Rocket Raccoon and Groot to star in Marvel's first in-house prose novel
(CBR) Rocket Raccoon and Groot know that the opportunity to get into trouble in Marvel Comics' Cosmic Universe is as vast as space itself. As members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the heavily-armed talking Raccoon and the giant lumbering tree-being routinely become embroiled in intergalactic crises, but they're also quite adept at getting into trouble on their own.
Readers will see just how good the duo are at getting into interstellar jams this June when "Rocket Raccoon & Groot: Steal the Galaxy," Marvel's first in-house original prose novel hits stores. CBR News spoke with author Dan Abnett (co-writer of the acclaimed 2008 "Guardians of the Galaxy" series) about the experience crafting the novel, which finds Rocket and Groot on the run from several intergalactic great powers and law enforcement agencies. Plus, Abnett teases the existence of Rigellian Recorder and appearances from characters and galactic species from across the Marvel U.
CBR News: Dan, fans who strictly follow your comic work might not be aware of the fact that you're a veteran prose novelist as well, with novels in many different series including "Warhammer 40,000," "Warhammer," "Doctor Who," "Torchwood" and "Primeval"; as well as original sci-fi novels as well like "Embedded" and "Triumff: Her Majesty's Hero." How does it feel to take two comic characters that you're known for and create an original prose adventure for them? Dan Abnett:
When I'm writing novels for properties like "Doctor Who" or "Warhammer," it's very much like writing a comic in that I'm dealing with licensed characters and my understanding of how they work. I've got to be respectful of them and make sure that I make it work. So that skill set remains exactly the same in terms of this, but to try to take something with a very distinct flavor like "Guardians of the Galaxy" or Rocket and Groot and translate that into prose has been particularly fun because I wanted to capture both the hectic pace of it and the high action content. I wanted to make it quite amusing because there's always been a strong hint of humor in Guardians. Not to break down the seriousness of what's going on, but it's got a wisecracking feel to it.
I also wanted to bring in the Marvel Cosmic universe as best as I can so people who read the book that are big fans of the Cosmic, "Guardians" or Marvel are going, "Oh that's a great reference to that!" or "That's clever!" or "That's a great joke at the expense of that!"
If you don't know anything about "Guardians" -- and let's face it, a lot of people out there who are even aware of Marvel characters may not necessarily know the cosmic side of it -- the book won't be impenetrable. I didn't want to make it so people who discovered these characters via the upcoming "Guardians" film go, "I have no idea what he's talking about." I hope I've walked that line there. I hope it's a really good high octane, space opera romp with very amusing characters in the middle of it and that anyone can read and enjoy these moments if you're a Marvel fan and part of the club, but also enjoy it as a sci-fi novel that ties into a movie you enjoyed.
I also understand that "Rocket Raccoon & Groot: Steal the Galaxy" is Marvel's first original, in-house prose novel. How does it feel to kick that line off?
That was a huge thing. It does seem odd to say prose novels but I understand we have to distinguish between prose and graphic novels. Marvel has been publishing prose novels and very successfully too, but what they've been doing is taking existing story lines like "Civil War" and adapting them into prose form, which is great.
When Stuart Moore first asked me about this he said, "Why don't you take an existing Rocket and Groot story, perhaps the Rocket and Groot mini-series you did, and turn that into a novel?" I went, "Creatively speaking I've done that once. I don't want to adapt something. I'd much rather give you something new." I think he was surprised by that. I think there was a sense that doing something new involved more work than adapting a story that was already there. In a certain respect, it does, because I've got to build a plot, draw things in, and create it all. It also gave me much more creative freedom though; particularly creative freedom to construct a story that's told through prose rather than moving something from one form into another.
A lot of the things I've invented for "Steal the Galaxy" are about the narrative telling. My hope, and my feedback from Stuart so far has indicated this, is that it's very funny in the way the story is actually told. There are unreliable narrators, alternating points of view, and there are things I can only do in prose.
So, yes, I suggested an original story. … The "elevator pitch" I gave them was "John Woo's 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.'" They went, "Sold!" and got very excited. [Laughs] They obviously had to approve the outline, but I went with that and it's just this picaresque, ongoing, exciting tale where Rocket and Groot are still part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but they're off on their own trying to do their own work. They're down on their luck and get caught up in the middle of something, and the more they try to fix the situation, extricate themselves from it, and try to make some money out of it the more they realize they're caught up in a bigger and bigger thing. There are all these different cosmic forces closing in on them, and they all want a piece of what Rocket and Groot are involved with.
This is something much bigger than what they thought it was in the first place, and it indeed grows to galaxy-threatening proportions. The title "Steal the Galaxy" is entirely justified. It's a story that expands out, and I think there are some very cool action sequences, some funny pieces and some great references to different aspects of the Marvel Universe. I wanted to bring in as much of Marvel's cosmic landscape as possible and say, "This is what this is like, and this is what's over here" rather than just having them fly around in space ships. There's a lot of cosmic lore, but I think it's explained and done interestingly and accessibly.
What's it like writing Rocket and Groot in prose? Are there things you can do with those characters that you can't do in comics? Might we get a Groot inner monologue?
[Laughs] I was thinking about that because Groot only says, "I am Groot." I did play around with thoughts about what I could do with him in a prose novel that I couldn't in comics, and ultimately I decided I didn't want to do that because I didn't want to hear him say anymore than, "I am Groot." I was worried as I started to write it that if all Groot said was, "I am Groot" a lot of the dialogue between the two main characters and their interactions with other characters in the book it's going to seem much more obvious on the page than it is in the comic where you've got pictures to look at, but in fact I think it makes him incredibly sympathetic.
I don't think there's a terrible sense of repetition at all because all of the other characters talk to him as if he's making perfect sense and we actually learn more about what he's saying and what he's thinking than we do in the comics. Other characters will respond to him with lines like, "Of course you'd think that."
The narrator for instance can speak Groot. He has conversations with him where you can understand exactly what Groot is saying even though he only says, "I am Groot." I think that preserves the gag, but also develops him as a character.
My initial concern was that Rocket would be the lively character bursting off the page and Groot would just be this cypher; this sort of Chewbacca who went along with him and didn't do too much apart from fire his gun and say a few things. He actually becomes an intensely important part of the story. He's a very sympathetic character. I think that's something I can do in prose that I couldn't do elsewhere. I can get digressions about what he said and why he said it without having him say those things himself.
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