The muscle of a team of second chance characters
As a lifelong comic book fan, one of my favorite titles to come out of the Marvel Universe was The Guardians of the Galaxy. Why do I love it so much? The entire revival of this group is about second chances – literally.
Let me explain.
Originally in 1969, the team known as the Guardians of the Galaxy was made up of a bunch of alien war heroes from an alternate 31st-century future. These guys fought a war against an alien race known as the Badoon and when the war was over they found peacetime life too difficult to adjust to. Their story was to wander the galaxy looking for adventure and right wrongs. Hero stuff.
On occasion, they’d travel to our present day – meaning out of their timeline to ours and then going backward to our present day. If it sounds confusing, welcome to the show. We’re glad to have you here.
Long story short, they got their own title and it ended sometime in the mid-nineties.
In 2008, the title got their second chance with a whole bunch of characters that Marvel had shelved and forgotten. It is a second chance title filled with second chance characters. All of the guardians were forgotten heroes that Marvel didn’t know what to do with.
Second chances for forgotten characters no one cared about.
For example, Gamora hadn’t been used since the Infinity Watch and was originally killed off with Adam Warlock. Starlord was part of a failed comic title in the seventies. Rocket Raccoon had a miniseries in the eighties that fizzled out. Groot was invented by Stan Lee in the sixties as the monarch of Planet X.
And then there’s Drax…
I could go on about every member of the team, but I really want to focus on one of the Guardians more complex characters – Drax the Destroyer.
The simplicity of his story makes him complex.
Originally created by writer/artist, Jim Starlin to be the beginning of an epic adventure that spanned across many different titles, Drax started off as a captured alien in the despotic grip of uber-bad-guy, Thanos, the Titan.
Drax is a character who is much different from the one played by former WWE and MMA star, Dave Bautista. The Drax who made his first comic book appearance back in 1973 in the pages of Iron Man #55 was a character to be feared and reckoned with.
Drax the Destroyer – A man made to be a perpetual thorn in the side of Thanos
You are Arthur Douglas, real estate agent, driving home with your wife and child back from an Elvis Presley show in Las Vegas when out of nowhere you spot an alien scout ship that spots you. Instead of pretending to be swamp gas or any one of the things that UFO spotters claim they’ve seen, this one decides that it can’t have you alive to report its presence on Earth. So the spaceship blows up your car with you and your family in it – killing you and your wife (your daughter survives, but you don’t know that).
Before you shuffle from this mortal coil, you gaze at your alien killers. One is a greenish monster. Technically, he’s half Badoon – but that’s not really important. The important one is his partner. He’s a big purple alien with a furrowed chin and lots of armor. This alien is Thanos, son of A’lars – aka Mentor of the Eternals of Titan (moon of Saturn).
Then you die.
Your soul is going to its final destination when it is intercepted by a cosmic presence known as Kronos. Kronos is the near god-like former Eternal and father of A’lars. He knows what kind of threat his grandson presents and has decided to take action. Instead of letting you die, he wants to use that obvious hatred you have, for you and your wife’s killer. He creates an invulnerable body made from the Earth and gives it incredible strength and blasting powers – then he takes your soul, wipes 99% of your memory from it (leaving only your hatred of Thanos) and tells you that your mission in life is to kill Thanos. This body also has an uncanny tracking sense that allows you to find Thanos regardless of where he is.
And that’s all you do. Hunt Thanos and try to kill him. Go directly to Thanos. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Go directly to kill Thanos.
That’s Drax’s basic story. He was created to do nothing but kill Thanos. It is his reason for being. Nothing else.
However, Drax’s story gets a fly put in its ointment, because the Universe (in the form of Eternity and Infinity’s offspring, Eon) knew Thanos was coming as well. The entity known as Eon waits billions of years to grant Kree Captain Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel) cosmic awareness to fight Thanos.
When Thanos finally makes his move to kill all life within the solar system with the cosmic cube, it was Captain Marvel who succeeded in killing Thanos which left Drax alive without purpose.
This madness drove Drax insane. What’s worse is that after Thanos got resurrected, he missed another opportunity to kill him when the Avengers, Captain Marvel, and Adam Warlock defeated him by turning Thanos into stone.
Eventually, Drax discovered his daughter had grown up to be the Avenger known as Moondragon (a woman trained on Titan to use her innate mental powers). She and Drax traveled around the cosmos until they came across a planet in the middle of civil war. Moondragon used her vast mental powers to not only stop the war but to have all of the population worship her as a goddess. When Drax tried to stop her from what he saw was clearly wrong, she forced his soul from his invulnerable body by attacking his mind, killing him.
Ah, but that wasn’t the end of Drax.
When the abstract entity of Death decided there were just too many people living in the universe and thought the herd needed to be thinned out a bit, she recruited her former boy-toy Thanos to do the job. Thanos went to the task of gathering all of the infinity stones to become as powerful as God and control all of reality to do the job.
When Thanos came back, Kronos brought Drax back. Only this time, Drax’s body had “Hulk-level” strength with the downside of not getting back all of his original intelligence, because of what Moondragon did to him.
Drax became a brutish moron that only knew one thing – he had to kill Thanos.
Ironically, after the affair of the Infinity Gauntlet, he neither kills Thanos nor does he continue to try.
What does happen is that Drax, after attempting to rescue a young girl, appeared to perish in battle against the Skrull, Paibok. However, he didn’t die. Much like a butterfly’s cocoon, a new smaller, smarter Drax emerged from his old Hulkish body.
This Drax is the physical type seen within the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. He’s a muscle-bound warrior with red warrior tattoos who likes sharp pointy knives to kill things with. This latest version of Drax can’t fly or project energy but is smart and crafty.
And yes, this time around, he did get to kill Thanos.
The film version of Drax and Terry Pratchett’s Dwarves
As a huge fan of the Marvel movies, I have few complaints with the way characters are portrayed within those movies.
Really, there were only a few.
Before I talk about the Guardians of the Galaxy Movie version of Drax, I want to talk about other literary characters not related to Marvel in any way.
I want to talk about Terry Pratchett’s Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson and the dwarf characters of the Discworld Universe.
Carrot Ironfoundersson is the captain of the Night Watch in Pratchett’s Discworld’s city of Ankh-Morpork. He was named Carrot not for his short cropped reddish orange hair but because of the shape of his body. At six foot six, this human boy who was raised in a mineral mine with dwarves has a body that is wide at the shoulders and tapers down smaller to his waist – like a carrot. As Pratchett put it, when Carrot flexes his muscles, other muscles have to move out of the way.
Because he was raised in an environment that requires very much the literal truth – as rocks and cave-ins are common occurrences, language is plain and to the point. There is no room for clichés.
Dwarves mean what they say when the difference is between life and death. “Time to rock” could mean something quite literal for dwarves – and for Carrot.
So dwarves and Carrot don’t understand the hackneyed expressions of a cliché. Saying something is “over their head” to a dwarf would literally mean that an object is literally “over their head” and not something “they don’t understand”.
The movie version of Drax the Destroyer is quite similar to that of a dwarf from Pratchett’s Discworld series. When Dave Bautista’s Drax hears a cliché, he doesn’t understand it.
Is this Drax? Not really.
Could it be Drax? Why not? Drax has always been all about the business of revenge. The concept of humor might have escaped him. He rarely was a laugher. When you think about people who want nothing but revenge, they rarely laugh. Picture Hamlet – not a funny guy.
The other thing about the movie version was that he really had no animosity to Ronan the Accuser – although the writers changed that at the last moment when Drax said he was really after Thanos. However, if that was so, why go to all the psychotic rage over wanting to kill Ronan? In any event, Drax wants to kill Thanos now and all is well.
Drax on the whole
Drax is a character that has gone through a complex evolution. His path has had its ups and down with a whole bunch of major detours along the way. The one constant seems to be his pathological hatred toward his original murderer, Thanos.
Hell, if you look closely at Drax’s original costume you can even see a bit of Elvis Presley in the collar and the cape. That’s how much Kronos had taken from Arthur Douglas, real estate agent.
We’ve seen this character driven mad for revenge. Then we saw him being driven mad from a lack of focus. Then we saw him gain peace with the daughter he never got to know, died, and then came back.
When Drax returned to the Marvel Universe, it was a big deal. Drax has always been the Yin to Thanos’ Yang. Where there’s a Thanos, there’s a Drax. He’s like The Fugitive chasing the one-armed man. Wherever the bad guy goes, Drax was there to follow. He is Stephen King’s Roland Deschain to Thanos’ “man in black”.
The bad guy is there to be chased. The good guy is there to follow. The question that remains is “will he catch his bad guy”?
With Drax, we rarely get to know.