The Rocketeer Returns… to Comics

The latest flight of Cliff Secord and crew is the real McCoy

So sue me. I am a Rocketeer fan, tried and true. So, when I realized on Easter Sunday (no comic shops open) that there was a new The Rocketeer book to be had, this “finhead” took to Kindle. And folks, I was impressed.

But first, a little background for those in the back…

Image: IDW

The Rocketeer, originally a comic book homage to the 1950s “Commander Cody” serials, was created by Dave Stevens in the 1980s. Stevens took the “rocket man cliffhanger” concept, made it cooler, pitted our hero against Nazis, added Bettie Page (yes, that Bettie Page), and the rest is comic book history.

Different than the Movie

Image: Disney+

And it was almost Disney history, too.

Until not too long ago, there were many Rocketeer references throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios (nee Disney’s MGM Studios, and you can still find Cliffy’s helmet and rocket pack at Peavey’s Polar Pipeline). However, despite the film’s cult status — and The Rocketeer’s footprints in front of the Chinese Theater — it did not win the heart of the masses, at least it didn’t back in 1991.

Despite it all, today, the legend lives on, and now IDW has a new Rocketeer comic in print – “The Great Race.” And this version of the character feels more like the original concepts created by Stevens.

Rocketeer Month

IDWpublishing.com explained:

This April, IDW invites pulp adventure fans on a trans-Atlantic journey in The Rocketeer: The Great Race! A brand-new four-issue comic book miniseries commemorating 40 years of Dave Stevens’ iconic hero, The Great Race soars to stratospheric storytelling heights courtesy of New York Times bestselling writer/artist Stephen Mooney!

“In The Great Race, stunt pilot Cliff Secord returns to a West Coast steeped in paranoia over the looming war in Europe,” added the publisher. “Having finally had enough of his near-death scrapes from him as the high-flying Rocketeer, the only thing in Cliff’s crosshairs is a prestigious, winner-take-all air race that runs from California to France! Maybe it’s finally time to smarten up and fly straight… by taking his best girl Betty to Paris!

“But other parties want to win the race for their own nefarious ends, and Cliff will need to decide which prize is truly the most valuable of all.”

First Issue Fun

Cliffy and Bettie in the current comic. Image: IDW.

The first issue immediately drops comic finheads into familiar territory. And Disney fans will also find a familiar (if a bit harder-edged) Cliff Secord flying overhead.

However, the main difference for those who watched the film version is Cliffy’s love interest. Instead of the more wholesome Jenny, Betty certainly jumps off the page (pun intended), as do the traditional action sequences, which pit ol’ Cliff in the familiar position of fighting Axis agents and would-be suitors to his beautiful girlfriend.

Never mind that a Howard Hughes stand-in wants to sponsor our hero to pilot an experimental aircraft from Pecoima to Paris.

Jenny and Cliffy in the movie. Image: Disney.

The art harkens back to Steven’s style, which is much more intricate than you might expect and resembles the more dramatic fare found in newspaper comics throughout the 20th Century.

And with good reason, Stevens, The Rocketeer’s creator, worked on the Star Wars newspaper serials.

Moreover, the first issue includes the first section of “Dave Stevens: An Oral History of The Rocketeer.”

Keeping in mind the themes and art are PG-13, the book and the series are well worth your time.

Meanwhile, since we haven’t heard bubkus recently about The Rocketeer reboot, this comic serial keeps them flying.

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