December 6, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #429: Rocket Raccoon

Sure, you think you know Rocket. You probably don't.

OK, I know what all my hypothetical readers are thinking right now:  you know full-well who and what Rocket Raccoon is, especially in light of the most recent Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  But see, writer/director James Gunn…his take on the Guardians are not as accurate to the source material as might be assumed.  Some of his Guardians are closer to their comic book counterparts than others, and in some ways, Gunn’s take has greatly influenced how each of the Guardians has been portrayed since then, and Rocket is a prime example there.

But I had a really good reason to go with Rocket for this entry.

Basically, in the first thirty years of Rocket Raccoon’s existence, he appeared in a grand total of ten, count ’em. ten comic books.  And anyone looking for the anti-social, borderline psychotic little murder machine who seems inclined mostly to pump anyone who annoys him full of whatever sort of ammunition his guns shoot, well, prepare yourself for the original Rocket Raccoon:

Rocket Raccoon, yes named for a Beatles song, first appeared in Marvel Preview #7 in July of 1976.  Created by writer Bill Mantlo and artist Keith Giffen, he’s a warden on a planet Halfworld set aside in a separate sector of the universe, the Keystone Quadrant, to take care of the mentally ill.  Teamed with his partner Wal Rus (a talking Walrus), Rocket is part of a world where talking animals are there under the belief they provide comfort for their planet’s many patients.  He has a relationship of sorts with Lylla Otter, CEO of the universe’s largest toy company.  In fact, Rocket goes by “Rocky” in his first appearance.  His second would reveal his name was short for “Rocket”.

Oh, and his second appearance would be in The Incredible Hulk #271.  That would be in May of 1982.  And then, he looked like this:

Yes, he had rocket shoes.

As I said, Rocket only appeared in ten comics over his first thirty years, and four of them was a mini-series drawn by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.  How did this guy become, well, anyone who would appear in a Marvel movie?

Simple:  during a big cosmic storyline–one largely worked by Rocket co-creator Keith Giffen–called Annhilation (well, one of them as there were two), Star-Lord gathered up a group of lesser-known cosmic characters for what was basically a Suicide-Squad sort of mission.  Among the recruits was Rocket and his future pal Groot.

Oh, Groot is a story all by himself that will probably be up next.  Let’s just say while Rocket started off cute and became, well, horrifying, Groot actually went the opposite direction.  As I said, Groot will probably be in this space next time.

As it is, Rocket survived (with a cutting from Groot who otherwise didn’t make it), and he would join Peter Quill’s new Guardians of the Galaxy team alongside more established Marvel cosmic heroes, many of which came from Jim Starlin’s Infinity Watch team like Adam Warlock, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer.  Over time, Rocket would become, well, the character people recognize and a more prominent part of Marvel’s cosmic corner, that gun-toting, mechanically-inclined guy who could put together a weapon with whatever was lying around and then use it.  He still wasn’t quite the anti-social misanthrope from the movies, but he was getting closer.

Heck, about this time, Rocket appeared on the animated series Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with the rest of that Guardians team, and not only was Rocket polite and deferential to the much more straight-laced Star-Lord, but he also spoke with an Australian accent for some reason.

No, Gunn’s take on Rocket probably solidified his current characterization more than anything else.

This is a Rocket with a pretty mean sense of humor, a real love of guns, and while he can be affectionate to Groot, particularly Baby Groot, he’s mostly a cranky cynic that makes it hard for anyone to get close to him.  This is a Rocket who seems a lot more inclined to leave an opponent dead or wishing he was, a guy with a thing for weapons who fought on the right side, but didn’t really seem inclined to get along with anybody, and in his solo series by writer/artist Scottie Young, well, he looked a lot like this:

And let’s face it, this is a guy who has come a long way from the days when he was protecting a toy company on a planet full of talking animals that were intended to calm the mentally ill.

But quite frankly…Groot’s story might be even more interesting.