Rocket Raccoon certainly wasn’t an overnight success, but the character’s soaring popularity caught some off-guard — from his big-screen appeal in Guardians of the Galaxy to his new comic series topping the sales chart last month with more than 300,000 copies. With Rocket Raccoon now a mainstream hit, we can’t help but wonder whether he could save some of the funny-animal comics from DC and Marvel’s pasts from extinction.
Although the Rocket we see in the Guardians of the Galaxy film and comic series don’t fall easily into that funny animal genre, Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon relishes in it.
While mainstream American comics have centered largely on superheroes for the past 40 years, that genre arose nearly a decade after the funny animal books, which have experienced moments of popularity, both as juvenile humor and more adult anthropomorphic tales.
Besides Rocket Raccoon, the two most prominent examples of that genre in the Big Two are DC’s Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew and Marvel’s Howard the Duck. Both were created as standalone stories, but have been integrated from time to time in both publishers’ superhero lines — although not to the degree of Rocket Raccoon. But there have been many more.
Marvel, DC and many of its predecessors have experimented with funny animal comics, going all the way back to the 1940s. In 1942, Fawcett Comics published Funny Animals, with the Captain Marvel spinoff character Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Marvel itself, then known as Timely, jumped in with Super Bunny, published months before the Bugs Bunny cartoon featuring a “Super Rabbit.”
Marvel released a number of funny animal comics in the 1940s and 1950s, including Ed Winiarski’s Buck Duck, Joe Maneely’s Dippy Duck and Howie Post’s The Monkey and the Bear. DC jumped into the pool with Hollywood Funny Folks and characters like McSnurtle the Turtle, Super Turtle. DC would return to the funny animal genre in 1982 with Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, and Marvel likewise with 1983’s Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham and then later its Star Comics children’s line.
In recent years Marvel and DC have touched upon their funny animal history briefly, notably with Marvel’s animal variant covers and DC’s interesting use of Captain Carrot as both an in-universe comic series (as seen in Wonder Woman) and a gritty Captain K’Rot in Threshold, but have never quite found a hit. Marvel even tried to create new anthropomorphic characters in the vein of Rocket Raccoon with Marvel’s Hitman Monkey, but to little success. Perhaps now, with Rocket Raccoon in both a hit movie in theaters and in a top-selling comic book, we could see a return of the genre.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see more Super Turtle.