(Editor's Note: Cosmic Book News continues its coverage of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie with a look at Rocket Raccoon!)
I will be honest with you: the Jim Starlin and King Kirby star stuff I knew. But when they named the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing shortly after Annihilation: Conquest, well -- a raccoon? Yep, I was already familiar with the psi-talking dog and non-talking tree, but -- a raccoon?!
I had no idea who or what Rocket Raccoon was. Had I missed an episode of my beloved sci-fi series Howard the Duck? Sounded like some of Gerber's $%^$.
Maybe some of you, antsy to discover the ins and outs of the upcoming (we think) comic and the upcoming (we know) 2014 film are likewise wondering today: Who or what is Rocket Raccoon?
Glad you asked!
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:3304:]]In Marvel Preview #7 (1976), Rocket Raccoon initially acted as the "Guardian of the Keystone Quadrant," an area of outer space sealed off from the rest of the cosmos by the so-called Galacian Wall. Rocket was captain of the starship Rack 'n' Ruin, and he and his first mate Wal Russ (a talking walrus) come from the planet Halfworld in the Keystone Quadrant, an abandoned colony for the mentally ill where the animal companions were genetically manipulated to grant them human level intelligence and bipedal body construction for many to become caretakers of the inmates. Rocket was Halfworld's chief law officer (“ranger”) who protected the colony against various threats.
At one point, Judson Jakes tried to steal the Halfworld Bible, but was thwarted by Rocket and the Incredible Hulk. Later, Lord Dyvyne abducted Rocket's friend Lylla and Jakes began the Toy War. As the Toy War continued, Blackjack O'Hare teamed up with Rocket and Rocket was reunited with Lylla.
The Rack 'n' Ruin was soon destroyed, as Judson Jakes and Lord Dyvyne teamed up to kill Rocket. But the cosmic critter and his friends cured the Loonies of their mental illnesses, as Judson Jakes and Lord Dyvyne were apparently killed. Rocket, the animals and the robots left Halfworld and took off into space for their own adventures. Sometime later, Rocket was revealed to have been a laboratory subject on the Stranger's planet and escaped his captivity there.
Rocket soon resurfaced as a member of the team chosen to accompany Star-Lord on his mission to stop a Phalanx infiltration of the Kree homeworld. Rocket is a gifted military tactician who is also fearless, loyal, and insightful. It is also heavily implied that he has a case of obsessive compulsive disorder.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:3306:]]Following the end of the twin Annihilation wars, Rocket joins the new Guardians of the Galaxy (if memory serves, he himself names them after the original team -- but it takes three or four issues) at the behest of his friend Peter Quill (Star-Lord).
Later, when the team almost disbands and Quill disappears (sent into the Negative Zone by Ronan), Rocket keeps the team alive and brings in Groot as a member, as the two had become firm friends. Rocket takes over as leader until they rescue Peter, and saves the Earth from an alien invasion.
When the team tries to halt the growing War of Kings, Rocket decides to lead the portion of the team assigned to make contact with the Shi'ar. However, they are unable to teleport into the Emperor Vulcan's flagship and have to be rescued by the Starjammers and Rocket's old friend, Ch'od. They are able to bring back the rightful queen of the Shi'ar, Lilandra, but she is tragically killed once Rocket had departed, much to his horror.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:3307:]]After the Guardians seemingly disband again after the "deaths" (?) of Quill and Nova (Richard Rider), Rocket takes up a normal job with Timely Inc. He and Groot were reunited and tricked into returning to Halfworld: here, he found out his memories of the place were mostly half-truths and deliberately crafted fake memories. In reality, Jakes and Blackjack O'Hare had worked with Rocket in providing security at Halfworld Asylum for the Criminally Insane; Dyvyne had been Head of Psychology there; and both the anthropomorphic animals and the automaton clowns were deliberately created to work at the asylum, as their appearance would calm the inmates.
The crises that Rocket half-remembered had been caused by the psychic supervillain the Star Thief, who had been admitted as an inmate and used his psychic powers to turn the inhabitants against each other. Rocket had turned the warders into a biological "key" to keep Star-Thief locked up, and deliberately altered his mind and left Halfworld so it could never be opened. But he was tricked into returning by the Thief, whose mind had escaped into the asylum after his host body died.
I won't even get into a later adventure the raccoon shared with Groot in the Mojoverse. It was even loonier than at the Halfworld Asylum!
As stated before, the hows and whys the Guardians are now assisting a cadre of Avengers in Avengers Assemble is still a mystery to be solved -- how are Peter Quill and Drax alive? -- but I will leave that to Mr. Bendis and hope all this attention to these wonderful characters is not just to see them killed off in promotion for the film Avengers 2.