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Adam Warlock explains: who is the Guardians of the Galaxy character?

Marvel Studios usually keeps things pretty close when it comes to new characters making their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, but not when it comes to Adam Warlock. We have known since the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 post-credits scene that the reign of this cosmic messiah is at hand, and now we know who will play the hero in Guardians 3.

But who is Adam Warlock and why is he such an important addition to the MCU? Read on to find out everything you need to know about this powerful but unstable Marvel hero. Here are the topics we cover:

  • Who is Adam Warlock?
  • The origins of Adam Warlock
  • Adam Warlock’s powers and abilities
  • Adam Warlock in TV and games

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Who is Adam Warlock?

Adam Warlock is a key player in the Marvel cosmic landscape. His innate, energy-based powers already make him a force to be reckoned with. But when he wields the incredible power of the Soul Stone, Warlock becomes one of the most powerful warriors in the universe. Warlock was a frequent ally of teams like the Fantastic Four and the Guardians of the Galaxy, who often fought to protect the universe from villains trying to rule it.

However, Warlock is both one of the greatest threats to the Marvel Universe and one of its bravest defenders. That’s because he has a darker side known as the Magus. While Warlock has done his best to suppress or destroy this darker side, the universe is never entirely safe from this tyrannical villain as long as Warlock himself survives.

Warlock is both one of the greatest threats to the Marvel Universe and one of its bravest defenders.


The origins of Adam Warlock

Like many Marvel cosmic characters, Adam Warlock was originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on the Fantastic Four pages (particularly in issues # 66-67 in 1967). At the time, however, he was known simply as “Him,” and it wasn’t until later, when writers like Roy Thomas and Jim Starlin got their hands on the character, that Warlock’s backstory and ongoing role in Marvel U. was really worked out. In these early stories, Warlock was treated as a messianic savior, with Thomas drawing a lot of inspiration from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

Starlin in particular played a huge role in shaping the character. It was he who associated the character with the Soul Stone and established the ongoing rivalry between Warlocks and the fanatical Church of Universal Truth, led by Warlock’s insane future self, Magus. Starlin even killed the character when Warlock traveled forward in time, sucking out his own soul to prevent him from ever becoming a Magus. Warlock eventually returned, and several different incarnations of Magus followed.

The warlock / magus dichotomy.  Art by Jim Starlin.  (Image source: Marvel)

The warlock / magus dichotomy. Art by Jim Starlin. (Image source: Marvel)

The plot of Infinity Gauntlet served as arguably the most important plot of Warlock in the Marvel Universe when he helped the heroes of the earth overthrow the almighty Thanos and take possession of the Infinity Gauntlet for themselves. This paved the way for a new series called Infinity Watch, in which Warlock and his allies (Pip the Troll, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Moondragon, and Thanos himself) protected the Infinity Gems to prevent another villain from returning to the Gauntlet assemble.

Warlock rose again to the top of the Marvel universe during the 2007 crossover of Annihilation: Conquest. He returned to help guard a new incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy (the one who inspired the films) and prevent further damage to the already fragile fabric of the Marvel Universe. Most recently, Warlock appeared in several Thanos-centered graphic novels written and drawn by Starlin.

Adam Warlock’s powers and abilities

Warlock was genetically engineered by a group of scientists called the Enclave who wanted to create a genetically perfect, synthetic human. Warlock has your standard superhero skills like strength, speed, durability and flight as well as the ability to absorb and channel cosmic energy through “quantum magic”. Warlock also has the ability to retreat into a regenerative cocoon and heal his body from deadly wounds.

Much of its power, however, comes from the soul stone. As one of the six gemstones that make up the Infinity Gauntlet, the soul stone enables the warlock to absorb the souls of other beings. It is this soul stone that caused a future incarnation of Warlock to go insane and transform into Magus.

Warlock also ran all six Infinity Gems shortly after the 1991 Infinity Gauntlet story, making him one of the most powerful beings in the world.

Art by Ron Lim. (Image source: Marvel)

Art by Ron Lim. (Image source: Marvel)

Adam Warlock in TV and games

Adam Warlock has made a number of minor cameos on various Marvel animation and video game projects. One of his first multimedia appearances came in Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems, which loosely adapts the plot from Infinity Gauntlet and includes both Warlock and Magus. Warlock has also appeared in animated series such as Silver Surfer, The Super Hero Squad Show, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and the direct-to-DVD animated film Planet Hulk.

As the Guardians of the Galaxy have become a more prominent part of Marvel’s various multimedia projects, Adam Warlock has too. He recently appeared in the second season of the Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon (in adult form by Eric Bauza and in child form by Tara Strong). He is also a playable character in the mobile game Avengers Alliance.

Adam Warlock when he appears in Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Adam Warlock when he appears in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Expect a lot more Warlock on TV and in Marvel’s games as the character starts making his mark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warlock made his MCU debut in Thor: The Dark World back in 2013, as director James Gunn said that the cocoon seen in The Collector’s trophy room actually housed Warlock’s body. Warlock was originally supposed to be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but Gunn chose to leave him out instead of cramming too many characters into one movie. Therefore, the film only teases its later appearance.

Instead, Warlock will reportedly make his debut in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, where he is played by Midsommar and Dopesick star Will Poulter. If the comics are any clue, Adam is likely to be the Guardians’ worst nightmare and their most powerful ally all in one.

Jesse is a kind writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by doing Follow @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.

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