Marvel Comics hosted its Next Big Thing event and we were there with the comic press to get the details. The topic? All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #1, which is possibly the hottest new series to come along in some time, in part due to the action-packed sequel hitting cinemas soon, but also because this is a series a long time in the making. Writer Gerry Duggan, artist Aaron Kuder, and editor Jordan White have been planning this series for over a year with stories plotted all the way into 2018.

This bi-weekly series starts May 3 and stars the cast we know and love from the films. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and baby Groot are going back in space facing off against the weirdest and most cosmic threats imaginable. Duggan and Kuder stressed how this series was going to be all about fun and that inheriting the series from director James Gunn and Brian Michael Bendis has made the series incredibly new reader-friendly.

“In pretty short order everyone knows who these characters are,” Duggan said.

True. Ever since James Gunn’s film hit, comic readers and the public at large have fallen in love with these characters. They’re funny, likable, and unique in so many ways. As White put it, “One of the things people found refreshing about the movie was just how fun it was. There are always the giant galactic stakes where, you know, the entire universe is going to be destroyed, or planets are going to be destroyed, it’s big adventure stuff, that being said there’s so much to be had in these characters and their attitudes I think both Gerry and Aaron are incredibly suited to that.”

White is quite familiar with big space epics as he’s the line editor for Marvel’s Star Wars comics. When asked if crafting and editing the Star Wars line has made it easier to move to the Marvel cosmic line even though Guardians is more of a comedy, White said; “Star Wars also has its light moments as well. Granted it doesn’t have quite as much humor as Guardians has, but the humor that is there in Star Wars is vital. “In Guardians the mix is a little bit more on the humor side. We always think of it as an action book with really funny characters in it…”

Comedy is never too far from tragedy, as Duggan put it, “It all has the same common DNA.” More than once on the call it was pointed out the characters have changed quite a bit. A year has passed since the Guardians of the Galaxy #19 and it’ll take at least the first arc to start to understand what has changed them. Drax for instance, is now a pacifist, and Groot is permanently stuck in baby form and the team doesn’t know why. As Duggan put it, “They’re very different characters, what do they have in common besides being friends and saving the galaxy? You’ll see at some point that they have very different goals.”

So what happened to the characters? It was revealed after the first two issues, guest artists will take over to reveal what has happened to the characters to get them where they are. Frazer Irving will take over art duties for #3, which focuses on Gamora, #4 starts off where #2 left off with Kuder back on art, #5 will reveal what Star-Lord has been up to with art by Chris Samnee, Aaron Kuder will be back on the series and the story will progress from there, then #9 will focus on Rocket and Groot. As White points out, it’s a way to keep the bi-weekly schedule and give the artists time to draw the best comic possible.

As far as visuals, Kuder was asked about the visual tone of the series, but also how he captured the visual touches for the characters, specifically. Kuder said, “They don’t have their own set designs. They have in the past, but the thing I love about them is that they’re all so beautifully flawed in their own ways.” These differing personalities helped Kuder design their styles, “Gamora [I wanted] to give her a bit of a darker look, Drax–for some reason has given up violence–so I gave him a monk-ish style, and Rocket, I always feel like he’s a grease monkey, or grease raccoon.” That meant giving Rocket Raccoon a look that’s an ode to the original Bill Mantlo/Mike Mignola design, which includes a, “Funky ’80s vest,” Kuder said.

Readers should expect an outer space that makes no sense to us Earth dwellers, as Duggan pointed out this is a view of the universe that’s, “Clearly not an Earth-based view of the cosmos.” The ship, however, is more akin to a dorm room, and Kuder said it’s important for it to look like, “People live here, they leave their crap lying around and that’s an important key visually to really capture the personality of these guys.”

Major shake-ups are in the characters’ futures as well. Duggan pointed out the Nova Corps is a major element to be explored and introduced. There are going to be some very big cosmic threats … We’re going to see how dangerous the Marvel universe can be and is right now. Especially how dangerous it is with the Nova Corps missing out in space. The sheriffs have departed the range so to speak and a lot of problems have festered out there because of it.”

As the team encounters bigger and more dangerous threats, Duggan let slip, “There are cosmic entities that know the universe now has not been reconstituted exactly as it once was, and that bothers some people.” This is in reference to the universe-shaking Secret Wars event that rejiggered everything. When trouble brews in the universe there’s really only one weapon to snatch to right the wrongs, as Duggan puts it, “There are multiple characters searching the cosmos for The Infinity Stones.” Duggan let us know he knows where they are, though Kuder reported he didn’t with a laugh.

AiPT! asked two questions among the comic press. Here’s what we asked:

AiPT!: Are there any planned romantic relationships we can look forward to?

Duggan: The truth is I sometimes, I guess looking at Uncanny Avengers that was a planned romance that took 20ish issues to get to–the one that dropped this week. But in all sincerity yes, the answer is yes, but I would like to not delve much deeper other than to say I hope you’re ready to see Drax really try and score.

AiPT!: With the Guardians movie we learn about these characters who didn’t know each other becoming a family. I was wondering if that is a theme you might be using in this story arc or a future story arc.

Duggan: We inherited a family … in every sense too, the good and bad of that. The family secrets can sometimes threaten to destroy families and if families survive them they become stronger. Or, alternatively, families can also disintegrate and change and bring in new members or lose members or have arrangements. But, it’s a great question, it’s just a complicated answer. I 100% believe, based on the cinematic universe and the characters and the title we inherited and all the equity of the stories. I don’t necessarily feel Aaron and I don’t have to justify these characters being a family — they’ve earned it. I don’t mind saying this though, the family will rally around vulnerable members and that is not where they’re out on the outset, they’re very much been through a lot, they were stuck on Earth, which by the way would put anyone in a bad mood. [laughs] You’re stuck on Earth and you might want a little bit of elbow room, but they’re not going to get it.

By the way, this doesn’t feel like a cat out of the bag, The Nova Corps is initially … the humans of the Nova Core are really unpopular, they are unpopular dudes. When the non-Earth based Novas see the Earth Nova coming, they stop talking, they don’t talk to them, they don’t invite them to lunch.

You can find All-New Guardians of the Galaxy on store shelves May 3 (check out our preview here) as well as find a free totally original 10-page Guardians story from Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder on Free Comic Book day May 6.