In November 1960, Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby created a new character that could have easily been a one note, filler type. Instead, their tree-like alien creature Groot has become a popular element of the Guardians of the Galaxy, comics, and in other Marvel media.
Groot is a Flora colossus from Planet X, the branch worlds’ capital, who was introduced in Tales to Astonish #13 (November 1960). The sentient tree-being can sprout to much larger size and can regenerate from a small twig back into his full-size. Groot can absorb wood as his food and he can control trees and plants.
His one signature setback is that his language is nearly impossible to comprehend, so no matter what he says, it always comes out as “I am Groot.”
The Groot known in comics understands quasi-dimensional super-positional engineering. He was exiled from his people when he killed another member of his species who was hurting a maintenance mammal.
Groot came to Earth in search of humans to capture and study, but he was thought to be destroyed by Leslie Evans by way of termites. Later, it’s revealed that Groot survived, but was captured by the Collector for his Canadian zoo. Mole Man freed Groot and other captive creatures who went on to rampage through New York City before they were stopped by superheroes and sent through a portal to the Negative Zone.
SHIELD’s Paranormal Containment Unit, aka the Howling Commandos, tracked him down and captured him. Gorilla-Man asked Groot if he’d join the Howling Commandos while the latter was in custody. When Merlin attacked the base, the Howling Commandos freed the prisoners who then stampeded across Merlin’s army. Groot stayed behind to help the Howling Commandos in the fight against Merlin.
In Annihilation: Conquest, it’s revealed that Groot may be the last of the Flora colossi. He was under arrest by the Kree but was set free when he joined Star-Lord’s strike force. Groot and Rocket Raccoon quickly became friends, in part because Rocket was one of the few beings who could understand Groot. As they fought through the Phalanx, the team needed to retreat through a drainage pipe that Groot could not get through. He sacrificed himself to make sure the team could escape and a new Groot was grown from a sprig offshoot. They continued fighting the Phalanx, joined by Mantis in the fight, and eventually Groot grew to full size from the twig.
Once the Guardians of the Galaxy returned to Hala, Phalanx captured their agent Blastaar and took him to Babel Spire. As part of their plan, Groot and Rocket snuck into the Babel Spire’s basement to place explosives inside. When Star-Lord gets captured by Ultron, Rocket and Groot must create a new plan of attack. Groot sprouts inside the Spire, growing to enormous size and igniting his sap, which Mantis had altered to make it flammable. He destroyed the Babel Spire, once again dying for the team. Rocket kept a piece of Groot and was able to regrow him under his and Mantis’ care.
The next iteration of the Guardians consisted of Groot, Rocket, Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer. The Guardians participate in the Secret Wars event, and Groot and Rocket are both killed by the Children of Tomorrow. Star-Lord is faced with Black Swan at Emperor Doom’s castle when he reveals that he had a twig of Groot. He slams the twig into the roots of World Tree, which Groot uses to transform the tree into his body, destroying Doom’s castle, and giving the heroes a chance to finish the assault.
They also had an important part to play in the Secret Empire event. The Guardians joined Captain Marvel, Alpha Flight, members of the Ultimates, and others to face a fleet of Chitauri that was heading to Earth. The Hydra Steve Rogers traps all of them in the Planetary Defense Shield outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Star-Lord, Rocket, and Groot try to persuade Galactic Council representatives from the Kree, Brood, Skrulls, Shi’ar, and Spartax empires to help fight the Chitauri. Not only do they refuse to help, they try to kill all three members of the Guardians. Once the Planetary Defense Shield falls, they rejoin the final fight against Hydra.
Groot and Rocket are on their way to the Stohlad Ring when Gardener ambushes them and shatters Groot. Rocket escapes with a splinter to grow a new Groot. During Infinity Countdown the Guardians find that Gardener is attacking the planet Telferina by using Flora colossi that he grew from Groot’s splinters. Groot gets close enough to Gardener to use his healing powers to remove the poison that Loki had put in him. Once healed, Gardener using his abilities to return Groot to his size, and he can now speak in full sentences.
Outside of comics, Groot has been featured in multiple animated programs, in video games, and on film. His animated appearances have been in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight, Lego Marvel Super Heroes – Guardians of the Galaxy: The Thanos Threat, and Spider-Man. For video games, he’s a playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Marvel Contest of Champions, Leg Marvel Super Heroes 2, and several others.
Groot’s most famous appearance out of comics is in the Guardians of Galaxy and Avengers movies. He was introduced to the MCU in 2014 as a motion capture character voiced by Vin Diesel. Despite his very limited dialogue, Groot won over audiences with his personality and when he sacrificed himself to save the Guardians and became Baby Groot, viewers adored the tiny tree creature.
If there’s one thing we can count on from this heroic tree creature it’s this: I am Groot.