Published January 11, 2017

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Embracing the Weird

Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder make space strange for Star-Lord and friends!

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This May, April showers do not bring flowers. They bring weird, wild cosmic tales in the Mighty Marvel tradition.

We all owe it to the ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY series, written by Gerry Duggan and drawn by Aaron Kuder, which takes the intergalactic heroes back into space and twice a month besides.

We caught Kuder and Duggan, along with editor Jordan White, as they did the diagnostics on their space craft, so they made time to tell us all about put the odd back in the universe. From jump street in ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1, fans will notice things are a bit different from where the previous series left the Guardians. Can you all speak to what readers might notice has changed?

Gerry Duggan: Even though the characters are in a different place in their lives, you are going to instantly recognize them, the ones that you love from [writer] Brian [Michael Bendis]’s run and previous stories and even the movie that will be arriving that month. We are starting with that core group of Guardians before we begin to slowly expand it a little bit. So you will know them.

There will be some mystery about why some are a little bit different though. One of the first things that you’ll notice is that Groot is smaller than he has been before and we don’t quite know why. That will lead to a big story for the Guardians.

Then, also, Drax is still Drax that you know and love but he’s not destroying as much anymore. He’s struggling with violence. Something has happened to him to make him question his role as Destroyer and he’ll struggle with that a little bit. He’ll have help struggling with it because his friends won’t be putting him in a position to succeed as a pacifist.

Those are the most obvious ones. Gamora will be struggling with something a little bit more internal but we have a story planned early on that will set the table for her and possibly kick off a quest.

But, the first story Aaron and I are working on right now puts the Guardians between two very large cosmic entities. We have seen The Collector and his collection and we know that he loves having the one thing in the universe that no one else can have but there is another wonderful collection out there. It belongs to The Grandmaster and he’s very quiet about [it]. He doesn’t see the need to advertise about his collection but he is definitely a rival and gets under the Collector’s skin. It is sort of “Trading Spaces” in space; not quite, but they are caught between two very large, very powerful cosmic entities.

I’m so grateful Aaron is here. Aaron is helping keep space weird and it has really been a treat to have these pages roll in. You’ve given me a ton to follow-up on, so, to start with, I’ll just focus on Groot. As I understand it, he’s experiencing difficulty not just from the fact that he is smaller but that he can’t regenerate at this point. Is that accurate to say?

Jordan White: Right.

Gerry Duggan: I think so. We don’t quite know why. They are starting to get a little worried about it. The Guardians might be a little slow on it because they have a lot going on but readers will understand part of the problem before the Guardians do. That’s always fun, the readers knowing somethings the Guardians don’t.

Jordan White: In the past, whenever he’s done this, whenever this has happened to him, he’s regrown relatively quickly. So yeah, something is happening that is not allowing him to grown back to his regular self. With Drax’s new status trying to be a pacifist, trying to abstain from violence, how does that change the dynamics within the team?

Gerry Duggan: One of the great things is having these characters grind off each other and be annoyed. This will be a real bummer for the people who depend on Drax to destroy someone or something in a given situation so they’re trying to respect the problem he is going through but it will be difficult for them to swallow this at the moment.

Look, it is a very real thing. There obviously will be some laughs out of it. It is way to have some gags. However, it really is something he is struggling with that he isn’t able to overcome yet. They’re his friends and they want to help him but they also don’t want to get shot because he won’t pick up a sword.

This is very behind the scenes, but it will also allow us to then focus on Gamora as she’s picking up more of the slack. Drax isn’t going to mind the body count as long as it’s not on his ledger. Aaron, from your perspective, to take a character like Drax who is so closely associated with physical violence, what kind of artistic challenge does that give you to portray him going forward?

Aaron Kuder: I guess, given the new design, the new look, that was really kind of interesting in terms of how do you—the way I’m attacking visually is how do you capture a violent guy who isn’t doing violence even though it almost causes him physical pain to not inflict physical pain on others.

He’s got to internalize it and then I have to represent that visually. That’s what I went for with the design. I find it awesome to make the bowling ball character into the stoic straight man character. The comedy there, you know?

I’m relishing it.   This book is also taking the Guardians back to space after a brief time stuck on Earth. To stick with you for another minute Aaron, is portraying space exciting because there are less rules or does that make it more challenging? In the process have you found anything particularly thrilling or exigent in realizing the world(s) of this book?

Aaron Kuder: Well, it’s both, to be honest. You can draw space and get away with nothing but drawing stars as a background, representing as little or as much as possible.

But if you are doing your job, you are worried about the story and you are worried about if what you are doing communicates as much feeling visually as you can. If you try to just get away with the minimal, it will show up in the end.

In a sense, I could slack off a bit, but actually, in all honesty, I can’t. It’s just not in my nature to do that.

Pushing the boundaries is a blessing and a curse in space. It’s just so easy to go with the minimal but when you can go for the weirdest, why not go for it.

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1 cover by Aaron Kuder

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1 cover by Aaron Kuder Is there anything you have designed so far that you feel particularly excited about?

Aaron Kuder: Yeah…I don’t know if I can talk about it though…[Laughs]

Well, you know, even just giving the Guardians a fresh coat of paint, introducing stuff with Rocket and Drax’s design and Gamora’s design.

Gerry Duggan: This is perhaps a smaller detail, but, at least for me, you can set these adventures anywhere. We’ve seen locations on planet and locations in space and I think—we discussed how there was a rival collection and it is located in a really cool place that you wouldn’t normally think of as a place that is a normally formidable area.

I think life is probably stranger than we can imagine so if we are trying to imagine as a group [some] pretty out there things, that feels like a distance we should go to sort of imagine, “When you look up at the stars at night, there is more up there than you can’t possibly imagine.” So there is nothing you can imagine that is out of bounds.

So we try to come at it with a pretty big mandate to make things weird.

Aaron Kuder: It’s a planet of puppies.

Jordan White: Approved!

Aaron Kuder: [Laughs] Awesome.

But yeah, very nice way of vaguely saying what I didn’t want to give away. How has the collaboration informed both of your styles and approaches to the work?

Gerry Duggan: I think I’ve always been excited to re-polish my work after the pencils come back with all the artists I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with and with Aaron it has been the same way. Even if he doesn’t go that off book to tell the story, even if it’s close to the script, it’s always better in ways that I didn’t imagine. So it is always very valuable to me. We talk about the story, I go off and write the story, but Aaron is the one really “shooting” it. It has been really fun to get another crack at it after the art comes back because they have been so great.

Aaron has been good enough to draw a lot of really cool things in a short time, but I think this is his finest work yet. I can’t wait for this to be out there for everyone to see how cool ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is going to be.

Aaron Kuder: Visually speaking, everything about this book hits all my happy buttons. Not just in terms of in space, but as a career. Something that I want to be known for in 10-15 years, down the line when people look back on comics they loved from their past, I want people to be able to say, “oh yeah, he always drew really great weird stuff.”

Gerry Duggan: I want people to look back and remember fondly the very comfortable coattails I rode into space on.

Jordan White: First class coattails.

Aaron Kuder: Ehhh…it’s more like business class.   Part of the appeal, part of the hook of the book, is that it is being double shipped. That points a lot of extra pressure on you Aaron. To relieve that load, there are special solo issues in between.

Aaron Kuder: Yeah. I’m doing the first two issues, then they come in with a guest artist on the third. Then it is tandem art after that. So basically, my schedule is as though it is a monthly book. I just have to work in tandem with whoever is coming on with the other stuff.   Gerry, can you speak to some of the stories we will get in those issues?

Aaron Kuder: Gerry’s drawing one of them!

Jordan White: No!

Gerry Duggan: Yeah, I’m drawing one which I’m very excited about.

Jordan White: No, I forbid it. It is not happening. [Laughter]

Gerry Duggan: No, no, look, I’ll be honest with you. We are telling a story that is a long game here. That’s something I think that has felt in planning for books like DEADPOOL, to be able to tell some stories that have some unexpected thread that return to the present.

Some of these solo stories will be flashbacks to the recent past. We aren’t retconning anything, these are flashbacks to stories between the end of the Bendis run and the beginning of this run that will answer some questions and raise other ones.

The first one is about Peter Quill. The others—for instance, we are going to see what happened to Drax to make him unclench his fists finally. The Gamora one I’m really excited about; I’m just wrapping [that] up now. That is a story that is almost flashing back to the beginning of the character in a cool way and will create a lot of future opportunities for stories. I think the thing that we are doing here is really set a course for the unknown of the Marvel Universe.

These are characters that get into a lot of trouble but that we would be in a lot of trouble without. This is a situation out in space with these characters, some of them are really unpopular. We’ll see the Nova Corps being reconstituted and see how unpopular these characters are in the universe.

Then we have some elements of classic westerns—a rival group of peacekeepers who oppose the Nova Corps rule of law. It’ll be kind of like the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Marshalls in a western. One force will not be any more valid than the other and that’s really fertile places to put characters to tell weird cosmic Marvel Universe stories.

I’ve had so much fun the past few months going back to re-read old cosmic Marvel stories that I am really excited to bring back old Marvel characters you have not seen in a while or new characters created by this whole situation.

I think if you want to see high adventure with these characters you love in a weird cosmic setting, you are going to want to hop onboard and go to space with us.

If we are having fun, I think that translates onto the page and we are having a blast.

Join the party with Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder this May in ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY!