“The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror”: Merry All-Star 1940s Pop Culture Crossover!

The Thin Man, the Rocketeer!

The Thin Man Meets the Rocketeer!

Movie fans who don’t read comic books may already have forgotten about director Joe Johnston’s 1991 film adaptation of The Rocketeer, based on the exploits of a World War II pilot who stumbles across a sci-fi jet pack that lets him soar the skies and lands him in hot water with the forces of evil. Though creator/writer/artist Dave Stevens passed away in 2008 far too young at age 52 from hairy cell leukemia, IDW Publishing has been working with the blessing of his family to produce all-new stories of the airborne avenger. The first issue of their latest miniseries, The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror, hit store shelves this week and is already working hard to become my favorite Rocketeer tale of all time.

That may prove to be hyperbole, but the initial signs are promising. You’re looking at sign #1 in the panels sampled above. No two ways about it: any comic that features very special guest appearances by unnamed ringers for the dynamite duo of Nick and Nora Charles automatically earns my personal seal of approval.

The miniseries’ premise involves Our Hero becoming entangled in sinister machinations involving a missing scientist, an unusual public speaker who resembles a villain from an old Fleischer Bros. Superman cartoon, and cameos by more than a few classic characters from the same time period, including the aforementioned married detectives from The Thin Man film series. (As in the movies, the husband hastens to advise us that their detective work is “just a hobby, you understand. Officially, we’re retired.” Yep, that’s definitely our Nick.)

Beyond just a selection of cameos from wartime Hollywood — a few faces from which may be beyond my skill set to identify — certain literary fans may also appreciate the creepy subplot that’s an homage to a particular writer that some people love whenever they encounter his craft. Also of an august nature is the, um, er, something something something derleth. Suffice it to say the “horror” in the subtitle may not be unfounded.

Dave Stevens’ original Rocketeer stories were gorgeously illustrated and possessed of a considerable following, but infrequently published and only amounted to six issues in all. IDW has recruited top-notch talents for the new renditions, comprising two Rocketeer Adventures anthologies, along with Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s rollicking The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom. With Hollywood Horror, IDW has handed the writing reins over to Roger Langridge, who refuses to stop making great comics. I already applauded his twelve-issue Lewis Carroll homage Snarked! in an entry last year, but his recent all-ages work on The Muppet Show (for IDW first, then for Marvel) was an authentic treat, and I was surprised to enjoy his ongoing Popeye series despite never much caring for the original comic strip. Langridge’s love of action, intrigue, and the golden age of Everything shines through here. Likewise, the art by J. Bone is a cartoony style completely divorced from Stevens’ own painstaking methods, but suits Langridge’s lighthearted old-school flair.

That name again: The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror. Ask your local comic shop for it by name, especially if Nick and Nora’s two-page scene in #1 signifies a supporting role in the entire miniseries, not merely an extended but isolated cameo. I’ll admit to disappointment if we don’t see them in issues two through four; either way, it was nice to revisit these two old friends for a bit, even though they forgot to bring Asta with them.


2 responses

  1. I also loved this comic – J. Bone may draw my favourite Betty ever. I honestly didn’t think IDW could top the team of Waid/Samnee, but boy, Landridge is the perfect choice for writing a ROCKETEER story. Great review!


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