Director James Gunn has become a household name over the last few years after his game-changing work with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Specifically, the director brought the Guardians of the Galaxy to the big screen in 2014, and nearly a decade later, he's turned the team into fan-favorites while building an impressively successful story for them within the MCU.
The Guardians franchise has had a unique opportunity over the years to bring previously little-known heroes like Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon into the spotlight, although it's also served as a vessel for the Mad Titan Thanos and will bring Adam Warlock in the near future.
However, as is the case with many other Marvel properties, Gunn hasn't been able to explore some of the weirder characters in Marvel's cosmic lore due to outstanding rights issues with 20th Century Fox and other major entities. While he was able to use Ego the Living Planet in 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 after a deal with Fox in exchange for Negasonic Teenage Warhead in 2016's Deadpool, there are plenty of characters that remain off-limits.
Now, as Gunn moves forward with 2023's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, he recently revealed two other characters he loves that remain in the "off-limits" category for Marvel Studios.
Guardians Director on Off-Limits Heroes
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn took to Twitter to answer fan questions about characters he would like to use in the Marvel Studios franchise.
Twitter user @danmatoz shared images of the classic Marvel character ROM: Spaceknight, although Gunn admitted that Marvel "no longer holds the rights" to the hero.Gunn had no qualms about saying ROM would've "probably" been part of the space gang's roster by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 if things were different:
"Alas I cannot as Marvel no longer holds the rights to Rom - just to some other Spaceknights and parts of the story created in the comics - otherwise, believe you me, ol’ toaster head would probably be in the Guardians by now."
@pwtham11 followed up with a question about rights issues concerning the Guardians character Bug, although Gunn confirmed that rights issues stand in the way of making that happen as well.
@BarsnBolts pushed the subject of ROM further by asking Gunn if it was true that Paramount got a green light to make a movie centered on the hero. Gunn replied that this was never the case:
"They didn’t have to. Marvel didn’t own the rights."
ROM & Bug Not Available for Gunn
While Gunn is well-known for bringing obscure Marvel characters into prominence, rights issues have kept him from using both ROM and Bug in the MCU.
ROM Spaceknight was originally an action figure that was licensed to Marvel Comics, but even though Marvel built the world surrounding the character, Paramount now owns the rights and leaves the hero unavailable to the MCU. Gunn hinted that the Spaceknights in ROM's story had always interested him and that he wanted to explore their sense of humanity and heroism.
Bug also first appeared in a toy line before Marvel used him in the comics starting in 1979, leading to a situation similar to that of ROM in which Marvel owned the supporting characters but not Bug himself. Gunn had wanted to use Bug as early as 2014 in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie along with his race of warriors, although that was changed to the Sakaarans.
Gunn remains passionate about bringing new characters to the big screen within his Guardians of the Galaxy movies, although it will likely be some time until rights issues allow for heroes like Bug or ROM to enter the mix.
For now, the director is preparing to bring Will Poulter's Adam Warlock into big-screen prominence with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Gunn's time with the MCU may well be over after this film and the upcoming I Am Groot animated show, but he will surely put all of his resources into expanding the cosmic lore as much as possible before that time comes.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is set to release in theaters on May 5, 2023.