Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re exploring the Superhero Origins of Groot. Our favorite sentient plant-being has multiple origin stories in the comics. We’ll be covering his first Marvel comics appearance, the retconned origin in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series, and his time in the MCU. Which Groot do you like best — Adult, Teen, or Baby Groot? Let us know in the comments.
The Monster From Planet X (1960; 1976; 1997)
Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby, the original Groot made his first appearance in “Tales to Astonish” #13 in 1960, as an alien invader from Planet X. He arrived on Earth for the purpose of collecting an entire town of humans to bring back to his home planet for experiments. That’s right — the Groot we all know and love actually started out as a villain, and with a much more extensive vocabulary. The humanoid tree-creature, who called himself the “overlord of all the timber in the galaxy,” gained strength from absorbing wood and threatened to make the trees come alive. And he wasn’t bluffing. The roots started to form a net to lift the town away. But scientist Leslie Evans managed to defeat the giant tree monster by unleashing a colony of special termites that ate away at his wooden body.
And that was it for the Monster From Planet X, until 1976, when he showed up in “The Incredible Hulk vol. 2 Annual” #5. Xemnu the Living Titan created duplicates of five monsters, including Groot, to defeat the Hulk. The two went branch-to-hand, and though he put up a good fight with wooden needles, Groot was defeated yet again.
Groot returned in 1997’s “The Sensational Spider-Man” #-1 but this time, he was a literal nightmare. When a pre-powered Peter Parker stayed up late at night reading monster comics, the monsters ended up in his dreams. In this nightmare scenario, Peter and Uncle Ben are out fishing when they are attacked by Gigantus and then Groot. But before the tree monster could do any harm, he was smashed by the Vandoom Monster.
Howling Commandos (2005-06)
In 2005’s “Marvel Monsters: Monsters on the Prowl” #1, Taneleer Tivan, aka the Collector, kept Groot and many other creatures in his Earthly zoo. When the villainous Mole Man attacked the Collector’s menagerie, he freed Groot and all of the other beings. The group of monsters wreaked havoc in New York but were ultimately apprehended by Marvel’s various superheroes.
Groot appeared a year later in “Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos,” S.H.I.E.L.D.’s supernatural team of monster-hunting monsters. He began as a prisoner but soon joined the Howling Commandos in taking down Merlin — yes, the wizard. Groot redeemed himself and for the first time, he got to be the hero instead of the villain.
In the 2007 miniseries “Annihilation: Conquest - Starlord,” Groot’s monstrous origins were retconned. While imprisoned by the Kree, reason unknown, Groot is introduced to Starlord as a “self-proclaimed ‘Monarch of Planet X,’” likely the last remaining of the Flora colossi race. He’s also considered royalty and even speaks in full sentences. Groot’s buddy Rocket Raccoon refers to him as “Your Highness,” and uses him as a mode of transportation, a benefit from having an enormous friend. Groot sacrifices himself during the battle against the Phalanx, something he’ll do many times in the future. However, he returns to the team as a sprig and progressively grows to his full size.
Groot’s unique powers and abilities were an asset to the team, including superhuman strength, control over plant life and trees, and regeneration, which comes in handy since he’s died a few times. He sacrificed himself again in “Annihilation: Conquest” #6, but his old pal Rocket replants one of his twigs and once again, he grows back to his towering height.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Groot joins the Guardians of the Galaxy following the events in the “Annihilation” storyline. It’s theorized that this Groot isn’t the same Groot from the big bad monster days, but rather a different Flora colossus. Everyone on the planet does have the same name after all.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” #14 explained this Groot’s backstory, briefly exploring the home of the Flora colossi — Planet X, capital of the Branch Worlds. The rulers of the planet, called the Arbor Masters, used a photosynthetic method to educate the saplings. They absorb sunlight and in turn, gain generations of elder knowledge and experience. This process of “Photonic Knowledge” is how the species possesses a genius level intelligence.
One day, when Groot was a young sapling, he fought another sapling for attacking the “maintenance mammals,” creatures enslaved to tend to the planet’s biome. After saving his mammal friends, Groot momentarily enjoyed their affection. But his brethren retaliated and Groot ended up killing one of them, resulting in his exile by the Arbor Masters.
Maximus the Mad shares some insight in #17, telling the others about Groot’s royal lineage and impressive education, citing his knowledge of “quasi-dimensional super-positional engineering.” He also explained the language of the Flora colossi. According to Maximus, their species experiences a hardening of the larynx, making everything he says sound like “I am Groot.” The key to understanding, he says, is to listen for the “nuance of meaning.”
Groot went on to many more space adventures with his new team, appearing in 2010’s “The Thanos Imperative” and 2012’s “Avengers Assemble.” He even encounters Venom in “Guardians of the Galaxy” #22, becoming “Venomized.” Don’t worry…it was only temporary!
Groot & Rocket Raccoon
In 2015, Groot got his own solo series which offered more background, notably how he befriends his future fellow Guardian, Rocket Raccoon. In #2, Groot and Rocket share a cell and though it takes the feisty raccoon to warm up to the big guy, it’s the start of their friendship. Rocket also begins to completely understand his new pal even though he’s only saying his trademark line.
In #6, Rocket and Groot head to Earth for a little road trip and on their itinerary partying with the X-Men. Here, Groot telepathically communicates with Jean Grey, asking her for help locating someone, and in doing so, explains his origins. He tells Jean that he was not like the rest of his kind and was horrified by how they attacked other worlds, capturing humans and creatures for experimentation. One night, he rescues a human girl named Hannah and sends her home. The kind act gets him banished from his world. But this encounter with Hannah inspired him to find a new life with new friends.
Groot in the MCU
“Guardians of the Galaxy” hit theaters in summer 2014, four years after Marvel producer Kevin Feige said there was potentially a project in the works. It was the first time many casual fans had even heard of the galactic heroes and it was an instant hit. Vin Diesel, best known for his action movie roles, was cast as the voice of Groot. While the character only said three words, the actor worked hard on his inflections and even recorded in multiple languages.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” came out in 2017 as part of the MCU’s Phase Three. Having sacrificed himself at the end of Vol.1, as he’s been known to do, Rocket replanted what was left of Groot, who was then called Baby Groot. Vin Diesel also provided the high pitched voice for Baby Groot in the sequel as well as 2018’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
“Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” gave us an angsty teenage Groot who apparently had a mouth on him. He also shows up with the Guardians briefly in 2022’s “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
But since 2014, Baby Groot has become a pop culture icon. The little guy gets his own Disney+ series of shorts on August 10, 2022. And Groot will also return with his space buddies in “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” slated to premiere in December.