The dashing, ray gun-wielding, space swashbuckler is a familiar science fiction archetype. One thing they have in common — from “Star Wars'” Han Solo to Mal Reynolds from “Firefly” to “Farscape’s” John Crichton — is their impressive stature and dashing good looks. On the other hand, Marvel Comics has its own unique take on the charismatic intergalactic rogue, a character who can go toe-to-toe with any cosmic menace yet he stands only four feet tall and is covered in fur. That characters: the one and only Rocket Raccoon.
Rocket was created by writer Bill Mantlo and artist Keith Giffen for a 1976 issue of “Marvel Preview” and made his official Marvel Universe debut in 1982’s “Incredible Hulk” #271. In 1985, he starred in his own self titled mini-series and later popped up in several other titles. Rocket stepped back into the spotlight in 2007 as part of Marvel’s “Annihilation: Conquest” event and then became a fan-favorite character in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series that writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning launched in 2008.
Rocket’s star continues to rise and 2014 just might be the biggest year yet for the character. He’s an integral cast member of the current “Guardians of the Galaxy” series by writer Brian Michael Bendis, is poised to be the breakout character in Marvel Studios’ upcoming feature film adaptation of “Guardians,” and in July he’ll graduate to his own self-titled ongoing series by writer/artist Skottie Young. CBR News spoke with Young about his plans for “Rocket Raccoon.”
CBR News: Skottie, what made “Rocket Raccoon” an appealing assignment for you as both a writer and artist? Were you a fan of the character?
Skottie Young: Yeah, for sure. When I was getting ready to wrap up “Oz” we started talking about what I would do next. Marvel asked me to throw out the first things that came to mind that I would want to work on not necessarily things that would be definite possibilities. I said, “I don’t know. I like wacky characters like Deadpool or Rocket Raccoon. Those two would be up there.” This was about a year ago and at the time they said, “Oh yeah. Those both sound fun.” Shortly after that editor Stephen Wacker and I began talking about a “Rocket Raccoon” book.
I’m kind of built to play around with interesting-shaped characters that involve a lot of movement and I think an anthropomorphic raccoon is perfect in the pocket for me. The tail can be an emoter and there’s a great raccoon mask around his eyes. You can really play around with those shapes. So on the drawing side he’s really custom made for somebody like me to enjoy drawing.
Then on the writing front, I enjoy characters with a little wit, humor, and hyper over the top attitude. So this assignment is kind of perfect on both sides.
Which aspects of Rocket’s character are you interested in exploring in this series?
We’re definitely going to play around with his scoundrel side. We’ll get him away from the Guardians and he’ll have some solo adventures. So we’ll definitely see that side, but we’ll weave in and out of there as we look at other aspects of his character. We’ll see things like what it’s like to be the last of your kind left in the galaxy, but mostly this is a book about a striped-tailed, loud mouth raccoon with big guns.
Since Rocket has been an integral member of the Guardians of the Galaxy and is very good friends with his teammate Groot, I’m sure readers are wondering what role if any those characters will have in “Rocket Raccoon.” Can you talk about that at all?
Right now I’m not concentrating too much on the Guardians squad. They do make a quick appearance in my first issue, and will play a minor role in the first arc. They’ll pop in and out, but Groot definitely will be along for the ride at least part of the time. So you’ll see him from time to time in this book.
Groot is Rocket’s buddy. I don’t think Han Solo could ride around without Chewbacca. So there will be adventures for both of them. I’m sure Groot will find himself in some holes that Rocket will maybe have to pull him out of once in a awhile.
So this is not a buddy book per se, but there will be buddy stories from time to time?
Yes, there will be buddy stories. At first we were talking about this being a “Rocket Raccoon & Groot” book. As I sat down trying to come up with my pitches and ideas it felt a little difficult making both the titular characters the stars of the book. It always kept pulling away and feeling like a Rocket story with Groot tagging along.
Plus from a visual end Groot is a very big and tall character and Rocket is a very short character. So having those two occupy the same space panel after panel would be a very tough visual thing to deal with. [Laughs] So I thought it was probably better to focus on Rocket the majority of the time and have Groot be there as his backup when needed.
Let’s talk about your initial “Rocket Raccoon” story. In terms of plot and themes what is it about? What sets the story in motion?
What sets the story in motion is while Rocket is as at a wrestling/MMA match he finds out he’s a wanted man. So right away he’s got some questions about what in the world is going on. While he’s very capable of doing the things that they are saying he did and probably has done those things in the past, he didn’t do these specific things. So part of him wants to get to the bottom of that.
â€¨Then a certain hooded figure shows up that causes some inner searching for Rocket as he contemplates what it’s like for him to be the only Raccoon of his kind left in existence and is there are a possibility of more? Does he think there is anybody else out there like him or not? That’s a little bit of the main story, but a lot of it’s going to be him getting to the bottom of who’s setting him up and what’s going on with that.
Also there’s a nice little militia of some people who are pretty angry with Rocket and are after him as well. So he’s got it coming from all angles.
So it’s the classic wrongfully accused story done as a space opera?
Yeah, space opera to a degree. I’m not getting to hung up on the “operatic” stuff at all really. I think at the heart of it the story is a big, fun space romp. Rocket’s been wrongfully accused and he’s going to find out what’s that about. It puts some big guns in his hands and we look at what he does with them in that scenario. So it’s a big, fun, space romp.
Can you hint or tease the identities of some of the antagonists and other supporting players in this initial story?
I don’t want to give anything away too quickly. Like I said, there’s a hooded character that kind of showed up in Brian [Bendis’] Infinite Rocket Raccoon story. It was one of the digital comics that Marvel put out and there was a character who showed up that was kind of mysterious and was killing people and as an alien in that story was saying, “Hey you’re not the only left. I saw one of you on this other planet.” So more people like Rocket may exist.
Other than that, we have this militia of females that have bonded together over a common goal. That goal may or may not be to get back at our furry little friend for some past deeds.
It sounds like you’re interested in exploring some of the ideas that Rocket’s creator Bill Mantlo set up with his origin.
Yeah, a little bit. I’m trying to look around at all the aspects of the history of Rocket without getting too entrenched in the continuity of the past. I really want it to feel like a very fresh take on the character. You can’t help though to go back to some those wacky, weird and fun ideas and play around with them.
Let’s start to wrap up by talking about the visuals of “Rocket Raccoon.” What can you tell us about the overall look of the book? How does it compare to some of your other recent and notable work?
That’s such a hard question to answer because I don’t think about that much. I just sit down with a pencil and brush and start telling the story. I often tend to look back on material and act as if I had a grand plan for visual tone and things like that. [Laughs] Usually though while I’m working on something I’m just drawing and thinking, “Wow, I hope people like this!”
It’s definitely not “Oz.” It’s not going to be whimsical and stuff like that, but it’s going to be very much me. So if you’re a fan of my past work of follow my Tumblr and things like that you’ll see it’s still very much me. I’m just playing in a different sandbox up in space.
Finally, can you comment on your overall vision for “Rocket Raccoon” and where you’d like to take the series after the initial story? It sounds like this will be a big, fun, space adventure series.
Yeah, I think that’s really where my head is. We’ve got this weird raccoon character with a lot of attitude and I feel like it’s a good opportunity outside of the main “Guardians of the Galaxy” book to dig around in the Marvel Cosmic attic and really find some strange and odd characters that might not have a place in a book with a more “heavy” look at things and play around with them in this book. I think Rocket can have a lot of fun with some pretty odd cosmic aliens.
Me being the guy who did the “L’il Marvel” variants and did “Oz” for six years, I’ve definitely done my share of all-ages and for kids projects. And with “Rocket Raccoon” I’m not necessarily excluding any audiences or anything like that, I’m having some fun aging this up a bit more. I’m having a little fun with some things like hyper violence; as much as you can in a comic still aimed for general audiences. I’m really playing around with that and not going real Saturday morning or safe with it.
“Rocket Raccoon” launches in July from Marvel Comics.