A little over two years from now, Marvel Studios will launch a potential new movie franchise based on an established super hero team in the Marvel Universe, the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Chances are, however, that 99% of the American public has never heard of the team or any of their members. In fact, the "Guardians of the Galaxy" are so obscure the new movie will easily be the biggest gamble the studio has ever taken.

One of the obvious reasons the Disney division has had so much success in launching their cinematic universe is the fact that so many of their characters have been enjoyed by multiple generations.  Captain America has been around since the 1940's.  The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and The Avengers since the early 1960's. That's a minimum of forty years of cultural exposure for the company's established characters. Granted, it helps if the movies are actually good (they usually are), but the "brand" awareness of these characters has made marketing Marvel Studios releases easier than Disney or Paramount Pictures (the previous Marvel distributor) would ever admit.  That's not going to be the case with "Guardians."

Just who are the "Guardians of the Galaxy"?  Unfortunately, there's no easy answer.  The moniker was first applied to a group of future super heroes created by Marvel in 1969.  Based in the 31st Century,  these Guardians spend their days battling an evil alien race known as the Badoon.  Their mission eventually saw them visit the 20th Century where the battled the Badoon alongside better known heroes such as Captain America. What happened to that group of "Guardians" is convoluted in a storyline only comic books, soap operas and bad Sci-Fi could imagine (if you really want to know click here).  Needless to say, it would have be shocking if this is the "Guardians" Marvel is planning on bringing to your local multiplex. And, surprise, they aren't.

Instead, the basis for the new "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie will be the 2008 incarnation that currently lives within the every day Marvel comic book continuity.  This is a group of heroes from across the galaxy who have banded together to fight interstellar crises just like our favorite superhero team The Avengers do back on Earth.  The group's membership has changed somewhat in their brief history and their recent comic is no longer in publication, but Marvel has been keen on exploring the creative possibilities with the group.  Star-Lord, Adam Warlock, Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Quasar (the female version) appeared on the new cancelled DisneyXD animated series "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!" this past spring.  A new iteration of the team also just appeared in the comic book "Avengers Assemble" which follows the movie team membership as much as possible. That crew included Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer and Bug.  

Marvel Studios plans on announcing more details regarding the new "Guardians" movie at San Diego Comic-Con 2012, but division president Kevin Feige hasn't been able to hold back his enthusiasm for the project. During a press conference for "The Avengers" in April, he went on record as saying Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot would be on the team. Whether there will be any other members in the mix is still unclear.  Moreover, Thanos, the secret villain of "The Avengers" has historical ties to many of the Guardians.  Could he be the villain in a "Guardians" movie instead of "Avengers 2"?  Curiouser and curiouser isn't it?

Confused?  Don't be.  Marvel and Disney marketing have about two years to educate the global marketplace about talking raccoons and trees.  And, finding an inspired director to handle this space opera won't hurt either. Still, it's never toe early to start learning about these "Space Avengers." 

Click on the gallery below and find out more about Star-Lord, Gamora and other characters who could and should appear in the big screen version of "Guardians of the Galaxy."