Rocket Raccoon #1, May 1985, Marvel Comics
creators: Bill Mantlo & Keith Giffen
writer: Bill Mantlo
penciller: Mike Mignola
inker: Al Gordon
colorist: Christie Scheele
letterer: Ken Bruzenak
editor: Carl Potts
EIC: Jim Shooter
Blogger's note: Entry for Sunday, January 27, 2008.
Raccoons have a bad rap. They’re just cursed from birth. That furry black “mask” around their eyes has doomed them to the stereotype of a criminal. I guess all of that rummaging around in trash cans doesn’t help, either . . . but a mask isn’t always an indication of evil. We geeks know that a mask can protect a superhero’s identity and their loved ones therein. Now we also know, thanks to Rocket Raccoon, that a raccoon can rise above prejudice and become an interstellar, laser-wielding champion.
Yes, the image of a raccoon as an interstellar, laser-wielding champion was all I needed to purchase this issue at last year’s San Diego Comic Con. I hadn’t even seen the all-star list contributors yet, including a young Mike Mignola, whose characteristic style wasn’t apparent to me on a cover featuring all animal characters. (Uh, pay no attention to that “MM” in the corner . . .!) Indeed, based on editor Carl Potts’ back page introduction -- appropriately titled, “All Right . . . Who’s Responsible for All This?!” -- Rocket Raccoon’s fantastic world inspired some of comics’ best talents, including Bill Sienkiewicz’s caricatures of the creative crew. Rocket Raccoon was the brainchild of Bill Mantlo, who’s also responsible for my favorite Marvel underdogs Cloak and Dagger, and the little guy first appeared in Marvel Fanfare #10 followed by a guest-starring role in Hulk. Those two appearances obviously sparked all of the interest Rocket needed to earn his own four-issue miniseries.
This first issue introduces Rocket’s native sector of space, the Keystone Quadrant, and his home planet Halfworld. When the snake lord Dyvyne’s toysmith is murdered by his competitor’s trademarked robotic clowns, the tongue-smelling tyrant enlists Rocket Raccoon to bring Judson Jakes to justice. Rocket’s girlfriend Lylla is the rightful heir to Jakes’ Mayhem Mekaniks, and while the raccoon is doing Dyvyne’s dirty work, that slippery serpent has planned to wed his woman behind his back, inheriting his competitor’s company. Obviously, Rocket’s paws are full, but on top of this corporate conspiracy, Mantlo infuses an ethereal subplot about the Quadrant’s spiritual existence. Apparently, these alien animals exist to humor their seemingly insane human neighbors, but these toy companies wish to spin a profit from this entertainment. The thought repulses Rocket Raccoon, which inspires themes about servitude, selflessness, and greed.
Apparently, this superheroic raccoon was hiding much more than his identity behind that God given mask. Rocket Raccoon boasts subtexts I wouldn’t have expected from what otherwise looks like a cosmic fairytale. Indeed, for this, the beginning of week-long series of animal-oriented comics, my theory holds true: that character remains the most important element in an introductory issue, especially if that protagonist bucks stereotypes and exceeds expectations.
Supplemental: Click here to see the beginning of my Man-Cave expose, categorizing the stuff in my cocoon of geekdom!