My earliest encounters with transgender characters came in Vertigo comics in the mid-90’s, especially Wanda in Sandman and Coagula in Doom Patrol. Wanda dresses a bit like a drag queen (and dies a tragic death), and Coagula is a sex worker, but they both felt like real people, which is not how I’d ever previously been encouraged to view trans people in any medium. Growing up, reading comics has always played a role in my understanding of my own identity and worldview. I certainly wouldn’t say comics had an effect on my gender, but they definitely affected my understanding of gender.
Recently, I’ve been wanting to look back farther than Wanda and Coagula and the mid-90’s. Amidst recent discussions of trans representation in comics, I’ve found myself thinking about what preceded trans characters in comics, before there was any chance of them existing.
A lot of people fell in love with Rocket Raccoon this summer thanks to the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, so this seems like a great time to pick up some art featuring the movie's angry anthropomorphic star -- and to help out his co-creator Bill Mantlo at the same time.
Mantlo was severely injured when he was hit by a car in 1992, and has needed constant and costly care ever since. The prominence of Rocket Raccoon in Guardians brought welcome attention to Mantlo's condition, and comic artists have stepped up -- in conjunction with Multiversity Comics -- to help fund his care with online auctions of original art featuring Rocket and other Mantlo creations (yes, including ROM Spaceknight). All proceeds will go to the Mantlo family.
A huge number of people turned out to watch James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy this weekend, but one viewer was deservedly treated to a special private viewing. Bill Mantlo, the writer who created Rocket Raccoon with artist Keith Giffen for Marvel in 1976, was visited by Marvel executives and shown the movie at the care facility where he lives.
As we've reported previously in our Guardians Of The Galaxy coverage, Mantlo was the victim of a hit and run accident in 1992 that left him in need ongoing care and rehabilitation. His family has struggled to cover his medical bills, and fellow writer Greg Pak and others have helped solicit donations to support the Mantlo family.
Director James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy is a big gamble for Marvel Studios. It's an unknown quantity even to most comic fans. It's a space opera at a time when non-Lucasfilm space operas don't perform well. It's a movie with a talking raccoon at a time when even Disney princess movies don't have talking animals.
Of course, all of Marvel's movies have been gambles. Iron Man wasn't a household name, despite how we think of the character now. Thor was a sci fi fantasy movie -- what could be worse? Captain America seemed an impossible sell for overseas markets. Bringing those franchises together for Avengers? Insanity. Marvel Studios' safest bet was probably Hulk -- a household name and a proven quantity -- and that's been the studio's weakest performer. So it looks like the big gambles are where Marvel excels. If Guardians Of The Galaxy is the studio's biggest gamble to date, it makes a weird kind of sense that it's also one of the studio's most delightful successes.
The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it’s disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it’s also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.
Two spin-offs of Guardians of the Galaxy launch in recent weeks: The Legendary Star-Lord and the already-surprise-hit Rocket Raccoon. Marvel Unlimited's got a fairly thorough, if not quite complete, selection of most of the Guardians' previous appearances, especially the ones in the Annihilation/Annihilation: Conquest/Annihilators sequence. But their prehistory is worth digging into, too, and there's some choice proto-Guardians material in the archive.
Look, I'll admit that I haven't been completely excited about the upcoming Rocket Raccoon series by Skottie Young. Don't get me wrong, I love Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen's spacefaring guardian as much as the next guy, and I'm pretty sure it's just our signature brand of ComicsAlliance Elitist Hipsterism creeping through that made me a little dismissive since the upswing in popularity that's keyed to this summer's big-budget Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but I just wasn't really into it. And then I found out that the first issue is about space-wrestling.
ROM: Spaceknightis unquestionably one of my all-time favorite comics. Part of that is just because of how weird it is -- a licensed toy tie-in launched before G.I. Joe and Transformers for a line of action figures that only included exactly one toy that fleshed things out by dropping him straight into the Marvel Universe and ended up running for 75 issues, plus annuals -- but really, it's more because it was really good. Writer Bill Mantlo managed to take the bare minimum of source material and build something that was operatic and compelling, on par with anything else of the era.
Tragically, Mantlo -- also the co-creator of Rocket Raccoon -- was struck by a hit-and-run driver in 1992 and suffered a traumatic brain injury, bringing his comics writing career to a close and leaving him in need of constant care. There's been a surge of awareness about him lately, and the the latest is coming from Rob Harrington, whose ROM Remix Project has seen 20 artists re-creating the entirety of ROM #1 in an effort to lead more people to Mantlo and raise money for his ongoing care.
Ever since the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy hit -- heck, ever since the movie was announced -- the public has been clamoring for more Rocket Raccoon and Groot, the alien warriors who just happen to be a tiny furry cartoon animal and a talking, walking tree, respectively. Now, it seems that excitement over the two characters has hit a fever pitch, with an all-new prose novel by Dan Abnett called Rocket Raccoon and Groot Steal The Galaxy!set to hit bookshelves in July.
One more time, that's a prose novel about Rocket Raccoon and Groot, set to capitalize on the presumed success of the upcoming major, big-budget Guardians of the Galaxy feature film. This is the world we live in now.
After five years of working on Marvel's adaptations of Frank L. Baum's Oz books, Skottie Young is jumping back into the Marvel Universe feet-first with a new series about a character who's primed to become a breakout movie star, Rocket Raccoon.
Young has been working on the series for months now, so he isn't basing his version of the character on the one that will be appearing in theGuardians of the Galaxy movie coming to theaters in August. But Young says the version in his comic, the first issue of which will hit stands July 2, is pretty well in line with the Rocket Raccoon people have seen in the trailer.
If you weren’t aware of it before the past few weeks, even a passing interest in the recent Internet comics community likely informed you of the medical-expense-related plight a high-profile pair of comic book creators have been experiencing . First, there was Stan Sakai, the creator of Usagi Yojimbo, in dire straits because of an extended hospital stay for his wife, Sharon. Then there’s Bill Mantlo, the co-creator of Rocket Raccoon, who was severely injured in a skating accident 22 years ago and has required full-time care ever since. (He’s been under care for two decades, but Rocket's appearance in the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie has brought him back into the public eye.)
Both of these men have had to turn to donations from fans and colleagues to help with their considerable expenses, and those people have made admirable efforts to help these creative artists whose work has brightened their lives. Generosity is a good thing. But it shouldn’t have to be this way.
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