What comics fans know about Adam Warlock that you don't

Reader beware! This way be spoilers for The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

In the comics, Adam Warlock bears the "emerald" Soul Gem on his forehead, put there by none other than the High Evolutionary himself in Marvel Premiere Vol. 1 #1. Adam Warlock saves the universe on occasion, and he has a long and tangled history with the Infinity Gauntlet. His biggest quest, however, is that of every cosmic superhero: to find out who he is. Read on to discover the untold truth of Adam Warlock!

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's 'Him' from Fantastic Four #66-67

Adam Warlock, created by Marvel legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, started his existence as a being known only as "Him" in 1967's Fantastic Four #66. For the entirety of the issue, the being known as Him haunts the storyline from off panel, all the while gestating unseen within a human-sized chrysalis. In Fantastic Four #67, Ben Grimm's blind girlfriend Alicia Masters is drawn towards a seemingly distressed voice that emanates from within the chrysalis. (Her side plot leads into the next arc, in which Ben Grimm yearns to be cured of his hideous condition as the Thing.) In the final panels, out steps a shirtless blond Rocky Horror lookalike in a yellow speedo. Having foiled the Beehive, a club of dastardly scientists, he toots his own horn, explaining that he has saved all humanity from the Beehive's evil but no one will ever know. Then he disappears, destined to remain in this under-developed state until Roy Thomas and Gil Kane turned Him into Adam Warlock starting in Marvel Premiere Vol. 1 #1.

The Magus

When writer/artist Jim Starlin took the reins with Warlock in 1975, he saw him as "sort of a messiah character, or at least a mystical character with his cosmic awareness"—essentially the same type of thing Marvel already had with Captain Marvel. Rather than rehashing plot during his classic run on Warlock, Starlin chose to turn our hero into a "suicidal paranoid schizophrenic. And it seemed to work pretty well."

Enter the Magus. Adam Warlock's nemesis is not some horrifying alien starbeast like Thanos or world-devouring cosmic entity like Galactus. No, his worst enemy is himself from the future—the figurehead of the perverse Universal Church of Truth. Time paradoxes notwithstanding, since Adam Warlock and the Magus are one and the same, Warlock can defeat the Magus only via an act of "self-annihilation." The evils of the Magus come back to haunt Adam Warlock again and again. "It wasn't me, it was future me" doesn't even work in the comics, as an excuse for misdeeds.

The Technarchy

Beginning in New Mutants #18 (1984), legendary writer Chris Claremont built upon Starlin's Warlock/Magus dichotomy by introducing the Technarchy, a techno-organic futuristic society on the planet Kvch. A being called the Magus reigns over the Technarchy with a metallic if not iron fist.

One of the Magus's sons and would-be successors, confusingly named Warlock, cowers at the thought of having to face his father in combat, in accordance with Technarchic custom. The cowardly Warlock flees to Earth-616, happens upon the Xavier Institute, and teams up with the New Mutants. The Magus is ultimately brought down by a new strain of the techno-organic virus—the same virus flesh-to-metal virus that Cable is constantly fending off.

Adam Warlock is kind of a creep

Adam Warlock's interactions with the opposite sex have been less than ideal. In Fantastic Four #67, the being still known as Him lured Ben Grimm's blind girlfriend Alicia Masters to his chrysalis with a wounded cry. In Thor #134-135, Warlock attempted to kidnap Sif and keep her as his "mate." Thor stepped in and roughed up the aggressor, but that doesn't diminish the criminal uncoolness of Warlock's actions. Warlock's ultimate decision to flee Earth's violence can be seen as his first—but certainly not his last—futile attempt to run from himself.

Gil Kane and Roy Thomas gave him a signature look, sound, and style

Story only gets you so far. Sensory details are essential to all of Marvel's cosmic comics—Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, and, of course, Warlock. Credited in Warlock #2 as "Spiritual Advisor," artist Gil Kane updated Adam Warlock's getup from the bare-chested minimalism of Him to the iconic red shirt emblazoned with a thunderbolt.

In addition to adding intellectual in-jokes, tightening up Marvel's dialogue, and writing some of the best arcs in comics history, Roy Thomas gave Adam Warlock's actions sound effects. Thomas' percussive, consonant-heavy onomatopoeiaand ornate prose built on the classic traditions popularized by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

Adam Warlock, the Infinity Gauntlet, and the Infinity Watch, and more

Warlock truly moved onto Marvel's main stage with two cosmic tales: 1990's Thanos Quest and the following year's Infinity Gauntlet arc, which might as well be called "Adam Warlock Saves the Universe"—and led all too quickly into 1992-'93's Warlock and the Infinity Watch, an extended title for which might be "Adam Warlock just gave the Infinity Gems to Gamora, Pip the Troll, Drax the Destroyer, Moondragon, and Maxam. Are you kidding, Warlock?"

In a metaphysical courtroom, the Gauntlet-coveting cosmic entity Eternity tries to make the case that Warlock's artificial origins and history of impulsive behavior make him unfit for godhood. Following the trial's dissolution, Warlock entrusts each member of a motley crew of ne'er-do-wells with one of the Infinity Gems. You can guess where this is going. It's time for Infinity War and a ton of other Infinity Gem-related events after that. Some superbeings—mainly Thanos and Adam Warlock—just never learn.

Is the Soul Gem a blessing or a curse?

With great power comes great responsibility, as Marvel fans are all too aware—and Adam Warlock never asked for either. Faced with the argument that, as Newsarama put it, he achieved superhero glory after the High Evolutionary casually said "Oh hey, I just happen to have this thing laying around, put it on your forehead," writer/artist Jim Starlin conceded the point, chuckling, "Yeah, I always got a kick out of that. And as I went on, I realized the High Evolutionary didn't do him any favors, because he basically turned Warlock into a spiritual vampire!"

The High Evolutionary's actions would end up coming in fairly handy for the universe at large later on, but still, that's kind of a jerk move.

The Strange connection between Him and Her

Over the years, Adam Warlock and Doctor Strange have teamed up and fought each other on numerous occasions. One memorable showdown that takes place between The Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity Watch pits Warlock's Gauntlet against Doctor Strange's relics and talismans.

The seeds of this showdown were sewn years earlier: in 1963, a short called "Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic!" in the horror anthology Strange Tales #110 introduced readers to a "rushed" version of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Doctor Strange. Marvel's most explicitly magical superhero, Strange crosses planes of existence and wields exotic magic to reshape reality. In the early 1970s, writers such as Steve Englehart flung the character headlong into the ethereal unknown, priming him for inevitable meetings of the minds with Marvel's other cosmic warlock.

In Invincible Hulk Annual #6, it's revealed that their fates are inextricably linked by Ayesha, a.k.a. Kismet, a.k.a. Her. Doctor Strange was tricked into performing an operation in the Beehive, which, in a roundabout way, led to the creation of Ayesha, "Her" to Warlock's "Him." Given that neither Strange nor the Hulk were part of the Adam Warlock origin glimpsed in the closing moments of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we're betting it'll be some time before we see "Her" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.