Imperial Guard (comics)
Imperial Guard by Dave Cockrum
|First appearance||X-Men (vol. 1) #107 (October 1977)|
Chris Claremont (writer)|
Dave Cockrum (artist)
List of Imperial Guard members
The Imperial Guard is a team of fictional super-powered alien warriors appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The Imperial Guard serves the rulers of the Shi'ar Empire, both by enforcing Shi'ar Imperial law on all planets within the Shi'ar Galaxy and as the Emperor or Empress' personal guard. Appearing primarily in comics relating to Marvel's X-Men titles, the Imperial Guard has been both allies and opponents of the X-Men many times over the years.
The original incarnation of the Imperial Guard was created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Dave Cockrum, and first appeared in Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 #107. Originally a homage to DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes, with its members all having similar costumes and powers to Legion members, the Imperial Guard has since come to include members who are not direct Legion counterparts.
Resemblances to DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes
The Imperial Guard has many intentional resemblances to DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes. The original members seen in Uncanny X-Men #107 were designed by artist Dave Cockrum, previously best known for his work on the LSH, and all had direct counterparts among the Legionnaires, with similar super-powers and costumes:
- Oracle = Saturn Girl
- Electron = Cosmic Boy
- Mentor = Brainiac 5
- Nightside = Shadow Lass
- Smasher = Ultra Boy
- Titan = Colossal Boy
- Astra = Phantom Girl
- Scintilla = Shrinking Violet
- Starbolt = Sun Boy
- Hobgoblin = Chameleon Boy
- Fang = Timber Wolf
- Magic (later renamed Magique) = White Witch
- Pulsar = Wildfire
- Tempest (later renamed Flashfire) = Lightning Lad
In X-Men #137, the Imperial Guard begins to move away from being strictly a Legion pastiche, introducing characters with no Legionnaire counterparts. More Guardsmen corresponding to the LSH were not introduced until the Avengers crossover "Operation: Galactic Storm" in the 1990s.
First and second appearances, Uncanny X-Men
In their first appearance, the Imperial Guard battles the X-Men at the command of then-Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken. They appear again toward the end of "The Dark Phoenix Saga". Imperial Guard leader Gladiator and several members of the Guard fight the X-Men once more when new Shi'ar Empress Lilandra Neramani and Professor X agree to a trial by combat, the X-Men versus the Imperial Guard, to decide the fate of Phoenix.
Operation Galactic Storm
The Imperial Guard plays an important role in the Kree-Shi'ar War, beginning with Warstar's attempt to kidnap Rick Jones. He is thwarted by Captain America, however Jones is later captured by Oracle and other Guardsmen intent on recovering Kree artifacts to aid in constructing the Nega Bomb super-weapon.
New Imperial Guardsmen are introduced: Onslaught, Hardball, Solar Wind, Moondancer, Voyager and Glom. Unlike earlier Guard members, these characters have no LSH counterparts. This group fights Quasar and Her, while Gladiator combats Thor, to distract them from stopping the Nega Bomb.
Of the newly introduced Guardsmen, Onslaught, Hardball and Glom have never appeared again.
When a group of aliens calling themselves Starblasters tries to push the moon away from Earth’s orbit, Quasar recruits some of Earth’s most powerful heroes to stop them. The Imperial Guard, informed about a hijacked Shi'ar craft, later becomes involved. Learning that the Starblasters are working for The Stranger, Guard members Solar Wind, Voyager and Moondancer, who were once captured and caged by the Stranger years before, request of Imperial Guard leader Gladiator that they be allowed to help Quasar's team against the Stranger.
Gladiator denies their request, but all three decide to help anyway, even though it means they will have to resign from active Guard duty. After helping Quasar, these three Guardsmen are never again seen serving the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, and their whereabouts are unknown.
Imperial Guard limited series
During the time when many Earth heroes are believed dead after a battle with the psionic being Onslaught, Lilandra dispatches a cadre of eight Guardsmen to help protect Earth: Gladiator, former Kree soldier Commando, Earthquake, Electron, Flashfire, Mentor, Nightside and Oracle.
The Guardsmen uncover a plot by a militant Kree faction to exact revenge for Earth's involvement in the Kree/Shi'ar war. The Guard ultimately proves triumphant, but not before the Kree's leader, the Supreme Intelligence, is recreated. Soon after, the Guard foils an assassination attempt on Lilandra by the Kree Ronan and his unwilling agents, the Inhuman Royal Family.
Four members of the Imperial Guard go rogue: Hussar, Warstar, Neutron and Webwing. They are placed on Earth which the Shi'ar, along with other alien races, has appointed as an interstellar prison. The four ex-Guardsmen help the entity 'Starhammer' attack the X-Men, particularly Jean Grey.
Afterward, Warstar, Neutron and Hussar return to active duty with the Guard. The fate of Webwing is not made clear.
During Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's run on New X-Men, Lilandra comes under the mental possession of Cassandra Nova, the genetic twin of Charles Xavier who has usurped her brother's body. Lilandra is mentally coerced into dispatching the Guard to kill the X-Men, while Nova stays behind and ravages the Shi'ar Empire.
After a pitched battle on the grounds of the X-Mansion, the X-Men are able to convince the Guard of the true threat. This is bolstered by Smasher, who is sent to Earth as a warning when Lilandra temporarily has a clear mind. The Guard rallies to defeat Nova but fall early on under her telepathic assault. The X-Men, with the unwilling recruitment of the shape-changing Shi'ar spy 'Stuff', defeat Nova.
During this storyline, the Guard is called the Shi'ar Superguardian Elite. It is unknown what, if any, distinction exists between the Guard and the Elite, although many old Guardsmen are shown as members of the Elite.
The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire
The Imperial Guard suffers heavy casualties in battle with Vulcan. Smasher, Impulse, Neutron, Hobgoblin and Cosmo are all killed. Gladiator, Scintilla, Warstar, Manta, Earthquake, Mentor, Electron, Astra, Starbolt and Flashfire survive - as do Titan, Nightside and Oracle, though receiving severe injuries these three eventually recover. The status of the rest of the Imperial Guard is as yet unknown.
The civil war between Vulcan's forces, including his own Imperial Guard, and those loyal the dethroned Lilandra rages on. Led by Havok and the Starjammers, Lilandra's forces gradually whittle away at Vulcan's forces, which are plagued by defections. The Shi'ar, contrary to Vulcan's expectations, are not happy to have an outsider as their ruler. Vulcan is discouraged by this, but Deathbird convinces him that they will come to accept him.
Warned in advance of a rebel raid on Feather's Edge, Vulcan and his fleet ambush the Starjammers. However, in the middle of the battle, his ship, the Hammer, is destroyed by the Scy'ar Tal (translates as "Death to the Shi'ar"). Vulcan and Gladiator attack the leader of the Scy'ar Tal and are easily defeated, whereupon they retreat deeper into Shi'ar space.
Marvel Girl makes contact with the Eldest Scy'ar Tal and discovers their true origin. The Scy'ar Tal were originally called the M'Kraan. Early in their history, the Shi'ar attacked them, killed a great number of their people, making the rest flee for their lives. Eventually, the Shi'ar settled on their planet, took the M'Kraan Crystal as their own, and passed down the legend of the M'Kraan Crystal as a sacred gift from their deities, Sharra & K'ythri. The M'Kraan then changed their named to Scy'ar Tal and devoted their culture and society to the destruction of the Shi'ar Empire. With their first attack, they destroyed Feather's Edge by transporting a star to obliterate it.
Vulcan leads the fight from a Shi'ar vessel, accompanied by his brother Havok and Gladiator, Titan, Starbolt, Mentor, Warstar and Earthquake, while Oracle shields their ship from Marvel Girl.
Gladiator assists Havok and Vulcan in fighting 'the Eldest', leader of the Scy'ar Tal and finally the three of them manage to win the battle.
Afterward, Vulcan orders the Guard to attack the Starjammers. Plutonia, Oracle, Flashfire, Manta and Electron are among the Guardsmen who fight the Starjammers. Finally they capture Raza, Ch'od, Havok and Polaris. The remaining Starjammers and Lilandra escape.
Vulcan decides to expand the Shi'ar Empire, but with all Imperial Guard members occupied in fulfilling his battle wishes somewhere around the borders of Shi'ar space, with some of the Death Commandos seemed to have been killed over time (off panel, but mentioned by Oracle) and with Oracle herself operating as Vulcan's adviser during this period in time. A new Imperial Guard was created by Vulcan, dubbed as "The Elite Praetorian Guard", and which consists of assassins who were being held prisoners by the Shi'ar. The new Imperial Guard consists of a Symbiote, captured for study during the time of D'Ken’s rule, an Uncreated, the Pn'zo and a Hodinn. Vulcan then chooses a Strontian woman—the same race as Kallark aka Gladiator—to lead the team.
Meanwhile, Gladiator was approached by Lilandra for information and Marvel Girl read his mind while Lilandra tried to seduce him. As soon as the required information was gathered, both women escaped. It was not made clear, however, whether Lilandra faked her affection or not.
The new Imperial Guard arrived on Clench Worlds, which was a temporary hiding place for the Starjammers. The Strontian targets Korvus and his Phoenix Blade, causing Rachel to fly off to help him. Meanwhile, the Symbiote enters the Starjammer to attack Lilandra. Rachel attacks the Strontian and takes her away from Korvus. The Symbiote attempts to attach itself to Lilandra, but after finding out it is sensitive to electricity Lilandra breaks a cable and stabs it with it. Outside on the platform the Pz'no attacks Korvus with electricity but Korvus throws him away before the Uncreated attacks him. While Rachel battles the Strontian, the Hodinn finally makes an appearance and decides to burn it all, unlocking his armor and allowing his scorching body to send a huge heat wave that destroys the planet, but not before the Starjammers and the rest of the Guard escape.
War of Kings
Serving under Emperor Vulcan for the Imperial Guard of the Shi'ar Empire, Gladiator led the assault against the Inhumans. As Crystal of the Inhuman Royal Family was about to marry Ronan the Accuser in order to unite the Inhumans with the Kree, they were attacked by Gladiator and the guard. Gladiator took on Black Bolt and was able to defeat him with some help from White Noise. The guard also captured Princess Lilandra who was with the Kree and Inhumans. Ronan also fell as he tried to help Crystal but was double teamed and taken out. Gladiator said that they have made their statement, and the Imperial Guard left. As they left, Medusa shouted that the Shi'ar would pay for what they have done, with their blood.
After having captured Lilandra, Gladiator and the Imperial Guard faced off against the new batch of Nova Centurions whom they quickly defeated when his cousin, Xenith, showed up informing him that the Emperor ordered him to return to present Lilandra to him when she was to face him. Gladiator quickly left though clearly showing his dislike for his cousin and her presence. Gladiator shows more internal conflict and walks a fine line in doing his duty for the Emperor he personally dislikes while still protecting Lilandra from the Emperor's wrath. Later when the Starjammers accompanied by the a faction of the Guardians of the Galaxy attacked his ship to extract Lilandra he was taken out of the fight by Rocket Raccoon aided by Marvel Girl until he saw through their trick. He quickly defeats the rest of their team and captures Lilandra before she can escape. She pleads with him again but another Imperial Guard interjects her plea and demands that Gladiator does as the Emperor ordered: to kill Lilandra and the others.
After battling Lilandra's allies the Starjammers and the 616 universe's 21st century incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Gladiator is swayed by Lilandra's argument against Vulcan and kills a member of the Imperial Guard loyal to the Emperor.
Guardian of the Galaxy member Adam Warlock fights with Emperor Vulcan in Guardians of the Galaxy #15. Later some Imperial Guardsmen, including Magique, are helping Vulcan out. Magique is ordered by Mentor to attack Adam Warlock and after a short but heavy fight Magique seemed to have lost the battle and Warlock escapes. However, not all was lost. Magique was able to put a 'witchmark' on Adam, without him knowing. Adam was followed by the Imperial Guard (via Magique's 'witchmark' on Adam). The Imperial Guards attack the Guardians of the Galaxy while Magique follows Adam Warlock, who somehow is able to transport the 'witchmark' back on her and therefore the Shi'ar soldiers shoot her instead of Adam Warlock.
At one point Lilandra is murdered by Talon and Black Bolt and Vulcan kill each other in a major blast. As a result of this Medusa becomes the new ruler of the Kree/Inhumans alliance and Gladiator was begged by the Shi'ar to become their new Majestor.
Realm of Kings
The "War of Kings" ended due to Black Bolt's T-Bomb, killing both himself and the Shi'ar leader Vulcan. As a result of this blast, a giant time-space tear called 'the Fault' had been created.
Gladiator, now Majestor of the Shi'ar sends out a squad of Imperial Guardsmen and Starjammers Ch'od and Raza to investigate the Fault. This squad was formed with Oracle, Starbolt, Fang, Neutron, Flashfire, Plutonia, Manta and yet another new Smasher.
Collective list of titles
- Avengers vol. 1 #345
- Avengers West Coast #80-82
- Captain America vol. 1 #398
- Classic X-Men #14
- Excalibur vol. 1 #69-70
- Exiles #3-4, 87-88
- Imperial Guard #1-3
- Inhumans vol. 3 #3-4
- New X-Men vol. 1 #117, 122-126, 133
- Quasar #32-33, 54-56
- Rom Annual #4
- Starblast #1-4
- Starjammers #4
- Thor vol. 1 #445-446
- Uncanny X-Men #107-109, 136-137, 155, 157-158, 162, 275-277, 341, 467-468, 477, 480, 482-483
- War of Kings #1-#6
- What If? #55-56
- X-Men Spotlight on ... Starjammers #2
- X-Men: Emperor Vulcan # 1 - 5
In other media
- The Imperial Guard appears in the 1990s X-Men TV series. Present in the series are Gladiator, Starbolt, Flashfire, Oracle, Smasher, Titan, Hobgoblin, Warstar, Earthquake, Hussar, Astra, and Manta.
- Gladiator, Neutron, Hussar, Starbolt, and Warstar of the Imperial Guard appear in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Apparently, some of the guards turned traitor and helped Deathbird take the throne from her sister Lilandra (although Gladiator only serves Deathbird as he is loyal to the throne rather than a person). It was mentioned that an Imperial Guard member named Guardian was still loyal to Lilandra. At the same time, the player's team comes to obtain a shard of the M'Kraan Crystal and defeat the traitorous guards, Shi'ar soldiers, and Deathbird.
- Certain members of the Imperial Guard appear in Watchers on the Walls by Christopher L. Bennett, those members being Smasher, Manta, Flashfire, Astra, Nightside, Magique, Blackthorn, N'rill'iree, and a brief appearance of Empress Lilandra.
- In The X-Men Companion, interviewer Peter Sanderson asks Gladiator co-creator Dave Cockrum, "How about the Imperial Guard? Can you give a key as to who’s who? The leader, Gladiator, is supposed to be Superboy…?" Cockrum answers, "Superboy, sure." Later, Sanderson comments, "There’s the leader, Gladiator. Coming right from the Philip Wylie novel Superman was based on." Cockrum replies, "That’s why we did that." The X-Men Companion, "Interview With Dave Cockrum", Fantagraphic Books, 1982, page 82.
- In Quasar #54-56.
- Uncanny X-Men #480.
- X-Men:Kingbreaker #1 - 4 (Feb. - May 2009)
- War of Kings #1 - 3 (May. - July 2009)
- (Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard #1 - #4)
- (Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard #1 - #4)
- Imperial Guard at the Marvel Universe wiki
- Imperial Guard at Uncannyxmen.net
- Imperial Guard at the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe