***This article discusses the mid-credits scene of Avengers, and if you haven’t seen it yet and have managed to avoid spoilers, well, that’s impressive and we don’t want to ruin it for you.**
Nearly a year ago, reports surfaced that Marvel Studios was looking at Guardians of the Galaxy as a potential future movie property. Though it excited fans, it also seemed like ultimately a long shot — it’s a relatively unknown commodity to all except hardcore comic book fans, and one that has only existed since 2008 (since it’s the present-day cosmic team that’s in development, not the 31st century superheroes that have been around sicne 1969). Plus, the last superhero/sci-fi movie was Green Lantern, a major financial and critical disappointment.
Following a few recent developments and the continually escalating success of Avengers, it seems like a Guardians of the Galaxy movie might just happen, potentially as soon as 2014.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige himself mentioned it as a possibility last month at the Avengers press junket, expressing his fondness for the property and listing it among Inhumans, Doctor Strange and the long in-the-works Ant-Man as non-sequel films being considered.
Things started to feel a lot more real following the now-famous mid-credits scene of Avengers, where Thanos is revealed as the mysterious force behind Loki’s Chitauri army. Thanos certainly has a history with the Guardians of the Galaxy crew, and is a big part of the cosmic sphere of the Marvel Universe they inhabit.
In an example of perfectly timed corporate synergy, Thanos appeared at the end of this month’s Avengers Assemble #3, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley. That comic, though set in classic Marvel Universe continuity, is specifically aimed at new and lapsed readers looking for a similar experience to the Avengers film — it shares the main cast of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye — and solidified Thanos as a vital player within its narrative.
Still, anyone could guess that Thanos is the likely villain of Avengers 2, and that didn’t necessarily mean the Guardians of the Galaxy were involved in the comic book story. Until Marvel’s August solicitations made it abundantly clear that they are involved, with Drax, Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon and Bug all appearing on the cover of Avengers Assemble #6, with the two teams “teaming up to bring the Mad Titan some cosmically-charged pain!”
As a consultant on multiple Marvel Studios films, Bendis is already part of that ecosystem. As the writer of Avengers Assemble, he’s the most likely candidate to present a movie-ready version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. His eight-year run on the Avengers comic was a clear influence on the film, down to the inclusion of Maria Hill, a character he created. And his time with the Guardians might not be limited to one story arc —Bendis has said in the past that Avengers Assemble leads directly to his post-Avengers plans, fueling speculation that he might soon be revamping the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe.
At face, that’s a surprising choice for Bendis, who is traditionally known for more down-to-Earth fare from his Daredevil run to creator-owned books like Scarlet. On Twitter, he acknowledged the unlikely reality of him writing the Guardians of the Galaxy in Avengers Assemble, joking, “My fave Guardians of the Galaxy were always Speed Racer, Rom, Amethyst, and the one with the hat.” While it very well could be simply a sign of him looking for new challenges a dozen years into his time at Marvel, it’s also possible that it’s part of a larger plan to prepare Marvel’s next big multimedia property.
Though they haven’t had their own series since spring 2010, subtle steps have been taken to make the Guardians of the Galaxy more visible on a mainstream level. The team appeared in a recent episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series, and a box set of Star-Lord, Drax, Rocket Raccoon and Groot action figures can currently be found at retail outlets like Target (Drax is also part of the latest Marvel Legends action figures line).
It’s been established that Marvel Studios is keeping the May 16, 2014 date warm for an untitled, as-yet unrevealed film — and it’s not Iron Man 3 or Thor 2 (those are both in 2013), and it’s not Captain America 2, which is scheduled for April 2014. Given that, a Guardians of the Galaxy movie could possibly fit in that May slot — though that would be a turnaround of less than two years, it could conceivably be a relatively quick production that, given the genre, would presumably heavily use sets and green screen rather than shooting on location. It would make sense as an Avengers 2 prequel, further establishing Thanos and boosting the obscure Guardians by associating them with one of the highest-grossing movies in history. As a bonus, it also provides Disney a chance to give sci-fi/action another shot after John Carter failed to launch, and gives Marvel Studios a franchise that’s not conventional superheroes.
Though a Guardians of the Galaxy movie might still seem unlikely by nature, it’s clear that Marvel is looking at lesser-known properties to start widening their scope beyond the world of the Avengers. After all, marquee names like Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Daredevil are still locked up at other studios — likely for a very long time. There simply aren’t a lot of characters recognizable to mainstream audiences left available to Marvel Studios, so building up something like Guardians of the Galaxy is almost a must.