Flarkin' Awesome 011 - A Raccoon By Any Other Name (EDITORIAL)

Cosmic Greetings, my fellow Raccoonatics! I come to you today as your Commander to discuss a word. A word that I feel is very relevant to the discussions of Rocket Raccoon at this time. And that word. Is Change. Change can be good and change can be bad. One of its worst forms for a comic fan, with few exceptions, is the retcon. Rewriting the history of a character or series of events simply for the convenience of a current story or, possibly worse, doing so to create marketing synergy with a movie (that is supposed to be set in a different universe, anyway). Those learning of Rocket Raccoon today will know Rocket differently than those who have known him since Guardians volume 2 and earlier...

Flarkin' Awesome 011 – A Raccoon By Any Other Name

Yes, it has been a while since I provided an entry in this series (roughly two months as of this writing). The subjects I am discussing today have been touched upon in past articles, but they have developed in recent months and there are decisions that I have made as Rocket's #1 fan that I feel are somewhat important. (More After the Jump)


Once upon a time, it was said that Rocket Raccoon (note the surname) was a genetically modified raccoon from Halfworld. Raccoons are cunning, clever creatures, if you had sufficient technology, as many alien races in the 616 do, making something like Rocket out of a raccoon would be very plausible. It is such a humble origin made grand by great accomplishments as a hero, despite not having real superpowers. That is a wonderful, inspiring origin.

We go from this in 1976....












And this in 1985...
 










And this in 2008...












And this a bit later...














And Marvel Heroes released June of just last year...

To this in 2014...















Yes, I know. What the flark happened?! Back when hints of this retcon first showed themselves in October, my prime suspect was Brian Michael Bendis, he was the writer for the new Guardians of the Galaxy series and would logically have the most creative input on the direction of those characters, even when they appeared in a series he did not write, like Captain Marvel, above. Plus, he was also involved in the Ultimate Spider-man cartoon, where the retcon first technically reared its head. And Mr. Bendis continued to be the suspect, until I found something out...

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a different universe, it is and should be allowed to be different in numerous ways from the 616, the mainstream comic universe. However, there is something called synergy and one of the goals of the Marvel NOW relaunches was to try and get some of the elements of their comics closer to the MCU counterparts. You see, I had been operating under the assumption that, even if Bendis said Rocket is no longer a raccoon, he would definitely be one in the MCU. After all, James Gunn was inspired by the pre-Bendis DnA run of Guardians. He extensively researched raccoons for the characters. And used a real-life raccoon named Oreo as a model for Rocket. That all definitely indicated Rocket would be a raccoon on the movie...

But, then, on Monday, there was a Q&A session on Facebook before the debut of the new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy. In response to something that was a joke in which someone called Rocket, Rocket Raccoon. James' response referred to him simply as Rocket and added as a last sentence. “He's not a raccoon.” The joke involved Groot as well, so I thought, maybe, it was a misunderstanding and I asked him on Twitter...

I did get a response from James Gunn, indirectly, after a follower responded to my inquiry by saying it must've been a joke... "I adore @Raccoonatic but it’s no joke. Rocket’s an alien raccoon-like lower life form genetically modified."

And also... "@Raccoonatic He’s no more a raccoon than human-looking aliens are human. We see him as a raccoon so #YearoftheRaccoon is still ok" (That last line is a silver lining, at least and we will get to that later)

What does this have to do with the MCU, marketing synergy, and my suspecting Bendis for causing the retcon? Note that those tweets present an origin for Rocket that is very similar to the 616 retcon for Rocket as it was first presented on the Ultimate Spider-man cartoon. I bring this up because, in my conversation with James on Twitter, he also said... "I wrote his cinematic origin story." Not Bendis. I had been looking at it backwards thinking that James was staying closer to the old status quo for Rocket and Bendis was changing things, just because. Now, I am thinking, since this retcon seems to have originated with James, that Bendis was told, my by higher-ups involved in marketing, to change Rocket's origin to be closer to the MCU. In this situation, if that is what happened (and this is all speculation, let me make that clear), neither would really be at fault. James was making an MCU version of a character how he felt he should and Bendis was following orders, so to speak. No matter how things happened, or who did what, one fact stands, it is what it is, and what is that...

Rocket Raccoon is not a raccoon. He never was one in the MCU (and, in fact, his name in the movie, in all official places is not even Rocket Raccoon but just Rocket). And, while he was one for decades in the 616, he is not one any longer. That's the reality, whether you love it or hate it. It is all Marvel's creation and their decisions are the only ones that count. But remember that silver lining...

If James Gunn, who, at the very least, used a similar origin story for Rocket as Marvel NOW and Bendis uses, says that it is ok to casually refer to Rocket as a raccoon, well guess what, that's what we can do. We will still be Raccoonatics, etc. After all, most people who have called Rocket a raccoon lately and incurred his wrath have done so mockingly or condescendingly. We, his fans, use it in the most complimentary way possible. Not unlike calling someone who is very awesome at something a “beast”. I don't think Rocky would mind too much, and I'd like to think, retcon aside, I know him fairly well. We cannot correct someone if they matter-of-factly say he is not one, true, but if anyone gives you trouble, as a fan, for calling him a raccoon, you send them to the Commander, I'll tell them how it is.

Now, we have that dropping of the Cockney accent thing, too. Less of an issue, but I think I've worked out an explanation for that, if you need one. Rocket Raccoon is a witty and cunning guy, who seems to enjoy being the center of attention. Let's just say he was messing around with a fake accent to be funny or to stand out more. Or, hey, maybe he was just going through a phase where he was obsessed with English culture. Maybe a bit far-fetched, but Steve Blum did the accent convincingly and he's from Santa Monica.

Where does that leave us in the future, I don't know. I think there is a chance, someday, well after the Guardians movie comes out, they will revisit Rocket's origin, maybe make him a raccoon again. Things like this do often have a way of coming back around. For now, we have to accept this reality for Rocket. But we are still Raccoonatics and 2014 is still the Year of the Raccoon. So, until next time, see ya 'round the, yes, Raccooniverse.

35 comments:

  1. Another great Flarkin' Awesome. I definitely understand how you felt about Rocket's origin change. I won't lie, I was pretty upset about it too. With these recent developments, it definitely lowered my hopes a little for the movie, but it's not enough to ruin the experience. I will accept this change, even embrace it a little because I know it is unavoidable. Still, I will continue calling myself a Racoonatic for that is what I am. In my mind, Rocket is a Raccoon, regardless of what Marvel says he is.

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  2. Good thoughts. Losing the accent is easy to explain. If you're not around other people that have the same accent for a long time, you will lose that accent over time. I knew a guy from England- when he first moved here (West Texas), obviously he had a strong accent. 20 years later, its virtually non-existent; he doesn't even sound like the same guy. Not many English accents in West Texas. So no cockney accent for Rocket doesn't bother me in the slightest.

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    1. Another good explanation. Thanks!

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  3. Im upset about the new accent, because it reminds me of that movie Ted, with the talking teddy bear. It seems like Marvel is trying to turn Rocket into a crass, CGI invention. Hopefully he has just as much depth as he does in the comics.

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    1. I don't see this as much, because he's not being handled by Seth MacFarlane. He's definitely become more crass than his DnA version, but I believe James Gunn has given him much more than that based on what we've heard from him and Chris Pratt.

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    2. James has called Rocket the heart of the movie, and has described as being not just angry but lonely and sad. He sees him as something of a tragic character, so I am completely certain there will be depth to him.

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  4. Well said, Leo. I'm honestly pretty livid over how many retcons Marvel has thrown at us over the last ten years for the majority of my favorite characters, but as has been said, all we can do is accept it and try to embrace it.

    Just don't ask me to embrace the Spider-Man shite. "One More Day" and everything since go right to hell.

    Anyway, I have faith in James doing right by our pal Rocket. I honestly think he's got potential to be the biggest and most iconic character in the MCU since Iron Man.

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    1. A friend of mine just read the entire V1 run of The Amazing Spider-Man this week. He said One More Day broke him. He hates it more than any other comic. It sounds absolutely terrible.

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    2. I'm not worried either, Dan. James seems to be genuinely invested in the character of Rocket and a true fan of v2 Guardians. And I really am not even the slightest bit upset with him for inventing a different MCU Rocket.

      And One More Day, Skylar, ugh. I had not even read comics yet at that point, and I'm not even really a big Spidey fan, And still, even reading about that on Wikipedia made me detest it.

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  5. I agree with continuing to refer to Rocket as a raccoon and explaining to new fans why you do so. Comic fans tend to hate retcons and the more rumblings around the fan base about what I feel to be THE most pointless retcon in the history of retcons, the more likely Marvel is to just drop the whole thing altogether... which would be nice.

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    1. To elaborate a bit as well, I don't think fans would have even been upset if his raccoonishness if there wasn't the complete 180 on it. I think the play for Marvel... if they wanted to fit MCU and 616 together better would just be to not refer to his race or leave it ambiguous in the comics. There's no problem with that. Instead there's a total shift in personality to accompany it and making such a spectacle OF the retcon. The way they did it is basically guaranteed to upset fans.

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    2. Yep. If Bendis would have been obscure about it, I would have accepted it sooner. But several different occasions, the comics have made Rocket emphatically demand the retcon happened, so to speak. That wasn't necessary.

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  6. Actualy, the whole "He’s no more a raccoon than human-looking aliens are human. We see him as a raccoon" is kind of canon in the 616 universe, well pre-Benids anyway.
    I took a look through the ol' classic Rocket comics again (thank you for the excuse to read them again btw) and I noticed something. The people who colonized Halfworld and made it into the asylum, were never from Earth.
    The story is in the 616 universe (as opposed to the classic star-lord stuff being it's own thing) due to old school rocket appearing in Hulk, She-Hulk, and Quasar comics. Since the people who colonized Halfworld were WAY too advanced to be from Earth, they had to have been from some other planet, and by extension, so were Rocket's ancestors. Whatever raccoons, otters, walruses, rabbits, and whatever that were brought over were not Earth animals, but from another planet.
    So essentially, movie Rocket is the same animal that comic Rocket is. A not-raccoon.
    Now why Bendis decided to have "hurrdurr im not a raccoon" makes no sense. I just ignore the Bendis run completely.

    As for the accent, I really like non-cockney Rocket. I feel that accent would be way too weird and cartoony for an already odd movie. General audiences would find it annoying.
    I'm cool with cockney Rocket being in my video games and cartoons, but it'd feel out of place in the movie imo.

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    1. Oh and I'm still calling him a raccoon. He may not scientifically be a raccoon, but if he looks, walks, and chatters like a raccoon, he's a raccoon to me.

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    2. And the point being, as I demonstrated in the panels, he used to consider *himself* a raccoon. I would think he would know what he was better than anyone.

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    3. And while those who created Halfworld were not from Earth, they could have gathered fauna from Earth. The odds an animal on another planet would evolve to look like something as visually distinct as a raccoon, the capturing fauna from Earth makes much more sense than that.

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    4. Actually it implies the animals were brought from their own world.
      "...while the animals we brought along for this purpose provided them with entertainment and companionship."
      Sure doesn't sound like they just picked them up off of Earth for whatever reason.

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    5. Well, I won't be writing about this anymore, so don't worry. I just don't know Rocket, clearly.

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    6. Ah it's okay man. Look at it this way, you're the voice of the fan base! Just because I know a few facts and tidbits you don't, doesn't make you know Rocket any less.
      I mean it's really hard for one person to know everything about something.
      What if we had some kind of group where we discuss topics for your Flarkin' Awesomes, so you can get a good consensus for what the fan base thinks?

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    7. I appreciate you being pleasant about it. Flarkin' Awesome is done, already announced it on Twitter. And I hate being wrong, so I'm probably gonna just delete this issue later. End it at an even 10.

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    8. Wait, I don't see how the line "...while the animals we brought along for this purpose provided them with entertainment and companionship." suggests where they came from at all. They could've been collected from Earth, or there home planet, or grown from a Petri dish. And before Bendis' run, Rocket talked about Earth, mentioned Earth-things, and very much implied he'd spent significant amount of time on the planet, and now acts completely ignorant of nearly everything Earth-related. I believe this is a true retcon, that Rocket was originally a raccoon, and isn't anymore.

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    9. What? No don't do that! Why end something you love doing because you messed one up?
      If it makes you feel better, I forgot to check later comics, I was reading Starlord Annihilation Conquest lat night, and it does in briefly say Rocket is a modified Terran raccoon, and we all know Terra is Earth.
      So we're both right. In the classic comics Rocket is a not-raccoon, in the 2004-2011 cosmic comics, Rocket is an Earth raccoon, and then Bendis came along and made everything completely terrible.

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    10. Ah, ok, I didn't know you hadn't checked the later stuff. Annihilators side feature, in particular, revisits the early comics. Well, don't worry, good friend talked me down from deleting. But, it is still all very confusing right, for everyone aspect of who Rocket is. If I do another Flarkin' Awesome, it won't have anything to do with his history/origin. (Maybe I'll do one when he gets his level 52 review for Marvel Heroes, for instance)

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    11. We're cool now, I hope, Kat. Maybe I overreacted a bit. But I am not an expert on anything, except Rocket. I take about as much pride in that as someone with major self-esteem issues can take pride in something. And the not liking being wrong goes beyond pride for me. I loathe misinformation, I am a stickler for accuracy. So, to put something out there that is not truthful, it bothers me deeply, on many levels.

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    12. We've always been cool Leo.
      Though I do hope you'll think about my group discussion idea. Could be useful to keep from having any possible inaccuracies.

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    13. Thanks and I'll think about it.

      I just said on Twitter, I think this gonna remain more a matter of agree/disagree than correct/incorrect because Marvel is the only one that can confirm it was 100 percent one way or another. And, given their position, and their presumed hesitation to confirm they are doing a retcon, I don't think they will ever acknowledge Rocket's origin has been truly changed. I've read every comic appearance of Rocket (outside comic info is not reliable, four foot tall height on Marvel.com, for instance), and my point of view is the one presented in this article. Maybe others have read the same material and have a different point of view, disagree on what the truth is. I think what really matters and the *true* purpose of this article is the caveats I presented. We *can* call Rocket a raccoon, etc.

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    14. If you just look at it from a scientific perspective, there is no way Rocket is nothing other than a Racoon. The odds are just too astronomical for two separate species developed on two separate planets to evolve completely identical. It's basically impossible. So he's a Racoon.

      With that said.. in case anyone still disagrees... I think we all can agree that Rocket is NOT a beaver... and that's our common ground

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  7. It is unfortunate that Marvel is changing up 616 Rocket, I feel like he was great the way he was 'raccoon and proud'. As for the MCU I'm fine with them altering the character, however he will always be Rocket Raccoon to me.

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    1. Yeah, I am bummed about it, of course. But, hey, we always have those comics to read again. (And he still expressing pride in being a raccoon on Marvel Heroes and even on Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3)

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  8. I'm actually going to take the opposite side here: I think the whole thing can be made perfectly sensible.

    Presumably, Rocket, in 616 as well as MCU, is a genetically-modified lower life form. This seems confirmed for the MCU by Gunn. That lower life form was called something in whatever language the Halfworld-creators spoke, and it was translated as 'raccoon,' because it was so similar to earth racoons. Rocket was comfortable calling himself this. But then, he started to hang around with more humans, and realized that calling himself 'a raccoon' would make people think he was actually of Earth origins, and he didn't want that, _because_ of his pride in his origins: he is merely emphasizing that he is a 'space raccoon,' not an 'Earth raccoon.'

    He may also be growing to realize more and more than some humans look down on 'lower animals,' and thus wishes to emphasize that he's not merely a raccoon (of whatever alien raccoon-like species), but a genetically-modified one who should now be fully considered on a level with humans. This would also explain his change in referring to himself.

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    1. *If* we need to make a coherent explanation for how Bendis' retcon links with pre-Bendis. That could work. (But, to be clear, there actually *has* been a retcon and he did use to be a raccoon. I'll have to look back and find it, but I'm fairly certain someone other than Rocket definitively called him one). I think the explanation they are gonna use is that Pete escaping from the Cancerverse involved some sort of minor alterations to history in the wake of Infinity, which changed, among other things Rocket's origin.

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    2. And I would like for this to come full circle by them, maybe, revealing some day that his species actually *are* raccoons transplanted from Earth and altered artificially. It could be a good story for Rocket coming to terms with a humble origin and a connection to a planet he generally considers inferior.

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    3. I want to point out, based on the evidence I saw in the movie, he's from halfworld

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