A couple of weeks ago, writer and director James Gunn confirmed that he would return for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3… but in the same breath, broke the sad news that the third installment would be the end of the GOTG franchise as fans know it. "[Vol. 3] will conclude the story of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy," Gunn wrote in a statement on his Facebook page.
But now, in an interview with the Toronto Sun, Gunn is clarifying that comment. While Vol. 3 will be the end of the story of the Guardians introduced in the original 2014 film, it won't necessarily be the last GOTG ever made. He recently told the publication,
"I think the first three movies tell a single story and that story is pretty simple. I think that there could be a Guardians Vol. 4, but it would not be the same. It would not be the same group. Basically, the story of this group ends with Vol. 3."
The thing about superhero teams like the Guardians or the Avengers is that their rosters are constantly changing, and there are plenty of Guardians characters in the comics who haven't been introduced on the big screen yet. In fact, there have been two entirely separate teams that have taken on the name "Guardians of the Galaxy" — an original lineup dating back to 1969, and a newer iteration of the group from 2008, aka the version the Marvel Cinematic Universe chose to adapt.
But even if we don't see Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, or Groot — or Vol. 2 additions Nebula, Yondu, and Mantis — after Vol. 3, there are still superheroes who have been a part of the new Guardians lineup before that the MCU could choose from. Here are some solid options.
1. Adam Warlock
Adam Warlock may be the most famous member of the recent Guardians lineup who hasn't yet leapt from page to screen. This powerful hero derives his abilities from the Soul Gem, one of the six Infinity Stones, and his existence has already been teased in the MCU. It was recently revealed that Warlock will make his feature film debut in GOTG Vol. 3. Perhaps this new addition will carry over to form a new team in Vol. 4?
2. Agent Venom
Several iterations of this villain/anti-hero have popped up over the years, but the version that joined the Guardians was Flash Thompson (aka Peter Parker's frenemy), who adopted the pseudonym Agent Venom after being infected by the gooey black symbiote. However, since all characters associated with Spider-Man are property of Sony and not Marvel Studios, his chances of appearing in Vol. 4 are slim. (But if the two studios can share Spidey, maybe they can also strike a deal for Venom?)
Angela is actually a character created by American Gods author Neil Gaiman for Image Comics in the '90s. The author eventually sold the rights to the character to Marvel, and she was only recently integrated into those comics in 2013's Age Of Ultron storyline. Now, her full name is Aldrif Odinsdottir, and her retconned mythology makes her the lost sister of none other than Thor — which would provide an easy and intriguing way of introducing her into the MCU.
We've met a superhero who can control insects in Paul Rudd's Ant-Man. Now, meet a superhero who is an insect. A member of an alien race known as Insectivorids, Bug's defining trait as a member of the Guardians is his bitterness over the fact that he wasn't invited to be an original member of the roster — which would make his belated introduction in Vol. 4 all the more appropriate.
5. Captain Marvel
Many characters, male and female, have adopted the title of "Captain Marvel" over the years. So can it be a coincidence that the Captain Marvel that joined the Guardians of the Galaxy is specifically Carol Danvers… which is also the version of the character that Marvel Studios chose to adapt for its upcoming film starring Brie Larson? After her introduction in 2019's solo Captain Marvel movie, it would be fascinating to see the character meet up with the Guardians for Vol. 4.
Just like Warlock, the presence of Cosmo the telepathic Soviet dog has already been teased in the MCU, as glimpsed in The Collector's exhibit in the post credits scene of Vol. 1. In the comics, he works as the security chief of the outerspace outpost Knowhere — also glimpsed in Vol. 1 — and he ends up being the chief recruiting force behind another Guardians-like team known as the Annihilators. (Spin-off, anyone?)
7. Iron Man
Yes, believe it or not, Tony Stark himself was briefly a member of the Guardians. However, don't get your hopes up about seeing Robert Downey, Jr. joining the psychedelic galaxy protectors, since it's almost a certainty that the actor will be done with the MCU after Avengers 4.
8. Jack Flag
Jack Harrison (codename Jack Flag) was an ordinary kid who found himself inspired to fight crime by the heroics of Captain America. While fighting Dr. Hyde, he was drenched in the Hyde Formula, which gave him super-strength. After being paralyzed by a different villain, it was the Guardians who helped heal Jack and restore him to his full strength — after which he joined their team for a spell.
9. Major Victory
Vance Astro, an aptly-named astronaut who became the hero known as Major Victory, was actually a founding member of the original Guardians. After he was encased in ice Captain America-style, he was discovered and thawed out by Star-Lord and his compatriots. It was actually Astro's idea for them to use the team name Guardians of the Galaxy.
Phyla-Vell operated under many pseudonyms throughout her tenure as a hero, including one of the many aforementioned Captain Marvels and Quasar. While a member of the Guardians, she became known as Martyr and served in a semi-antagonistic role, often escalating conflicts and working against her own teammates. She's also a rare LGBT comic book character, and even had a flirtation with bisexual Guardian member Moondragon.
Speaking of Moondragon (née Heather Douglas), she is a telepathic warrior who also has the ability to transform into — you guessed it — a fire-breathing space dragon. However, her incredible telepathic abilities also leave her vulnerable to psychic manipulation, often making her a pawn in conflicts between the Guardians and villainous forces. Besides Phyla-Vell, she's also had romances with both Thor and Daredevil, among other heroes.
Who is Star-Lady, you ask? You may know her better by her full name: Kitty Pryde. The mutant and frequent X-Men team member joined the Guardians after she met them while helping to rescue Jean Grey from alien abductors. In the comics, Peter Quill and Kitty fell in love and led the Guardians side by side for some time… until Peter left the group to become king of the Spartax empire. In his place, Kitty adopted her lover's pseudonym and became known as Star-Lady. (Too bad we probably won't see this particular storyline play out, since Kitty — like all the X-Men — is owned by 20th Century Fox rather than Marvel Studios.)
Thing — aka Benjamin Grimm — is most famous as one of the eponymous members of the Fantastic Four, but he also served a brief tenure as a member of a different superhero team: the Guardians of the Galaxy. His membership with them didn't last long, however, since he was drawn back to Earth thanks to the events of Civil War II and ultimately decided to stay there. (This is another team member we might not see join the Guardians on the big screen, however, since Fox also owns the rights to the Fantastic Four, too.)
What will the new Guardians lineup look like? How many of these comic characters will finally make the transition to the big screen? Find out when Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 4 hopefully kicks off Phase 4, presumably in 2020.