Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Who is Ego?
The comic book history of Ego, Kurt Russell's character in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, is a tricky one.
Peter Quill, the intergalactic hero and leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, is known for his inflated sense of self, so it’s no surprise that Quill’s film father will be a being of immense ego. Just how big? Well, read on.
Kurt Russell is Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. That’s Ego as in Ego, The Living Planet, a character quite familiar to fans of cosmic Marvel comics.
A living planet, you ask? That’s just silly, you say. And it kind of is, which is why Ego is such a perfect fit with the talking trees and ill-tempered raccoons that make up the world of Guardians of the Galaxy.
But the character of Ego hasn’t always been silly. No, not even close. When Ego was first introduced, the majesty and artistry of Jack Kirby made this living heavenly body anything but a joke. Because let’s face it, only Jack Kirby would have the sheer creative cantaloupes to create a planet with a face. It’s hard to not to make a planet with facial hair anything but silly, but Kirby succeeded. Yes, in later years, Ego devolved into something of a cosmic punchline, but Kirby’s version of Ego was so powerfully realized that Marvel’s Living Planet would make Unicron crap himself.
Now, fans have only experienced some silly ass Ego, the Living Planet stories over the past few decades. Hell, on a recent episode of Hulk and the Agents of SMASH, Hulk and his crew fight giant sentient zits on Ego’s surface. But if one looks to the original Ego appearances by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, one finds a creature of hard sci-fi grandeur that only Kirby could conjure.
Ego popped up briefly in Thor #132 (1966) and made his first full appearance in Thor #133 (1966). Now, you really have to understand, Ego was created by Jack Kirby during a period of absolute cosmic creativity. In the span of just a few short years, Kirby, along with his creative collaborator Stan Lee, oversaw the creation of Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Kree, and countless other cosmic concepts. The later issues of their time on Thor took the Thunder God from the confines of Asgard and explored a cosmos that only Kirby could imagine. In this creative spurt of all things cosmic, Kirby planted the seeds of what would become the cosmic Marvel Universe, seeds that would eventually sprout into the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, so it’s more than appropriate that Ego becomes a major part of the Guardians film mythology.
Ego may look funny with his big planet mouth and a beard made of craggy mountains and peaks, but under Kirby’s careful creative hand, what could have been a farcical character was anything but. Seriously, just look at that design. Ego was a character just made for bong hits and blacklight posters.
Ego is one powerful bearded heavenly body, equipped with a giant mechanical propulsion unit that can allow the Living Planet to travel the cosmos at will. He has control over every molecule of its being, and on his surface, Ego can create defenses and can call also cause seismic events to destroy unwanted intruders, these include humanoid enforcers that act as white blood cells to expel foreign matter. Ego’s brain exists deep with his surface, and if the brain of the Living Planet is in danger, he can heat up his entire mass to burn any threat to his think box. The Living Planet is vastly intelligent, but as his name suggests, he possesses a tremendous superiority complex.
And Ego’s backstory is just as fascinating.
During his first meeting with Thor, the Living Planet told the Thunder God (sentences like this are why comics rule) that the bearded world was once a scientist who managed to merge with his planet when its sun was going super nova. Thor first encounters Ego when the spacefaring Rigellians of the Black Galaxy recruit Thor to protect them from Ego’s wrath. Along with the Rigellian Recorder (think a more human looking C-3P0), Thor kicked Ego’s equator and exiled the Living Planet to the confines of the Black Galaxy.
Now, let’s break down that sentence. Thor, a legendary Norse deity, fights a Living Planet with a beard, and beats him up and exiles him to a place called the Black Galaxy. This is why Jack Kirby is a god. When one reads this battle in the pages of Thor, there’s really no silliness about the struggle. Ego is a kick ass, hard sci-fi terror who came really close to beating Thor. Ego was a way for Kirby to turn the cosmic volume up to eleven and have the Thunder God go up against not a god or a monster, but a whole freakin’ planet and emerge victorious. In Ego’s second appearance, Kirby turns up the volume even higher and has Ego fight Galactus. What’s more awesome than a Living Planet against a Planet Eater? Nothing, that’s what.
Ego would later try and take revenge on Galactus by joining the Elders of the Universe and plotting with with his fellow cosmic entities to destroy the Devourer of Worlds. The presence of the Elders of the Universe has already been established in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ve already seen Collector in the first Guardians movie and Grandmaster will make his debut in Thor: Ragnarok. Whatever the case, could we soon be getting a big screen version of the Elders and could Ego be part of the cosmic cadre?
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Ego also tangled with Rom (awesome!), Beta Ray Bill (awsomer!) and many more cosmic Marvel champions. Sadly, in recent years, Ego has become a bit of a joke as writers have gone for the easy planetary punchline over the hard sci-fi Kirby magnificence of yesteryear, but there is one bit of business that might stand out to fans anticipating the Living Planet’s film debut.
In the pages of Astonishing Thor #1–5 (2010–2011), Ego discovers that he was once one of two sentient beings created by the cosmic entity known as The Stranger (another spacefaring Marvel being with an awesome ‘stache). The other sentient being is known as (wait for it) Alter Ego. Alter Ego is being held captive by The Collector and when Ego seeks out his planetary brother, the Living Planet discovers that The Stranger has designed Alter Ego to hate Ego. The two planets go to war as only living planets can until Thor intervenes and resolves the conflict. Alter Ego is nearly destroyed but manages to coalesce some of its fragments to form a moon in orbit around Ego. Now, Ego and Alter Ego travel the universe as a sort of very strange and oddly emotionally moving family unit.
Ego stands as a testament to the boundless imagination of Jack Kirby and a character that has become a sometimes awesome sometimes amusing entity in the Marvel Universe. For us old school geeks out there, we never imagined Ego the Living Planet could one day appear on the big screen. But thanks to James Gunn, this planetary dream will come true. And at the end of the day, it’s a giant planet with a beard and that’s never not awesome.
And listen, now that Ego is in the MCU, there is no better time for Marvel to go full tilt boogie and get the rights to Galactus and the Fantastic Four back because dammit, we need to see a for real not a stupid cloud version of Galactus go up against Ego the Living Planet on the big screen.