Who Is GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY’s High Evolutionary? His Marvel Comics Origins and Powers, Explained

Original reporting by Rosie Knight. Additional reporting by Eric Diaz.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 trailer finally dropped, giving fans their first real look at Peacemaker’s Chukwudi Iwuji as the film’s main villain, the High Evolutionary. So who is Marvel’s maddest scientist? What are his powers? And how will he play into the future of the MCU? Get ready to get cosmic as we’re here to answer all your burning High Evolutionary questions. 

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Who Is the High Evolutionary in Marvel Comics? 

Marvel Comics/Gil Kane/Dan Adkins

1966’s Thor #133 marks the first reference to the High Evolutionary. He would make his debut on the page in the very next issue, which also included a cameo of the mutant twins who would become such a key part of his comic book lore. With Galactus planning deep space destruction as always, Thor is looking for Jane Foster. It’s on his search that he comes across Mount Wundagore, the High Evolutionary, and his New Men. Pietro and Wanda are going to Mount Wundagore to seek answers about their waning mutant powers.

It wouldn’t be until years later that readers learned who the High Evolutionary truly was thanks to backup stories in The Evolutionary War event. His human name was Herbert Edgar Wyndham and he had once been a successful academic scientist. As a child Herbert became obsessed with genetics and the possibility of “evolving” creatures. But it wasn’t until an encounter with a strange man—later revealed to be a rogue Inhuman—who enlightened him on how to “crack the genetic code” that Herbert made his dreams a reality. His experiments made him an outcast in the scientific field and he moved to Mount Wundagore with his research partner, Jonathan Drew, father of Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew. There he built his futuristic home. He began to evolve animals, creating a series of humanoid beasts known as the New Men.

How Is the High Evolutionary Connected to the Scarlet Witch? 
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Herbert’s first appearance alluded to a connection to the Maximoffs. A flashback in 1974’s Giant-Size Avengers #1 teased a vital Mount Wundagore backstory around the twins’ birth. Finally, in 1979’s Avengers #185-187, Herbert’s full impact on the twins’ lives came to light. It was during this iconic arc that readers learned their “true history.” Their mother sought refuge on Mount Wundagore after their father gained powers and went mad “raving with a desire to rule the world.” The High Evolutionary’s cow creature known as Bova delivered the twins and soon their mother left the children with the bovine midwife. While Bova tried to give the twins to the hero known as the Whizzer, he chose to run away. Eventually, the Maximoffs came and adopted the twins.

What does all this have to do with Wanda’s powers? Chthon “marked” her at her birth. We learn this as Chthon possesses Wanda. Speaking through Wanda, Chthon tells the Avengers that Mount Wundagore was created to imprison him and the Darkhold. Inevitably, someone used the Darkhold and Chthon was freed when this knowledge fell into the hands of the wrong person. Eventually, the demon is defeated. But in that moment Chthon decides to imbue baby Wanda with his magic, creating arguably the most famous origin of the Scarlet Witch. 

How Is the High Evolutionary Connected to Adam Warlock? 
Marvel Comics/Jim Starlin/Steve Leialoha

In the comics, Adam Warlock and the High Evolutionary are deeply connected in a way that would make sense if translated to the big screen in the upcoming Guardians movie. Remember how we first met Adam Warlock in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 stinger? Adam was in a giant cocoon, looked after by the High Priestess of the Sovereign, Ayesha. Ayesha calls her creation “Him” (as in Adam’s first appearance in the Fantastic Four) before deciding to name him Adam.

The reason why this all plays into the High Evolutionary joining the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 cast goes back to 1972’s Marvel Premiere #1. Bringing the story of Adam Warlock to life, the issue digs deep into his past. Created by scientists on Earth, the High Evolutionary later found Adam’s body floating in a cocoon in space. In the comics Herbert adopts Adam, names him Warlock and places an emerald upon his forehead. The comics would later reveal the emerald as the Soul Gem. It feels highly likely that we could see some version of this come to the screen. 

How Will the High Evolutionary Fit Into the MCU? 
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The trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 gave us our first real glimpse of the Evolutionary in action, showing what appears to be his part in Rocket’s origin story. Like the comics, he “evolved” Rocket from an ordinary animal into something akin to the beings he created in the comics. We also saw a world that looked just like Counter-Earth, the artificial world he created populated by his animal/human hybrids. Given his long history with the character Adam Warlock, who is also in the film in a major role, it makes sense that Counter-Earth plays a part in the story. The trailer also shows him running people on giant hamster wheels, further blurring the lines between humans and animals.

In the second trailer, the High Evolutionary says “My sacred mission is to create the perfect society.” This once again points to the Earth we saw in that first trailer as Counter-Earth. But Rocket would beg to differ with the High Evolutionary’s perspective on things, saying “He didn’t want to make things perfect. He just hated things the way they are.”

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We’re guessing that the High Evolutionary’s most important role right now will be a cosmic one. Playing the villain in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would be a smart way to introduce him to the MCU. It would follow the comics’ path of presenting him first as a powerful and Machiavellian scientist and then later introducing the human truth of his path. Now that Ms. Marvel established the mutant gene in the MCU it feels very intentional to introduce a famed geneticist. As to whether the High Evolutionary ever visits Mount Wundagore or create Bova… well, we can dream.

Originally published July 27, 2022.

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