Warning! Spoilers for Marvel #3 below.
Nowadays, it’s difficult to imagine a world where people don’t know about Rocket Raccoon. Thanks to James Gunn’s brilliant work with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket and the rest of his teammates have become common household names. Prior to their big-screen debut, however, each member of the MCU team was considered fairly obscure. After all, a gun-toting raccoon and a talking tree aren’t something you see every day. Still, even with their massive popularity, many fans are unfamiliar with the Guardians’ origins. Thankfully, Marvel has just given fans a reminder of what Rocket Raccoon was like before Bradley Cooper’s snarky portrayal.
While Rocket technically made his first appearance in 1976’s Marvel Preview #7, it wasn’t until 1982 that the Guardian’s backstory began to form in The Incredible Hulk #271 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema. Rocket’s origin is pretty strange, as he actually started off as a regular therapy animal instead of an anthropomorphic space adventurer. His home planet, Halfworld, was established by a race of humanoid aliens who decided to use the planet as an asylum for the mentally insane members of their society, referred to as the Loonies. The aliens soon left the patients in the care of automatons, but these robot assistants eventually gained independent thoughts. Desiring to leave the asylum and pursue something more, the robots gave sentience to the therapy animals at the asylum, who then took over caring for the Loonies. After the Hulk landed on Halfworld, Rocket and the other genetically engineered caretakers realized that there was more out in the universe. This led Rocket to find a cure for the Loonies, leaving him free to explore the cosmos.
After leaving Halfworld, Rocket didn’t make many comic book appearances until joining up with the Guardians of the Galaxy in 2007. Still, in the two decades that followed his first-ever solo series in 1985, the trash panda popped up every so often. Marvel #3 offers a glimpse into Rocket’s wacky solo adventures before the Guardians of the Galaxy in a one-page painterly by Scott Gustafson, titled “Unwanted Attention.” In it, Rocket is doing a job on some random planet and he gets ambushed by some strange looking creatures. One clutches his arm while another appears to have stolen his gun. Rocket tells the creatures, “You creeps could use some lessons in personal boundaries and inappropriate contact, not to mention oral hygiene,” giving readers some insight into how he feels about the situation.
If one thing’s certain, it’s that Rocket’s wise-cracking attitude has been there since the beginning. Despite this, his personality has changed in other ways. In his early days, Rocket was a gung-ho hero ready to save the day and protect others with a smile on his face. His life on Halfworld, while imperfect, was bright and happy compared to what the raccoon would later face. Ever since Rocket joined the Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s become a somewhat tragic character with a lot more substance. Rocket’s attitude changed even further after his MCU introduction, becoming more of a crooked swindler than a definitive hero. Luckily, his skills as a master tactician haven’t disappeared and he continues to be an entertaining addition to any story.
It would certainly be interesting to see more of Rocket’s adventures from his time between leaving Halfworld and joining the Guardians. Maybe this would better explain the shift in his personality. Even if that doesn’t happen though, fans can still take pleasure in the fact that Rocket Raccoon has made his way into the spotlight. Marvel #3 from Marvel Comics is available now in stores.
Next: Rocket Raccoon Has The Worst Lawyer, And He’s Basically An Alien Daredevil