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Marvel's Cosmo: The History Behind Guardians Of The Galaxy's Adorable Canine

It's been a while since the Guardians of the Galaxy have shown their faces in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The team of intergalactic marauders played a big role in "Avengers: Infinity War" and its sequel, "Avengers: Endgame," which capped off the MCU's Phase 3 with a big bang. Along the way, Guardians were sacrificed, turned into dust, and revived throughout the events of the film before jet-setting off with Thor at the end. They recently returned for a cameo in "Thor: Love & Thunder," parting ways with Thor as he left to hunt down Gorr the God Butcher.

However, the Guardians returned, albeit briefly, for "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special." Aside from catching up audiences with the Guardians' whereabouts, it also re-introduces MCU fans to Cosmo the Spacedog, the newest member of the team who aids them in their new home base of Knowhere. Cosmo has made minor appearances in the MCU before, but this time around, she's playing a bigger role and is now voiced by "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" actress Maria Bakalova. 

Since Cosmo appears again in 2023's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," many fans may be interested to know more about the talking canine's origins in the Marvel universe. Here are some details of Cosmo's comic book journey that will be relevant to her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future.

The real-life dog that inspired Cosmo

Cosmo the Spacedog's origins go all the way back to 1957, 12 years before the first iteration of "Guardians of the Galaxy" hit comic book store shelves. During the Space Race, which saw the United States competing with the Soviet Union to accomplish space exploration, Russia made history after they adopted a stray mongrel, whom they named Laika, to be one of their test subjects. In November of that year, Laika was launched into space aboard the Sputnik 2 spacecraft, becoming the first animal to orbit the Earth (via The History Channel). 

Though it was a huge achievement for the U.S.S.R.'s space program at the time, it didn't come without tragedy. Laika's voyage in outer space was ultimately a suicide mission; she died of overheating, though Russia had also apparently loaded her spacecraft with poisoned food to euthanize her. Her spacecraft re-entered the Earth's atmosphere five months after it launched, disintegrating along with Laika's remains (via Smithsonian Magazine). The incident has since become a talking point for animal rights activists who protest animal testing. 

However, Laika's legacy lives on in modern-day media. Her fictionalized story was the subject of an Eisner-winning graphic novel by Nick Abadzis, while her name also serves as the moniker for the animation studio behind "Coraline" and "The Missing Link." In addition, Laika's story also happened to inspire two comic book writers, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who created the character of Cosmo for Marvel Comics in 2008. 

Cosmo's first trip to space goes haywire

Although Cosmo's first appearance in the comics was alongside Richard Rider, aka the superhero Nova, his backstory wasn't revealed until the 2008 comic book issue "Guardians of the Galaxy" #1. There, Peter Quill explains Cosmo's origins via a debrief log. Similar to Laika, Cosmo was a guinea pig for the Soviet space program in the 1960s, though their stories diverge when Cosmo is lost in orbit. 

At some point, Cosmo was altered by the same cosmic radiation that mutated the Fantastic Four during their space voyage. As a result, Cosmo gained telekinetic powers. In addition to being able to control objects with his mind, Cosmo also gained the ability to speak telepathically, which he uses to communicate with various characters in person and from far away. This is often used for comedic effect in the comics, as Cosmo's speech is often in broken, Russian-accented English. 

The space mutation also gives Cosmo an extended lifespan compared to the average dog, which has allowed it to survive since it was first launched in the '60s. Cosmo's other powers include manifesting illusions, projecting psychic blasts, and mind control, making him an incredibly powerful being in the Marvel universe. Fortunately, Cosmo uses these powers for good, particularly after he gets his first job. 

Becoming the guardian of Knowhere

Sometime after Cosmo acquires his powers, his spacecraft drifts into Knowhere, which is the severed head of a Celestial now serving as a planet in the Marvel universe. While Celestials do not appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in full form until the 2021 film "Eternals," the location made its debut in an Easter egg featured in the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" film as the home of Benicio del Toro's enigmatic Collector. It serves a much different purpose in the comics as a rest stop for intergalactic travelers. 

It also ends up being the place of residence for Cosmo the Spacedog, who becomes the chief of security for the planet, as is revealed during his debut travels in "Nova" #8. As part of his job keeping a watchful eye over the citizens of Knowhere, Cosmo uses a brain stem from the dead Celestial to power the Continuum Cortex, a teleportation device for any location in the universe. When Nova arrives, Knowhere becomes a base of the Nova Corps, who allow the Guardians of the Galaxy to set up shop there. 

Additionally, Cosmo's spacesuit is key to his job of protecting the citizens of Knowhere. Cosmo stores a Dimensional Envelope in his collar, a device that creates a pocket dimension where he can safely hide the people of Knowhere in the event of an extraterrestrial attack. 

Enter the Guardians of the Galaxy

It's his work as chief of security for Knowhere that leads Cosmo to his first interaction with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Cosmo becomes an adamant ally to the 2008 run of "Guardians of the Galaxy," going so far as to suggest the team rename themselves "The Retrievers" or "The K-Nine" in his honor. However, their meeting required some happenstance on the part of the Guardians. 

Cosmo initially met Nova while he was on the run from the Abyss, a cosmic entity that could turn humans into zombies. On Knowhere, Nova confronted the Abyss with the help of Cosmo, who protected its citizens with the Dimensional Envelope in his collar. Afterward, Nova recommended to the Guardians that they take up Knowhere as their new headquarters (via GamesRadar). At the time, the Guardians of the Galaxy consisted of Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, Groot, and Adam Warlock. 

Cosmo eventually played a big role in "The Thanos Imperative," a comic book storyline also helmed by Cosmo's creators, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. After invaders from Earth-10011 come to Earth-616, the Guardians team up with Thanos to stop the threat of an alternate Lord Mar-Vell. The conflict ends up being fatal for many members of the Guardians, including Warlock, Drax, and Peter Quill, the latter of whom charges Cosmo with continuing on the legacy of the Guardians. 

Rocket Raccoon versus Cosmo

In "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," fans took notice of Cosmo's interactions with Rocket Raccoon during early scenes. There's clear hostility between the two that will likely carry over to "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," but it also has origins in the Marvel Comics. In the first issue of the 2008 "Guardians of the Galaxy" run, the two exchange unpleasantries upon the Guardians' return to Knowhere. Particularly, Rocket is angered by Cosmo's suggestion to change the name of the team. 

Given that Rocket is already untrustworthy of others, it makes sense that his relationship with Cosmo is dictated by animalistic instincts. Nevertheless, the two eventually warm up to each other, becoming reluctant teammates during Rocket Raccoon's solo comic series in 2014. In "Rocket Raccoon" #6, Rocket goes through a lot of trouble to secure Cosmo dog treat cupcakes, which Cosmo deems as crucial to his survival. 

As the two are expected to appear in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," one can expect the dynamic between the two anthropomorphic Guardians will be explored deeply. That's especially true considering that the new film is, as James Gunn explained to Deadline, centered on Rocket Raccoon's journey. Since a confrontation with the High Evolutionary is on the horizon, the humanity of anthropomorphized animals will likely play a big role in this third chapter of the MCU's Guardians trilogy. 

Uniting the strongest beings in the cosmos

Peter Quill's death at the end of "The Thanos Imperative" storyline results in massive change for the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe. Tasked with carrying on the legacy of the Guardians, Cosmo is responsible for bringing together some of the strongest beings in the universe to fulfill Quill's original dream of what the Guardians were supposed to be. This new team assembled by Cosmo debuts in the 2011 mini-series "Annihilators," consisting of Beta Ray Bill, the Silver Surfer, Ronan the Accuser, Quasar, Gladiator, and Ikon (via Screen Rant). 

Nevertheless, conflict arises between the assembled heroes and anti-heroes, who are reluctant to carry on Quill's dream. Still, Cosmo is determined to keep this group together, offering them the mission of dealing with the Dire Wraiths, who have recently broken out of their imprisonment in the Dark Nebula. Cosmo doesn't reappear until "Annihilators" #4 after the team has successfully dealt with the Dire Wraith threat, at which point they return to Knowhere, ready for another mission. 

While Cosmo serves a purpose with the Annihilators not dissimilar to Zordon from "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," he's nevertheless important to their initial coming together in honor of the fallen Star-Lord. Additionally, it speaks to Cosmo's influence over the Marvel universe that he's able to gather a team this stacked with powerful intergalactic warriors. 

Caught in the midst of a Kree-Shi'ar War

Acting as the Nick Fury of the Annihilators is far from the highest stakes Cosmo's been involved with in the comics. Cosmo's creators, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, also helmed the crossover storyline "War of Kings," which follows a war between the Kree Empire and the Shi'ar. The war not only draws in the Guardians of the Galaxy, but also the Nova Corps, Inhumans, and several other cosmic armies. However, Cosmo's role in this storyline also gives him an opportunity to interact with two underrated members of the Guardians. 

After losing track of Peter Quill during a fight, Mantis telepathically contacts Cosmo — who still resides on Knowhere — asking him to teleport them to Peter's location with the Continuum Cortex. Cosmo later continues to help Mantis and Moondragon, another notable Marvel telepath, in attempting to stop the war. However, when the Starjammers, a gang of space pirates, bring the war to Knowhere, Cosmo is forced to get involved. It's a rare moment where Cosmo gets involved in the action, which he mostly stays out of. 

The trio of Cosmo, Mantis, and Moondragon ultimately team up again during "The Thanos Imperative," joining forces to sedate a raging Thanos, similar to what Mantis does during the confrontation on Titan in "Avengers: Infinity War." If Moondragon also debuts in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," it'd be interesting to see the three telepaths work together on screen. 

A confrontation with Adam Warlock's alter-ego

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" features the debut of Adam Warlock, who appears in the first trailer played by Will Poulter. Warlock is an extremely powerful character in the Marvel universe, a humanoid android created by scientists to be the "perfect" human. It's particularly interesting for this character to show up now, especially due to Adam Warlock's complicated history with the High Evolutionary, who he defeats and becomes a defender of the universe. With this high of a title, it's surprising that Adam Warlock at one point comes into conflict with Cosmo the Spacedog. 

In "Guardians of the Galaxy" #19, the Guardians find themselves in a future ruled by Adam Warlock's villainous alter-ego, Magus. During this showdown, Magus kills not only Cosmo but Gamora, Phyla-Vell, and many other Guardians (via Geekade). In spite of their losses, Star-Lord suppresses Magus and kills him before returning to Knowhere as a smaller team. Thankfully, the fallen are revealed to be alive several issues later.

Cosmo's surprising non-comic book debuts

Given that Cosmo's first debut in Marvel Comics was in 2008, he's a relatively recent addition to the Marvel universe. That means the iteration of Cosmo voiced by Maria Bakalova in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the first non-comic interpretations of the character outside of the 2014 video game "Disney Infinity 2.0."

Featuring writing by noted comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis, the game follows three separate storylines of Marvel characters. The first features the Avengers fighting Loki and M.O.D.O.K., another follows Spider-Man and a symbiote invasion, while the third is based on "Guardians of the Galaxy." The Guardians storyline shares a lot of similarities with the 2014 film, although Cosmo plays a much larger role. Taking place primarily on Knowhere, Cosmo and the Collector are allies to the Guardians, fighting Ronan and his invading Sakaaran fleet. 

What's quite significant about Cosmo's brief appearance in "Disney Infinity 2.0" is that Cosmo is voiced by Carlos Alazraqui. The famed voice actor is known for his work in cartoons like "Camp Lazlo" and "Rocko's Modern Life," video games like "Spyro the Dragon," and, of course, the Taco Bell chihuahua from the infamous TV commercials. In the "Disney Infinity" universe, Alazraqui also takes over for Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski, as well as John Turturro's Francesco Bernoulli from "Cars 2." 

Cosmo, a trophy of the collector

One of the earliest adaptations of Cosmo came briefly in the 2014 film "Guardians of the Galaxy." Written and directed by James Gunn, the film is mainly inspired by the 2008 iteration of the team, which includes Peter Quill, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora, and Drax (via CBR). The film has an extended sequence on Knowhere, where Tivan the Collector resides with his museum of cosmic memorabilia. One of those prized possessions is none other than Cosmo the Spacedog.

Cosmo plays little part in the conflicts on Knowhere, as the Guardians attempt to sell the Power Stone to the Collector before Ronan the Accuser arrives and lays waste to Knowhere while attempting to steal the orb for Thanos. The Collector doesn't appear again until a post-credits scene, where the Collector sits amongst his destroyed archive of objects as an escaped Cosmo licks his face while Howard the Duck commentates on the scene. 

However, Cosmo made one additional appearance in Season 1 of "What If...?," an animated series on Disney+ examining alternate timelines within the Marvel Cinematic Universe's canon (via Distractify). One of those timelines finds T'Challa taking Peter Quill's place as Star-Lord, facing off against a corrupted Tivan the Collector. After T'Challa defeats him, Cosmo is freed by the Collector's former slave and taken in as a pet by Yondu. 

An upgraded role with the MCU's Guardians

"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" reveals that Cosmo has received an upgraded role with the current Guardians team, which now consists of Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket, Drax, Mantis, Kraglin, and Nebula (via Den of Geek). Early in the special, it's revealed that the Guardians have purchased Knowhere from the Collector and are using it as a home base, which aligns with Knowhere's function in the comics. Subsequently, Cosmo the Spacedog is now a de-facto member of the team, helping them make touch-ups to their headquarters. 

Like in the comics, Cosmo and Rocket butt heads over their mundane work, but this story takes a backseat to Drax and Mantis' attempts to save Christmas by bringing Kevin Bacon from Earth to surprise Peter Quill. During the special's ending celebration, Cosmo appears to gift a squid-like alien to Kraglin, who seems off-put by the disturbing present. Nevertheless, Cosmo is embracing the Christmas spirit. 

Deadline notes that Cosmo is voiced by Maria Bakalova in 2023's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." A recent trailer for the film that was released online doesn't show any of Cosmo in the movie, likely meaning the character will remain a resident of Knowhere during the film.

Cosmo's future post-Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Although fans have yet to see the next chapter in the Guardians of the Galaxy's adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the end is nigh. James Gunn has adequately prepared fans for the heartbreaking final entry in the trilogy, implying it would be a send-off for characters like Rocket Raccoon and Drax. It's also meant to be a send-off for this current iteration of the Guardians team (via Collider), implying that the team will take a much different shape in future Marvel movies. 

Given that it's unlikely the entire team will be killed off, some of the new characters debuting in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" may become the future of the Guardians in the MCU. Cosmo and Adam Warlock, for example, may play large roles in future films like "Avengers: Secret Wars" or even the potential unannounced "Nova" project in the works at Marvel Studios. Especially with the threat of Rocket Raccoon being killed off, Cosmo may make a likable replacement for the MCU's signature talking animal. 

If Cosmo's comic book origins have any indication of the future of the MCU, then Knowhere will definitely be a significant location in films to come. Perhaps the end of the current Guardians team will give Cosmo a chance to form the Annihilators, or maybe the intergalactic conflicts of "The Marvels" will land in Knowhere, with Cosmo forced to defend his people. Either way, we're excited to see where this Russian canine cosmonaut goes.