appearing in Marvel Comics
first appeared in Fantastic Four 48
Ancient, cryptic, immensely powerful, and practically unbeatable, from his first appearance in the mid-60's, Galactus has been the ruler by which all other cosmic villains measured. Though the storylines surrounding him have played him out not to be evil, per se, but a balancing cosmic force, his actions often bring him into conflict with heroes and his actions cause great destruction and difficulty for others.
Galactus's origins are shadowed by the mists of time. He is believed to be a being known as Galan from a world known as Taa. Taa was an idyllic paradise world of amazing technology and culture. Taa and Galan were part of the universe before the Big Bang event created our present universe. Galan was investigating the mass of cosmic energy and matter that created the Big Bang just before the event, causing much speculation that the last words before the Big Bang were Galan going "I wonder what this does?". Galan somehow survived the Big Bang and was transformed by its energies. For many centuries, Galan was in stasis while his body adapted to the energy. During this time, civilizations formed and rose many of which produced the members of the Elders of the Universe. Also during this time, one of the Watchers, a hugely powerful race of beings with the self-imposed call to observe the universe but not to interfere in it, discovered the defenseless Galan, or as he was soon to be known Galactus. The Watcher toyed with the idea of destroying it, knowing that it could cause great destruction and misery, but instead decided to hold to its non-interference code and left Galan alone.
Centuries later, Galan awoke. In his new form, Galactus as he was now known stood nearly 30 feet high. He built for himself a suit of armor to help regulate his energy and went into staisis again for a time. During this time, his spaceship went into orbit around a world called Archeopia. There it stayed for many years. Aware of it, the people of the planet did not bother it, but when they were attacked by a group of invaders from another world, the invaders did, thinking Galactus's ship was some type of weapon. Galactus awoke and destroyed the invaders which the Archeopian people were happy about. But then, Galactus was hungry so he absorbed the life-giving energy of Archeopia, destroying the planet, which the Archeopian people were not so happy about. Some of the people escaped and began to wander collecting others who were displaced by Galactus's destruction over the years.
Originally, Galactus would only absorb the energy of a planet every few centuries. His hunger was not great and he believed that the suffering he caused was balanced by his higher purpose. This purpose would not be known for many years.
Eventually, Galactus's hunger began to increase and he found it harder and harder to find worlds to consume. His path of destruction led him to an advanced world known as Zenn-La. There he was confronted by a man named Norrin Radd. Radd offered to serve Galactus if he would spare his world. Galactus imparted a small portion of his immense energy to Radd and transformed him into the first and greatest of Galactus's hearlds, the Silver Surfer.
The Surfer served Galactus for many years, discovering for him worlds for Galactus to devour. Eventually, the Surfer lead Galactus to Earth, but the Surfer was injured and aided by the blind sculptress Alicia Masters,and therefore, felt compassion upon this planet. Galactus was opposed by both the Silver Surfer and the Fantastic Four. The deciding factor was when the Fantastic Four discovered the Ultimate Nullifier and threatened to use it if Galactus did not put the biosphere down and back away. Galactus agreed to leave and never threaten the Earth again, but punished the Silver Surfer for his betrayal, but creating an invisible barrier around the Earth that trapped him there.
Galactus continued to travel the universe devouring planets. He employed a number new heralds including Air-Walker, Firelord, and the Norse weapon the Destroyer. Eventually, after being betrayed by his last herald, Terrax the Tamer, Galactus grew weak and desperate. He returned to Earth, breaking his earlier bargain. He was opposed by a great host of heroes and due to his weakened state was defeated. His need for energy was so great that Galactus was in danger of dying, so Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four, devised a way of saving him. Galactus recovered and again pledged to leave the Earth alone, also pledging his friendship to Richards. He also acquired a new herald in the form of Frankie Raye, a young woman with powers similar to those of the Human Torch. Galactus made her his new herald in the form of Nova.
Over the succeding years, Galactus's hunger continued to increase. He devoured the Skrull homeworld throwing the Skrull empire into chaos. He also became the focal point of a plot by the Elders of the Universe to create a new Big Bang in hopes that they would come out as the rulers of this new universe. They sought to employ the soul gems to this end, but were defeated with the help of the Silver Surfer and the Fantastic Four.
Over the years, Galactus developed feelings for Nova. She eventually rebelled against him, when her conscience would not allow him to continue to devour worlds that contained life. He dismissed her and found a new herald, one who had no moral compunction about killing. This new herald, named Morg, killed Nova and was opposed by the remaining ex-heralds of Galactus who defeated him.
This again left Galactus with no herald, so he created a new one, called Red Shift. Due to his increasing hunger, Galactus allowed Red Shift to lead him to Earth, where he was driven off by many of Earth's heroes. The Silver Surfer agreed to come under Galactus's service again in exchange for leaving Earth alone. The Surfer lead him to the Shi'ar homeworld in hopes that their strength would be enough to defeat Galactus. He was opposed by the Shi'ar and Earth forces, which managed to turn his own energy absorbing machines against him. In his already weakened state, Galactus was brought low and mortally wounded. He warned of danger to come and died transforming into pure energy.
The danger to come came in the form of Abraxas, a being that embodied all death and destruction the same way that Eternity embodies all life in the Marvel Universe. Somehow, Galactus's existence kept Abraxas at bay, but with his death Abraxas was freed. He began to create chaos, attacking the members of the Fantastic Four and Earth's Watcher Utua. The Ultimate Nullifier fell into Abraxas's hands and he began to attack the Earth with forces from other dimensions in the form of alternate versions of Galactus's former herald Nova. When things were at their darkest, Franklin Richards, the son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, who possessed incredible reality changing powers, used his powers to recreate Galactus. The strain burned out Franklin's powers forever,but Galactus was able to wrest the Nullifier from Abraxas, giving it to Mr. Fantastic. Richards used the Nullifier to destroy Abraxas,but as is the curse of the Nullifier, destroying himself in the process, but due to the properties of the Nullifier, it was as if Abraxas never existed, so all of the damage including the death of Richards and others were nullified and all was as it was before.
While most of Galactus's career has been big and cosmic, it has had its lighter moments. For instance, Galactus experienced a cosmic case of indigestion after consuming the planet Pop-up, the home of the Impossible Man. Likewise, according to a 1970's advertisement from the Hostess Company, the only other thing apart from the biosphere of an entire planet that can satisfy the intense craving of Galactus is about a half a dozen Hostess fruit pies. Similarly, in a shocking turn of events, May Parker, the aged aunt of Peter Parker, the hero Spider-man, was briefly endowed with a portion of cosmic power of Galactus and served as his herald taking the name Golden Oldie. We have even seen Galactus tie one on, when in a potential future, the Olympian god Hercules manages to get him drunk in an attempt to protect a planet from being devoured.