The Guardians of the Galaxy’s largest member is also one of its oldest and most powerful, having made his debut many decades ago.
The Guardians of the Galaxy have become one of the most popular groups of heroes in the Marvel universe. The team has had a large roster of characters to flesh out its ranks since its debut in 1969’s Marvel Super-Heroes #18, but perhaps none have enjoyed the level of success and popularity as the Guardian’s biggest and most powerful member: Groot! The massive walking and (minimally) talking sentient tree existed in the Marvel universe for far longer than any of his teammates, but his first appearance was radically different than he is today.
Groot debuted in 1969’s Tales to Astonish #13 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Rather than a typical tale of super-heroics, Groot’s very first appearance was a classic science fiction story filled with horror, action, and pulse-pounding suspense. It was an evening like any other when Leslie and Alice Evans were driving home from a party when a sudden flash of light burst down from the night sky. Thinking nothing of it, Leslie continued to drive home; however, a few days later, strange reports of wooden objects disappearing around town began to surface.
Upon investigating the site of the flash of light Leslie and the rest of the town discover a giant creature made entirely of wood summoning all of the wooden objects within its vicinity towards him. The creature speaks and reveals itself to be Groot, Monarch of Planet X! His reason for coming to Earth was simple: the total enslavement of all of humanity. By manipulating all plant life on the planet Groot aimed to deliver Earth back to his home planet so that his alien race could research and experiment on the helpless humans.
Humanity begins an assault on Groot but to no avail; no weapon pierces his hide, no attack causes him to flinch. Not only is Groot impervious to harm, but his ability to command all plant life causes the very trees themselves to stride towards the frightened humans. But in the eleventh hour, Leslie Evans figures out how to defeat the alien invader. By unleashing boxes of termites onto Groot, Leslie Evans manages to bring the titanic alien down, believing him to be dead.
Groot’s origins, while still the same in some ways, have been altered over the years. Still hailing from the mysterious Planet X, Groot has since been described as being a member of a race of creatures known as Flora Colossi. The warlike mentality that Groot exhibited in Tales to Astonish #13 has been discarded, replaced instead by a sympathy for the creatures that his own race captures and experiments on. It was Groot’s new sense of empathy that caused him to be exiled from Planet X. While adrift in Kree space he was captured and imprisoned which led to his fateful encounter with a similarly imprisoned Rocket Raccoon. Eagle-eyed viewers can find a reference to Groot’s origins in the 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy film, as his personal information is listed behind him during his prison introduction scene.
The Guardians of the Galaxy as a team has had one of the most varied and unique rosters of heroes in the entire universe. Humans, Pluvians, Centaurians, Jovians: the number of different races within the team has been staggering. As such, Groot fits in wonderfully alongside the many other aliens that have comprised the team over the years. As a Flora Colossi, Groot possesses powers that elevate him far above many of his other teammates. Superhuman strength and endurance; a regenerative ability not just for his immediate body, but also from any fragment of his body that remains intact; and an ability to control all plant life around him. Groot exists not just as a giant bruiser, but also as an entity that utilizes entire organic biomes as weapons themselves.
For a character that could have simply been relegated to the forgotten roster of giant monsters that have plagued Earth over the decades, Groot has had a tremendously successful Cinderella story within the Marvel universe. A one-time alien antagonist turned side-kick to one of Marvel’s most unique heroes, Groot has become one of Marvel’s most popular characters, with much of his fame coming from his presence in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. And with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 coming in 2023 it’ll be exciting to see what new adventures Groot will find himself in on the big screen.
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