Groot's roots; Marvel shares the untold story of Groot's early days (Baby Groot before Baby Groot)
Baby Groot’s childhood years are explored in a new limited series
He’s cute, he’s courageous, and he packs quite a punch. Groot has captured the hearts of Marvel fans around the globe, thanks to his loveable nature and his quirky catchphrase “I am Groot.” The Guardian of the Galaxy has become one of the most recognizable characters of the Marvel Universe, but how much do we really know about his background?
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 premiering in theaters this week, it’s the perfect time to dive into Groot’s twiggy toddler years. Groot #1 (written by Dan Abnett and penciled by Damian Couceiro) dives into the character’s past, with some startling revelations. For example, did you know that Groot was a victim of child trafficking, and that he once sucker punched the legendary Kree warrior Mar-Vell?
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Groot #1!
This story is set during Groot’s childhood, years before he met the Guardians of the Galaxy. While Groot’s exact age isn’t given, he seems to be drawn to look like the Baby Groot version of the character seen in the film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The opening pages show Groot on Planet X, with other members of his species, which is known as Flora colossi. Groot has two sapling friends named Gleef and Tweeg. Like Groot, each of these saplings are only able to say their names.
If you’re a sapling living on a planet of sentient trees, what would your worst nightmare be? If your answer was an army of sentient chainsaws, then you can imagine some of the horrors Groot experienced this issue. An army of bio-synthetic terror weapons known as Chainsaurs have been ravaging various planets. The Chainsaurs set their sights on Planet X, unleashing carnage. We don’t see how all the events play out, but at some point Groot, Gleef, and Tweeg are kidnapped by either the Chainsaurs, or the unseen forces operating them.
Groot and his friends are placed in a cargo container and taken to the planet Thantalis. The saplings are found by a young Kree soldier named Mar-Vell. That’s right, in addition to being a Groot prequel, this limited series also details the backstory of Captain Marvel. Groot initially believes that Mar-Vell is hostile, so he attacks the Kree warrior. Despite his small size, Groot is able to inflict some damage on Mar-Vell before he regains his bearings.
Feeling responsible for the young saplings, Mar-Vell embarks on a mission to return them to Planet X. Along the way, he tries to get them to identify the commander who operates the Chainsaurs. Unfortunately, this is hard to do since all Groot can say is his name.
Does Groot #1 fit in with Groot’s backstory?
This isn’t the first time Marvel has explored Groot’s early days. Guardians of the Galaxy #14 (2014) contains an Andy Lanning written backup story detailing Groot’s childhood. One day a group of other Floras began brutalizing a mammal maintenance worker. Groot rushed to the mammal’s defense, fighting off the other Floras. However, the bullies were relentless, and escalated the violence. In a fit of rage, Groot brutally killed one of the bullies, beheading the Flora and tearing his body apart. The story ends with Groot being forced to leave Planet X after the elders exile him for his crimes.
Curiously, this story is contradicted by Groot #6 (2015), which was written by Jeff Loveness. The comic flashes back to Groot’s life on Planet X, where he felt different from his peers. While other Flora wanted to conquer the galaxy, Groot embraced compassion. One day he found a human girl that the other Flora had abducted. Defying his people, Groot freed the child and sent her back to Earth. For this crime, Groot was exiled from Planet X.
While both comics contain similar plot beats, it’s hard to reconcile the two events. The Lanning comic illustrates Groot as a teenager or young adult, while the Loveness story presents Groot fully grown. One explanation is that Groot returned to Planet X sometime after his first exile and wound up being banished again years later. Whatever the case is, the current Groot limited series avoids the issue by telling a story set earlier in the timeline. The events of Groot #1 (2023) can easily fit in with both of these backstories.
Groot #1 does give us some new information about Groot’s race. In the past it’s been established that Flora are only able to say “I am Groot” due to their hardened larynx. There are exceptions to the rule, such as King Groot, who can speak multiple languages. However, this mini-series introduced a new wrinkle to the Flora mythology. Rather than saying “I am Groot,” Gleef and Tweeg say their own names. This is something we’ve never seen in another Flora before.
It's possible that like humans, Floras have different races within their species. Perhaps Gleef and Tweeg are from another race or tribe within Planet X, and their larynxes evolved differently. It’s worth noting that Tweeg and Gleef have different colored leaves attached to their bodies.
Baby Groot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
It’s safe to say that this Groot limited series probably wouldn’t be happening without the success of Baby Groot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Baby Groot was introduced at the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. When the original Groot sacrifices himself to save his teammates, Rocket saves one of his twigs and plants it in a pot. That twig grows into a new Groot, who fans affectionately nicknamed Baby Groot.
Baby Groot danced to the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” during the closing scenes of the film, and fans couldn’t get enough. Demand for Baby Groot merchandise skyrocketed, with some fans producing their own toys while they waited for Disney to release something official.
Baby Groot played a large role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, thanks to some comedic moments and more adorable dancing. However, like all children, it was time for this twig to grow up. By the end of the film Groot had grown into a teenager during the mid-credits sequence. But this wouldn’t be the end of Baby Groot. Marvel Studios capitalized on the popularity of the character by releasing a series of shorts on Disney+. I Am Groot follows the adventures of Baby Groot between the events of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be released in theaters this week, and while its star sapling is now grown, the film will still feature some fun Groot moments. For more on Groot and everything Guardians of the Galaxy, keep your eyes peeled to Popverse for more news, guides, and other bits of fandom fun.
Dive into the upcoming film with our comprehensive Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 guide.