They became comics’ most unlikely surprise hit duo, and this summer they’re poised to win over the world. But for Rocket Raccoon and Groot, they’ve got one more medium in mind to conquer: prose. This July, Groot and Rocket are coming to prose with Dan Abnett in tow to steal the galaxy.
In Rocket Raccoon & Groot: Steal the Galaxy, Abnett takes the characters he helped make popular and brings them to the written word – a realm he’s quite familiar with. Although Abnett might be best known for co-writing comics like Guardians of the Galaxy and Legion of the Super-Heroes, the British scribe has written over 50 prose novels, both licensed fare like Doctor Who and Warhammer 40,000 as well as original novels. But now those two mediums collide as Abnett takes the character he helped revive and puts them on a “high-speed, non-stop, all action, wisecracking romp through the Marvel Universe.”
“It’s a classic Rocket and Groot adventure, with our two heroes doing their level best to stay alive, keep out of trouble, and save all of reality to boot,” Abnett tells Newsarama. “It’s both high action and comedic, though I hope the humor derives from context: I’m not treating the Marvel Cosmic Universe lightly or sacrificing its seriousness for comic effect.”
In a project like this, “comic effect” has two connotations: the medium they originate in and also the humor employed that makes them so memorable. This unlikely duo take advantage of both in this prose novel to tell a story Abnett describes as quintessentially Rocket & Groot.
“The set-up is that Rocket and Groot are down on their luck and try to make a living during a break in the Guardians of the Galaxy activities. They run across a Rigellian Recorder Unit who contains some vital piece of information that just about every major faction in the Marvel Universe would kill to obtain. Naturally, because they are kind-hearted heroes, Rocket and Groot see an instant opportunity to make a lot of money out of the Recorder... I mean, to look after the Recorder and protect him from all dangers. They have seriously underestimated how much trouble they’re going to get into.”
In Abnett’s original pitch for this novel posits the book as “John Woo’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” with the standalone novel providing a “vivid” tour of the Marvel Universe, especially that of the cosmic races, empires and landmarks.
“Don’t be surprised to meet the Kree, the Skrulls, the Badoon, the Shi’ar Imperial Guard and the Nova Corps, not to mention sundry other references to the rich detail of the Marvel Universe,” Abnett shares.
Abnett knows first-hand the “rich detail of the Marvel Universe,” and Rocket Racoon and Groot were once very minor characters in that tapestry that were in fact derided by some comic fans and comics professionals alike. Abnett tells Newsarama that part of the fun when he was writing Guardians of the Galaxy and featuring Rocket and Groot was “re-energizing” these “secondary and half-forgotten characters” at Marvel.
“It was kind of a feature of my Guardians of the Galaxy run (and the movie too) that these are not famous and instantly recognizable characters: They are renegades and rogues and their activities are often overlooked or dismissed,” Abnett points out. “It was great to write underdogs and anti-heroes, and even more exciting to see how their popularity grew. They were liked by the readers who’d never come across them before, and those stalwart cosmic readers who were familiar with them were delighted to see them back in action.”
Abnett says of all the characters he’s written, Rocket Raccoon and Groot are the “most unusual and somehow seem the least likely to work.” But it’s that same unusualness that made them ultimately work.
“I mean, a talking raccoon and a walking tree! But perhaps it is the very outrageousness of them that makes them work,” Abnett says. “To see the Guardians of the Galaxy being turned into a major Marvel Studios production, fitting in with their other blockbusters, is a real treat.”
Abnett has done licensed novels as well as original stories, but never has the author written a novel based on comics characters before Steal The Galaxy. When asked what took so long for Abnett to combine his dual careers as comic writer and prose author, he admits it’s a good question.
“I’ve never really thought about that before,” says Abnett. “But you’re right, this will be the first novel from me to feature comic characters. I suppose I hadn’t thought of it before because in many ways I’m approaching it as I would any other license: A big, wonderfully imagined universe to explore and have fun in. However, in the writing I realize I am bringing a lot of comic book style to the story, including some inventive forms of storytelling and lots of sidelong nods to Marvel comics continuity. It’s an action packed book, but it’s also funny, and I’m having a blast writing it.”
Abnett says that the original plan was for Abnett to adapt one of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic arcs he wrote with Andy Lanning for this prose novel, but once the opportunity gestated in his mind it pushed him in a new direction.
“Adaptation didn’t appeal to me,” the author reveals, “and the fast pace and multi-faceted cosmic environment of the Guardians of the Galaxy seemed to offer huge possibilities to develop an original story.”
Given Abnett’s extensive work on Rocket Racoon and Groot in the past on the Guardians of the Galaxy comic series, it’s conceivable that this story might have originally been intended for an arc on that series, but Abnett states it’s an all-new tale poised to be intriguing for fans of the comic and fans of the movie.
“Rocket Racoon & Groot: Steal The Galaxy is a story created specifically for the novel, inspired by Marvel’s request for me to write it,” Abnett says. “But those who loved my work on Guardians of the Galaxy previously, and on Rocket and Groot will recognize the flavor and dynamics of the novel, and should have a lot of fun reading it. “