(CBR) For Marvel Comics' “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise the past is literally the future. That's because the original incarnation of the team hailed from an alternate future timeline where they battled the armies of the alien Badoon and a host of other intergalactic menaces. Readers first met the team in a story that appeared in 1969's “Marvel Super Heroes” #18 by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, and sinc then the 31st Century-based team appeared numerous times before graduating in the early '90s to their own self-titled series that lasted 62 issues.
In 2008, the legacy of the Guardians came to the modern Marvel Universe when a rag tag band of heroes banded together to defend the galaxy in the aftermath of the “Annihilation: Conquest” event and discovered an alternate reality member of the original Guardians had travelled back to the present. That incarnation of the team adopted the Guardians name and continues to be in use today in the latest volume of “Guardians of the Galaxy” written by Brian Michael Bendis.
This month, the team reaches an important milestone with “Guardians of the Galaxy” #14, which marks the 100th issue of a “Guardians” comic book. The milestone issue features stories by Bendis, previous “Guardians” writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who created the current line up of the team in 2008. CBR News spoke with new series editor Mike Marts about the landmark issue, which also features the debut of new penciller Nick Bradshaw and lays the groundwork for two new members — Venom and Captain Marvel — to join the team.
CBR News: Mike, I was looking over the books you edited during your initial stint at Marvel and while science fiction was a big part of many of them, I believe the only series you previously worked on that features close to the type of sci-fi you see in “Guardians” was a “Starjammers” series, correct?
Mike Marts: Yes, this is all new territory for me. Most of my experience at Marvel has been with X-Men characters, but I have to tell you this is such an exciting time to come into this franchise. There's a movie coming out and a positive buzz around the comic books.
This group of characters is so well defined you come into the story and you feel like you know them. The work that Brian [Bendis] is currently doing and the work that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning did in the past helped define such a great cast.
Let's talk a little bit about the role the current incarnation of the Guardians plays in the Marvel Universe. Some would look at these guys and label them as cosmic Avengers, but Abnett and Lanning designed the group as a team of misfits; they came together to save the universe because they were the only ones ready to in the wake of almost back-to-back intergalactic wars. What's your sense of the group and the larger role they play in the Marvel U?
They're a unique set of individuals. Most of these characters are the last surviving member of their kind. That puts them in unique positions, and yes they very much are a group of misfits; they're very much outsiders. Them coming together despite all their weird differences and acting as a team says a lot about what they can accomplish. So it really is no surprise that they can go out and solve problems and fight crimes on a global and galactic scale and end up saving the day.
Let's talk a little bit about the overall story Brian is currently telling in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The previous series had a brisk pace and told multiple stories with large scale threats. This series has told some stories with some big set pieces, but it feels like Brian is building towards something we haven't seen yet, especially with the political maneuvering done by Star-Lords's father, J-Son of Spartax, in the recent “Trial of Jean Grey” crossover with “All-New X-Men.” Is that correct?
Yes, that's absolutely correct. All of the interaction with the X-Men and the Shi'ar Empire is one aspect the Guardians have to deal with, and then when you add in J-Son of Spartax who has an entire galactic empire at his command and happens to be the estranged father of our hero, Peter Quill, there's just so many different layers and different directions that this book can go in. Brian has really only just scratched the surface of what we're going to be doing.
So if storytelling were a roller coaster, “Guardians” readers are currently rocketing up a big hill toward an even bigger payoff?
Totally, but I actually think we're at the bottom of the hill. We've got a long way to go. It's going to be an exciting ride, and then once we take the dip down it's just going to be crazy.
One of the big stories on the horizon is “Guardians” #14, which is the 100th overall issue of a “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic. What can you tell us about this milestone issue? Was this something you were involved with or was it primarily handled by your predecessor, editor Steve Wacker?
I got to work on a big part of this issue. It's very much a big anniversary issue. In the main story you've got Brian Bendis and Nick Bradshaw telling a captivating story about Peter Quill and the fact that the Guardians are separated and pretty much at the mercy of J-Son of Spartax. You've also got the character of Venom, who has come from Earth and is trying to figure out how he can fit into the Guardians and into the larger Galaxy. Then we've got two extremely interesting stories to wrap up the book. One is written by Dan Abnett and drawn by Gerardo Sandoval, and then another story that is written by Andy Lanning and illustrated by Phil Jimenez.
So you've got two writers who were instrumental in establishing the current “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and you've got the current writer of the book who is spearheading it in a new direction. All of these guys are coming together and doing their best work in this one issue. So it's a pretty phenomenal issue. Readers definitely won't want to miss this.
You mentioned Venom will be joining the team, and we know Captain Marvel will be a part of the Guardians soon as well. What do you feel these characters add to the team and the book?
What they add is experience as heroes and they also bring a connection to the Earthbound Marvel heroes. They're sort of connection points and anchors to that part of the Marvel Universe.
Venom has been very Earthbound throughout his career and has played both hero and villain, and Captain Marvel has been everywhere. She's been in outer space, been on Earth, and dealt with the Avengers. So both of them bring unique things to the table.
I'm guessing Venom is almost a point of view character for new readers and a way for regular fans to see the “Guardians” world in a new light?
Issue #14 sees a new addition to the “Guardians of the Galaxy” creative team as well in the form of artist Nick Bradshaw. What do you feel he brings to the book as an artist?
This is my first chance to work with Nick and it's been fantastic so far. Nick's style is very unique and the great thing about Nick is he puts 200 percent into every page. His pages are so full of details and he's the perfect artist to tackle things like spaceships, outer space, space stations, and bizarre aliens. So Nick is the perfect artist at the right time for this book.
Just as the Guardians are welcoming new team members their leader, Star-Lord, disappears. Is the story that kicks off in issue #15 partly about the role that Star-Lord plays in the book?
Most definitely. He's very much going to be at the mercy of his father and at the same time he's trying to help his teammates that he's been distanced from. So it's a different type of story and Peter will have to be a hero in a different way than readers are accustomed to seeing.
Finally, what sort of details and teases can you gives us about the antagonists the Guardians are up against in this next big story?
The Guardians' opponents are only going to get bigger. There are opponents like J-Son whose intentions are just and is related to a member of the Guardians, but at the same time they're going to be facing some other threats. That's going to be a big challenge.
This is a perfect time for readers to come into a book like “Guardians.” With the movie coming out this summer and all the fun and excitement that's building around this franchise it's a great time to come on board the book.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” #14 goes on sale April 23.