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'Guardians of the Galaxy' hype asks if audiences want superheroes they've never heard of

The trailer for Marvel's
The trailer for Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Marvel Entertainment (via YouTube)

The hype for Marvel's big summer space opera "Guardians of the Galaxy," in theaters Aug. 1, went into overdrive this week with the trailer for the film premiering on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and additional videos going up on Marvel's YouTube account. The trailer sets out to answer the question in almost everyone's minds: Who or what exactly are the Guardians of the Galaxy?

It's a collection of the lowest profile Marvel comic book characters to headline a movie as part of Marvel Studios' current string of films, beginning with 2008's "Iron Man." Those previous films, based around established properties like Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America, weren't guaranteed hits, but they at least had a place already carved out in the culture.

The new trailer acknowledges this, spending most of the time with John C. Reilly's character reading down the vital statistics of all of the team's members. They're presented as being about action while also being about goofy fun as they try to appeal to a broad audience, with the trailer finishing up with scenes set to "Hooked on a Feeling." Marvel also followed up Thursday with more videos offering short profiles of each member with brief soundbites from the actors, which you can watch below.

The stars are known quantities, but not necessarily guaranteed box office. The lead is Chris Pratt, best known as the goofball from NBC's "Parks and Recreation" before having a bit of an action turn in "Zero Dark Thirty." The film's biggest stars, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, are both voicing non-human characters — a talking raccoon and a talking tree, to be specific.

It's a big leap for director James Gunn. His last major theatrical release "Super" had a budget of $2.5 million, but only brought in $327,716 at the box office. He also directed horror film "Slither," which also failed to make back its $15 million budget in theaters, though it came much closer with $12.8 million. His writing has been more successful — he wrote both Scooby-Doo live action films, as well as the 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead." Despite not yet making a box office impact as a director, Marvel has seen something in Gunn, choosing him to write and direct "Guardians."

The Guardians of the Galaxy first saw light in the comics in 1969, but that was a book without much resemblance to what's seen in this movie — this version of the characters didn't come together until 2008 in  a comic that was canceled two years later. It was only relaunched this past year as Marvel seeks to create more awareness of the characters.

However, that relaunch has some juice — Guardians of the Galaxy #1 was Marvel's top selling comic book of 2013, thanks to Marvel giving it heavy promotion and putting top writer Brian Michael Bendis on the book. Of course, that kind of sales didn't hold — after debuting in the top slot, issue 2 slipped to #10, with the latest figures putting it in the #15 slot in all of comics. Still, that's not bad for a comic based on characters who previously could barely support a book.

To put that in actual numbers, though, that #15 showing only means 61,111 distributed to comic shops, and not all of those wind up in the hands of consumers. The debut issue had 211,312 issues distributed, but is that enough of a hardcore fanbase to launch a franchise?

Marvel has also started peppering the Guardians into its animated properties, but whether that translates into all ages heading to their local theaters remains to be seen — especially with a trailer with a star making a rude gesture.

Are you ready to get "Hooked on a Feeling" by the Guardians? Let us know in the comments, and check out video profiles of the team with interviews with the actors behind them below.

Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord

Rocket Raccoon