Marvel superhero movies are pretty much always stuffed with Easter eggs and callbacks to old comics and characters, and new space opera sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is no exception.
“I mean there’s a lot of Easter eggs in there if people look closely, that are pretty hard to find,” director James Gunn told RadioTimes.com.
“We have all the planet names and the different places, and uh, there’s nothing that jumps off at me right off the top of my head. But there’s a LOT of Easter eggs and little moments for people who are fans of the Marvel comics, and fans of just finding Easter eggs in general.”
We checked and he’s right – so here are just a few of our favourites.
1. You couldn’t planet
As hinted by Gunn, a few of the planets featured in the movie come from the original comic-books. Berhert, the world where the Guardians crash-land while escaping the Sovereign, featured in a 1960s storyline where the Hulk crash-landed there while flying in the Warlord Supreme’s spaceship (nope, we don’t know who that is either), before battling the Galaxy Master (no, drawing a blank on him too).
Meanwhile, the snowy planet called Contraxia where Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his Ravagers visit a brothel also has some comic-book history, having appeared in certain stories as the birthplace of spacefaring Avenger Jack of Hearts.
3. Many-angled ones
The tentacled, toothy beastie the Guardians have to battle at the beginning of the movie may at least be inspired by comic-book monsters The Many-Angled Ones, who come from a universe where Death has been defeated so life just mutates into increasingly horrible, violent forms.
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While this creature is called an Abilisk, its appearance closely matches the denizens of the death-free dimension (nicknamed the Cancerverse), so we’d be surprised if there wasn’t a bit of a connection there.
Ego (Kurt Russell) reveals in the film that he’s one of a race called the Celestials, godlike beings with the ability to shape the universe. And the Celestials have long been a (literally) massive presence in comic books, flying around the galaxy as they judge which worlds are “worthy” or not.
We’ve seen Celestials in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before, of course – one is seen destroying a world with the Power Stone in the first Guardians of the Galaxy (pictured), which also sees a dead Celestial’s head turned into a planet/port called Knowhere – but Ego was never presented as one in the comics, meaning this is a bit of a change to continuity (also, until now Celestials have exclusively been portrayed as massive armoured figures, not normal-sized men with beards).
5. Howard the duck
Having previously appeared in a post-credits scene after the first Guardians movie, classic Marvel character Howard the Duck returns in the new film recounting one of his classic pick-up lines while enjoying a drink on Contraxia.
“You’re out of luck until you’ve got duck,” he tells a prospective conquest, with actor Seth Green back to voice the offbeat character who previously had his own feature (directed by George Lucas) back in 1986.
In the comics, Howard comes from a place called DuckWorld where everything is the same except, well, everyone is a duck, travelling to our own world in stories that poked fun at social mores and superhero comics in general.
Overall, he’s one of the weirder characters the Marvel universe has produced, and this probably isn’t the last we’ll see of him in the Marvel movies.
“You know, the fun thing about Howard is he shows up where you least expect him,” Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige commented at a recent press conference.
“So like who knows where he’s going to appear next?”
6. A family affair
Blink and you’ll miss it, but during the sequence when Ego casts a wave of blue death over the universe, we see the destruction having a more personal effect on lead character Peter (Chris Pratt) – because his granddad can be seen fleeing the chaos.
Actor Gregg Henry (who played Peter’s grandfather in flashback in the first Guardians film) can be seen escaping in his car while in old-age makeup, suggesting that Peter still has family on Earth should he care to look them up.
We’ve written about this extensively elsewhere, but in one of the film’s post-credits scenes tribute is paid to the original comic-book line-up of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
In the footage, Yondu’s old Ravager boss Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) brings together a group of old teammates, including Michelle Yeoh’s Aleta Ogord, Ving Rhames’ Charlie-27 and Michael Rosenbaum’s glass-bodied Martinex, with the group deciding to reform in the absence of their old teammate Yondu.
This is significant because in the original comics, very different versions of these characters (including Yondu and other characters like Major Vance Astro) were members of the ORIGINAL Guardians of the Galaxy team, a group who operated in the 31st century but travelled back in time to help the 20th-century Avengers occasionally. The more familiar version of the Guardians to us (Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket etc) were only introduced as a team in 2008, taking the group name previously associated with these characters.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that THESE characters will fulfil the same purpose in future films – their versions of the heroes seem very different (especially Stallone’s far more human version of the cosmic-powered Stakar/Starhawk of the comics, who you can see with all the billowing yellow fabric in the blue outfit above), and mainly seem keen to start stealing stuff – but Stallone and other figures have hinted that we could be seeing more of them in the Marvel universe going forward.
Then again, James Gunn revealed to RadioTimes.com that the idea of this team-up (rather than just Stallone’s earlier cameo in the main film) only came to him after he’d finished shooting and was added later, so it seems likely that there aren't too many grand plans for the original Guardians.
“I came up with [it] after I shot the movie,” he told us, “and I thought ‘Oh God I’d like to put that in,’ and then I went and shot it.”
The “colours of Ogord” ritual used at Ravager funerals also has a bit of backstory here, with “Ogord” being the surname of both Stakar and Aleta (they were married in the comics).
Marvel bigwig Stan Lee (pictured) has had cameos in Marvel films for years, but director James Gunn has finally made them make sense by suggesting all of Lee’s appearances are in service to comic-book race the Watchers.
In the comics, the Watchers are a race of omnipotent and omniscient aliens who observe notable events in the universe while sworn not to interfere, and the new film contains two scenes of Stan Lee describing his cameos to them while credited as The Watcher’s Informant.
“I mean, you know there’s a lot of cool stuff that the fans come up with,” Gunn confirmed to us. “A lot of stuff I don’t agree with, you know people have ideas about what they think should happen in the MCU.
“But I find the idea that Stan Lee is a Watcher, or that he works for the Watchers, is just a fun little nod to the fans.”
9. Adam Warlock
Another post-credits scene also delves into comic-book history, with secondary villain Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) revealing that she’s created a perfect being called “Adam” who can wreak revenge on the Guardians.
Now this name is sure to ring bells for fans of the original comics as referring to Adam Warlock, a cosmic figure in the Marvel comic-book universe (usually associated with the comic-book version of Ayesha) who was previously hinted at in the original Guardians of the Galaxy film.
In the comics, Warlock is created by human scientists to be the perfect human, originally calling himself “Him” and rebelling against his creators (and superhero Thor) with his godlike abilities before heading into space.
As he travels he gains the name Warlock (getting the “Adam” part from some Earth kids when he heads home at one point) and comes into possession of something very important to the modern Marvel movies – one of the Infinity Stones, the six concentrated ingots which grant immense power to the wielder. Fingers crossed we’ll get to see him involved in the wider Infinity stones quest in future films.
10. The Grandmaster
The end credits to the new film see the characters dancing away to original song Guardians inferno (except Dave Bautista’s Drax, of course), but canny viewers may have noticed the groovin’ appearance of a character not actually in Volume 2 – Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster, who is set to capture Chris Hemsworth’s Thunder God in upcoming sequel Thor: Ragnarok.
Considering Raganarok looks to be in the same cosmic vein as the Guardians movies, we shouldn’t be so surprised by the crossover, and we can only hope it hints at some Guardians involvement in Thor’s outer space adventure.
11. David Hasselhoff
Now, this one isn’t technically an Easter egg but among all the references to 80s culture (including the brilliant use of a Mattel handhled football game to track a monster) the film shows off, the inclusion of 80s icon David Hasselhoff in both dialogue and in person (as well as singing over the end credits) is too entertaining to not mention.
“I think Hasselhoff was what I came up with from the beginning [for Peter’s boyhood hero],” James Gunn told us. “Then when it came to the moment later in the movie, it’s a Hasselhoff scene with a great cameo [opportunity], and I contacted him and he was totally into it.
Gunn added: “I liked him so much that I wrote a song for him to sing over the end credits, which we had a great time recording. And so he’s become a good friend, he’s a great guy."
Worth the price of admission alone.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is in UK cinemas now