Everyone knows the cosmos of are home to a host of wealthy and powerful galactic powers, and a multitude of fallen interstellar empires with riches just waiting to be plundered. In other words, it’s a place where an enterprising thief could become very rich… or very dead.
But when you routinely dodge death as a member of the Marvel Universe’s premier cosmic team, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the lethal — or legal — consequences of a botched heist aren’t something that scares you. This May, Rocket Raccoon will use his off hours in between saving the galaxy to pull down high stakes cosmic scores with a heist crew composed of fan favorite Marvel characters, the Technet
Rocket and his team’ larcenous exploits will be chronicled by writer Al Ewing and artist Adam Gorham in the new ongoing “Rocket” series. CBR chatted with Ewing about his take on the title character, the motivation behind Rocket’s new career of thievery, the book’s supporting cast, and the overall tone and feel of the series.
CBR: These days, Rocket Raccoon is probably best known as a heavily armed gun for hire and one of the more violent members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but he also has a past as a law man and even a caretaker of other humanoid animals. So who is Rocket to you when this series begins? How much of his past will inform this series?
Al Ewing: It’s definitely on my mind as I write him – the idea that he had an entirely different life, long ago, that he doesn’t like to talk about. The Mantlo/Mignola/Gordon “Rocket Raccoon” limited series got reprinted in one of the Marvel UK comics of my childhood, so I do have some rosy, cosy memories of it. He was pretty much a totally different person back then – and from what I recall, a much less troubled one. Occasionally, bits and pieces of that old life will surface – someone will get past his defenses by reminding him of the old days, or he’ll have retained a piece of kit from his time as Ranger Rocket – but to remember is painful. It’s a very noir trope – the old, good time that the hero lost and can never get back. The long-buried sadness.
In this series you’re casting Rocket as a thief who pulls of interstellar heists. What inspired you to take the character in this direction? And is thievery something that comes natural to Rocket?
When [Editor] Jordan [D. White] approached me about doing the book, I’d been rereading a lot of Richard Stark’s Parker novels, and thinking how long it’d been since I’d had a crack at a noir crime story in a sci-fi locale. And then I read up on raccoons and found out they have very good hearing and a particularly good sense of touch… and suddenly I had an idea of Rocket as a natural safecracker, and the whole thing span out from there.
What it’s turned into is a kind of unique mix of hard-boiled crime and sci-fi madness with a fair amount of deadpan humor, which I think people will get on board with right from the off.
Against what kind of back drops will Rocket be pulling down scores?
The first arc is set mostly on the planet Digriz – readers of Harry Harrison will get the allusion – which is a rough planet in a rough sector of space, the kind of place Rocket goes to cut loose and have fun in. So it’s a very cosmopolitan, big-city kind of backdrop.
Later arcs might end up touring forest worlds, or space stations, or anywhere else. Space, to me- and I think a lot of Marvel comics bear this out – is a pretty diverse place, where you can have all different types of planetary civilizations rubbing shoulders, and – this being a crime comic – we’ll get to see how the laws on some planets are subtly different from others, and how that affects things. A big motivating factor in our first arc is a particular bit of legalese relating to land rights on the planet Tarka’s World, ruled by sentient otters.
You need a crew to pull heists, and given they’ve pretty much been a part of each other’s lives since Keith Giffen first paired them together back in the 2007 “Annihilation: Conquest-Starlord” miniseries, it seems like Rocket’s friend Groot would be part of such a crew. Will that be the case though? Does Groot play a role in “Rocket?”
Groot plays no role in “Rocket” for the foreseeable future. For one thing, he’s quite small and wee now – which might reduce his effectiveness in a heist situation, although even as I type that I can think of five different ways to use him. For another, we wanted to make this a true solo book and let Rocket stand on his own two feet. There probably will be a time these two get together again, but I think they need a little space for themselves for now — although if you want Rocket-and-Groot-both-together action, there’s always the main “Guardians” book.
One group that we know will play a role in the initial issues of “Rocket” are the interdimensional bounty hunters known as the Technet. What made you want to bring them into this series? And what can you tell us about their initial role in the book?
Ah yes, the Technet. That was Jordan’s suggestion, originally – in fact, it was the very first suggestion, part of the brief. Was it part of the reason I jumped on the book? Who can say, but I am a big fan of weird, fun characters, and the Technet are both incredibly weird and incredibly fun.
I’ve tried to keep them as true to their original characterization as possible, so when we first meet them, they’ve had yet another massive argument over money and Gatecrasher’s ability to pay them – which leaves half the team divorced from the other half and looking for some easy cash. Enter Rocket…
In terms of supporting players, there’s Gatecrasher and the Technet, there’s our resident “femme fatale” Otta Spice, there’s the sentient bag of gas, Gasbag, there’s a “Space Kingpin” – created at [artist] Adam’s [Gorham] request – who’s a real fun guy once you get to know him, there’s Deadpool for one issue, there’s space’s greatest lawyer Murd Blurdock, there’s the Beavertron Corporation, and there’s much much more.
Earlier, you mentioned land rights on the planet Tarka’s World would be a part of your initial story. Can you talk more about that? And what are some of the things standing in the way of pulling of this first heist?
Yes, the very first target is the deeds to a particular piece of land that are currently being kept in an ultra-secure vault. There are no locks, no keys – instead, there’s an A.I. bouncer with a database of all sentient beings on-world, and if you don’t match up with that database, and if you don’t have business in the vault, things won’t go too well for you. And then beyond that, there’s a roomful of trained assassins and an impregnable, explosion-proof inner vault door. So Rocket’s got his work cut out for him.
I’m not super familiar with Adam Gorham’s work, but what I’ve seen suggests a flair for kinetic action. What do you enjoy most about his style? What are some of the things he’s brought to your stories that readers might not initially be aware of?
Adam’s been fantastic – I couldn’t ask for a better collaborator on this one. One thing that worked very well early on was a bit of serendipity. We’re doing some experimentation with the format of “Rocket.” So I had to get very structured with the scripts, down to dictating tiers and how many panels per tier, even, which usually I don’t do. But Adam liked that going in, which was good. By now, though, we’re much more used to each other -I’m still keeping the scripts much more structural than with other books, but I think Adam treats that as a jungle gym, rather than scaffolding-doing everything that needs doing, but putting it together in new and unexpected and, frankly, wonderful ways. And it’s all finished off by colorist Michael Garland, who brings the whole shebang to life with some beautiful tones that really make the scenes pop.
And I’ll use this opportunity to give a special shout-out to letterer Jeff Eckleberry. The difference between a book that looks amateurish and a book that looks professional is often the letterer – every book relies on this generally unsung work, and this book especially so, as you’ll see when you pick it up. It’s different and special in a way that’ll blow you away – I feel very confident in saying that – and a major part of that is Jeff’s work.
Finally, can you talk a little more about the overall tone and feel you and your collaborators are looking to give “Rocket?” Earlier you mentioned the stories would have elements of hard-boiled crime, sci-fi strangeness, and deadpan humor.
Rocket’s going to be quite a fun one in terms of tone, as we’re trying something interesting with the format that I’m not sure has been done in a while – although having said that, I did it before in an old issue of “Mighty Avengers.” The tone, though, is a kind of deadpan noir, a mix of hard-boiled pulp and absurdity. It’ll read serious, and hopefully have an emotional edge to it, but at the same time there’s an undercurrent of the ridiculous that won’t go away. Ideally, every issue should feel like a new chapter of an old pulpy dime novel, with just a pinch of space oddity thrown in.
I’d like to conclude by saying what a difficult job we’ve got following the stellar work of Matt Rosenberg, Jorge Coelho and the rest of the outgoing Rocket team. That said, we’re going to do our best, and whether you’re a fan of their stuff who’s chosen to continue with us, or whether you’re jumping on board the jumping-on point now – welcome to the ride. It’s going to be a wild one.