Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is adding several new characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but none bigger than Star-Lord’s estranged father, Ego. Literally. There’s a reason they call him “The Living Planet.”
But who is the Marvel character Kurt Russell is playing, and how can a planet have a human son? Scroll down to learn more about Ego the Living Planet, how his powers operate and what role he might be playing in the next MCU epic.
All you really need to know about Ego the Living Planet is right there in his name. He’s basically a giant space rock that gained sentience and now travels the universe stirring up mischief. He hails from a remote corner of the Marvel Universe called the “Black Galaxy,” where he started life as a virus that grew and grew until it evolved to the point where it could think and act.
Like many of the more powerful cosmic beings in the Marvel U., Ego doesn’t necessarily qualify as hero or villain. As his name suggests, he’s a self-interested and very emotional creature that tends to act on a whim. Sometimes he seeks to conquer other planets, which tends to put him in conflict with Earth’s heroes in general and Thor in particular. But other times, Ego has been an ally to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, such as the time he agreed to make his surface the home for an alien race that was displaced by Galactus. Galactus even once tried to devour Ego himself, but luckily Thor was there to help his oversized friend.
As a living planet, Ego is capable of altering his mass and shape-shifting. That’s why he’s able to form a giant face on his surface and converse with other beings. His surface can be covered by lush forests or barren deserts, depending on his mood. And while he looks like a giant ball of rock on the outside, internally Ego’s body isn’t so different from that of a human’s, with circulatory and digestive systems and even a giant brain at his core.
Ego can also use his shape-shifting powers to create massive tendrils to attack foes or release smaller offshoots of himself that basically act as extensions of Ego’s will. We’re assuming that’s why Ego appears in humanoid form in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Kurt Russell’s character is (likely) merely a small piece of a much greater being.
Thanks to a run-in with Galactus, Ego also has a spaceship wedged into his backside that allows him to travel the universe at faster-than-light speeds. Don’t ask.
Ego’s prodigious mind is really his greatest asset and most glaring weakness. He has massive psionic powers and can read minds or attack foes with powerful psychic blasts when needed. However, he’s also a highly emotional creature, and one that’s very easily riled up or manipulated when things don’t go his way. Many of Ego’s worst actions have come about because he was manipulated or brainwashed into causing destruction.
Like so many classic Marvel characters, Ego the Living Planet is the brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The character first debuted in 1966’s Thor #132 and has remained closely tied to both the Thor and Fantastic Four franchises ever since. In fact, we recently learned that the only reason Marvel Studios was even allowed to use Ego in Guardians Vol. 2 is that they arranged a character swap with Fox.
Ego wasn’t neither the first nor the last “living planet” to appear in comics. DC has its own version of that trope in the form of Mogo, a sentient planet who joined the Green Lantern Corps in the 1980s. But Ego came about during a particularly fruitful period where Lee and Kirby focused on expanding Marvel’s cosmic mythology a great deal. This was also the period where concepts like Galactus, the Inhumans and the Kree Empire came into play, reflecting Kirby’s fascination with topics like experimental evolution and higher life forms.
Ego’s background and true nature have continued to evolve over the years. Recently, it was revealed that Ego was actually created as a science experiment by a being known as The Stranger. What’s more, he has a twin named Alter-Ego. The Stranger manipulated the two into battling one another. Once again, Thor came to Ego’s aid, and now the battered remnants of Alter-Ego orbit Ego as his moon. So while the decision to make Ego Star-Lord’s father in the movies is clearly a major departure, the idea that Ego is a lonely creature in search of a family isn’t so off base.
Ego hasn’t had an especially active career outside of Marvel’s comics, though we suspect that’ll quickly change now that he’s about to make his big-screen debut in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. To date, most of Ego’s non-comics appearances have been in various animated series.He first appeared on TV in the 1994 Fantastic Four series and again in the short-lived 1998 Silver Surfer series.
Ego’s most significant animated role has been in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. (where he’s voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson). True to form, Ego appeared as a villain one episode and then as an ally in another where he helped Hulk and the gang battle the Kree Empire.
The question isn’t whether we’ll see more of Ego outside the comics going forward, but rather how Marvel will choose to portray the character. Will they start to downplay the “Living Planet” angle in favor of a humanoid Ego based on Kurt Russell’s character? Will we actually get to see the “planet” part of Ego in Guardians? And will this new take feed into Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy comics as well? Only time will tell.