Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: What is Counter-Earth?

Counter-Earth in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sends the team on a new adventure that puts them face-to-face against the villainous scientist known as the High Evolutionary, a journey which will take them all the way to the bizarre world of Counter-Earth.

Glimpsed in the trailers for Guardians Vol. 3, Counter-Earth is an artificial planet created by the High Evolutionary as a place where he can carry out brutal experiments designed to kickstart the evolution of a race of perfect beings.

That's essentially the same concept as the comic book history of Counter-Earth, which first appeared in 1972's Marvel Premiere #1 by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane, though the story goes a bit deeper in comics.

Counter-Earth in Marvel Comics

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

In comics, Counter-Earth orbits the same sun as Earth - but on the exact opposite side. The planet was made by the High Evolutionary as in the MCU, but in comics, he uses several of the Infinity Stones to create his perfect experimental world.

At first, the comic Counter-Earth is populated by humans living in a society very similar to modern Earth - but with no superheroes. The lack of heroes becomes a problem when a rogue creation of the High Evolutionary known as the Man-Beast begins terrorizing the humans of Counter-Earth.

This leads the High Evolutionary to empower Adam Warlock to take on the Man-Beast as Counter-Earth's resident superhero protector, embedding the powerful Soul Stone in his forehead (kinda like how the original MCU Vision had the Mind Stone embedded in his). 

It's actually on Counter-Earth itself where Adam Warlock gets his name (he was previously known only as 'Him'), which is given to him by the citizens he saves.

Adam Warlock later departs Counter-Earth, becoming a cosmic hero across the Marvel Universe, leaving the planet to change hands and even forms several times, with the High Evolutionary at one time abandoning his experiments there.

But the High Evolutionary eventually returns, fully populating the planet with his animalistic, anthropomorphic New-Men, as adapted into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. And that's how the High Evolutionary's Counter-Earth has been portrayed in comics since.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)
(opens in new tab)

There have also been other versions of Counter-Earth in Marvel Comics. In the 1996-97 event Heroes Reborn, in which characters such as the Avengers and Fantastic Four were fully rebooted with a different history in an alternate reality away from the core Marvel Universe, it turned out they were actually trapped in a version of Counter-Earth created by the cosmically powerful Franklin Richards, the young son of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four. 

Franklin Richards later created another short-lived Counter-Earth while fighting Onslaught, the same villain whose attack led to the creation of the original. 

Counter-Earth was also the setting of the 1999-2001 animated show Spider-Man Unlimited, in which the Peter Parker of the core Marvel Universe Earth was transported to Counter-Earth, becoming its greatest hero.

Funny enough, the Spider-Man Unlimited incarnation of Peter Parker can be glimpsed in the first Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse trailer as one of the many Spider-heroes chasing down Miles Morales.

Does this indicate any kind of return for Counter-Earth after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, or perhaps a crossover with the Spider-Man Unlimited version of Counter-Earth?

As much fun as that would be, it doesn't seem likely. Still, with the lines blurring around the MCU and its adjacent stories and the Guardians embarking on a totally different path by the movie's end, anything is possible.

If you can't get enough Guardians, it's a perfect time to check out the best Guardians of the Galaxy comics ever.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)