I'll tell you a secret about comic book fans; we can be remarkably possessive. You see it the most when a movie or TV series dares to actually change a character or concept, abandoning the original source material. Whether you're talking Tony Stark creating Ultron rather than Hank Pym in Avengers: Age of Ultron, or Batman shooting up his enemies in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, any change is always going to be controversial.
Unless, of course, your name is James Gunn and you're dealing with Guardians of the Galaxy. Fans of the comics will know that Gunn switched up the central character of Star-Lord pretty dramatically when it came to Guardians, and that's set to continue. It's now an open secret that Gunn has dropped one of the central parts of Star-Lord's character: his family line. Where the #Marvel comics version of Star-Lord is son of J'son, absolute monarch of Spartax, in the #MCU Star-Lord is actually the son of Ego, the Living Planet.
Yes, really. His dad's a planet.
In part, Gunn has gotten away with it simply because, until the 2014 blockbuster hit, the Guardians of the Galaxy were pretty low-profile as a superhero franchise. In part, though, he's also succeeded because of the sheer style and quality of his work, which has meant fans simply fell in love with the cinematic version. (It's no coincidence the comic book version has changed to become remarkably similar to Chris Pratt's Peter Quill.) But why has he made a change so dramatic? Over on Twitter, Gunn has finally explained it:
Let's explore those reasons!
1. The character doesn't speak to me
Here's something that comic book fans forget; when it comes to movies, the writers, directors and producers are artists, and their artistic preferences should always inform the film. To insist they should blanket-copy the original comics is to deny them the ability to actually use their gifts, to work with the characters and concepts that speak to them, and in so doing to diminish film. You don't get better movies by locking in your team's creativity.
In the case of J'son of Spartax, he's simply the latest in a long line of monarchs who love their own power and glory. Although Brian Bendis recently developed him by having him take on the criminal identity of Mr. Knife (seriously), the truth is that J'son is a pretty one-dimensional character. In James Gunn's view, the character just doesn't speak to him, and so wasn't one he wanted to use.
2. His name is J'son
At first glance this sounds like Gunn is being flippant, but he's actually got a really good point. Comics went through a phase in the 1970s and 1980s where they simply took an Earth word or name, removed the odd vowel and added an apostrophe or two, and then said it was an alien name. So the real name of DC's Starfire is Koriand'r and her sister, another monarch, is Komand'r. Now, don't get me wrong; I'm a huge fan of Starfire (her last ongoing series was, in my opinion, one of my all-time favorite runs). But you can see what I mean with the names!
I agree with James Gunn. There's no way an alien ruler named J'son could be taken seriously on the big screen.
3. The Whole Royal Family Thing
Although Guardians sits inside the superheroic MCU, it's really space-fantasy — and, as he says, there's nothing new about 'alien royal families' in space-fantasy. The classic examples are Princess Leia Organa (of Alderaan) and Queen Padme Amidala (of Naboo). Broaden your gaze, though, and you find the trope pretty much everywhere — if the royal is a princess then they're usually a romantic interest, and if they're a king then they're often a tyrant.
James Gunn has a point. The whole 'Royal Family' concept is in danger of being played out. (This may have become an even wiser choice given that next year's Inhumans TV series will be starring the #Inhumans royal family, and is also set in the MCU).
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So there you have it — the three reasons James Gunn decided to give Star-Lord a new dad. Of course, how he got from that to Ego the Living Planet is anyone's guess - we won't really know until we see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. That said, given how well Gunn did with the original Guardians of the Galaxy, I think it's safe to trust him.
Do you think James Gunn was right to ditch the character of J'son?
Poll Image: Marvel Comics