When "Guardians of the Galaxy" opened in theaters in 2014, it marked a distinct tonal shift in the way Marvel told its stories on the silver screen. Gone were the brooding heroes struggling to cope with the crushing onus of destiny. In their place, we got a motley crew of misfits and mercenaries who were humanoid, if not entirely human.
With Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) as the sole Earthling lead among a polychromatic cast, the Marvel Cinematic Universe opened itself to a cosmos of possibilities. Even then, the movie studio has only begun to scratch the surface. From household names like Rocket Raccoon and Groot to the boozy aliens known as the Ciegrimites, here are 20 of the strangest species Marvel has to offer.
A member of the Guardians, Rocket is a genetically and cybernetically engineered raccoon from the planet Halfworld. He cracks wise, totes guns, pilots ships and conceals a heart of gold underneath his prickly exterior. Together with Groot, a sentient, ambulatory tree, he roamed the galaxy picking up bounties until Star-Lord recruited him to help him sell an orb containing an Infinity Stone to Taneleer Tivan, also known as the Collector.
The aforementioned tree, Groot is a Flora colossus from Planet X. Despite being a timber of few words—"I am Groot" is his sole refrain—Groot is an expert inquasi-dimensional super-positional engineering. Near the end of the first movie, Groot sacrifices himself to save the lives of his new friends, but Rocket saves a sprig, which is seen sprouting into a Baby Groot in a post-credits scene.
Dubbed the "most dangerous woman in the whole galaxy," Gamora is a green-skinned Zen-Whoberi who was adopted by Thanos the Mad Titan as a child and raised to be a ruthless assassin. At least, until she betrays him in the first movie by stealing the orb and attempting to pawn it off to the Collector. When Ronan the Accuser makes off with the orb, Gamora makes a last stand with her fellow Guardians to reclaim it.
Yondu Udonta may not technically be Star-Lord's father, but he's probably the closest thing he has to one, even if the Centaurian space pirate was responsible for kidnapping young Peter Quill in the first place. In the comics, Yondu is depicted with blue skin and a large red mohawk-like fin on his head. He's able to control arrows made from yaka, a sound-sensitive metal found only on his planet, by whistling.
Howard the Duck
Howard the Duck, an anthropomorphic, well, duck, from Duckworld makes a cameo in a post-credit scene in the first "Guardians of the Galaxy, but he's probably best known for his widely panned foray into film in 1986. How he wound up among the Collector's exhibits remains a mystery, but his comic-book counterpart found himself in the middle of the Florida Everglades after a demon known as Thog the Nether-Spawn used his magic to tilt the interdimensional cosmic axis.
Ego the Living Planetis a member of a god-like race known as the Celestials. An intelligent, self-aware planet that feasts on unsuspecting interplanetary travelers, Ego possesses a brain-like organ, a digestive tract and an immune system that can dispatch antibody-esque beings to fend off intruders. Besides its ability to shape its terrain at will — it frequently manifests a giant face when speaking to others — Ego can also spawn humanoid avatars if it so chooses.
Eschewing her human comic-book origins in favor of a more extraterrestrial one, the cinematic Mantis is an alien with antennas who uses touch to experience the feelings of others. She can also use her powers to manipulate emotions or induce sleep.
Taneleer Tivan, better known as the Collector, only looks like Benicio del Toro, at least in the movies. In reality, he's a powerful alien billions of years old and virtually immortal. To occupy his time, Taneleer began scouring the universe for artifacts and life-forms he found rare, valuable or interesting, enough to fill up about 10 museum-worlds.
Immortal, indestructible, and one of the oldest cosmic entities in the universe, the Phoenix Force is described in the comics as the "embodiment of the very passion of Creation — the spark that gave life to the Universe, the flame that will ultimately consume it." It famously transformed Jean Grey of the X-Men into Phoenix, and later, Dark Phoenix, who inadvertently destroys a planet of 5 billion people after exhausting the energy of a nearby star.
A member of the Inhuman Royal Family, Lockjaw resembles a giant bulldog with a two-pronged antenna on its forehead. Whether he's an Inhuman dog or an Inhuman who just looks like a dog is unclear, but Lockjaw can teleport himself — and up to a dozen people — across incalculable distances and dimensions.