"Guardians of the Galaxy" doesn't hit theaters until August 1, but Marvel is already banking on at least one of the movie's stars. Starting in July, Marvel Comics will spin off their lovable talking raccoon with a gun, Rocket, into his own solo series. And to sweeten the pot even more it'll be written and drawn by fan-favorite writer/artist Skottie Young.
For the past five years, Young has been working on Marvel's "Oz" adaptations, providing art while doing double duty on multiple covers for Marvel's superhero line, and even finding time to write a few series and one-shots. But "Rocket Raccoon" is the first time Young will serve both as writer and artist on an ongoing series. Luckily, the job was exactly the one he wanted.
"I like any of the humorous characters, any of the ones I can have fun with," Young told MTV News when we spoke on the phone earlier this week. "And around this time 'Guardians of the Galaxy' was getting restarted, so I said if there was any of way of doing some sort of Rocket Raccoon story that would be fun too!"
Editor Sana Amanat agreed, and Young was signed up to take on Rocket as his post-"Oz" gig. Though there was no specific mandate to follow the path of the movie — and in fact, Young had no idea what the character will be like on screen — once he saw the trailer, he got a sense that things were right in line between the comic and movie versions of the character.
"Even though it was just a sliver of Rocket [in the trailer], I couldn't wait to work on this guy even more," Young said. "I think it's going to have a connection to that nostalgic feeling for 'Looney Tunes,' that old animated flavor where everything wasn't squeaky clean, you know? Daffy Duck would get his bill blasted off with double barrel shotguns... That's what I grew up watching, and being able to play around with that in this hyper-superhero intergalactic universe will be a lot of fun."
Rocket Raccoon has been around in comics since 1976, when Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen created him. That means there's a fair amount of history behind Rocket... Including multiple fuzzy alien creatures he pals around with in a place called the Keystone Quadrant, evil clowns, and way more weirdness. For this take on Rocket, though, you can forget all of that.
"I'm trying not to hinge too much on those kinds of things," Young said. "I'm sure as we get going along, I'll start seeding some of those things through. But my goal right out of the gate was, let's take this cool character, run him around a bit and have some fun... And not worry too much about connecting the crazy continuity right out of the gate."
Instead, we open in issue one with... Well, Young wouldn't tell us.
"The first couple of pages, I don't want to ruin," Young said laughing. "Usually people don't want to ruin the last page, but I actually don't want to ruin the first three pages."
After whatever happens in pages one through three, we find Rocket watching an "intergalactic MMA wrestling style match," where his sentient tree friend Groot is fighting a tentacled alien.
"And Rocket is there on a date of sorts," Young continued. "We're just having some fun with the idea of the world of space, and a talking raccoon, and a talking tree-like person."
Fellow Guardians of the Galaxy member Groot was even originally in the title of the book... But after discussions with former Marvel Editor (now VP of Marvel Animation) Stephen Wacker, the title and focus changed. But just slightly.
"I felt that it would be a disservice to that character if we naturally focused on Rocket all the time, and had [Groot] as a side thing, but with his name in the title," Young clarified. "But you can't have one without the other, so he's not going anywhere. He's not going to be on every page, but he's definitely going to play big roles in all the stories I have in mind. He's definitely going to be his buddy throughout all the stories."
You also won't necessarily see "Rocket Raccoon" crossing over with Brian Michael Bendis' currently running "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic, which also features Rocket and Groot as cast-members. At least, not right away.
"So far it's just been Brian saying, 'Hey, what's your Rocket story?' I ran it by him, and he said, 'Ah, cool, great stuff, just wanted to make sure I wasn't stepping on your toes.' " Young said. "I'm sure as we get closer to the movie, or if there are some bigger events going down Brian will give me a buzz, and we'll figure some stuff out there."
Given the talking raccoon and the movie connection — plus Young's kid-friendly style — you'd be forgiven for thinking this is just a series for children. Nope.
"I'm not going to go crazy where we're going to go extremely vulgar or anything, but I did want to play with a bit of that edge," Young said on the tone of the book. "If you have a character that carries a big gun, a ridiculously, cartoonishly big gun you've got to be willing to shoot it."
But don't worry: just because Young is skewing a little edgier with the book, it's not like this is ready to launch as part of Marvel's adults-only MAX line... It's still Skottie Young drawing and writing, with his regular amount of humor.
"If you do feel MAX, right away you're going to get smacked upside with a little laugh," Young said. "I don't think you'll see any raccoon private parts or anything like that."
"Rocket Raccon" hits stores everywhere from Marvel Comics on July 2. Here's the official solicit info from Marvel:
Written & drawn by Skottie Young
As defenders of the cosmos go, Rocket Raccoon has faced his fair share of galactic battles. He's been a hero to the weak, a champion of good, a protector of the innocent, a heartthrob to the many intergalactic female species and now--a raccoon on the run?! ( I'm sorry, I'm sorry, a "formidable-and-expert-Guardian" on the run. Rocket is NOT a raccoon, okay?) Rocket's high-flying life of adventure and heroism may soon be a thing of the past when he becomes a wanted man--and the authorities are not the only one on his TAIL! (We'll definitely be overusing that pun!)
Superstar creator Skottie Young brings his A-game as writer and artist on the series we've been waiting decades for.