An original and odd character like Rocket Raccoon literally takes decades of build up and back story for believability. This rich back story and history helps make Rocket Raccoon so special and such a fresh character. And luckily for movie viewers, a surprising amount of attention to detail of Rocket Raccoon’s past found its way into the blockbuster film Guardians of the Galaxy. Looking to learn a bit more about this enigmatic creature who became more than just comic relief, then read on…
10. Rocket Raccoon Was Inspired By a Beatles Song
“Rocky Raccoon” is a folk song which first appeared on the Beatles album The Beatles in 1968. The original name of the song’s title character was Rocky Sassoon. Paul McCartney changed the name to Rocky Raccoon because Rocky Raccoon “sounds more like a cowboy.”
Sassoon to Raccoon was a good change for the eventual comic book character. A space-faring, wisecracking anthropomorphic raccoon is a little silly. “Willing suspension of disbelief” will only carry the reader so far. Rocket Raccoon’s first full appearance in the Marvel Universe came in The Incredible Hulk #271 and the title of the issue is “Now Somewhere in the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Name of Rocket Raccoon!” The title of the Hulk issues is a direct reference to the first line of the Beatles song. “Rocky Raccoon’s” first line is “Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota, there lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon”
The creators of Rocket Raccoon probably thought that an anthropomorphic gun slinging raccoon from the Dakotas was ridiculous as well as borderline copyright infringement. Rocket Raccoon made so much more sense hailing from outer space. Incredible Hulk #271 is also the first appearance of Gideon’s Bible. In the comic, Gideon’s Bible is a log from a ship which came to Rocket Raccoon’s home planet. In the Beatles song, we call it verse two when the Beatles sing of “Rocky Raccoon checked into his room only to find Gideon’s Bible.”
Rocket Raccoon was born of a conspiracy between Beatles lyrics and Gideon’s international. There is a theory just waiting to be explored by someone’s post on Reddit.
9. Rocket Raccoon’s Soul-mate Is a Space Otter
Lady Lylla is a sentient space otter. Lylla is also the heiress to the largest toy-making empire on the Planet Halfworld. Halfworld is the home world of both Rocket and Lylla. We know that an intergalactic romance between a hot headed anthropomorphic space cowboy raccoon and a toy heiress otter is a story that you have heard a thousand times before. However, the romance is presented with such sincerity that the story manages to rise above all of those raccoon / otter love story cliches. .
There is one love story cliche that Rocket and Lylla do not rise above. Lylla gets kidnapped an awful lot. Lylla is as much a part of a support group with April O’Neil and Princess Peach as Rocket Raccoon commiserates with Mario and the Ninja Turtles. In the 1980’s, Rocket Raccoon got his own mini-series which had the main plot revolve around Lady Lylla being kidnapped. Lady Lylla’s abductions are mostly engineered by sentient bipedal animals who want to take over her inherited toy empire. It is interesting to note that the plot of Rocket Raccoon’s participation in the Toy Wars predates Robin Williams’ movie Toys by several years. In retrospect, Robin Williams voicing Rocket Raccoon in a 1980’s animated film about the Toy Wars would have been epic.
8. Rocket Raccoon Grew Up In an Insane Asylum
In the movie The Dark Knight Rises, Bane famously comments that he was “born to darkness.” Bane goes on to state that he did not know the light until he was “already a man.” Rocket Raccoon was born to a planet in a distant part of the galaxy known as “Halfworld.” Given the mental instability of his humanoid counterparts, Rocket did not know sanity in his life until he was “already a raccoon.”
Halfworld is divided into two nearly equal hemispheres. One hemisphere is an industrial wasteland populated by robots who continually build machines which they cannot use. The second hemisphere is populated by a humanoid race known as the Loonies and the animals that lived on the planet. Halfworld was established as an insane asylum with robots and psychiatrists working to care for the “Loonies.” After a loss of funding, the psychiatrists left and the Loonies spawned for generations. This breeding did not help the race of Loonies to become less insane.
Eventually, the Loonies were left by the Robots in the care of genetically enhanced animals. Rocket Raccoon was one of the genetically enhanced animals trusted with the care of the Loonies. The two main forces in Rocket Raccoon’s early development were horrific genetic testing and caring for the insane. Halfworld is a planet housing an interstellar sanitarium, warring toy companies, and most of the plot of The Matrix.
The end result is that Rocket Raccoon has got “issues.”
7. Rocket Raccoon Will Fight Anyone
In the best Rocket Raccoon stories, the story starts out in outer space with a raccoon and ends with the raccoon killing all of his hunters. There is literally no one that Rocket Raccoon will not look at and say “I think I can take him.”
Rocket Raccoon fights seem to read like punch lines to jokes.
Rocket Raccoon is like the Mad Libs of the Marvel Universe. People can blindly be asked to name a noun and a Marvel Universe character and you will have the genesis of a Rocket Raccoon story.
The sample sentence for Mad Libs would be “Rocket Raccoon fought (Marvel Universe Character) and won using nothing but a (noun.)
6. Rocket Raccoon’s Film Appearance Was as Realistic as Possible
There were four separate elements needed to bring Rocket Raccoon to life in the Guardians of the Galaxy film. Director James Gunn referred to Rocket Raccoon as the “heart” of what may be 2014’s highest grossing domestic film in the United States. The first element was the voice acting of Bradley Cooper to bring the personality of Rocket Raccoon to the big screen. The filmmakers and Cooper focused on making Rocket’s personality as serious as possible. Rocket Raccoon already is a genetically engineered raccoon from space whose best friend is a sentient tree.
The motion capture actor behind Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy was director James Gunn’s Brother Sean Gunn. Sean Gunn provided the on-set presence for Rocket in much the same way Andy Serkis was the motion capture actor for Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. According to Sean Gunn, he has never met Bradley Cooper.
The third element required to bring Rocket Raccoon to life on the big screen was an actual raccoon named Oreo. Filmmakers studied and filmed Oreo’s mannerisms as well as movements. Oreo provided a model through which the computer generated imagery could be constructed to make Rocket Raccoon look more realistic on screen. The filmmakers also studied facial movements, hair, as well as tail movements. The fourth element to bring Rocket Raccoon to life in the movie was the use of computer generated imagery. Filmmakers must pine for the days when Yoda could be made with a hand puppet and the voice of Frank Oz.
5. Rocket Raccoon’s Best Line Was Improvised
Sean Gunn added more to the Rocket Raccoon character than simply being a visual reference point to paint lovely computer generated imagery over. Gunn added to the personality of Rocket Raccoon by possibly coming up with the best line in the whole Guardians of the Galaxy movie. At the very least, the line is director James Gunn’s favorite line in the movie.
Rocket Raccoon: “Well, now I’m standing. Happy? We’re all standing now. Bunch of jackassess, standing in a circle.”
In that moment, Sean Gunn turned Rocket Raccoon into Animal House’s John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky ranting about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor. The best part about the whole exchange is that Gunn had no clue the improvised line would end up in the actual movie. As a matter of fact, Sean Gunn was not even sure that the line was funny when he said it. The line was hilarious. Bradley Cooper went on to re-record it for the move and the rest is cinematic history.
4. Rocket Raccoon’s Origin Includes a Homage to Silent Movies
Rocket Raccoon’s home planet of Halfworld resides in the Keystone Quadrant of the Galaxy. There are Loonies who act as law enforcement for their section of Halfworld. These law enforcement agents are referred to as “Keystone Quadrant Kops.” It is not hard to shorten “Keystone Quadrant Kops” to simply “Keystone Kops. “
It is not a coincidence that the Keystone Quadrant Kops happen to be dressed like police officers in America from the early 20th century. This is a direct reference to the silent film troupe Keystone Cops which appeared in films from 1914 till the early 1920s. In the beginning, the Cops starred in their own shorts. Later Cops appearances were in support of more established film stars like Fatty Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin.
The Kops function in Halfworld is similar to their function in the silent films. They are a completely incompetent police force populated by the completely insane. After the Loonies were cured by a sanity helmets, the Keystone Quadrant Kops did manage to become a competent useful police force for Halfworld.
3. Rocket Raccoon Rode an Orgasmic Space Worm to Freedom
Some of the most interesting inhabitants of Halfworld are the beings known simply as the Wild Worms. The Wild Worms are generally peaceable creatures. Wild Worms can be ridden by sitting on a strategically placed saddle. The saddle is place on the worm’s “pleasure center.” Basically, the act of riding the Wild Worm on the saddle brings to a point of continued sexual ecstasy while traveling rambunctiously through the inner tunnels of Halfworld. In case the metaphor is not clear enough, the Wild Worms are completely pink except for their red pleasure center saddles.
This is an instance where the only thing that could make this any more sexually explicit is… well, practically nothing. The Wild Worms were ridden in Rocket Raccoon #3 by Rocket Raccoon and Bucky O’Hare. The elongated phallic objects riding through dark underground tunnels stimulated by an orgasmic pleasure center were ridden by small anthropomorphic furry animals. The saving grace of all of this is that the Rocket Raccoon Limited Series in the 1980s was marketed almost exclusively to children. It would be interesting to see how many of those children grew up to be ‘Bronies’ or involved in the furry erotic subculture.
2. Rocket Raccoon’s Movie Scars Are Tied to His Comic Book Origins
A raccoon’s thoracic cavity will naturally curve inward. The human thoracic cavity is more rounded into a barrel shape rather than pointing inward. The point is that for a raccoon’s thoracic to look like a human’s thoracic cavity, Rocket Raccoon had to go through surgeries and genetic manipulation in order to expand his thoracic cavity. Rocket would have needed additional “help” in order to be able to walk upright. There is a brief scene in Guardians of the Galaxy in which Rocket Raccoon is shown without his shirt. The expansion scars are clearly visible.
In the comics, Robots no longer wanted to take care of the Loonies. The care of the Loonies was the entire reason that the Robots were created by the psychiatrists on Halfworld. The Robots manipulated the animals as intelligent anthropomorphic caretakers for the Loonies. Rocket Raccoon was made into a military guardian / caretaker for the Loonies, putting him through horribly painful enhancements reflected by a back full of scars in the movie. One has to wonder if Rocket would have been happier in his original form, especially when considering this quote from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, “Well, I didn’t ask to get made! I didn’t ask to be torn apart and put back together over and over and turned into some little monster! ”
The Tragic Story of Rocket Raccoon’s Co-Creator
Bill Mantlo was the co-creator of Rocket Raccoon along with artist Keith Giffen. Mantlo was the regular writer of the Incredible Hulk when Rocket Raccoon made his appearance in issue number 271. Mantlo was a free spirit as well as a frequent writer for Marvel during the 1970s and 1980s. He left comics in the 1980s in order to go to law school and become a public defender. Mantlo suffered a tragic accident while rollerblading in 1992. He was hit by a car and was not wearing a protective helmet at the time of the accident and has since been in a private rehabilitation facility. After the accident, Mantlo was in a coma which caused irreversible brain damage. In 2014, Marvel Studios arranged for a private screening of Guardians of the Galaxy for Bill Mantlo in his hospital room. Bill’s brother Michael described the screening as the happiest day of Bill’s life.
If nothing else, the cinematic portrayal of Rocket Raccoon was able to give something significant back to the man who created him.