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Guardians 3’s Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff were glad to change the comics — and impact them

Nebula and Mantis are back and sticking around Marvel forever

Nebula and Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 pose in front of space Graphic: Matt Patches/Polygon | Source images: Marvel Studios

The best time to jump into comic books is right now. Or now. Or… now. The best time to jump into comic books is the present. Because while comics get a bad wrap for being inaccessible, they’re also evolving to meet the interests of fans who’ve been courted by stories of other mediums.

Just look Marvel Comics: The new Guardians of the Galaxy #1 from writers Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and artist Kev Walker upholds the spirit of a comics continuity that’s been running for 80-plus years, but it’s also working to draw the best parts of the MCU onto the page. You may be surprised to learn, as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 stars Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff were when we told them at a recent Marvel press event, that these days the versions of Nebula and Mantis in the Marvel universe are drawn just like their versions of Nebula and Mantis — and have been for years. Their performances have endowed the comics with quirks and humanity, and for the better.

“That’s really cool to have that type of crossover and consistency between the movies and the comics,” Gillan tells Polygon when we sprung the news on her. “I feel quite flattered and honored that we’ve managed to kind of mold the characters a little bit in the comic world.”

(Klementieff was mostly left mouth agape — yes, even movie stars can be starstruck.)

Nebula rides on a hover motorcycle across the desert in Guardians of the Galaxy #1 Image: Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Kev Walker/ Marvel Comics

Gillan and Klementieff have been playing Nebula and Mantis since 2014 and 2017, respectively, and have done their fair share of comic reading. But as the sun sets James Gunn’s Guardians trilogy, they look back happy that their versions of the characters ultimately evolved the characters born on the page. They both credit Gunn for doing the work to tweak the characters without too much fear of fan reactions, but let’s face it, they also did the work.

“The characters oftentimes in the comic books, they’re so, so, so sexualized, and we have so much more to show,” Klementieff says. “So it was beautiful to create, like, unique and strange characters with so many layers. That’s thanks to James.”

Gillan, who is no longer a stranger to playing action heroes having jumped from Guardians to the Jumanji films and the gun-fu-heavy Gunpowder Milkshake, has been thrilled across the years by how Gunn redefined strong women in the sci-fi genre.

The Guardians of the Galaxy in their Nova uniforms walk down a spaceship stairs into a suburban neighborhood in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Photo: Jessica Miglio/Marvel Studios

“One of the really great things about working with James Gunn, and characters written by James Gunn, is that the women are badass, but they’re not the typical, stoic, fighting-machine badass women. They’re also funny and weird and awkward! And all of the things that we actually are,” Gillan says.

Though Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 likely wraps up Gunn’s involvement in the MCU (he’ll be busy over the next decade constructing a new DC comic book universe beginning with his own film, Superman Legacy), the future seems bright for Nebula and Mantis. Either character could pop in future films, and they’ll forever exist in the pages of Marvel Comics. Whatever the future does hold, Gillan has a hope for what’s next.

“For Nebula, I’m enjoying seeing her take care of other people,” says the actor. “I think part of the healing process is eventually getting to the point where you can help other people heal. And so I’d like to see that in Nebula’s future.”

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