Time-traveling, interstellar group would launch in May 2014

Marvel Studios is ready to assemble its next group of superheroes for the bigscreen: The Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Disney division is expected to announce a “Guardians” film as its next tentpole that would launch a new set of characters on May 16, 2014. Studio had previously planted a flag on that date for an untitled Marvel pic.

The Guardians are aliens in the 31st century — each the last of their kind — who travel back in time to enlist help to battle the Badoon, an evil alien race that attempts to conquer Earth’s solar system. First introduced in 1969 and again in 2008, the newer set includes Star-Lord, Drax, gun-toting Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a tree. Characters were recently featured in an episode of the animated series “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In the comicbooks, the characters have crossed over into the “The Avengers” universe, making them fit in easily with Marvel’s bigscreen plans to expand the superhero franchise — as would Ant-Man, another Avenger. And like its other Marvel properties, Disney can exploit the Guardians across all of the Mouse House’s divisions as TV shows, videogames, consumer products and possibly theme park attractions.

Nicole Perlman, who came out of Disney’s screenwriting program, penned a version of the script that Marvel has been high on.

While Marvel will focus much of its Comic-Con presentation on “Iron Man 3,” lensing now in North Carolina under the direction of Shane Black, the company will spend some time highlighting how it plans to introduce new characters to auds the way it did with Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America. Session wraps up Hollywood’s film panels on July 14.

The website Latino Review first reported Marvel’s plan to announce a Guardians pic at Comic-Con. Marvel declined to comment, although sources confirm to Variety that Disney and Marvel are zeroing in on the project, rather than a standalone Black Panther project at this point.

Marvel topper Kevin Feige has long discussed the possibility of a Guardians film, wanting to produce a big-budget space adventure. And Disney recently secured trademark rights to produce an array of consumer products tied to the pic and its characters.

Guardians of the Galaxy is among several new properties Marvel is looking to launch as films, along with Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, The Inhumans, while Black Panther also is being tackled by scribes. Edgar Wright recently shot test footage for “Ant-Man,” about a scientist who can change his size and communicate with insects. Project, which he co-wrote with Joe Cornish, has long been in development and discussed at Comic-Con in previous years.

Marvel and Disney’s next superhero outing is “Iron Man 3,” skedded for May 3, 2013, to be followed by “Thor 2″ (Nov. 15, 2013) and “Captain America 2 (April 4th, 2014). Disney already has said an “Avengers” sequel is in the works, most likely for 2015, although no date has yet been set.

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