MCU. The assorted Ravagers that Stakar gets together to "steal some shit" in the aftermath of Vol. 2 are versions of most of the original Guardians team. As if Stallone wasn't big enough news, Michelle Yeoh plays Aleta. She and Stakar were brother and sister/husband and wife/alternative counterparts in the comics (see what I mean about it being complicated?). The crystalline being is Martinex, played by one-time Lex Luthor Michael Rosembaum, while the gigantic strong man is Charlie-27, played by Ving Rhames. The CGI monster is Krugarr of Lem, while the artificial being is Mainframe, voiced by Miley Cyrus, of all people. These guys will definitely be appearing in future movies. Oh, and you know who else was in the original Guardians team? Yondu Udonta.

Who is Adam?

In one of the many credits scenes, Ayesha is seen to be creating a new being to be the next evolution of the Sovereign race and to battle the Guardians of the Galaxy. She names him Adam. This is Adam Warlock, aka Warlock aka "Him," an extremely powerful superhero from the Marvel canon, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Fantastic Four in 1967. Initially wielding Superman-like powers, Adam Warlock has only grown more powerful over the years. Adam Warlock was created on Earth in the comics, by a group of scientists calling themselves the Enclave, and was matured in/regenerated in a large cocoon. A cocoon very much like this could be glimpsed in the background in the Collector's lair in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, a deliberate Easter Egg by Gunn, but it looks like this won't be developed now that Ayesha has been set up as Adam's creator. In the comics, the two characters are linked; Ayesha, aka Kismet aka "Her" has a very different backstory and is basically Adam's female equivalent. Adam Warlock was a major player in the the 2007/8 Annihilation storyline, joining the Guardians of the Galaxy afterwards. He's the main foe of Thanos in these comics, and wields the Soul Gem. Given the equivalent of this is the blue Infinity Stone, it seems likely that the Vision will be taking his role in Avengers: Infinity War, with Adam Warlock turning up later in Guardians 3.

Who can speak Groot?

Not many people, that's for sure. The language of Planet X is extremely subtle and full of nuance, with most beings hearing only "I am Groot." To begin with, it seems only Rocket could understand Groot, but after a long time together, the other team members are beginning to pick up his ways. By the time Groot is going through his second adolescence, Quill seems to understand him quite well.

However, if you really want to know what Groot was saying throughout the film, you'll have to find a copy of Gunn's special Groots-only script, which he gave to Vin Diesel so that he would know how to perform each line (in no fewer than sixteen languages this time).

Who's that duck?

Howard the Duck, as voiced by Seth Green, makes a cameo in the bar on the seedy sex planet (I forget the name, so I'm going to call it Eroticon 6). Green cameod as Howard in the final post-credits scene in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, having been part of the Collector's collection of weird galactic stuff. I don't foresee the interdimensional traveller from Duckworld becoming a star in the MCU, but given that Squirrel Girl is set to appear in an upcoming TV series, nothing is impossible. Although the 1986 Howard the Duck film is considered to be its own, separate entity, I see no reason we can't include it in the MCU. Obviously Howard looks a little different, but it's been a few years and he's clearly been through some rough times.

What's up with Stan Lee's cameos?

There's a fairly long-standing fan theory that the reason Stan Lee can appear in different contexts in multiple Marvel movies (including Big Hero 6 and films from Sony and Fox and so across multiple universes) is that he is, in fact, portraying the Watcher, an immensely old and powerful being that appears in order to witness significant events in the marvel universe's history.

Vol. 2 reveals that, while he might not be a Watcher, he certainly hangs out with them. Both of Stan's cameos in the movie see him with a group of Watchers on an asteroid, before they move on to places unknown. The Watchers have made appearances throughout the Marvel comics, usually in the person of Uatu, generally known just as The Watcher, who first appeared way back in Fantastic Four #13 in 1963. Co-created by Stan Lee, they are among the most powerful of the Marvel universe's many races, but usually remain uninvolved in the universe's affairs. In his cameos, Stan regales the Watchers with stories of his previous cameos, which goes to show that, whoever he is, he's the same being in each of his appearances.

Is that guy really called Taserface?

Yep. The funniest ongoing joke in the film is named after a character from the comics. Taserface was introduced in the first issue of the 1990 Guardians of the Galaxy comics, an alien cyborg who fought the gang to a stalemate. He later ditched the stupid name, going as "the Nameless One" for a bit before settling on Overkill, which is marginally less silly than Taserface.

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