There are quite a few deep cuts to Marvel Comics canon stashed within The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.
Warning! This article contains spoilers for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special brings back Marvel's intergalactic A-holes just in time for the holiday season, and also marks James Gunn's return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Praise has been showered on the special for its festive spirit, as well as its sense of humor. It's safe to say that between this and Werewolf By Night, Marvel Studios should definitely lean into doing more holiday-themed Special Presentations.
Like its fellow film and TV projects, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special contains a few nods to the cosmic corner of Marvel's comic book universe. It's especially prominent in Gunn's case, as he's shown a thorough knowledge of both Marvel and DC Comics while crafting both the Guardians trilogy and The Suicide Squad. Here are all the nods to the Guardians of the Galaxy comics that the Holiday Special fit within its 45-minute runtime.
One of the biggest revelations in the Guardians Holiday Special revolves around Knowhere, the massive city that was formed inside the head of a decapitated Celestial. In the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, the Guardians visit Knowhere to learn about the Power Stone from the Collector (Benecio del Toro), and they return in Avengers: Infinity War to keep the stone from falling into the hands of Thanos (Josh Brolin). In the Holiday Special, Nebula (Karen Gillan) reveals that the Guardians bought Knowhere from the Collector and are refitting it for its new inhabitants.
In the comics, Knowhere was formed when one of the first Celestials was decapitated in a battle between the massive space gods and the King in Black, Knull, who wielded the fearsome power of the Necrosword. It became a massive city that played host to various alien civilizations, and the Guardians would use it as a base of operations while conducting their interstellar missions. Knowhere was recently destroyed in a battle between the Guardians and Hela, the Goddess of Death, when it was sucked into a black hole.
Another cosmic character that makes a prominent appearance throughout the Guardians Holiday Special is Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova). Cosmo originally appeared in the first Guardians of the Galaxy during its post-credits scene as one of the Collector's prisoners. In the special, she is now freed and is shown helping the Guardians repair Knowhere. Like her comic book counterpart, Cosmo possesses psychic powers including telekinesis and telepathy, as well as a disdain for Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper).
The major difference between Cosmo's comic and MCU counterpart is that, in mainstream Marvel canon, Cosmo is a male pooch. He was launched into space by the Soviets as part of an experiment, and a chance encounter with cosmic rays led to him gaining his psychic abilities. Cosmo would aid the Guardians as the chief of security for Knowhere, and was responsible for forming the team of cosmic powerhouses known as the Annihilators.
The Guardians' leader Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is well known for his love of pop culture, particularly the films of Kevin Bacon, which inspires Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to kidnap the Footloose legend in order to cheer Quill up. That love of pop culture happens to extend to his ships: the Guardians' first ship, the Milano, was named after none other than Alyssa Milano, and their ship in Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame took its name from rock star Pat Benatar.
That trend continues when Star-Lord, horrified at the fact that his friends have essentially committed human trafficking, orders Kraglin (Sean Gunn) to prep the Starship Bowie for transportation. Obviouly this is a reference to the late, great David Bowie, but this is not the first time the Guardians have piloted a ship named after the legendary singer. In Guardians of the Galaxy #7 by Donny Cates and Cory Smith, the Guardians board a starship named the Bowie. Cates later confirmed that the name was meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bowie's "Space Oddity" album.
Yes, Batman has finally been referenced in a Marvel project. After Mantis uses her powers to convince Bacon to join her and Drax, the two are horrified to learn that he's an actor and that Star-Lord's stories were merely recollections of movies he'd seen. When Mantis tries to convince Bacon to act like a "real hero," he first pretends to be a British soldier in World War II and then Bruce Wayne. "Who is Bruce Wayne?!" Drax ass, incredulously. This isn't the first time the Dark Knight has been referenced in a MCU project; Eternals contains a mention of the 1966 Batman TV series that featured Adam West. But the reference does now feel especially pointed considering that Gunn is now the co-head of DC Studios.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is now available to stream on Disney+.
Collier is a contributor to Collider. He also writes for /Film and But Why Tho? A Geek Community. In his spare time, he likes to read comics, play card games, and even write his own scripts. He has approximate knowledge of many things, all of them related to various forms of pop culture.