The Guardians of the Galaxy. Artist: Jim Valentino.

THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1969
Creators: Arnold Drake (writer) and Gene Colan (artist)
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With the 1961 publication of Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics started on a path that eventually made it America's biggest comic book publisher. But in the early years, the company…

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… was hampered by distribution agreements limiting its production. When those limits were lifted, later in the decade, Marvel's output expanded immediately, with popular characters more effectively exploited and an explosion of new ones such as Captain Marvel and The Black Knight. Of course, not all of them clicked. One of the fizzles was a future-based superhero group called The Guardians of the Galaxy — no relation to Green Lantern's Guardians of the Universe.

The Guardians debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (January, 1969), which for the past year had been used as a Showcase-style try-out title, made possible by the line's recent potential for enlargement. The story was written by Arnold Drake (Deadman, Super-Hip), who had recently left rival DC Comics as a result of contract inequities, and drawn by Gene Colan (Sub-Mariner, Daredevil), who had been with Marvel for years.

The series was set in the 31st century, by which time humans had spread throughout the solar system and to nearby stars; and besides having adapted to various planetary environments, had encountered various authentic aliens — one of which, the Badoon, was bent on conquering Earth and its vicinity. The Guardians of the Galaxy originally banded together to oppose the project. The founding members, and only ones to appear in Marvel Super-Heroes, were Vance Astro (a 20th-century astronaut put in suspended animation to travel to Alpha Centauri, at loose ends because later, faster people had beaten him there while he slept), Charlie-27 (from human stock, but adapted to live on Jupiter), Martinex T'Naga (a crystal-structured alien from Pluto) and Yondu Udonta (also an alien, this one from another solar system).

The series promptly went nowhere. Even what had become a standard Marvel technique, nurturing new characters through crossovers until they found an audience, was difficult because there weren't any others in the 31st century to guest-star them with. They solved it with that old comic book standard, time travel; and in the '70s had the Guardians meet Captain America, The Thing, The Defenders and others. They even became honorary members of The Avengers.

While hanging around the 20th century, Vance visited his younger self, Vance Astrovik (who still retained a syllable the future Vance had dropped from his name), in an attempt to dissuade young Vance from going into astronautics, which had turned out so fruitless for him. Instead, 'Vik went into superheroics, first with a name taken from the old Marvel Boy and later calling himself "Justice".

It took 20 years, but eventually the Guardians, back in their home century, with a couple more members added, got their own comic. Guardians of the Galaxy #1 was dated June, 1990, and was written and drawn by cartoonist Jim Valentino (normalman). Valentino's work made the title a success, but it fell into decline in 1992 when he left Marvel, along with Todd McFarlane (Spawn), Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon) and others, to form Image Comics, where he did ShadowHawk, among others. Guardians of the Galaxy lasted 62 issues, ending in July, 1995.

The Guardians of the Galaxy property is currently dormant.

— DDM

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Text ©2007-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.