For years, Marvel fans haven't just been hoping for Nova's debut but expecting it given his connections to the Guardians of the Galaxy, other MCU projects, and various rumors.
Why James Gunn Avoided Nova in Guardians of the Galaxy
In talking with Comicbook.com's Phase Zero, James Gunn revealed that "I've never seen Richard Rider in any draft of Guardians:"
“… He was never– I’ve never seen Richard Rider in any draft of Guardians of the Galaxy.”
When questioned about Nova's scrapped role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, Gunn explained that there were "a billion versions of Guardians before I came aboard:"
“There were a billion versions of Guardians before I came aboard… Yes, I guess maybe some script had Richard Rider in it, but like, there’s a lot of different versions.”
The director - and newly crowned co-head of DC Studios - went on to explain that he "never had Richard Rider in anything" because he was "too big of a character:"
“Yeah, I was never gonna– I never had Richard Rider in anything. He’s just too big of a character and he seemed too… From the beginning, when I came on board Guardians, I didn’t wanna have two human beings. I wanted to have one human being so that he could be surrounded in this world of aliens and then we realize little by little that all of these characters are the only of their kind. They’re the only human beings to them, you know?”
Why Nova's Absence Works for Guardians and the Character
So even though Nova may have existed in a Guardians draft, it wasn't one of Gunn's. And, while many fans feel the MCU has been without Nova for far too long, the director's explanation makes a lot of sense.
A character as "big" as Nova could've easily overshadowed or detracted from Star-Lord and his story. Plus, as Gunn explained, having "one human being" works better for what he was hoping to achieve with the franchise.
In the end, not only was Richard Ryder's exclusion best for Guardians, it was probably best for the comic book character as it allows him his own solo project.
A solo project that, reportedly, is currently in the works as rumors suggest Nova will finally crossover into the MCU as a Marvel Studios Presentation for Disney+. If true, Nova will join the ranks of Michael Giacchino's Werewolf By Night and, interestingly enough, James Gunn's soon-to-be-released The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.
So even though Gunn claimed Richard Ryder has never been in any drafts of Guardians of the Galaxy, that doesn't necessarily mean the Holiday Special or 2023's Vol. 3 won't include any hints or Easter eggs.
Fans should expect to hear more about future Marvel Studios Presentations following the Guardians Holiday Special and in Phase 5.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special arrives on Friday, November 25, on Disney+.