Rocket Raccoon is the most dangerous raccoon in the Marvel Universe, traveling around the galaxy with the Guardians of the Galaxy and saving the Earth, and the rest of the universe, on a regular basis. He’s fun and ridiculous, and has a history in the Marvel Universe dating back forty years. Even with that long existence, Rocket’s history is still something of a mystery to most readers, as it took many years for him to build up the following that would eventually make him popular enough to be part of a Marvel blockbuster. Rocket’s story goes far beyond what’s on screen, so here’s twelve things you need to know about Rocket Raccoon.
A Beatles song and a talking space raccoon don’t immediately seem closely related, but it’s there. Rocket Raccoon creators Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen liked the Beatles song about a cowboy named Rocky Raccoon so much that they thought it would be fun to make a comic character to sort of go along with the song. And what better way to interpret that song than with an actual raccoon named Rocky (later to be changed to Rocket)?
The names and title aren’t the only similarities between the song and Marvel character, as Rocket’s second appearance in Incredible Hulk #271 was titled “Now Somewhere In the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Named Rocket Raccoon," mirroring the Rocky Raccoon lyric, “Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota, There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon." The Gideon’s Bible would play a big part in the Rocket Raccoon story, something that was also mentioned in the Beatles song.
Though Rocket stole the show in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, he wasn’t actually a member of the original Guardians of the Galaxy. The first Guardians team, consisting of Major Victory, Martinex T’Naga, Captain Charlie-27, and Yondu Udonta, debuted in 1969, seven years before Rocket would appear in Marvel Preview #7 in 1976.
The Guardians of the Galaxy that movies fans known wouldn’t appear as a team until 2008, when writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning would bring together previously unrelated characters to form a new iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket, along with other members from the movie, Star-Lord, Groot, Gamora, and Drax would comprise the team, along with Adam Warlock and Quasar, who didn’t make it into the 2014 film.
Rocket is generally considered to be one of the best Marvel characters with a gun, so it may be a bit of a surprise that Rocket grew up working in an asylum. Halfworld, Rocket’s home planet, was a an asylum colony established by an alien race as a way to keep their mentally ill citizens and criminals away from the rest of their population. Over time, the robots that the aliens left to care for the patients, the "Loonies," would develop sentience and start working on genetically enhanced animals to care for the Loonies instead.
Over time, Halfworld’s society would evolve to the point where the world was split almost perfectly in half between the robots, and the Loonies and their animal caretakers. Rocket was the chief law officer of Halfworld, helping to ensure that the planet was safe from outside threats. All his enhanced intelligence and strength, along with the ability to walk like a human, are a result of those genetic modifications that he underwent.
Rocket is not one to let his size or appearance keep him from talking trash. Even though he's smaller than most other characters in the Marvel Universe, he doesn't let that keep him from looking at anyone and basically thinking, “I could beat that dude in a fight." Two prime examples are how he handles the Punisher and Thanos.
Frank Castle, the Punisher, is generally considered to be a pretty scary guy. Though he has no superpowers of his own, his weapon skills and near inhuman drive for vengeance make him a bogeyman for the criminal underworld. When Frank met Rocket, Rocket wasn't impressed. He even joked about the “pop gun” that Frank had, an automatic rifle that he can use with deadly efficiency.
Thanos the Mad Titan is one of the biggest bad guys in the Marvel Universe, erasing half of the sentient life in the universe at one point just as a show of his affection for Death. That sort of history doesn't scare Rocket, though. He's threatened Thanos at various points, one time threatening him with eternal life since Death seems to be the only thing Thanos loves. Long story short, Rocket isn’t afraid to talk some smack, especially since he can probably back it up.
While Bradley Cooper provided the voice and much of the heart and soul of Rocket Raccoon in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, it took filming and studying an actual raccoon to get Rocket just right. The raccoon that would model for Rocket and inspire a lot of his looks and movements is named Oreo and was rescued by a group in the UK after his mother was unable to produce milk. He ended up being one of the few tame raccoons near where Guardians of the Galaxy was being filmed and ended up helping the character of Rocket take shape.
Director James Gunn posted many pictures of himself and Oreo during filming, showing that the raccoon was probably a lot of fun to have around on set. As befitting of an animal of his status, he even got to attend to premiere in London and meet and greet his fans.
Rocket is often seen with his best friend, Groot, a member of the alien Flora Colossi species. As anyone who’s seen the movie or read the comics knows, Groot is famous for his often repeated line, “I am Groot." While most think it’s just him repeating the same thing over and over again, it’s actually intelligent conversation for those that can decipher it.
Likely due to all the time he’s spent around Groot and the closeness of the relationship, Rocket is one of the few Marvel characters than can truly understand what Groot is saying. Even though it often seems like Rocket is just making up Groot’s half of the conversation, he’s able to pick up on the subtle inflections and nuances in his friend’s line to know exactly what it is he’s trying to say.
It seems that the Guardians of the Galaxy shoot was something of a family affair: writer/director James Gunn’s younger brother Sean Gunn provided motion capture for Rocket. While Bradley Cooper would end up being the voice, and Oreo the raccoon would give Rocket a lot of his look, it was up to Gunn to bring Rocket’s movements to life and give the character presence during filming, something that might have been hard to do considering Sean is much taller than the roughly three feet that Rocket is.
Sean would also provide motion capture for Thanos during Guardians of the Galaxy and play Kraglin, Yondu’s second in command, putting his own fingerprints on multiple characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy universe.
Ever the tough guy and wisecracker, Rocket has quite a few great lines in the Guardians of the Galaxy. One that people really like ended up being the “bunch of jackasses standing in the circle” line, which was a nice bit of comic relief delivered at one of the more emotional moments in the film. While a lot of Rocket’s jokes were written into the script, this one actually ended up coming about by accident.
While providing motion capture for the scene, Sean Gunn ad-libbed the line. The line would end up proving to be funny enough that James Gunn would have Bradley Cooper record the line for the final version of the film. James would even cite the line as being one of his favorites in the entire film.
While he’s a pretty popular character now, Rocket took a while to catch on with the folks at Marvel. He would only appear in ten comic issues in the first thirty years of his existence, starting in 1976 with his debut in Marvel Preview #7. His next appearance would be the 1982 The Incredible Hulk #271, followed by his own four issue miniseries in 1985. His next appearance would be five years later in Quasar #15, and then he would appear in three issues of Sensational She-Hulk in 1992.
He wouldn’t really become popular as a character until 2007 when he was part of the Annihilation storyline and became part of the Guardians of the Galaxy title that would later spin out of it. Thanks to that boost in popularity and his popularity in the film, Rocket would get his own series again in 2014 and then star in a Rocket Raccoon and Groot series in 2016.
While Star-Lord is very much the leader of the current incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy, there have been times when he’s not been around and others have had to step up. When Star-Lord was sent into the Negative Zone by Ronan, the Guardians almost disbanded. It was Rocket who pulled the team back together and even added Groot to the team, as the two had become great friends.
Rocket would lead the team until Star-Lord was rescued from the Negative Zone and the Earth was saved from an alien invasion. During the War of Kings storyline about a war between the Kree and Shi’ar Empires, Rocket would decide to take lead of the team sent to the Shi’ar Empire to try to stop the conflict.
Like so many great heroes, Rocket Raccoon has a girl waiting at home that he loves. When you’re a genetically modified raccoon, your love interest is just a little different than most. Rocket’s soul mate is the otter Lylla, who’s the heir to a vast toy empire on the planet Halfworld.
After the robots put the modified animals in charge of taking care of the Loonies, a toy industry sprang up among the animals. They would make toys for the Loonies, who would buy them with an animal cracker currency. Lylla would be the heir to a massive toy manufacturing empire and would be at the center of the villain’s plan during Rocket’s appearance in Incredible Hulk #271. Rocket would eventually rescue Lylla and escape from Halfworld, spurring on the rest of his adventures.
While he was Rocky in the comics, Rocket’s backstory for the movie was changed somewhat. It makes sense that Halfworld would be something a bit too odd to introduce into Guardians of the Galaxy, so Rocket was given other origins that were mostly just hinted at. In the film, he’s given an alphanumerical designation, Subject: 89P13. This makes it seems that he was more like an experiment or a weapon before becoming a bounty hunter and later joining the Guardians.
In one scene, Rocket talks about the scars on his back and the apparently quite traumatic experiments that made him into what he is. He describes it as felling like being "torn apart and put back together."
Give his penchant for big guns, it makes sense that Rocket is also quite skilled in their use. While his weapons of choice are the two laser pistols he often carries, he’s also been shown to be quite skilled with heavy weaponry, even when he is smaller than the gun he ends up using. In addition to his weapon skills, Rocket is also a skilled starship pilot, often serving as the Guardians’ pilot.
In some of his early appearances, Rocket’s role as a pilot was on display as he had his own ship called the Rack ‘n’ Ruin. He manned the ship with his first mate Wal Russ (a talking walrus, naturally); the ship was later destroyed during the Toy Wars on Halfworld.