A gunslinging raccoon? Marvel moving forward on 'Guardians of the Galaxy' movie -- BREAKING

Last September, with The Avengers already underway, Marvel Studios revealed it was developing plans to bring together a new team.

“There is an opportunity to do a big space epic, which Thor sort of hints at in the cosmic side of the universe, with characters in a property called Guardians of the Galaxy,” Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige told EW last year.

They’d already been laboring to create “The Big Idea,” which was company slang for the long slate of connected movies culminating in this May’s The Avengers.

With Guardians, they’re looking beyond Earth for their heroes.

Guardians of the Galaxy will follow on the heels of three other Marvel movies already in the pipeline. An announcement about the film is expected at Comic-Con in a few weeks.

Iron Man 3, with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang filmmaker Shane Black at the helm, is currently shooting and will debut next May, and Thor 2 shoots right after that, aiming for a Nov. 8, 2013 premiere.

Captain America 2 will be next in line, debuting in April 2014, but EW can confirm Marvel is definitely moving forward on three other titles after that: Guardians is one, Avengers 2 is the other, while Edgar Wright’s much-anticipated Ant-Man is also marching along toward production.

Despite much ballyhooed rumors last month, Black Panther is definitely not one of Marvel’s next projects.

The Guardians of the Galaxy series began in 1969 and focused on “a team of superhuman and extraterrestrial adventurers dedicated to the safeguarding of the Milky Way Galaxy,” as Marvel’s official directory describes it.

This past April, however, Feige told William Bibbiani of Crave Online that the movie would focus more on the reboot of the comics in the 1990s than on the original team.

If you thought the X-Men had some bizarre members, the teammates of GOTG are truly out there, among them:

Star-Lord – a half-human, half-alien intergalactic policeman who can survive in space thanks to a special combat suit, and likes to jump into conflict with his twin guns blazing.

Drax – a former saxophonist who was killed and resurrected as a knife-wielding green warrior devoted to battling Thanos (the alien death-dealer seen grinning at the end of the Avengers film.)

Rocket Racoon – an anthropomorphic, genetically engineered critter from a planet used as a dumping ground for the insane.

Groot – a giant, mobile tree-being (imagine a kick-ass version of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings.)

Mantis – A sexy alien bug-woman.

The backstory for each is far more involved than these simple descriptions, so Marvel has its work cut out for it, finding a way to cram a lot of galactic history into two hours.

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