New book ‘Gamora and Nebula’ explores origin story of Marvel sisters

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Gamora & Nebula' (Part 1)

They were played by Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan in “Avengers: Endgame” (2019).

Now, they get an origin story in the new book “Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms.”

“This actually goes way back, even before you see them in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,'” Author Mackenzi Lee told WTOP. “This is about them as teenagers and as young adults.”

Readers see their roots growing up with the villainous Thanos as their adopted father.

“In ‘Avengers,’ we see them recognize they’ve been under the influence of Thanos, traumatized and emotionally abused,” Lee said. “This book takes us back to the start of that realization, coming out from under his thumb and starting to recognize their rivalry … might be a conceit to keep them from realizing they’re stronger together.”

It’s rough having a dad who can commit genocide with the snap of his fingers.

“Clean your room or else I’ll wipe out half of humanity,” Lee said. “It’s rough because they don’t know any different. … They’re like, ‘That’s just how dad is, he’s keeping us strong, he’s keeping us tough and doing what’s best for us,’ when in reality he’s manipulating them, using them and doing every bad thing you can do to a person.”

As in the movies, the sisters have very different personalities.

“Gamora is a little bit more outgoing and has a little bit more confidence in herself, because she’s been raised being told that she is the chosen one,” Lee said. “Nebula is a little scrappier. Nebula is always trying to prove herself. She is always the underdog. She’s been told so much that she’s the underdog that she just thinks of herself as that.”

In spite of their differences, they do have a few things in common.

“They’re both very tough, physically and emotionally,” Lee said. “They’re both survivors, literally and figuratively. And I think they’re both loyal to an extent, but they’re suspicious. They have a healthy [skepticism]. They’ve been raised to know that the world can turn on you at any time, so the only person they really have on their side is themselves.”

The plot puts them on a collision course in a race against each other.

“If you like ‘Firefly,’ ‘Dune’ or ‘Mad Max,’ it has a similar grimy, dusty vibe,” Lee said. “Gamora arrives on this planet that has been strip-mined into nothing. … She comes with an assignment from an unknown benefactor that she is supposed to steal the heart of the planet. … Hot on her heels, Nebula also arrives determined to beat Gamora.”

How does it tie into the overall Marvel Universe?

“It’s all about making the existing stories more fleshed out,” Lee said. “They’re not stories that are going to directly tie into any of the films or any of the comics. They’re not going to have a direct plot impact on things, but they’re laying an emotional foundation and creating a richer backstory for these characters to help you understand them better.”

Growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, Lee had a complex relationship with comic books.

“I was nerd before it was mainstream,” Lee said. “I would go to comic book stores. They were all dimly lit and populated by men in their ’40s. … I really wanted to be a comic book reader but couldn’t access the world, so when the movies came out, that gave me a foundation, a common language and an access point into the comic-verse.”

Last year, Lee made Forbes’s “30 Under 30,” having written “Loki: Where Mischief Lies,” “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue” and “Bygone Badass Broads.”

“That’s a collection of short essays about 52 women from history you probably don’t know about,” Lee said. “I always get frustrated when I pick up these books like ‘Women You’ve Never Heard Of,’ and it’s like Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks. I’m like, ‘OK, but I’ve heard of them.’ Hopefully these are women that are unfamiliar to people.”

Maybe Gamora and Nebula will qualify for a future edition of “badass broads.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Gamora & Nebula' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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