The spaceways of the Marvel Universe are a dangerous and chaotic place. When threats arise usually they’re ones that could wipe out billions of people or the entire universe. Fortunately there’s a team of heroes whose purview is solving and stopping cosmic crises. They’re called the Guardians of the Galaxy and their members include such powerful and resourceful figures as… a living tree and a gun-wielding, talking raccoon? It may seem strange, but it’s true. The giant arboreal, extraterrestrial monarch named Groot may be best known for his trademark line of, “I am Groot,” but his courage, cunning, and physical abilities have saved the Guardians and the Galaxy and the universe on several occasions. And Rocket may seem like just a talking Raccoon but his marksmanship abilities and cunning tactical mind make him a valuable asset in any combat situation.
Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with artist Timothy Green (“Annihilation: Conquest – Star-Lord”) will shine a spotlight on these two friends and unlikely intergalactic heroes this January when the four issue “Rocket Raccoon and Groot” miniseries begins. CBR News spoke with Abnett and Lanning, collectively known to their fans as DnA, about the project which was announced yesterday at the Mondo Marvel panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Rocket Raccoon and Groot have been members of the Guardians of the Galaxy ever since the first issue of the latest volume of the series, which began in May 2008. The two sometimes found themselves relegated to background scenes but fans of the book could tell that DnA seem to have the most fun with scenes involving Rocket and Groot. This wasn’t just because of the comic aspects of both characters.
“They’re enormous fun to write because they’re funny, but one of the most interesting things about Rocket and Groot is writing them in a way where they’re also credible. There’s a reason for there being a talking raccoon and a talking tree, even in a universe where anything can happen. It’s giving them a context so they’re not cartoon characters, but proper creations. They’re creatures who live in a broader universe and may be slightly unconventional, but the questions we’re interested in are what can you do with them? And what details can you seed into their personality that makes sort of sense of them?” Dan Abnett told CBR News. “With Rocket in particular there’s a danger of thinking, ‘Oh well, he’s just a funny, talking animal.’ We want to suggest that there is more to him than that because that makes him more interesting and cooler. And similarly with Groot there’s a huge amount of stuff to be unpacked with his background. We did it a little bit in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ [revealing] that when he talks he isn’t just saying, ‘I am Groot.’ He’s saying all sorts of different things but you’ve got to be able to understand his language. It’s based around all the different ways he says, ‘I am Groot’. So those types of alien creatures are very fun to play around with.”
Andy Lanning added, “Playing around those bits often make the funny instances more funny. You see Groot saying, ‘I am Groot.’ But what he really could be doing is explaining the theory of relativity. That makes the joke even funnier.”
Currently Rocket, Groot, and the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy are embroiled in a huge cosmic miniseries entitled “The Thanos Imperative.” It’s a story of all-out war where the protagonists must face down the inhabitants of the “Cancerverse,” a twisted mirror image version of the Marvel Universe where the forces of life have run amok. DnA cautions fans against thinking the announcement of the “Rocket Raccoon & Groot” miniseries means that the titular characters will survive the events of “The Thanos Imperative.” “One of the things that we want to make quite clear about ‘The Thanos Imperative’ is that all bets are off! Anything can happen in that series because it is about the fate of the universe and no character is safe!” Abnett said. “So there’s a distinct possibility that all the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy will bite the dust in ‘The Thanos Imperative,’ but this Rocket and Groot adventure may be a sidebar, or something that’s happening tangentially, or at an earlier time. It is still a part of continuity and moves things forward but not perhaps in the most obvious way.”
Because “The Thanos Imperative” is still running, issue #2 of the six issue miniseries is in stores now, DnA have to be very careful in revealing the plot details of “Rocket Raccoon & Groot.” “We could undo a lot of the tension in that series if we say too much. Needless to say Rocket and Groot find their paths crossing again for a very personal adventure,” Lanning remarked. “It’s something that both of them have stakes in. It’s going to result in the two of them teaming up and revisiting some of the places and events of their pasts.”
Abnett added, “I think what’s important about this is it’s an adventure only the two of them could have. There is one other character that’s coming along but a lot of the more potent cosmic heroes wouldn’t stand a chance in this story. It’s got to be Rocket and Groot who do this because what’s really going on ties into their origins; what they are and where they’ve been. It’s not a story where any cosmic heroes could be slotted in. It’s very much a Groot and Rocket story.”
Some of the title characters’ teammates will appear in supporting roles in “Rocket Raccoon & Groot,” though DnA are still working out which familiar faces will show up. However, the adversarial roles in the series will be filled by new characters. “They’re going to be up against some new things, but also a new take on something that’s been around for a while and it is something we haven’t seen in comics for a bit,” Abnett revealed. “The full answer to that would spoil a nice surprise I think.”
Rocket Raccoon made his debut in 1976’s “Marvel Preview” #7 and in 1985 he graduated to his own miniseries, which featured pencils by “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola. In honor of Rocket’s sophomore miniseries, Mignola will provide the cover art for “Rocket Raccoon & Groot” #1 “It’s absolutely fantastic to have him drawing Rocket again. The cover has obviously got more of a ‘Hellboy’ style to it than the style he employed when he originally drew Rocket Raccoon, but nonetheless you can see a lot of his talent and the respect he has for the character in the piece he provided. It’s just great. Everything Mignola draws is amazing as far as I’m concerned so having him do the cover for #1 is just fantastic.”
When “The Thanos Imperative” began, the other books in Marvel’s cosmic line were put on indefinite hiatus. DnA were unable to reveal what plans, if any, were currently in the works for the line, but the duo have pulled out all stops to make sure that “Rocket Raccoon & Groot” is a series that cosmic fans can enjoy while the patiently wait for news about their favorite books. The tone of the series is a carefully crafted cocktail of the space opera and buddy action genres. It also features some Douglas Adams style humor. “If you enjoyed what we were doing with the Guardians, we’re definitely picking up the tone and feel of that series and focusing on two individual characters and examining some of their back story,” Lanning remarked. “We’re still going to keep the fun and action amped up really high.”
Abnett added, “We’ll have that usual combination of fun and cosmic antics but also I think we’ve got some really good quirky science fiction ideas in the middle bit. There are some concepts that the story revolves around that will be very entertaining from that perspective. So I’m hoping that people really enjoy it.”