adam warlock

The Birth of “Adam”

Marvel Studios post-credits scenes take on three different forms: fun bits of business that wrap up sorry points and provide closure, deep cut references to characters and storylines that feel specially built for the nerds in the audience, and teases that help set up future movies in the MCU. This scene manages to be all three.

First of all, the scene provides a bit of closure for Elizabeth Debicki‘s Ayesha, who finds herself being called to answer for getting the entire Sovereign fleet destroyed (twice!) while pursuing the Guardians. A minor villain gets her comeuppance! But then, it’s revealed that she’s currently cooking up a new project, someone who will be stronger and better than anyone else in her genetically modified race. We don’t get to see whatever is lurking inside that pod, but she does decide upon a name: Adam. She’ll call him Adam.

For the vast majority of normal folks seeing Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, this won’t mean anything at all (maybe that’s why you’re reading this article!). But the Marvel die-hards in the audience can help you out: she’s referring to Adam Warlock, one of the strangest characters to exist on the fringes of Marvel’s cosmic world.

Adam Warlock's cocoon

In the comics, Adam Warlock is the result of an experiment conducted by human scientists to create the “perfect” organism. Naturally, he escapes, journeys to space, and finds himself granted superpowers after an encounter with a fellow called the High Evolutionary. Naturally, Adam wanders the galaxy, getting into adventures, often allying with familiar heroes and battling familiar enemies (he’s a regular nemesis of Thanos). He’s often popped up to assist the Guardians of the Galaxy in times of need.

So it isn’t too surprising that he was originally intended to be a major character in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but as James Gunn informed us, he was cut out of the story after his presence made the early drafts of the screenplay too unwieldy:

I love Adam Warlock.  He’s one of my favorite characters.  In all truth, I wrote an early treatment where I had Adam Warlock as a part […] It was Adam Warlock. He was a big part of the screenplay, and I realized it was one character too many. And I adore the character; I adore what we had done with him. I think we did something really creative and unique with Adam Warlock. But it was just one character too many. And I didn’t wanna lose Mantis. And I couldn’t, and Mantis was more organically a part of the movie anyway. So I decided to save him for later. And so I had that post-credit scene, I wrote that post credit scene.

But what future movie is this tease actually setting up? From the look of things, this is a thread that will be revisited in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. While Adam Warlock has experience battling Thanos in the comics, Gunn insisted that the character will not make his big screen debut in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War:

There was a lot of discussion about whether we were gonna put it in the movie or not. Because people are going to think it’s about Infinity War. Because he’s not. He’s not in Infinity War, but he will be a future part of the Marvel Cosmic Universe and a pretty important part of it.

Feige doubled down on this, telling us that Adam Warlock will show up in future Guardians of the Galaxy movies, not the next Avengers movie:

Adam is not in Infinity War. That is not a tag for Infinity War. James has ideas. And had played with incarnations of Adam Warlock in earlier drafts of other Guardians films. So he’s always been top of mind for the Guardians franchise. And if he appears anywhere in the future it’ll be with Guardians.

So start your fan-casting now, boys and girls! Personally, I think Matthew McConaughey (in full deadpan, philosophizing, monologuing mode) would be a terrific Adam Warlock.

Stan Lee cameo in Avengers Infinity War

Stan Lee and the Watchers

The final post-credits scene is, at first glance, another amusing piece of business, the punchline to Stan Lee‘s cameo seen earlier in the movie. However, both of these scenes suggest that something really weird is going on in the margins of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that Lee’s many cameos throughout these films are all unified.

Lee has played a tiny role in nearly every single Marvel movie to date (including those not made by Marvel Studios), and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 cheekily suggests that each cameo has been more than a simple gag – we’ve been seeing the same guy. More specifically, we’ve been seeing the same guy with a very particular purpose. The key to fully appreciating this is to note Lee’s character name in the credits: “Watcher’s Informant.”

the watchers

So let’s back up real quick. For those of you who aren’t immersed in Marvel comics lore, the Watchers are a race of ancient aliens who do just as their name implies: they observe the universe, record vital events, and keep a detailed history of all existence. Although there are other Watchers, the one most commonly seen in the comics is named Uatu, who observes the many, many events that seem to transpire on and around Earth. The Watchers are strict observers, refusing to participate in any events and never picking sides in intergalactic conflicts. When a Watcher personally shows up to witness an event, it’s a big deal. Cosmic history is being made.

So what does it mean that Stan Lee, housed inside a bulky spacesuit, is hanging out with the Watchers on the far side of the galaxy, telling them stories? Note his dialogue – when Rocket and Yondu fly by, he’s telling the po-faced aliens about a time when he was a deliveryman. As you may recall, Lee’s cameo in Captain America: Civil War was that of a deliveryman, bringing a package to Tony Stark after the conclusion of his conflict with Steve Rogers.

The implication is clear: Stan Lee is watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe on behalf of the Watchers, allowing himself to be present for important events so he can report his findings to the Watchers themselves. Whoa.

Feige spoke about this at the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 press conference:

Stan Lee clearly exists above and apart from the reality of all the films. So the notion that he could be sitting there on a cosmic pit stop during the jump gate sequence in Guardians was something very fun. James had that idea and we shot that cameo and loved it so much. You see it a couple of times in the in the movie. It wasn’t in for a long time and we put it back in towards the end of the process, where he references that time he was a Federal Express agent and we thought it would be fun to keep that in there because that really says he’s this same character who’s popped up in all these films…

But is he human or alien or something else? Speaking with us, Feige would only call him a “different type of entity”:

Let’s just say he, Stan Lee is certainly is a different type of entity within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who can hang out with the Watchers and tell them stories about all his cameos.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is in theaters now.

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