Gerry Duggan always swings for the fences. From his work on such comic book series as Uncanny Avengers and Deadpool, the writer injects big ideas and rich character development into whatever story he tackles, keeping readers reeling and second- and third-guessing about where the tale is going right up to its last leg.
That care and craftsmanship is certainly front-and-center in his new series, All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, now on its fifth issue from Marvel Comics. So far, Duggan has thrown the Guardians into the deep-end of chaos and crazy, conned into an Ocean’s 11-type heist as pawns of the universe’s cosmic elders. To further complicate matters, Guardians member Gamora is having an existential crisis that could throw a monkey wrench into the works that might have far-reaching consequences for her teammates.
Mr. Duggan spoke with me recently about where we find the Guardians of the Galaxy in this new series, how incompleteness factors into the team’s cohesion, and “going big and weird” with the book’s yarns.
FreakSugar: For folks who haven’t been reading the new series so far, where do we find the Guardians currently in All-New Guardians of the Galaxy?
Gerry Duggan: At the ends of the galaxy, and at one another’s throats. Gamora has a secret which has just been revealed. Long ago she fell in battle and her soul was placed into the soul gem. Now she’s become convinced that part of her soul remains trapped in the gem. That will have consequences reverberating throughout our story.
FS: Many series promise fresh starts, but while Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket are all familiar, there does seem to be enough of a change in the characters that makes them feel new. Did you have any sort of mission statement in mind when you began plotting the series?
GD: Just to make space weird again. [Series artist] Aaron Kuder and I spoke at length about what kind of mark we wanted to leave on the Marvel Cosmic Universe, and it dovetailed with what [former Guardians of the Galaxy writer Brian Michael] Bendis’ advice to us was: go big and weird. Put Earth in the rear-view and put our foot down on the gas. I think we’ve taken this now very recognizable characters and we’ve thrown them down the rabbit hole. The end of Aaron’s first arc will show us that not all is as it once was. The Cosmic elders are aware that their universe is different now. They don’t know why this is, they don’t know that their universe was taken apart and put back together by an intelligence beyond their sight. They don’t know about the events of Secret Wars…and it’s driving them crazy. I can sympathize, I’m also driven close to madness by our world.
FS: One of the threads that you seem to be exploring in your run thus far is incompleteness, both literal and figurative. Is it that incompleteness that keeps drawing the Guardians back to one another, despite declaring each score together to be their last?
GD: I think so. One of the great things about a team book like Guardians is that no matter what they’re up against, they still have that familial foundation. On a personal note, and I think for artists in general, and really anyone that picks up and moves a great distance from home can relate to a diverse family unit like the Guardians. When I moved across the country to Los Angeles almost two decades ago I was separated by everyone I knew — friends, family and institutions, but I was lucky enough to be adopted by a wonderful group of artists, actors, writers, comedians and a dyke biker gang. Almost to a person, we were all from someplace else, but we made our own family out of what we had. Those were some fun times, and that experience now has value now in collaborating on Guardians. Being far from everything that is familiar will teach you more about yourself and the world than almost anything else. For Gamora of course, her surrogate family seems not to be enough to keep her centered. There will be wide-reaching consequences.
FS: Following up on that, Rocket mentions earlier in the series that Quill seems to be the most well-adjusted of the Guardians at the moment, but that can’t last for long, can it? Does he have secrets of his own that you want to explore later on?
GD: I think everyone has their secrets. At the moment, I find Star-Lord’s skeletons not as exciting as the ones that we’ve cooked up Gamora, and a few others. I couldn’t be more gratified by the notices that we’ve received on the book — from both the publishing fandom and the newer cinematic universe, but I always laugh at the sparks that fly around the character of Star-Lord. What’s not to love? He got to leave Earth at a young age and live in space shooting shit. We’re all different people at different times in our lives. Peter Quill can be a general when we need saving, and a space-faring Indiana Jones when the galaxy isn’t on fire. On a personal note, I write to music all the time, and I’m grateful to inherit a character that now has a way to express that.
Speaking of, we haven’t forgotten that Drax was once a saxophonist from Burbank. We’re all different people at different times in our life. That thought right there might be the “Lewboski rug” that ties this story together.
FS: We learn in issue 3 that one of Gamora’s drivers for their current mission is to acquire the soul gem so that whatever piece of her is trapped inside can be freed so she may be made whole. However, she’s doing so on the advice of someone from a dream that she believes to be part of her soul. Can she trust the other Gamora? Or is she so desperate to fill a yawning within her that she’ll take her chances?
GD: Well, Gamora seems to be taking her Old Soul at face value. But if the Gamora in the soul gem that has blinded herself is running a con, it’s a convincing con. The cool thing about this gig is that it really asks me to try to expand my understanding of what is possible. One of the coolest things to mull over is that our universe is actually a highly evolved simulation. There are all kinds of exciting writing out there on the subject. The science and philosophy behind it. The soul gem seems to operate as a hard drive. Copying and storing vast, VAST amounts of information. That’s a lot of story potential. I couldn’t say definitively whether we’re living in a simulation or not. Unfortunately for the characters I’m writing, I can confirm they are living in a simulated universe. I sincerely wish them the best during this current iteration of their lives.
FS: You seem to be having a good time, going all-out in the series so far, ratcheting up the type of bombast that the Guardians are known for—which makes using the Collector and the Grandmaster for your inaugural story such a great choice. What is it about playing with these characters in this sandbox that appeals to you on a storytelling level?
GD: I thought we needed their near-limitless perspective of how the universe is a bit different than they thought it was. We’re approaching the end of Aaron’s first arc, and there will be some surprising revelations that will affect both the family of Guardians, and the family of Elders. The end of our first arc is actually the beginning of a grand cosmic adventure. The Infinity Quest will be a new tale about stones that seem to act as the source codes for the Marvel Universe. The stones operate in an unexpected manner. The first one we reveal during our first Legacy story should have people asking “What the hell is going on?”
FS: In that same vein, I love that you’re bringing in threads of characters and plots we haven’t seen in some time—especially the nods to the soul gem and Gamora and Adam Warlock’s time in it. Are there other pieces of cosmic lore from the Guardians’ lives that you hope to mine moving forward?
GD: Yes, very much so. We’ve jealously guarded some secrets about this story that actually go all the way back to our Free Comic Book Day issue. In issues 10, 11 and 12 we’ll start blowing those up. We’ll learn more about the Shi’ar Empire’s black ops group “The Fraternity of Raptors,” and are positioning themselves as opposites to the Nova Corps. Rich Rider is inbound, and another small surprise or two.
FS: Groot’s biology is being affected by a shadowy figure growing a horde of Groots, all of varying strength and temperaments. The stranger’s actions seem to be having repercussions that extend to our Groot’s mood, as he lashed out at Rocket at the end of issue 4. I know you can only tease so much, but will we be seeing the series delve more into Groot’s unique physical makeup as the series progresses?
GD: Yes! The Groot story has been a joy for us. We had this particular idea very early on, and I loved it because it leaned into the expectation that our Groot was small because the MCU version was. This is not true at all. I saw the people calling for “a big Groot again”. But be careful what you wish for…
Groot was originally conceived as a villain, and it’s fun to return to a corner of the sandbox is largely undisturbed since Kirby was there.The Groot story is gonna explode, and it has really the simplest of origins. Just wondering what if you threw Groot into a woodcutter and replanted the pieces, but…nurtured them differently? Fed them meat, but not nearly enough of it. We were able to unfold a horror story in Uncanny Avengers a year back by not telling anyone we were telling a horror story about Hank Pym and Ultron. I can’t hide this horror story, but it’s no less enjoyable.
FS: While the Guardians’ looks are familiar, Aaron Kuder brings a redesign that sets the members apart in a way from what we’ve seen before. What’s the collaboration process like with you and Aaron?
GD: Aaron has been fantastic to work with — I’m biased, but I think this is his finest work. His writing, storytelling, humor and composition have all been incredible. The acting on the faces is also top notch. Aaron can land the gut-punch on one page, and payoff the gag on the next. Not everyone can do that. We talk and text a lot about what is to come. His second arc feels like the absolute biggest and craziest jam I’ve ever been a part of. He gets to detonate a lot of the fuses we’ve lit across the galaxy.
FS: Is there anything you can tease about what to expect going forward?
GD: Issue 5 guest starring comics’ Lennon & McCartney is on stands now. They took an idea I had about how Earth pulses music into the universe and made it high art. Aaron returns in issue 6 as the Guardians’ lives are further complicated by the Shi’ar agent known only as Talonar. Eagle eyed readers may spot that matters are more complex than they appear. Then Greg Smallwood reveals why Drax has lost his taste for battle in issue 7.
Look around at the planet you stand on. You’re better off in space with us. It’s still only the first act of the craziest fucking story I could think of. Hope you join us.
All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #5, written by Gerry Duggan with guest artist Chris Samnee, is on sale now from Marvel Comics.
From the official issue description:
Star-Lord has been sailing the radio waves of the galaxy for years, keeping up with the one piece of Earth he could never quite leave behind. Guest artist Chris Samnee joins writer Gerry Duggan to check into Peter Quill’s sonic conquests!