Comic book writer Steve Englehart created Star-Lord (with artist Steve Gan) only wrote one issue with the character, way back in 1976, but he vividly recalls his motivation for creating him and the qualities he gave him to make him unique.
“I wanted to do a hero who was completely unlikable – at his origin. My idea was, he would go from a total jerk to a cosmic being – a Star-Lord – as he traveled out across the solar system, over the course of the series.” said Englehart. “He gets to the Sun in the first story – then he would go to Mercury, Venus, Earth and so on.”
“In my vision,each planet would have a story, and an artist, suited to the mythology attached to each planet – so that he would have a love story on Venus, a war story on Mars, and so on,” he continued. “By the time he passed Pluto, which was all we knew about at the time, he would have completely transformed, (would) no longer (be) a jerk, and then he would sail on to the stars!”
Those plans failed to come to fruition when Englehart left Marvel.
“There was an editorial change that I wasn’t happy with, so i just left all my Marvel series – ‘Avengers’, ‘Doctor Strange’ and others – and Star-Lord was just part of the damage.”
Englehart said that the character in subsequent comics and on the big screen differs a lot from his original vision.
“Well, Marvel owned the character, so it was given to other people.It’s not their fault, but none of them knew the mythology I’d planned to work with, and that the guy was supposed to be completely unlikable,” he said. “So, they immediately started smoothing off his edges as they turned him into a conventional space hero.”
The character was not used much over the following three decades – and Englehart admits he did not keep up with Star-Lord’s exploits.
“I really didn’t,” he said. “He didn’t appear very often. I assumed he was pretty much forgotten at Marvel – until I heard about this crazy movie!”
When comic book writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning elevated Star-Lord and other pretty obscure characters from the G-list to a high-profile, new team of “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2008, Englehart said that he didn’t read it – and still hasn’t.
“When I heard about the movie, I deliberately didn’t read the source material, because the whole idea of poor, lost, forgotten Star-Lord becoming a movie star was so preposterous to me that I wanted to experience it whole,” said Englehart. “I’m not so married to my version that I can’t read other people’s, but like I said, the film version is the definitive version of the current Star-Lord and I don’t want to dilute it.”
So what does Englehart think of the film version of his “baby” by Chris Pratt?
“It’s a great character, and [Chris Pratt] is great in it. Once again, nothing at all like my guy, but a great character in his own right.”
Englehart also wanted it noted that he created the character of Mantis – who makes her big screen debut in the current film – back in 1973, with artist Don Heck. The film version is played by Pom Klementieff.
“Once again, my version and the film version are very different,” he emphasized. “It’s odd, but the characters I created have been re-purposed for the films, while the characters I re-purposed myself in the comics, like Captain America and Dr Strange, are pretty much exact replicas on screen. Hollywood is a strange and mysterious place.”
Amazingly, unlike other films and other creators, Englehart has never gotten a chance to officially meet Chris Pratt or visit the set of any of the films.
“The film end doesn’t want the comics end involved,” Englehart said. “Yes, it sounds odd, but that’s the deal. I end up doing a lot of interviews about my characters, so I asked Marvel about being able to talk more about the films, and that was the response. I do, however, get invited to the premieres, so I’ve passed Chris and the others on the red carpet.”
Englehart said that “of course” he would love to do a cameo like Stan Lee does in films with characters he created but wanted it known that Marvel/Disney show their “appreciation” in other ways.
“They have been very good about that. Yes.”
So, when Englehart sees his name mentioned in the credits, what goes through his mind?
“When I started in comics, in the early 70s, comics was its own world,” he said. “We entertained half- to three-quarters of a million people on each title each month – while everyone else in America just KNEW that comics were crap for substandard minds. You could not convince non-comics readers that they should even try comics.”
“So no one, except maybe Stan, had the slightest idea that one day everyone would know Iron Man and Captain America – let alone Star-Lord!,” Englehart exclaims! “When I sit in a theater and see a Marvel movie, and then see my name on screen, 41 or 44 years after the fact, I am just blown away.”