Who woulda thunk it? Rocket Raccoon, a once nearly forgotten character that made a very brief splash in the ’80s is a multi-media sensation. After the premiere of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, we all fell in love with Marvel’s most battle hardened rodent. Rocket Raccoon is everywhere, from backpacks, to lunchboxes, to toy shelves, animation on Disney XD, to, of course, the pages of Marvel Comics.
The public has fallen in love with Rocket, but he has been around for quite a while before he exploded back on the cosmic Marvel scene a few years ago. Journey back with us through time to some of Rocket’s greatest moments and appearances and relive the days that fueled Rocket Raccoon’s journey to film stardom.
That time Rocket appeared as a blunt-smoking supporting character in a backup feature no one ever heard of.
Marvel Preview #7 (1976)
If this was an episode of VH1’s behind the music, we would start out with the phrase “From humble beginnings…” and things don’t get more humble than “The Sword in the Star.” Remember “The Sword in the Star?” Yeah, neither did we, but it was a sci-fi back-up feature that appeared in the black-and-white Marvel Preview #4 and continued in Marvel Preview #7. Irony of irony, the first appearance of the “Sword and the Star” strip backed up the debut of Star Lord, a character that would become vital to the history of Rocket Raccoon once the two space adventures dovetailed together in the 2000s.
In the second installment of the nearly forgotten strip written by Bill Mantlo with lush art by a young Keith Giffen, when protagonist Prince Wayfinder crashed on Witchworld, he is attacked by a sentient tree. This is another bit of prophetic irony as Rocket would be paired with an anthropomorphic tree a quarter century later. Wayfinder is helped by a blunt smoking, talking raccoon named Rocky and thus, a legend is born. In this initial appearance, Rocky is clearly meant to be read as British, calling Wayfinder “old bean,” “old sock,” and “old shoe,” as well as the making with a few “jolly good shows” throughout the rodent’s debut.
Wayfinder would appear twice more in the pages of Bill Mantlo’s Micronauts and then fade into obscurity, but Mantlo would remember Rocky. Even in this early and esoteric appearance, there was something about the future Rocket. As soon as the raccoon appeared, the strip went from typical sci-fi melodrama to something fun and different. It was to take a long time, but the blunt smoking rodent wisecracker would make an impact on pop culture and it all started in the all but forgotten “Sword in the Star.”
That time Rocket teamed with the Hulk and fought a despotic mole, a bunch of fascist clowns, and the Black Bunny Brigade.
Incredible Hulk #271 (1982)
After “The Sword and the Star,” Rocky was all but forgotten until the Hulk crashed on a mysterious alien planet called Halfworld. There he met Rocket and the raccoon’s first mate Wal Russ (c’mon Disney, Wal Russ, this is gold!). The whole story centers around an evil mole named Judson Jakes who wants to rule the Keystone Quadrant of the galaxy by finding and deciphering a book called Gideon’s Bible (Rocky Racoon/Gideon’s Bible…there’s your White Album reference, stoners). Jakes rules over a legion of vile mercenary bunnies named the Black Bunny Brigade who spent the issue slaughtering sentient woodland creatures. The Black Bunnies are joined by a pack of killer clowns who fly around on circus balls.
This issue needs to be found and experienced for the sheer joy of witnessing the Hulk and Rocket slaughtering a legion of killer clowns, in space, while wearing Buck Rogers bubble helmets. Rocket and Hulk proceed to smash the bunnies and defeat Jakes before Rocket helps Hulk return home. In this issue, Rocket was at his badass best, a fuzzy Flash Gordon type complete with damsel in distress, blasting clowns and bunnies like it was going out of style. The Hulk was totally secondary to Rocket in his own anniversary issue even though he did get to smash some clowns himself.
That time Rocket had to save his otter girlfriend from being a pawn in a war between two intergalactic toy companies.
Rocket Raccoon #1 (1985)
Bill Mantlo wasn’t done with Rocket yet, oh no. Bouncing off the momentum of Incredible Hulk #271, our favorite space raccoon, along with Wal Russ and company, next appeared in Rocket’s own mini-series. Along for the ride were Judson Jakes and his killer clowns who vied for control of the Keystone Quadrant against the serpent Lord Dyvyne and the Black Bunny Brigade.
Mantlo did an awesome job building Rocket’s little segment of the cosmos, an insane pocket of the galaxy brought to life by a young Mike Mignola. Yes, that Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy doing funny animal space opera. If Disney wants to extend Rocket’s adventures they need look no further than this mini, a mash-up of serious space drama and silly animal fun.
That time Rocket teamed with a rabbit to fight a terrifying creature called The Red Breath.
Rocket Raccoon #2 (1985)
On Rocket’s world, all humanity is insane and it is the job of the animals to keep them happy, safe, and entertained. Some Rocket highlights from this series include Rocket teaming with his sworn enemy Blackjack O’Hare to take out a terrifying creature called the Red Breath, a formless terror that erases anything it touches from reality.
Rocket may at first seem like a novelty character but there is an undercurrent of terror and drama always surrounding the space ranger. The Red Breath is a frightening concept of oblivion and somehow it merges with the world of funny animal levity that also defines Rocket. Rocket defeats the Red Breath thus proving that he can stand up to more than clowns and rabbits, and that even the darkest terrors contained in the galaxy are no match for the quick wits and toughness of the universe’s smallest protector.
That time Rocket gave a worm an orgasm.
Rocket Raccoon #3 (1985)
Other great Rocket moments of the series include Rocket dog fighting a blimp with a baboon’s face and deadly banana bombs manned by a crew of apes wearing epaulets while being bombarded by clown tanks. All drawn by Mike Mignola, we must remind you.
After Rocket’s ship crashes, he and his crew, including Blackjack O’Hare, escape by riding the Wild Worms of Halfworld, giant albino worms that wear saddles on their pleasure centers. So essentially, Rocket escaped capture by baboons and clowns by riding a worm’s perpetual orgasm. Methinks Disney might skip that bit.
That time Rocket kind of visited Mos Eisley.
Rocket Raccoon #3 (1985)
What’s a space opera without a cantina? After his ride on the horny albino worms, Rocket is predictably betrayed by Blackjack who calls on his crew of cutthroat animals to take down the raccoon. A huge bar fight ensues where the mercenary rabbit tries to abduct Rocket’s gal pal Lylla. The feisty Lylla takes matters into her own hands and takes down the bunny proving herself to be much more than a damsel in distress.
Rocket and his pals blast their way out of the bar causing much grisly death to O’Hare’s crew of scum. This cantina brawl was high octane sci-fi mayhem at its finest in a shoot out to end all shoot outs. Sorry about the mess.
That time Rocket saved an entire race from madness while fighting clowns and apes before flying off into the sunset inside a starship shaped like a giant mechanical person.
Rocket Raccoon #4 (1985)
The fabulous mini ended with Rocket and his pals saving the humans of the Keystone Quadrant from perpetual lunacy by distributing helmets that allowed them to do the one thing they were never able to do, quietly think. It wasn’t easy, as Dyvyne and Jakes both sent their armies to take down Rocket and insure the humans would return to madness. Rocket fends off both armies and saves the humans he was tasked with protecting before flying off in a giant robot ship shaped like a titanic person.
The cover of this issue features Rocket, saber in hand, riding a robotic golden horse while clutching the severed head of a clown. That’s all you need to know really. For a very long period of time, this would be the end of Rocket and his adventures with his crew of creatures. When he would next appear, he would start his long journey into the mainstream Marvel Universe.
That time Rocket was recruited on a suicide mission to save the galaxy from mechanical genocidal warlords.
Annihilation Conquest: Star Lord #1 (2007)
When X-Men baddies the Phalanx took over Kree space, the Kree had no choice but to turn to a low tech band of renegades for help. It was 15 years since Rocket’s mini ended, and other than a brief appearance in the Sensational She-Hulk, that was it. But with Annihilation: Conquest, Rocket was back and featured in a major Marvel cosmic event.
In the first issue of Star Lord’s series, Rocket met Peter Quill and Groot for the first time, two characters he would have an indelible bond with moving forward. The seeds that would eventually grow into the new Guardians of the Galaxy were planted here in the first meeting between future film superstars.
That time Rocket hocked a loogie on a tiny sentient royal tree from Planet X.
Annihilation Conquest: Star Lord #3 (2007)
The early interactions between Rocky and Groot weren’t all lovey-dovey. After Groot was seemingly destroyed helping save his squad, the tree emperor of Planet X was left in sprig form waiting to grow into a menacing wooden behemoth once again. At this point, Groot was an arrogant aristocrat, after all, he was royalty, and after repeated petulant demands for water, Rocket responded by spitting on the tree king of the cosmos. Things would get better between rodent and tree, but this moment defined Rocket as the take no crap Raccoon fandom would fall in love with.
That time Rocket joined the Guardians when he was drunk to help a friend and saved the galaxy from the Universal Church of Truth
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 #1 (2008)
After Rocket, Starlord, and company took down the Phalanx, they decided to band together to take on any future galactic level threats. Starlord got a team together and the big hearted raccoon only agreed to join if Peter Quill stopped blaming himself for the Phalanx incursion. Of course, Rocket was also deep into his cups at the time.
The first threat the not yet dubbed Guardians of the Galaxy faced was the Universal Church of Truth, a nutty religious space cult that was trying to open a gateway to bring an elder space god through to wreck all kinds of havoc. While Adam Warlock and the female Quasar held the gate open, Rocket took out the tentacled terror from beyond with a well placed grenade. You can always count on Rocket for a well placed grenade. Rocket quickly proved he could hang with the cosmic big boys of the Guardians although the rest of the team did balk at his suggestion of naming the team “The Ass-Kickers of the Fantastic.”
That time the Guardians broke up and Rocket started his own team.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 #7 (2009)
If there was any doubt that Rocket is the heart of the Guardians, it was quelled when the Guardians broke up. When the current team of Guardians found out that Starlord used the mental powers of the Celestial Madonna Mantis to brainwash them into joining his dream team, Drax, Gamora, Quasar, and Warlock got mighty pissed at Peter Quill and abandoned the team.
But Rocket, who was also angry at Peter, believed in the idea of a team of heroes to protect the cosmos, so he created his own team consisting of Bug, Groot, Major Victory, and Mantis, a team he capably led in Peter’s absence. Rocket and his team of new Guardians proved themselves worthy of the name when they took down the Badoon, a race of murderous aliens who were destined to wipe out humanity one thousand years later. Without Rocket, the Guardians would have burned out before their legend got started.
That time Rocket and his team teleported to the Negative Zone and landed in the midst of hordes of hostiles.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 #10 (2009)
So, Peter Quill was locked inside a Negative Zone prison designed to contain hostile super humans. At the gates, hordes of hostile creatures led by Blastaar were trying to lay siege to the prison which held a portal to Earth. Rocket and his crew locked onto Peter’s helmet so they could teleport in and pull their pal out.
Sadly, one of Blastaar’s minions was wearing the purloined helmet and Rocket ported into the midst of Blastaar’s army, which was unfortunate for Blastaar’s army as Rocket and his band cut through the hostiles in order to save their friend. Fur flew, Earth was saved, and Rocket had his chum back. All in a day’s work.
That time it was revealed that Rocket used to hang with the Starjammers.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 #13 (2009)
Jeez, Rocket should probably lay of the teleporting. During the opening salvo of the War of Kings, Rocket led a team of Guardians to parlay for peace with the Shi’ar who were in the midst of a conflict with the Kree. When Rocket tried to teleport his team aboard a Shi’ar ship, he was shocked to find the vessel was shielded. Rocket and company were helplessly floating in space when the Starjammers rescued them.
Turns out, Rocket used to hang with Corsair’s band of space marauders and was still tight with them. A raccoon space pirate? Yeah, I’d read that series. Rocket just gets more Han Solo by the second, don’t he?
This all led to Rocket trying to help Empress Lilandra take her throne back from the evil Lord Vulcan in an epic conflict between the Shi’ar, Kree, Inhumans, and the Guardians. In the middle of it all was a little raccoon with a big gun who didn’t blink at any of the cosmic insanity exploding around him.
That Time Rocket was eaten by an other-dimensional spider/snake thing.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 #20 (2010)
After the events of the War of Kings, a huge fault in space opened and it was up to the Guardians to see what was on the other side. The Guardians’ bravest, Rocket and Drax, used Groot’s branches as tethers to go into the breach. What they found was a burrow of interdimensional spiders.
The cool thing about this moment was that the Guardians’ telepath Moondragon was physcically linked to Rocket, giving the rest of the Guardians and the reader a clue into what was going on in Rocket’s head. Turns out, Rocket was more animalistic than he let on, that every instinct screamed at him to get to safety, to not go towards danger. So every time fans have seen Rocket bravely launch himself into battle, he was defying every baser instinct in his mind. Now that’s some bravery.
That time Rocket helped take down Thanos.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 #25 (2010)
The worshipper of death, the mad god Thanos will indeed be appearing in the Guardians of the Galaxy film but the long awaited movie won’t be the only time Thanos and the world of the Guardians have intersected. In the final issue of the second volume of Guardians, Thanos awoke and faced down the entirety of the team.
The Mad Titan was finally taken down by Starlord and a blast from a Cosmic Cube, but Rocket was also present. The feisty little raccoon faced down the most feared being in the galaxy with nothing more than piss, vinegar, and a huge f’n gun. From killer clowns and space apes to Thanos, Rocket has come a long way.
That time Rocket was left as the torch bearer.
Thanos Imperative #6 (2011)
After Nova and Starlord were trapped in the Cancerverse (oh comics) with Thanos, Rocket was left carrying the torch for the Guardians. This was essentially the end of the line for the Abnett and Lanning Guardians with Rocket left behind to keep the dream alive. How Starlord returned has still not been explained in Marvel continuity, but with his best friend and inspiration gone, Rocket kept the idea of the Guardians alive so the flame could be rekindled.
At Starlord’s grave, Rocket’s last words to his pal Peter Quill were, “Damn it Pete. Why’d you guys have to be such heroes?” The raccoon’s lament was poignant and powerful as he was left alone to carry on the Guardians’ legacy.
That time Rocket took a job as a mail clerk and got fired for killing a clown during work hours and returned home.
Annihilators #1-4 (2011)
After the death of Starlord (he got better) and the disbanding of the Guardians, a despondent Rocket wanted to escape from space jockeying and adventure so he took a job in an office mail room. It was all kind of like Office Space but with a sentient space raccoon until a clown from the original Mantlo/Mignola mini was shipped to Rocket and tried to kill him during business hours. Rocket was canned and returned to a life of adventure which eventually led him to return to the Keystone Quadrant.
The whole thing was a loving tribute to the worlds and concepts dreamed up by Bill Mantlo with all the elements of Rocket’s first seroes were revisited like Wal Russ and Blackjack. Rocket saved his old stomping grounds from the evil of the Star Thief and had his heroic spirit rekindled. Plus, Rocket blasting evil space clowns? It just never gets old.
That time Rocket was exploited by an evil media conglomerate.
Annihilators: Earthfall #1-4 (2011)
Disney is about to market Rocket out the wazoo, but even that will be nothing compared to the time that Rocket and Groot were caught in the thrall of Mojo, the spineless, corpulent television exec that forced Rocket to be his latest multi-platform media star complete with action figures (Build-a-Groot!). Rocket and Groot kicked Mojo’s jaundiced butt and even forced the exec to cut them in on their merchandising sales. You think Rocket made the same deal at gunpoint with Disney?
That time Rocket met the Avengers for the first time and made Jarvis order him a pizza.
Avengers Assemble #5 (2012)
As awesome as Abnett and Lanning’s Guardians of the Galaxy book was, it was always on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, so Rocket never really had a chance to interact with any mainstream heroes like the Avengers or the X-Men. That all changed when Thanos arrived on Earth. The Guardians followed their most terrifying adversary and Rocket met the Avengers for the first time.
With the threat of Thanos imminent, with his first battle side by side with the legendary Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, was Rocket overwhelmed? Nope, he was more concerned with ordering a pie from Ray’s Pizza so he didn’t have to battle Thanos on an empty stomach.
That time Rocket invented a really violent catchphrase.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 #2 (2013)
The Earth was being invaded by the Badoon (again) and Rocket and the Guardians were the planet’s only defense. With Iron Man by their side (hey, the Guardians were going to be movie stars, they needed the popular guys around now), Rocket and his team desperately were trying to defend London from a Badoon strike force. Rocket singlehandedly took down two Badoon ships by boarding one and taking out the crew in rapid succession.
For each vile lizard alien he killed, he shouted “Bam! Murdered You! Bam, Murdered You” until the raccoon stood alone. This has kind of become Rocket’s version of “It’s Clobberin’ Time,” but way more violent. With this issue, as the countdown to the film began in earnest, Rocket and his battle cry showed fans and Badoon alike that this was one raccoon not to be trifled with.
That time Rocket and Tony Stark bonded over Star Trek.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 #5 (2013)
Of course, during his time with the Guardians, Tony Stark had space sex with Gamora. When finding out about this brief romantic convergence, Rocket was shocked that Stark would be brave enough to hook up with the legit deadliest woman in the galaxy. Stark told Rocket that ever since he was nine years old, he wanted to hook up with a green woman after seeing Captain Kirk do it on Star Trek.
Of course, Rocket has no idea what Star Trek was but it’s hilarious to think Stark had a hook up list based on classic sci-fi. It’s also hilarious to think that Rocket might want to catch up with Trek and binge watch it on Netflix to see the inspiration for Stark’s bucket list. Let’s just hope he doesn’t start with Enterprise, Earth would never survive Rocket’s wrath.
That time he took on the Shi’ar Imperial Guard to save Jean Grey and met a couple of Earth raccoons.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 #13 (2014)
They don’t come any tougher than the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, a veritable legion of super-powered beings led by Gladiator. When the Guard came to take down the newly arrived time displaced pre-Phoenix Jean Grey, Rocket and the Guardians felt it was a grave injustice to kill a young girl for crimes she had yet to commit. So Rocket did what Rocket does, he grabbed an improbably big gun and he took on the Imperial Guard despite being outnumbered and out powered.
The Guardians won, forging a union with the young All-New X-Men. After the battle, Rocket stumbled across two Earth raccoons and was horrified to see his brethren didn’t wear pants. That’s Rocket, a warrior with the courage to face down the combined might of the Gladiator and the Imperial Guard but severely off put by raccoon genitals.
That time he found out he might not be the only raccoon in the galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers #1 (2013)
There he was, in a bar, bragging about his former conquests like he is wont to do, when an alien drunkard informed Rocket he once saw a being just like him. Rocket knew this was impossible because as far as he knows, there are no beings in the galaxy like him. When Rocket got heavy handed with the alien, a shot rang out, and the alien lay dead. All Rocket saw was a hooded figure, short of stature and limb on a rooftop with a smoking gun.
This intriguing little plot thread continued into Rocket Raccoon #1 by Skottie Young and is sure to give fans of Rocket many great moments as Marvel’s newest sensation blasts off into future adventures.
That time Rocket gave the stink eye to the Punisher.
Original Sin #4 (2014)
There’s a whole bunch of cosmic shenanigans going on in Original Sin. After the murder of the large craniumed voyeur, Uatu the Watcher, a bunch of heroes from different factions all try to get to the bottom of the cosmic homicide. Rocket found himself allied with his Guardian pal Gamora and her crew, on the opposing side was a team led by Doctor Strange that just happened to include Frank Castle, otherwise known as the Punisher.
Now, many think Castle is the biggest hard ass in the Marvel Universe, but Rocket seemed to disagree. Our raccoon hero may have only came up to Castle’s thigh, but Rocket stood toe-to-toe with the Punisher, not blinking and even referring to the crazed vigilante as “Skull Boy.” Not that we measured, but Rocket’s gun was just way bigger than Castle’s. This moment solidified Rocket as a legit hardcase in the Marvel Universe, a rodent that dared the always froggie Punisher to jump, and in response, Castle just stood still.
That Time Rocket Became a Solo Star After All Those Years of Obscurity.
Rocket Raccoon #1 (2014)
What Bill Manto started in Marvel’s black and white mags of the 1970s came to a head in 2014 as Rocket Raccoon finally got his own monthly series. Yeah, it wouldn’t have been published if not for the film success, but cartoonist Skottie Young began a series that was part classic Flash Gordon and part Bill Watterson’s Spaceman Spiff.
Young proved that the heavy drinking always killing space raccoon was more than just a punchline and could headline his own series. Young brought back many classic Rocket foes and concepts as he mined from Mantlo’s past to bring the raccoon of the hour to the present. Since 2014, Rocket has been a constant solo star in his own series and in a few series he shared with his best bud Groot. But Young did it best and no Rocket lover should miss the first regular Rocket Raccoon solo series.
That Time Rocket fought in the Marvel Super-Hero Civil War (Well, the Second One).
Rocket Raccoon And Groot #7-10 (2016)
Rocket Raccoon was once a trivial piece of Marvel history. His appearances were few and far between and only the most knowledgeable Marvel nerd knew of the space raccoon’s existence. Boy, all that has changed, and now, when Marvel has a huge crossover event (and by that we mean every thirty seconds), Rocket is usually there murdering people’s faces.
Take Civil War II (please!) for example. When Captain Marvel and Iron Man battle over the morality of using an Inhuman precog to make arrests before a crime is committed, all heck breaks loose and Rocket and Groot must choice sides in this conflict. Somehow, during this event, in the pages of Rocket Raccoon and Groot, the pair of space pals end up in Georgia on an unforgettable bounty hunt as the civil war gets really uncivil thanks to this fighting mad rodent and tree. Also, check out the Civil War II series itself because Rocket is all over the place proving that he is the unlikeliest Marvel A-lister of them all while gleefully taking pot shots at some of Marvel’s mightiest heroes.
That Time Rocket and Kraven the Hunter Almost Destroyed New York City.
Rocket Raccoon #1-5 (2016-2017)
We all know that classic Spider-Man villain and possessor of the most awesome facial hair ever Kraven the Hunter hunts the world’s most dangerous game. And if you’ve been paying attention to this article you know that nothing is more dangerous than a pissed off space raccoon with a big kerflarcking gun. And that’s the battle fan got to witness in 2016’s Rocket Raccoon series.
After the events of Civil War II, Rocket and his fellow Guardians found themselves stranded on Earth. Rocket was just trying to get by and get off the planet he hates the most, when Kraven comes a-calling. Kraven has hunted Marvel heroes for a long time, but he never met prey like Rocket. When Kraven came screeching up in his Kra-Van (no, we’re not kidding, it was glorious), it was very hard to tell hunter from prey as all sorts of fur was flying. It all ended with the Statue of Liberty in pieces and raccoon fur and goatee hairs falling from the sky. We don’t often get to see Rocket take on classic Marvel Earthbound villains, but this battle that was red of tooth and claw was one for the ages.