If The Avengers are Marvel's equivalent of a rock supergroup think Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young but with six-packs then what does that make the Guardians of the Galaxy? ''We're the Sex Pistols,'' says Zoe Saldana. ''We're the renegades. We'll come in drunk, we'll save the day, but check your wallet we might have taken it.''
Not only are the Guardians less well-known than the likes of Iron Man and the Hulk, but the movie introducing them is set almost entirely in spaceships and on distant planets. They're also just plain weird. Saldana plays the green-skinned assassin Gamora, wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista is the gray-skinned behemoth Drax the Destroyer, and Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt is the self-proclaimed Star-Lord, Peter Quill. The other two? Well, that's where it gets very...CG. Bradley Cooper voices a genetically enhanced raccoon-like creature named Rocket, and Vin Diesel breathes vocal life into a walking tree, Groot. Says Diesel, ''Groot's a bad mofo from Planet X.''
And the supporting characters are a freak show all their own: the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), Nebula (Doctor Who's Karen Gillan), and the Collector (Benicio del Toro). Finally, there's Marvel's baddest bad guy, Thanos (no word yet on who will be playing the motion-capture character, but director James Gunn describes him as ''the head of the snake.'')
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige admits that this tale of obscure, off-kilter superheroes represents its biggest roll of the dice since the original Iron Man. ''But we like that the Guardians are unfamiliar to people,'' he says. ''I didn't know who Indiana Jones was before I went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark as a kid. I didn't know who Luke Skywalker was. Really, it's about making a great movie.''