Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow's Avengers

Arnold Drake, Steve Gerber, Gene Colan & others
Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow's Avengers (1977)

Neither talking raccoon nor pugilist tree anywhere to be seen, this collection being a reprint of the original version of the Guardians, as previously reprinted in the English Star Wars Weekly back when I was a boy of the age group for which these strips were written and drawn. I liked the film a lot, but for me the Guardians of the Galaxy will always be these guys - Charlie-27, Martinex, Vance Astro, and the others.

Naturally I sought this out during a fit of nostalgia not entirely unlike that which recently inspired me to shell out on collections of old Captain America and Warlock comics. Happily it too seems to have stood the test of time in so much as that whilst the strips are very clearly aimed at boys of about twelve and not much older, at least psychologically, they work well within such limitations and with no obvious pandering involved. In fact, given that this is essentially a really fat kid's comic book, I'm surprised at how many days it has taken me to read the thing. This is because Guardians of the Galaxy was first published when Marvel was at its most wordy, each panel surmounted by loquacious captionage describing the contents of said panel in a voice combining Williams Shatner and Shakespeare or thereabouts; but the writing is of such standard as to resist the quality of parody even thirty or more years later. It's not Tale of Two Cities by a long shot, and one should keep in mind that Marvel's understanding of science-fiction was essentially capes, superpowers, and men frowning and saying behold! against a Kirby inspired backdrop of planets and cosmic forces, but there's nevertheless sufficient scope for plenty of pleasantly weird ideas - not the full on acid trip of Jim Starlin's Warlock, but coming fairly close in places.

Furthermore, Arnold Drake and Gene Colan's Earth Shall Overcome!, as reprinted from a 1969 issue of Marvel Super-Heroes - the first appearance of the Guardians - probably ranks amongst the strangest comics Marvel has ever produced - van Vogt-style evolved supermen inhabiting a harshly lit expressionist world of angles and half-seen horrors. It seems significant that Arnold Drake is probably better remembered as the creator of the similarly freakish Doom Patrol. Despite the promising start, the Guardians, so it would seem, lay more or less fallow for almost another decade barring uninspiring appearances alongside the Thing in Marvel Two-in-One and later The Defenders - all gathered here - before really finding their feet with the material which was eventually reprinted in Star Wars Weekly; and for a kid's comic which still reads like a kid's comic - aside from it being difficult to process issues of The Defenders without being reminded of Daniel Clowes taking the piss out of that sort of thing - it has generally aged very well.

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