Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Marvel Universe - Part 1: Alien Races

In preparation for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy feature film, I have been reading the Guardians of the Galaxy and all assorted tie-in comics. And there are a lot of them... a whole freaking lot of them... an intimidating and confusing lot of them. Fortunately, most of them are good, so it works out, but it probably also helps to have a basic understanding of the world involved. I'm sure the new film will tell us all we need to know, but for anyone who wants to be able to identify all the references going in, I present to you... the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Marvel Universe!

DISCLAIMER: This guide covers only homodimensional races and entities. For information concerning the Negative Zone, Microverse, Asgardian realms, Olympus, Limbo, Otherworld, Mojoverse, or any other asynchronous dimension, please consult the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Marvel Omniverse (coming soon!).

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: The above is an unofficial fan-made map, but it seems to be fairly accurate based on references to human star charts. However, Earth has also frequently been used as a halfway point between all three galactic empires, which conflicts with this depiction.



The Galactic Empires



Located in the Andromeda Galaxy, the Skrull Empire is the oldest existing empire in the known universe. A humanoid species identifiable by their green skin, pointed ears, and chin ridges, the Skrull possess the ability to shapeshift for prolonged periods of time. This defense mechanism has formed the basis for their expansionist military strategy: mimic indigeonous lifeforms, infiltrate their system of government, and dismantle their defenses from within.

Formerly a peaceful people, the Skrulls turned violent when their technology was stolen and used against them by the Kree. This incident sparked a war that continued for millennia and shaped the development of two galaxies locked in perpetual conflict. At some unknown point in time, the Skrulls left their original homeworld of Skrullos for Tarnax IV (later renamed Throneworld) in the center of their conquered galaxy.

Roughly twelve years before present Marvel time, the Skrull discovered a space warp to a star possessing an equidistant link from Throneworld to Hala. The star contained only one inhabited world by a race that had barely begun to travel in space. The natives called it Earth. The Skrull sent a scout team to investigate, but they were repelled by the newly formed Fantastic Four.

The Skrulls soon experimented with duplicating the powers of the Fantastic Four in a single volunteer, an honored Skrull warrior named Kl'rt who was then renamed "Super-Skrull." Yet even he failed to conquer the Earth.

Soon after, Throneworld was unexpectedly visited by the planet-devouring entity known as Galactus (see Part 2: Cosmic Beings). With the center destroyed, the empire fell into chaos with rival lords claiming the right of succession. However, the Skrulls are highly adaptable and have continued to be a significant threat to Earth, the Kree, the Shi'ar, and the Xandarians.

The Skrulls have also mutated in recent years due to both natural and unnatural causes. Warskrulls were genetically engineered to mimic superhuman powers for the purpose of invading the Shi'ar Empire and replacing key targets. Soon after, it was revealed that a Skrulls were randomly developing superhuman abilities similar to human mutants (see Part 3: Non-Human Earth Races) and designated "K-class deviants."

These separate mutations became the basis for new Super-Skrull experiments that began a new an elaborate "Secret Invasion" of Earth. Unlike previous attempts, this one required the bulk of the Skrull resources. Rather than a means to an end, the Skrull Queen Vernanke used scripture to claim that Earth was the lost Skrull homeworld. This invasion was seen as a holy quest to the Skrull. When this invasion failed, it caused massive damage to the Skrull empire.

Notable Skrulls: Dorrek, R'Klll, Anelle, Veranke, Kl'rt (Super-Skrull)*, Lyja, Jazinda
Offshoot Races: Dire Wraith, Warskrulls, Super-Skrulls, K-class deviants (mutants) 
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #2 (Jan. 1962)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/2


When the Kree race was young and barbaric, they shared their planet of Hala with the peaceful plant race called the Cotati. One day, they were visited by aliens from another galaxy called the Skrulls. These aliens wished to share their wisdom and technology with the native people, but in order to decide which were the more worthy race, the Skrulls had to conduct a test. They took seventeen of each, Kree and Cotati, and placed them on distant moons with advanced tools to build their ideal civilization. When the Skrulls returned years later to judge their work, they favored the Cotati. Enraged, the Kree turned on them both, stealing the Skrull technology, and wiping out the Cotati. The Kree were very smart and in the time in took for the Skrulls to learn of this treachery, they had adapted and replicated the Skrull technology thereby beginning the Kree-Skrull War, defining each race and their galaxies in mutual enmity.

The Kree Empire quickly grew in the area of space known on Earth as the Greater Magellanic Cloud. As the Cotati were driven to near extinction, a pascifist group of Kree known as the Priest of Pama swore to hide and protect them. In time, the priest came to worship the few remaining Cotati.

Roughly 250 year into the Kree-Skrull War, the Kree heard rumors of a Skrull super-weapon called the "Cosmic Cube." Although a terrifying failure, the Kree did not know and thus wished to design their own. Unable to master the technology, they developed a hyper-intelligent cyber-organic entity which came to be known as the Supreme Intelligence (or Supremor). However, Supremor determined the Cosmic Cube would be too dangerous and refused to build it. In time, the Kree realized the value of their creation and the Supreme Intelligence became the guiding force of the Kree Empire.

The Supreme Intelligence recognized a flaw in the Kree genetic makeup. The species was no longer evolving. In order to prevent genetic stagnation, the Kree began conducting genetic experimentation on alien worlds. Although this did not solve their problems, it did produce powerful creatures which were initially encouraged as weapons against the Kree. On Earth, these creations were known as the Inhumans. These experiments were abandoned when they revolted, but the Kree left a single robotic Sentry on each planet to keep an eye on their creations - afraid that their creations might return to haunt them.

It wasn't until thousands of years later when the Fantastic Four encountered and narrowly defeated Sentry-459. The destruction of the Sentry brought the attention of Ronan the Accuser, enforcer of Kree law. When he was defeated by the same superhuman team, this led to the Kree conducting a spying mission led by Captain Mar-Vell. However, this mission ended in disaster when Mar-Vell betrayed the Kree Empire to defend the Earth. With rising tensions in the military command structure due to unprecedented failures, Ronan led a coup to remove Supremor from power.

With the discovery of a equidistant link between Hala and Throneworld near Earth, the planet soon found itself in the middle of the ancient conflict between the two warring worlds. This brought the attention of the Avengers who found themselves fighting both sides. The war was finally ended by the intervention of the Supreme Intelligence who channeled his vast power through a human boy named Rick Jones. This ended the Kree-Skrull War and bonded Rick Jones to the renegade Kree warrior, Captain Marvel.

Shortly after, the Kree were involved in brief conflict with the Shi'ar Empire in the vicinity Earth. Although the Earth was spared due to intervention by the Avengers, the Kree population was devastated by a Nega-Bomb in their space causing them to surrender to the Shi'ar Empire. However, it was later revealed that this event was engineered by the Supreme Intelligence to encourage Kree evolution. Although 90% of the people were killed, 10% developed a mutation and became a sub-species called the Ruul. These Kree could actually transform instinctively in hazardous environments. By manipulating the Kree political system, they had Earth declared a penal colony and, for a short time, the planet became the dumping ground for alien criminals. However, this decision was reversed due to protests from Earth's superhuman community. The current state of the Ruul is unknown, but it has been theorized that they have been eliminated from existence by Genis-Vell in a temporary case of omnipotent power.

Following the Negative Zone invasion known as the Annihilation Wave, the Kree Empire succeeded from Shi'ar rule. However, while bolstering their weakened defenses, Hala was victim to a sneak attack from the Phalanx. Although the Kree eventually won the war, their empire was shattered. Following the Secret Invasion of Skrull on Earth, the Inhumans decided to declare themselves a universal force by invading Hala. Ronan the Accuser eagerly surrendered, believing the Inhumans capable of restoring the strength of the empire. This strength was instrumental in defending itself when Vulcan usurped the Shi'ar throne and began expanding into Kree territory. Although both sides were devastated and the universe was horribly scarred, the war ended in victory for the Kree as the Shi'ar surrendered. However, the Kree were recently abandoned by the Inhumans following an event known as the Summoning reuniting Inhumans from six separate worlds. Although Supremor foresees his destruction in these events, they have yet to play out in their entirety.

Notable Kree: Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel), Ronan the Accuser, Korath the Pursuer, Noh-Varr (Marvel Boy), Yon-Rogg, Ko-Rel
Offshoot Races: Ruul
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #65 (Aug. 1967)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Confirmed (Ronan the Accuser & Korath the Pursuer)


"Sharra and K'ythri are the gods in marriage. The gods who didn't want to marry, but were forced into it. In marriage they found strength and in strength they found love. That's what the Shi'ar Imperium does. It marries other cultures. Shotgun weddings." - Warren Ellis, Starjammers #1

The Shi'ar is both a race of people and the name for an empire consisting of many different worlds. Although many of their world were conquered through military force, the Shi'ar see themselves as benevolent rulers bringing order to a universe that instinctively wishes to destroy that which is different.

The Shi'ar themselves are an avian humanoid species almost identical to humans. The primary difference is their thin build, hollow bones, and feather-like hair follicles. Occasionally, they will also grow vestigial feathers on their forearms. The Shi'ar are also an egg-laying species

The Shi'ar government functions by the rule of a single hereditary leader called the Majestor or Majestrix. The Neramani bloodline has been on the throne for many generations, but their hold on the empire became tenuous with the madness of Emperor D'Ken. After his death, the empire was ruled by Empress Lilandra until a brief coup by her cousin, Deathbird. Although Lilandra was restored to the throne, the empire was soon usurped by the human mutant Vulcan who led the empire to its most devastating defeat to the Kree Empire. Though both sides seem peacefully contented as present, this is likely a very temporary arrangement.

The most sacred object in the Shi'ar Empire is the M'Kraan Crystal, also known as "the end of worlds" or "Nexus of All Realities." Shi'ar legend says that it was a gift from their gods Sharra and K'ythri, but its true origins are unknown but it seems to be tied to connected to the Phoenix Force, a cosmic entity of life and death.
The Shi'ar maxim of strength through diversity is symbolized by their elite Imperial Guard which is composed of representative from many different member planets. Often when one of the guardsmen fall, their world will select a replacement to adopt their legacy.

Notable Shi'ar: Lilandra, D'Ken, Deathbird*, Cerise, Araki
Offshoot Races: Spartoi
First Appearance: X-Men #97 (Feb. 1976)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/5


 The Lesser Empires 



The Badoon are an unusual species in that their society is has schismed along gender lines. They are ruled separately by the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Badoon. When the males won the gender wars, the females became confined to the homeplanet while the Brotherhood became conquerors, returning only when their mating instinct demanded it.

Despite being considered a lesser galactic empire, the Badoon have conquered over thirty percent of the Milky Way galaxy and are one of the oldest species in the universe. It is foretold that the Badoon will be come to be the greatest empire in the universe.

Notable Badoon: Aladi No Eke, Brother Royal, Czar-Doon, Dara No Eke, L'Matto 
First Appearance: Silver Surfer #2 (Oct. 1968)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 2/3



The Universal Church of Truth

The Church is a star-spanning religious empire literally powered by faith. Their "faith engines" are powered by the belief and dedication of their followers which empowers their army. They possess hypnotic abilities that compel devotion and worship. Those worlds that will not convert voluntarily are destroyed as heathens.

The Church is ruled by a woman simply referred to as "the Matriarch" but the subject of their devotion is the Magus, a dark counterpart to the genetically-engineered "perfect" human being called Adam Warlock. Possessing incredible abilities, both are god-like beings. The Church possesses Templeships to deploy their armies consisting of Cardinals, Grand Inquisitors, and Black Knights.

Since they worship a humanoid diety, the Church sees the humanoid form to be the ideal form and non-humanoids are lesser creatures which are either enslaved or killed as they see fit.

Notable Converts: Matriarch
First Appearance: Strange Tales #178 (Feb. 1975)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 2/3


The Xandarians are known for two things: their homeworld getting repeatedly blown-up and the interstellar guardians of law and order known as the Nova Corps. Xandar was first destroyed by the alien Zorr, again by Nebula, and finally by the Annihilation Wave. Prior to its final destruction, fragments of Xandar were maintained by a vast artificial support structure referred to collectively as "the Xandar Cluster."

The Nova Corps are a noble group of peacekeepers chosen from planets across the known universe. Each are given a portion of their collective power known as the Nova Force which enables flight, shielding, energy projection, and gravity-based powers as well as a connection to the Nova Corps' sentient supercomputer called Worldmind.

The ranks of the Nova Corp are as follows: Nova Prime (singular leader of the Corps), Centurian (elite), Denarians (mid-level), Millenians (low-level),  and Corpsmen (rookies).

Notable Xandarians: Rhomann Dey
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #205 (April 1979)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Confirmed (Rhomann Dey)


A horse-like humanoid species, the Kymellians destroyed their homeplanet centuries ago in an anti-matter experiment gone horribly wrong. The survivors created a giant artifical world (Kymellia II) to rebuild their civilization. The Kymellians are ruled by a spiritual leader called "the Matriarch" and possess incredible natural abilities such as healing and teleportation. Those who possess greater supernatural abilities are called "Sorcerers.

The human preteen superhero team, Power Pack, gained their abilities from one such Kymellian Sorcerer.

Notable Kymellians: Aelfyre Whitemane, Kofi Whitemane, Ghostmare
First Appearance: Power Pack #1 (Aug. 1984)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/8


The Rigellians are a small, but respected empire of humanoids also known as "Colonizers." Their exceptionally large cranium is a byproduct of their incredible intellect and psionic abilities. They can even change their physical density with the power of thought.

Although not a major part of the Marvel continuity, they frequently appear in cameo roles due to their distinct appearance.

Notable Rigellians: Tana Nile, Guthar, Irani Rael
First Appearance: Thor #131 (Aug. 1966)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Confirmed ("Commander Rael" of Nova Corps)


Similar to the Rigellians, Ovoids are humanoids with large oval-shaped heads, which developed due to their significant psionic abilities. In addition to telekinesis, the Ovoids have unique the ability to project their consciousness into cloned bodies, making them effectively immortal.

First Appearance: Fantastic Four #10 (Jan. 1963)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/8


A cousin-race to the Shi'ar, the Spartoi hail from the planet Spartax and are indistinguishable from humans. Their empire is ruled by an Emperor and a Council of Ministers. Although little is known about the Spartoi, they have a reputation as advanced warriors, particularly the human-hybrid known as Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord.

Notable Spartoi: Star-Lord, Jason of Spartax
First Appearance: Marvel Preview #11 (June 1977)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Confirmed (Star-Lord)


Recently introduced in Runaways, the Majesdanians are a humanoid species that is able to store and manipulate solar energy to enable flight, shields, and energy projection. This accounts for their natural bioluminecence. They have been engaged in a war with the Skrulls for well over a decade and seek to end the war with a royal marriage.

Notable Majesdanians: Karolina Dean, vaDrann, vaRikk, vaDanti, deHalle
First Appearance: Runaways (Vol. 2) #1 (Oct. 2008)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/15

Dire Wraith

A deviant genetic offshoot of the Skrulls created by the Celestials (see Part 2: Cosmic Beings), the Dire Wraith were driven from the Skrull homeworld when they became adept at black sorcery. Today, the male Dire Wraith are primarily invested in science whereas the females of the species continue to practice dark magic. Although both are shapeshifters, females tend to prefer their corporeal form while males prefer a cloud-like phantom state.

After fleeing the Skrull homeworld, the Dire Wraith settled on a planet orbiting a black sun in the middle of a dark nebula. They called this planet Wraithworld. In the black sun, they found they horrible creatures and learned to domesticate them as their servant pets - the deathbirds and hellhounds.

Notable Dire Wraith: Doctor Dredd, Fantasma, Volx, Wraithwitch
First Appearance: Rom the Spaceknight #1 (Dec. 1979)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/12


Ever since a Galadorian ship encountered the Dire Wraith in the Dark Nebula, the two races have been deadlocked in an unending war. A highly intelligent and enlightened people, the Galadorians see it as their duty to prevent the Dire Wraith from threatening the rest of the universe. To that end, Galadorian volunteers have permanently transferred their consciousness into cyborg bodies (called "Spaceknights") in order to combat the threat of the Dire Wraith.

Notable Galadorians: Rom, Ikon
First Appearance: Rom the Spaceknight #1 (Dec. 1979)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/20

 Nomatic Races


After their planet was destroyed by the demonic Asgardian entity Surtur, the Korbinites fled to find a new world... only for that world to be devoured by Galactus.

Continuing as nomads, the Korbinites are protected by their superhuman guardian, Beta Ray Bill, who was given a mystical uru hammer similar to Thor's by Odin.

Notable Korbinites: Beta Ray Bill
First Appearance: Thor #337 (Nov. 1983)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/30


A race of space faring dragons that are typically noble, peaceful, and extremely long lived. While in their immature phase, they resemble a large humanoid, they can grow to be hundreds of feet in length. The Makluans possess advanced technology that can seem like magic and, in fact, created the ten rings worn by the Mandarin.

Notable Makluans: Fin Fang Foom, Fraktur, Axonn-Karr
First Appearance: Strange Tales #89 (Oct. 1961)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/20


Space whales.

Notable Acanti: Prophet-Singer
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #157 (May 1982)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/10



Parasitic Races


Inspired by the xenomorphs of the Aliens franchise,  the Brood (colloquially referred to as "sleazoids") are a giant wasp-like creature which reproduces by laying eggs in the stomach of a host body. As the egg hatches, the host body becomes possessed and slowly transforms into a Brood. The new Brood body will then possess the abilities and memories of the host body, but the original mind will be destroyed. These parasites are ruled by a queen and usually travel via space faring organic entities (i.e. the Acanti) or by stowing aboard alien ships. They often have wings and/or tentacles, but all have ant-like legs and a scorpion-like double-pronged tail.

Notable Brood: Brood Queen, Broo*, No-Name
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #155 (March 1982)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/8


Erroneously referred to as "symbiotes" by the people of Earth, this misconception is due to the entities seductive nature. Although this species has no known name, they are a parasitic organism that feeds on negative emotional energy while heightening natural abilities. They typically choose hosts that are prone to anger and encourage hostile activity, which it then feeds off of. The organism also has a natural camouflage that makes the host nearly invisible.

The major weakness of the species is exposure to fire or high-intensity sonic energy.  Due to their highly adaptable nature, the symbiotes are also highly prone to mutation, however the exact method of symbiote reproduction is not entirely understood.

All that is known of their history is that their homeworld was devoured by Galactus, leaving them destitute.

Notable Symbiotes: Venom, Carnage, Toxin, Anti-Venom
First Appearance: Spectacular Spider-Man #91 (June 1984)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/20


A shapeshifting techno-organic species from the planet Kvch, the Technarchy is an extremely dangerous and aggressive species that feeds on entire worlds. The Technarchy do no digest food, but rather feed by infecting lifeforms with a Transmode Virus which transforms the prey into a techno-organic being only moments before draining the subject's "lifeglow" effectively killing them.

If the lifeglow is not drained, the victim may become a separate species known as the Phalanx. Although vary similar to the Technarchy, the Phalanx is a collective entity directed by a single Hivemind with the solitary goal of assimilating all lifeforms to create a larger collective. The Technarchy consider the Phalanx to be an abomination (similar to a zombie) and will destroy them on sight.

The Technarchy have a very Darwinian method of reproduction whereby the offspring is required to combat and slay their parent ("siredam") to usurp their position. Since they tend to grow more powerful with age, the parent is rarely killed and few survive to adulthood.

Notable Technarchy: Magus, Warlock, Tyro
Offshoot Races: Phalanx
First Appearance: New Mutants #18 (Aug. 1984)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/30

Other Notable Races



Originally introduced in alternate universe of The Ultimates, the Chitauri were analogous to the Skrulls, possessing their shapeshifting abilities and even saying that they were known by that name on other planets.

When the Avengers feature film was developed, the Chitauri name was used to introduce an unrelated race of alien invaders. These aliens were redesigned to look like living corpses and were, appropriately enough, revealed to be the army of the cosmic death god, Thanos.

Although the Chitauri have recently been introduced in the primary Marvel universe series Nova, they have yet to be fully developed.

Notable Chitauri: "Herr Kleiser"
First Appearance: The Ultimates #8 (Nov. 2002)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/2


These blue humanoids are recognizable for their pointed ears and distinctive red fin along their head. Little known fact, Centaurians are marsupials (as shown here). Their language consists of a complex series of grunts, clicks, and whistles. Consequently, it is difficult for them to form alien syllables, so they have a reputation for being terse.

Centaurian society is relatively primitive and tribal with their culture is divided into two ideological sects: the Habaku, a religious movement translating as "the Circle of Life," and the Akuun, the secularists or faithless.. Despite the fact that they are a space-faring people, they still favor the bow and arrow as their preferred weapon. Their race also has a slight predisposition toward psionic and mystic abilities, but this is not reflected in the general population.

Notable Centaurians: Yondu, Chandra, Samaya
First Appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Jan. 1969)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Confirmed (Yondu)


Although gaining their name from the taxonomical designation for a skunk, the design for the Mephitisoids has become more cat-like over time. While they are considered part of the Shi'ar Empire, they are a rebellious planet known for insurrection. Most Mephitisoids consider their world occupied by the Shi'ar.

Notable Mephitisoids: Hepzibah, Morrow
First Appearance: X-Men #107 (Oct. 1977)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/5


An extremely rare and powerful species, the Strontian homeworld was destroyed long ago leaving only one known survivor - Kallark. Better known as Gladiator, Kallark serves as Praetor of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. Inspired by the power set of Superman, Gladiator possesses strength, speed, invulnerability, and powerful eye blasts that are virtually unparalleled in the Marvel universe. It has recently been revealed that there are at least two other Strontians: a psychopathic female called Xenith and Kallark's son, Kubark, also known as Kid Gladiator.

Notable Strontians: Kallark (Gladiator), Xenith (the Strontian), and Kubark (Kid Gladiator)
First Appearance: X-Men #107 (Oct. 1977)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/30

Coming Soon...

Part 2: Cosmic Beings