1975-1976: The Magus Saga
The character of Adam Warlock would be revived in a large storyline that also brought back Thanos and introduced Gamora.
This storyline, by Jim Starlin, ran from Feb. 1975 to Jan. 1976, beginning with in Strange Tales #178-181, and continuing in the renewed Warlock #9-11. In it, Adam encounters a tyrannical religious organization known as the Church of Universal Truth, headed by a being named Magus, who is actually a version of Adam from the future. Adam’s sidekick, the alien troll named Pip, encounters a beautiful green woman who is seeking Adam Warlock, the one who can defeat Magus. From one person’s reaction to her presence, it becomes apparent she is a well-known and deadly woman. She then introduces herself as “Gamora, the deadliest woman in the whole galaxy!” It is ultimately revealed that the person she is working for is none other than Thanos, who survived the crushing of the Cosmic Cube, merely being returned to his normal, mortal form. In his new attempts at conquest, he requires Adam Warlock’s Soul Gem, and for Adam to not become Magus. To that end, he used a time machine he had constructed to go into the future. There he found Gamora, a small girl whose entire civilization had been wiped out by the Church of Universal Truth. He took her back through time with him, and raised her to become a master assassin, all for the purpose of defeating Magus and stopping Adam from becoming him. Ultimately, the group succeeds in altering time so that the Church of Universal Truth never existed. (in later times, it would be stated that Gamora's civilization was wiped out by the Badoon). But Thanos has his own plans, which include universal genocide!
1975: Marvel Boy Returns
At the same time that all that was going on, in Fantastic Four #164-165 (Nov.-Dec. 1975), Stan Lee's character of Marvel Boy made a return, though not in the way one might expect. Awoken from suspended animation, and apparently having been driven insane by the destruction of his native Uranian colony, he became a supervillain known as The Crusader!
(By the way, a bit thanks to Mike Luoma's "Cosmic Crackle" blog over at comicrelated.com for the following information)
The cover story of the black-and-white magazine Marvel Preview #4 (Jan. 1976), by writer Steve Englehart and artists Steve Gan & Bob McLeod, introduced the character of Star-Lord, initially intended to exist in a future time outside the Marvel Universe. As a young man in 1973, Peter Quill and his mother saw an alien ship landing, but upon seeing the humans, the aliens fired on them and killed Peter’s mother. Years later, Peter is in astronaut training for a futuristic type of space travel, and is determined to go into space to find the aliens who killed his mother. He has also, however grown into a completely anti-social jerk, who is passed up for several opportunities because of his lack of people skills. In the year 1990, during a lunar eclipse the crew of the space station he is on experience a vision of a costumed man we know from the cover to be the main character. A voice tells them that this is “Star-Lord,” and that during the next solar eclipse, one of them will be chosen to become this man, and take up his “glorious destiny.” Peter, determined that this should be him, doesn’t take well being denied the opportunity. Although he is bounced off the station, he ultimately steals a ship, gets back on, and apparently even kills some guards on his way to the location where he saw the Star-Lord. There, he is teleported away, and finds himself facing an old, bearded man on a throne (Shazam much?) who refers to himself as the “Master of the Sun.” He bestows on Peter the Star-Lord costume, complete with a helmet which allows him to fly, and an “element gun" that can fire air, earth, water, or fire, at his mental command. The Master of the Sun tries to convince him his quest for vengeance is wrong, but either way, Star-Lord goes off into space for further adventures.
Nova #1 (Sept. 1976), by Marv Wolfman & John Buscema, debuted it’s own title character. In that story, a dying alien law enforcement official called Nova-Prime is tracking a villain named Zorr, when they pass over Earth. Nova-Prime decides to transfer his powers and suit to an Earth being (Green Lantern much?), and the person they end up finding is high school student Richard Rider. Although he doesn’t know any more than we do about all this, he tries to defeat Zorr, who gets away to become a recurring villain. He then becomes the Earth-based superhero Nova!
1976-1977: More Thanos
In Warlock #15 (November 1976) by Jim Starlin, Thanos appears again, and sends Gamora to become Warlock’s ally, his “bodyguard,” with her having no knowledge of her master’s true plans. On her way to Adam, however, she is attacked by Drax the Destroyer, and her ship explodes. This would be the final issue of Warlock, but the story was continued in issues of two other series, also by Starlin.
In Avengers Annual #7, Warlock discovers the dying Gamora, who, strangely enough, it now says was attacked by Thanos after she learned of his true plans. It turns out Adam’s “Soul Gem” is but one of a group of stones called the “Infinity Gems,” which are sources of great power. Thanos has been searching for the remaining ones, and has collected them all. In addition, in their previous encounter, Thanos managed to siphon off the power from Adam’s gem, thus giving him all the power he needs. He now has a major weapon he intends to use to destroy all life in the universe. He comes to Earth with, again, an armada of battleships, while he himself uses the device. Warlock, The Avengers, and Captain Marvel again stop him, and destroy the device. Warlock, however, is apparently killed in the fight. However, he finds his consciousness alive inside his gem, alongside his friends Pip and Gamora (with whom serious romantic tension had now been established), and happy.
In Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2, Spider-Man and The Thing join the party. Thanos still has the Soul Gem, and intends to use it to still obliterate Earth’s sun. However, the “spirit” of Adam Warlock briefly emerges from the gem, and turns Thanos to stone. It is said that Thanos is still conscious and aware, but permanently frozen in place.
1977-1981: More Star-Lord
Star-Lord appeared sporadically in these black-and-white issues of Marvel Preview. He next appeared over a year later in #11 (Jun. 1977). Steve Englehart abandoned his original intended story arc for the character, and was replaced by Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne. Claremont took away the character’s rough-edged, sarcastic personality traits, which would resurface years down the road.
In this issue, Star-Lord travels with a sentient shapeshifting ship named “Ship.” The two find themselves in the middle of a dynastic struggle for control over the planet space empire of Sparta As Peter attempts to stop the evil Prince Gareth from usurping the throne from his uncle, Peter meets the Emperor himself, called Jason, and discovers that they are almost identical. The Emperor turns out to be Peter’s father. He had crash-landed on Earth years ago, and was found and nursed back to health by Peter’s mother, with whom he fell in love. When he had to return home, he temporarily wiped the memories of their encounter from her mind. He later sent Gareth to find and bring him the woman and the child, but Gareth instead sent the aliens who killed Peter’s mother, and lied to his Emperor, saying both had died in childbirth. Discovering that he is the heir to an empire, Peter declines the opportunity, and instead returns to the stars with Ship.
Star-Lord continued to appear in Marvel Preview #14-15. In the former, Ship showed the ability to morph into a beautiful woman, and in the latter, was given an origin as a former sentient star who, after going supernova and was given her new form by The Master of the Sun.
1978: The New Marvel Boy
Captain America #217 (Jan. 1978) by writers Roy Thomas & Don Glut and artist John Buscema, featured a SHIELD agent, Wendell Vaughn, gaining a pair of super-powerful, extraterrestrial wristbands called “Quantum Bands” from the deceased villain The Crusader, and becoming known as Marvel Boy. He later changes his name to Marvel Man, and still later, to Quasar.
1979: The Nova Corps
During that time, the Nova series came to an end, with issue #25 (May 1979), still by writer Marv Woflman. In a battle with this villains, Nova discovers Nova-Prime’s spaceship in Earth’s orbit, and ends up being brought back to his home planet with it.
In the meantime, in Fantastic Four #204-209 (Mar.-Aug.), also written by Marv Wolfman, the origins of Nova are revealed. The planet Xandar was an advanced society in the Andromeda galaxy, until a ship of mysterious origin appeared and began draining all the planet’s energy. Their greatest hero, Rhomann Dey (ultimately revealed to be Nova-Prime), tried to save it, but the planet was destroyed. Four cities remained, however, encased in protective force fields (courtesy of Uatu, a cosmic character we will not be getting into) with conduits eventually built between them. Now, the cities are under attack by the Skrulls, and their leader comes to Earth, appealing to the Fantastic Four for help.
They ultimately join the fight, along with Nova, who joins a group of heroes known as the “New Champions” of Xandar to thwart the Skrulls. For Nova, however, this storyline would only be wrapped up until a guest-spot in the series Rom #24 in Nov. 1981, when he relinquished his powers to return to Earth. Eventually, in the 1990s, he would regain them and join the superhero team the “New Warriors.” In that eponymous series. But that’s neither here nor there. This storyline, however, introduced the Nova Corps, the entire fleet of officers with Nova’s suit and powers, and they would be a continuing presence in the Marvel Universe (and in the upcoming film)
1979-1981: The Last of Star-Lord?
In the meantime, Peter Quill got a couple more appearances, in Marvel Super Special Magazine #10 (Winter 1979), Marvel Preview #18 (Spring ’79), and Marvel Spotlight #6 (May 1980). This issue tells the origin of the Master of the Sun, as a former member of the same race that killed Quill’s mother, who rejected their ways, and is now being hunted down by them. He wanted to give a vengeful man a more peaceful existence, which is why he turned Peter Quill into Star-Lord The Master dies, as he wishes, in atonement for his crimes, and Quill declines to fight the aliens, in respect of the Mater’s pacifistic ways.
Quill continued to appear in Marvel Spotlight #7 and Marvel Premiere #61 in 1981, before getting his own special Star-Lord: Special Edition #1 in 1982. That issue reprints the events of MP #11, under a framing story set eighty years later, in which Peter and Ship finally return to his elderly father, and, leaving behind his Star-Lord helmet, departs with him to explore the stars together.
And that was it from Star-Lord for a long time.
1982: Death of Captain Marvel, Rocket Raccoon & “death” of Drax.
In Marvel Graphic Novel #1 (Apr. 1982) by Jim Starlin, after all his battles, the hero Captain Marvel succumbed to, of all things, cancer, which he had gotten from inhaling an enemy’s toxic gas on a previous mission.
Years prior, a character called “Rocky Raccoon” (named after the Beatles song) had been introduced by Bill Mantlo & Keith Giffen in an unrelated, outside-Marvel-Universe, futuristic story in a backup feature in Marvel Preview #7. Now, what was at least a similar character was then introduced into the Marvel Universe proper in The Incredible Hulk #271 (May 1982) by Bill Mantlo & Sal Buscema. In that issue, the Hulk finds himself on a in a part of space known as the Keystone Quadrant, on a planet called Halfworld, where animals have been genetically engineered to be bipedal and as intelligent as humans in order to be caretakers for the mentally ill there on the planet. Rocket served there as the chief law enforcement officer, and captain of the space ship the Rack 'n' Ruin
That year, in Avengers #220 (Jun.), the now-Avenger Moondragon ended up losing her mind and , for a time, becoming a conquest-seeking villain. When her own father, Drax, attempted to subdue her, she killed him, before being defeated by the Avengers and, later on, redeemed.
In 1985, Rocket received his own four-issue mini-series(May-Aug.), as the end of which the “Loonies” of Halfworld are cured of their illnesses, and Rocket and the other animals take off into space for their own adventures. He would go on, in subsequent years, to make a couple of guest appearances in Quasar #15 in 1990 and Sensational She-Hulk #44-46 in 1992, but that was all for a long time.
Meanwhile, the character of Nebula first appeared in Avengers # 257 (Jul. 1985) by Roger Stern & John Buscema. She is a space pirate who has taken over Thanos’ old ship, Sanctuary II, and, claiming to be his granddaughter, uses it to systematically take over pieces of the Skrull empire and massacre Xandar. After being stopped by the Avengers, she would continue to pop up in their magazine as a recurring villain.
In the first two issues of his own series (Oct.-Nov. 1989) by Mark Gruenwald & Paul Ryan, Quasar learns from the cosmic entity Eon that the bands he wears were originally intended for the now-deceased Captain Marvel, designated by Eon as the Protector of the Universe. Quasar is offered the chance to succeed him in this role, and accepts, hence gaining more power than ever before.