Published May 30, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy: What on Earth

Chad Bowers and Chris Sims send the space heroes into Secret Empire!

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Everybody and their father has been talking about the release of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” but what do Star-Lord and his intergalactic crew have going on in the comics, particularly in the wake of Secret Empire? Mentally prepare yourself.

As an unstoppable Chitauri army attacks Earth on behalf of a Hydra-fied S.H.I.E.L.D., an impenetrable forcefield erected by a reality-altered evil Steve Rogers keeps the planet’s heroes off-world. We spoke to ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY ANNUAL #1 writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims—who team with artist Danilo Beyruth for the June 28-shipping special—about just what Peter Quill and friends plan to do about all this. How was it writing an annual set to go out right around the same time as a new Guardians movie? Do you see the comics as a point of accessibility to people who are getting into it because of the films?

Chad Bowers: Oh, yeah, that’s my absolute hope. I hope some people come out of the theater and drive down to the comic book store and see this next month and are all about it. That’s kind of the goal, to make sure that people [who] want more from the movie have an outlet for that. [Laughs] Yeah, it’s obviously no coincidence that several of the new characters from the new movie are in our book. We wanted to make sure we focused on those guys who the spotlight was on. So if the Secret Empire aren’t the big bad in this issue, do you focus more on the Chitauri? Or are there other enemies to contend with as well?

Chad Bowers: [The Chitauri are] sort of just a background force in our book. We don’t really go face-to-face with them; they’re a threat that’s just on the outside of our story. Honestly, I didn’t give a lot of thought to them. I tried not to put too much on who it was but rather on this thing that was looming and impending. It’s certainly a big idea because the way that the Chitauri have been portrayed in the main book is as this unlimited force battering away at people. Thinking of them as this weird limitless enemy is something we played with because it makes the stakes that much higher.

Chris Sims: Well, to talk about the enemies of the story, Yondu plays a big part, too. Yondu and the Ravagers are in there. Chad’s big high concept when we started pitching it, though, is that there was an old issue of the ‘90s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and it was set in the future and the cover has the blurb “Planet of the Punishers.” The idea is that, you know, in the 30th century the future versions of the Guardians come down to Earth and there’s this cult that worships Frank Castle and all these people in Punisher costumes who are attacking them.

Chad Bowers: At the time, I guess they were trying to keep people’s interest by getting as crazy as they could with the concepts and stuff, but that issue had a huge impact on me when I was a kid. I just loved the idea. Even just the title—“Planet of the Punishers”—is great. Visually it’s really cool, too. It almost has this European graphic novel feel to it, like a Mobius.

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 cover by David Nakayama

Chris Sims: But in Marvel comics, there’s Frank Castle as The Punisher and then there are Galactus’ killbots that are also called Punishers, so we wanted to take the idea of “Planet of the Punishers” and do it in a way that was, like, cosmic. So the big obstacle that they face in the annual is the planet entirely populated by Galactus’ Punisher robots. We thought that would be a really fun enemy for them. What’s really cool about the Guardians is that their fighting styles are so specialized from team member to team member, physically and philosophically. How does that come into play against all these different enemies and the question of whether or not the Earth even can be saved?

Chris Sims: It’s really interesting, because Star Lord’s from Earth so he’s very intimately invested in this conflict where the other Guardians aren’t, and that’s a social conflict in our story. Where it begins, Peter has a desperation in him that is really kind of appealing to me on a character level. I mean, they’re desperate enough that Peter is gonna turn to Yondu. Peter is very much invested in trying to save the Earth because even though he’s been out in space for years and years, Earth is his planet. He has a connection to the larger Marvel Universe and to Earth specifically that goes beyond the fact that he’s human. It goes to his friends and the connections he has there.

We start the story start with all the different ways they try to get help and fail. And I think that, with Peter, that builds the desperation. With Rocket, and Gamora, that builds more of the feeling that they’re trying to fix this broken planet.

Chad Bowers: There’s nobody on that team that’s even of the same, like, species; it’s a really fun way to play because you’re not likely to find as diverse a cast in comics as you will [with the] Guardians.

Chris Sims: I think it’s an interesting place to go with the story because what we’re showing is what they kind of agree on as their last attempt to save Earth and whether or not that’s gonna work.

If you go back to the Civil War II stories with the Guardians, like, Rocket hates Earth. Rocket couldn’t care less. Everyone else is sort of trapped in the middle between those two extremes. There’s Peter being like, we need to do this because it’s my home, and Rocket being like, I hate that place. And then Drax is a pacifist and doesn’t really want to get involved in conflict and for Gamora, she sees what’s happening on Earth and she [sees] what Steve Rogers is doing, what the Chitauri are doing, and she thinks they’re essentially fighting a losing battle. Because if they get back to Earth, if they break down the shield… then what? It’s a lost cause for her. How does baby Groot feel on the matter?

Chris Sims: I think he feels I am Groot [about it.] So if they get the shield down, they’ll have more problems to deal with; how would one even go about fighting against an endless enemy like the Chitauri?

Chad Bowers: Well, that’s a good question; I think the heart of our story is that it doesn’t matter how you take on that enemy as long as you don’t do it by yourself. You find people who are willing to help you and you come at it from every direction with as many allies as you can and that’s what our story’s all about, trying to find help when the world’s falling apart. Though that’s probably not as cool an idea as kung fu.

Check out Chris Sims, Chad Bowers’, and Danilo Beyruth’s ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY ANNUAL #1 due out June 28.


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