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The Rocketeer. Cover of Rocketeer Adventures 1 (May 2011 IDW). Art by Alex Ross.
Dark Horse Comics
Starslayer #1 (cameo)
|Created by||Dave Stevens|
|Alter ego||Cliff Secord|
|Notable aliases||The Flying Man|
|Abilities||Above-average hand to hand combatant
Highly skilled pilot and marksman
Flight via rocket backpack
The Rocketeer is a fictional character created by writer-illustrator Dave Stevens. The character first appeared in 1982 and is a homage to the Saturday matinee serial heroes of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
The Rocketeer's secret identity is Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who discovers a mysterious jetpack that allows him to fly. His adventures are set in Los Angeles and New York in 1938, and Stevens gave them a retro, nostalgic feel influenced by the King of the Rocket Men and Commando Cody movie serials (both from Republic Pictures), and pinup diva Bettie Page.
The Rocketeer was released as a 1991 feature film from Walt Disney Pictures that was directed by Joe Johnston. Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens has a small cameo as the German test pilot who dies when the Nazi version of a rocket backpack explodes during take-off, part of top secret black-and-white film footage stolen, then smuggled to the U. S. that shows Nazi plans for creating an army of flying commandos.
In 1938 Los Angeles, Cliff Secord, a local racing pilot and barnstormer, discovers a mysterious package hidden by two gangsters, who were fleeing the police. In that package, Cliff finds what the police were looking for: a stolen rocket backpack prototype.
Rocketeer references to other works
The Rocketeer makes a great number of references to pop culture from the 1930s to the 1950s. The first storyline, "The Rocketeer" features characters from the Doc Savage pulp series, though Stevens takes care not to refer to any of the characters — including Doc Savage himself — by name, so as not to violate copyright and incur a licensing fee for use of the characters. "Cliff's New York Adventure" similarly features unnamed characters from The Shadow pulp magazine series, including the Shadow's famous alter ego, Lamont Cranston.
Besides pulp characters, actors of the 1940s and 1950s have also visually inspired two characters: Lothar, the villain in "Cliff's New York Adventure", is based on the likeness of acromegalic horror movie star Rondo Hatton; and Cliff Secord's girlfriend Betty is modeled after "Queen of Pinups" Bettie Page.
A "Rocket Man" character, with a near-identical rocket backpack and similar uniform, appeared in four Republic Pictures movie serials from 1949 through 1953. The fourth serial, originally conceived as a syndicated Republic TV series, was first released under contractual obligation to movie houses as a regular multi-chapter theatrical serial; two years later, it was re-cut with new footage and additional music added and finally syndicated on NBC television stations as twelve 25-minute episodes.
The four Republic Rocket Man serials were:
- King of the Rocket Men (1949)
- Radar Men from the Moon (1952)
- Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952)
- Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (serial 1953, TV series 1955)
Other influences on the Stevens' character include Buck Rogers, the short-lived comic series Lars of Mars by Jerry Siegel and Murphy Anderson, as well as Adam Strange, also inked by Murphy Anderson.
A Rocketeer inspired character, named Brocketeer, is featured as a playable character in the game Broforce.
The Rocketeer's first adventure appeared in 1982 as a backup feature in issues #2 and #3 of Mike Grell's Starslayer series from Pacific Comics. Two more installments appeared in Pacific's showcase comic Pacific Presents #1 and 2. The fourth chapter ended in a cliffhanger that was later concluded in a special Rocketeer issue released by Eclipse Comics. The complete story was then collected by Eclipse in a single volume titled The Rocketeer (ISBN 1-56060-088-8). It was published in three versions: a trade paperback edition, a trade hardcover, and a signed, limited edition hardcover. Noted fantasy author Harlan Ellison, a fan of the Rocketeer and also an acquaintance of Dave Stevens, wrote the introduction to the collection; both Dave Stevens and Harlan Ellison signed the limited edition on a specially bound-in bookplate.
The story was continued in the Rocketeer Adventure Magazine. Two issues were published by Comico Comics in 1988 and 1989; the third installment was not published until 1995, six years later by Dark Horse Comics. All three issues were then collected by Dark Horse into a glossy trade paperback titled The Rocketeer: Cliff's New York Adventure (ISBN 1-56971-092-9) that quickly went out-of-print.
On February 28, 2009, IDW Publishing announced a hardcover collecting the entire series for the first time, intended to be published in October 2009. Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer, The Complete Adventures contained new coloring by Laura Martin, who had been chosen by Dave Stevens prior to his death. The book appeared in December, two months later than announced, in two versions: A standard trade hardcover edition with full color dust jacket and a second, more lavish, deluxe edition (ISBN 978-1600105371), limited to 3000 hardcover copies. The deluxe edition used different Stevens artwork for its dust jacket and was issued in an illustrated, all color slipcase; it also had full color illustrated endpapers. While the deluxe contains the same Rocketeer comics reprints as the trade edition, it adds more than 130 pages of previously uncollected Rocketeer material: sketches, preliminaries, character designs, script pages, photographs, and original art pages, with commentaries by Dave Stevens and several peers who occasionally assisted him on The Rocketeer. The deluxe edition sold out almost immediately upon publication, but IDW announced a second printing.
IDW debuted the first issue of a brand new Rocketeer comic book series, Rocketeer Adventures, in May 2011. Issue #1 featured work from John Cassaday, Mike Allred, Kurt Busiek, and Michael Kaluta, plus pin-ups by Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart, and Jim Silke. The four 2011 issues offered regular and variant cover designs by both Alex Ross and Dave Stevens; various black and white Retailer Incentive variants were also published in limited press runs; several additional variant issues by Jet Pack Comics, featuring recolored Dave Stevens artwork, were also published in limited press runs. To celebrate the launch of this all-new Rocketeer series, IDW's Hundred Penny Press also simultaneously released a $1.00 re-issue of the original The Rocketeer #1 by Dave Stevens, fully remastered and recolored by Eisner-winner Laura Martin. The first four Rocketeer Adventures issues were then collected in 2011 into a hardcover graphic novel, followed by second hardcover graphic novel in 2012 that collected the next four issues: A color Rocketeer title logo was used on the regular retail copies of the graphic novel, plus one additional Retailer Incentive hardcover without a title logo printed on its dust cover; both versions were offered with the same Alex Ross' color artwork.
A third IDW four-issue comics miniseries of Rocketeer adventures, Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom, began appearing in 2012. Each issue offered a regular retail cover design and one alternate Retailer Incentive cover. In addition publisher Jet Pack Comics issued several additional Retailer Incentive variants with Dave Stevens re-colored artwork reprinted on their covers. The miniseries was then collected as two variant graphic novel hardcovers, one offered with a regular dust jacket, the other without.
A fourth IDW four-issue comic book miniseries of Rocketeer adventures, Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror, began appearing in late February 2013. As with the previous series, each issue offered a regular retail cover design and one Retailer Incentive alternate cover. The miniseries was then collected as two variant hardcover graphic novel editions, one with a regular style dust jacket, the other without.
A fifth IDW Rocketeer comics miniseries, Rocketeer and The Spirit: Pulp Friction, began appearing in the summer of 2013, as another limited four-issue miniseries. As with the two previous Rocketter miniseries, each issue offered a regular retail cover design and one Retailer Incentive alternate cover. A special San Diego Comic Con International promotional variant issue #1, with a black and white wraparound cover, was offered only at the 2013 convention. The miniseries was then collected as a hardcover graphic novel.
In September, 2014, IDW changed the Rocketeer's format and published a 376-page, 6x9 trade paperback The Rocketeer: Jet-Pack Adventures, an original anthology featuring ten short prose stories by Cody Goodfellow, Don Webb, Gregory Frost, J Bone, Lisa Morton, Nancy A. Collins, Nancy Holder, Nicholas Kaufmann, Robert Hood, Simon Kurt Unsworth, and Yvonne Navarro.
A sixth IDW Rocketeer comics miniseries, Rocketeer: At War, began in December 2015, as another limited miniseries.
From murderous treasure-hunters and marauding sky-pirates to ancient Egyptian magicians and haunted mad scientists, the Rocketeer solves crimes and fights evil in these unique and exciting tales of jet-pack action and pin-up romance. Set between 1939 and 1946, with such historical characters as Howard Hughes, Hedy Lamarr, Tarzan’s Johnny Weissmuller, and acclaimed Western writer Zane Grey, to name but a few.
Rocketeer references in popular culture
- Disney produced The Rocketeer in 1991, directed by Joe Johnston, and starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino and Tiny Ron Taylor. The film was released on June 21, 1991 and received generally favorable reviews from critics, although plans for Rocketeer sequels were abandoned after a poor box office performance. As of 2012, new efforts were made toward doing a remake, and on July 28, 2016 Disney announced plans for a sequel featuring a black female lead, set six years after the original. It is to be written by Max Winkler and Matt Spicer.
- The character Gabe from the Penny Arcade webcomic confuses the term racketeering with rocketeering as both a satirical jab at a recent event and a tribute to the Rocketeer character.
- Eric Canete's cover for Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin#1 pays homage to the Rocketeer film's Art Deco-style theatrical poster.
- The webcomic Basic Instructions occasionally features the character "Rocket Hat", who battles the Moon Men, a clear reference to Republic Pictures' original Rocket Man and Commando Cody movie serials that inspired Dave Stevens in creating the Rocketeer.
- The first officially licensed Rocketeer game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System on May 1991. It is a side-scrolling action game published and developed by Bandai, and followed the plot of the movie.
- Developer NovaLogic released a licensed PC game in December 1991 which was published by Disney Software. NovaLogic went on to port the game to the Super NES in May 1992 with IGS as the publisher. Both versions are a collection of minigames based on the film.
- In the computer game Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 the Allied Forces have flying infantry units called the Rocketeers.
- The Capcom video game Dark Void features a jetpack-wielding protagonist and draws heavily from the World War themes of the Rocketeer.
- The Cinemaware computer game Rocket Ranger is heavily influenced both stylistically and thematically not only by the Rocketeer comic, but also the Commando Cody serials.
- An iOS game called The Rocketeer (later rereleased as The Rocketeer HD) from Wired Developments Pty Ltd. is unrelated to the Rocketeer comics or film.
- The Rocketeer is a playable character in Broforce.
- The song "Rocketeer" by Foxy Shazam is an homage to the film.
- Far East Movement collaborated with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder for the song "Rocketeer" released in 2010.
- Nelson, Valerie J. "Illustrator created 'Rocketeer' comic." The Los Angeles Times,March 13, 2008. Retrieved: December 17, 2010.
- Gustines, George Gene. "Dave Stevens, 52, Artist Who Created the Rocketeer, Dies." The New York Times. March 30, 2008. Retrieved: October 21, 2010.
- "Dave Stevens." twomorrows.com. Retrieved: October 21, 2010.
- "Dr Hermes Retro-Scans: "The Rocketeer" livejournal.com. Retrieved: March 12, 2011.
- "Rondo Hatton biography." Cracked.com. Retrieved: March 12, 2011.
- Kelle, Alexandra. "Movie Serials." allmovie.com, 2010. Retrieved: September 10, 2010.
- "GCD :: Issue :: Lars of Mars No. 11." Comics.org. Retrieved: September 24, 2012.
- Markstein, DOn. "Lars of Mars." Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved: September 24, 2012.
- "Dave Stevens: 1955–2008." The Comics Reporter. Retrieved: September 24, 2012.
- "IDW Resurrects The Rocketeer." IGN. Retrieved: October 31, 2010.
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- Maltin 2000, p. 302.
- Brodesser-Akner, Claude. "Exclusive: Disney’s 'The Rocketeer' Being Reloaded." vulture.com, August 21, 2012. Retrieved: August 22, 2012.
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- Best Shots Extra: Cap: The Chosen #1, Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin #1, Ms. Marvel #19 - Newsarama
- "Example strip." squidgemag.com, February 2010. Retrieved: October 21, 2010
- GameFAQs: The Rocketeer (NES)
- The Rocketeer HD on iTunes
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- Bilson, Danny, Paul De Meo and William Dear. The Rocketeer: Screenplay: S.l. : s.n., dated June 13, 1990.
- Cotta Vaz, Mark and Patricia Rose Duigna. Industrial Light & Magic: Into the Digital Realm. Hong Kong: Del Rey Books, 1996. ISBN 0-345-38152-1.
- David, Peter. The Rocketeer Novelization of the Film. New York: Bantam Books, 1991 ISBN 0-553-29322-2