It’s clear that Marvel movie fans can expect a lot of new faces in the MCU in the coming years. And rumor has it that could include Nova, an ordinary teenager granted amazing cosmic powers and recruited into the peacekeeping force known as the Nova Corps.
With signs pointing to Nova possibly getting his own Marvel movie in the near future, we figure it was time to break down everything you need to know about this character, the Corps, and the important role they play in the Marvel Universe.
Nova Explained: The Basics
Nova is a member of the Nova Corps, a group of heroes who can be best summed up as the Marvel Universe’s answer to the Green Lantern Corps. Each of these space cops is given access to the powerful Nova Force and charged with defending the galaxy from all manner of threats. All members of the Nova Corps carry a rank, whether they’re low-level Corpsmen, elite soldiers known as Centurions or the all-powerful Nova Prime. Each of these soldiers is guided by the Xandarian Worldmind, a sentient computer containing all the knowledge and wisdom of centuries’ worth of Nova Corps soldiers.
While a fully functioning Nova Corps usually consists of several hundred members, most stories tend to revolve around one of two Earth heroes, Richard Rider and Sam Alexander. Both of these heroes have risen to the challenge of being a Nova Corpsmen and carried the torch for the Corps when the Marvel Universe was at its darkest.
Nova’s Powers and Abilities
All Nova Corpsmen can draw power from the Nova Force. This energy source grants them enhanced strength, speed and durability as well as the ability to fly. Nova can also absorb energy and redirect it at his enemies in the form of powerful blasts. Additionally, Nova’s suit allows him to safely breathe in and travel through space, including granting access to hyperspace travel.
A Nova’s rank determines how much of the Nova Force they can access. Centurions are considerably stronger than Corpsmen, while Nova Prime is the strongest and most capable soldier of them all. At one point, Richard Rider served as Nova Prime and carried the entire Nova Force within his body, making him one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe.
Nova: Origin and Background
Nova was created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist John Romita, Sr. and debuted in 1976’s The Man Called Nova #1. However, his origins actually date back a decade earlier, when Wolfman produced an unofficial fanzine called Super Adventures. Super Adventures featured multiple early incarnations of the character that would become Nova, with Romita later helping Wolfman to induct his creation into the Marvel Universe proper.
But while Rider himself debuted in 1976, it wasn’t until 1979’s Fantastic Four #205 that the Nova Corps as a whole were introduced. Early on, Nova was treated more as an homage to Spider-Man, a hero who struggled to balance his newfound powers with his personal and family responsibilities. Even after the introduction of the Nova Corps brought more of a cosmic angle to the character, Nova’s adventures often revolved around his struggles to balance his duties as a Corpsman with his more earthly concerns, including his ties to the teen super-team the New Warriors.
Nova remained a fixture in Marvel’s New Warriors comics long after his own solo comic ended. However, 2006 marked the start of a major resurgence for the character thanks to the crossover storyline Annihilation. There, Richard found himself the sole survivor of a massacre perpetrated by Annihilus and his massive army of Negative Zone monsters. Nova inherited the entire Nova Force and helped rally the heroes of the Marvel Universe against this “Annihilation Wave.” In the aftermath, Marvel launched a new Nova comic from writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning that followed the character’s efforts to protect a chaotic universe and slowly rebuild the Nova Corps.
Nova remained a major player in subsequent cosmic conflicts like Annihilation: Conquest and War of Kings, ultimately becoming trapped in a realm called the Cancerverse alongside Star-Lord and Thanos. That paved the way for Marvel to introduce a new heir to the mantle of Nova, Sam Alexander. Created by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness, this new, younger Nova hearkened back to Richard Rider’s earlier adventures as a teen hero struggling to balance his personal and superhero lives.
In recent years, Marvel has established a new status quo for Nova where both Richard Rider and Sam Alexander co-exist alongside one another. The Nova Corps has also begun to reestablish itself (as well as taking on some new MCU influences) though new conflicts like the comics event Infinity Wars will sorely test this beleaguered peacekeeping force.
Nova: Beyond the Comics
The Richard Rider version of Nova has played small roles in multiple animated series, including Silver Surfer and Marvel Super Hero Squad. However, Sam Alexander has enjoyed a much more frequent TV presence, as he was a major supporting character on Ultimate Spider-Man (voiced by Logan Miller). Sam also appeared on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, with that series elaborating on some of the back-story of the Nova Corps that was only alluded to in Ultimate Spider-Man.
The Sam Alexander Nova has also appeared in several recent Marvel video games, including Disney Infinity 2.0, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Marvel Future Fight and LEGO Marvel’s Avengers.
Neither Sam nor Richard have appeared in the MCU yet, though that could be changing soon. The Nova Corps itself debuted in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, with Glenn Close playing Nova Prime, John C. Reilly playing Rhomann Dey and Peter Serafinowicz playing Garthan Saal. That movie depicted the Nova Corps less as super-powered heroes than ordinary, blue collar space cops, with much of their power coming from their spaceships rather than the Nova Force itself. The Nova Corps is alluded to in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, with Thanos apparently having decimated the Corps and their homeworld of Xandar.
It’s believed that this plot point could be used to set the stage for an eventual Nova movie, with either Richard Rider or Sam Alexander (or both) being recruited to carry on the legacy of the Nova Corps. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige noted in April, 2018, that a Nova movie has “immediate potential” for the studio, while also revealing that the hero was included in earlier drafts of the Guardians of the Galaxy screenplay.