Even as IDW Publishing debuted "Rocketeer: The Artist's Edition" at Comic-Con International in San Diego, an oversized book that reproduces creator Dave Stevens' linework for the entire series, the publisher also announced that next year it will publish a four-issue anthology series of new Rocketeer stories. Covers will be painted by Alex Ross, and each issue will include three tales by some of comics' top talent. CBR News spoke with editor Scott Dunbier about the upcoming title.
Stevens' "The Rocketeer," published sporadically throughout the 1980s and '90s, told the story of Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who discovers a jetpack in 1938 Los Angeles. His retro-styled adventures saw Cliff keeping the jetpack from falling into the wrong hands, some of which belong to gangsters and Nazis. Discussing the enduring appeal of "Rocketeer," Dunbier said, "I think it hearkens back to a simpler time, but it's all about flying, and dreaming of flying, and love of flight. Cliff Secord is a pilot and he finds this jetpack and I mean, kids dream about finding a jetpack or being able to fly. I just think it's one of those natural things that people gravitate towards.
"It's really a pleasure and a privilege to be working on a book like this and to have the opportunity to do something with this character, a character that I literally grew up with and loved since I was a teenager."
Following IDW's recent efforts to bring Stevens' "Rocketeer" back into print in a number of formats, Dunbier said that continuing the hero's adventures in a new series "really just felt like a natural progression." "We had done the regular collection with corrected coloring, we had done the deluxe edition with 130 extra pages, sketches and preliminaries - which, by the way, is going to be offered again in the October Previews catalogue, it's going into a second printing. Then with the Artist Edition coming out, to give the ultimate collection for an art fan and art collector, which is as close as you can get to Dave's original art. [The anthology] really was the next step in the project of 'The Rocketeer.'"
Dunbier said "The Rocketeer" will be a standard-sized comic with three stories per issue plus pin-ups. "We're going to start out with a four issue miniseries and then see where we go from there. There's some pretty decent people who are lending their talents to it so far."
Those "decent people" include Mike Allred, Kurt Busiek, John Cassaday, Darwyn Cooke, Michael Golden, Gene Ha, Michael Kaluta, Garry Leach, Bruce Timm, Bill Willingham, and more. "Mike Allred is writing and drawing his, Kurt Busiek is writing a story for Michael Kaluta, John Cassaday and Darwyn Cooke are both writing and drawing their stories," Dunbier said. "There will be some pin-ups by Geoff Darrow, Art Adams, Jeff Campbell, Mike Mignola, a bunch of different guys."
On the topic of assembling this all-star line up, Dunbier confessed that "Rocketeer" is "one of those books that is not hard to talk people into doing." "The Rocketeer is one of those characters like Batman - everybody wants to do a Batman story. I would hope that we would be able to come as close as 'Batman Black and White' in just doing big stories. Really, 'Batman Black and White' is the superhero anthology book to measure others against."
This will not, though, be the first time creators other than Stevens have worked on this character. "A lot of people think that Dave did all of 'The Rocketeer,' but if you look at the books, there are some 'special thanks' to several artists who helped out," Dunbier said. "In the first story in 'The Rocketeer,' Jaime Hernandez worked on a page with Dave, and in the second book there are a number of pages that were laid out by Michael Kaluta, Art Adams, Sandy Plunket penciled a couple pages, Gary Gianni had a couple pages in there. A bunch of different guys have worked on 'The Rocketeer' with Dave, but most people aren't aware of it. Dave definitely loved collaboration in that way."
The return of Stevens' classic hero and the talent involved might make "The Rocketeer" an enticing comic, but buying each issue will also contribute to a worthy cause."Dave Stevens died at the age of 52 after battling leukemia for a number of years. One of the things that was very important to Dave's mother, Carolyn, was that this be a book where a portion of the profits would go directly to Hairy Cell Leukemia research," Dunbier said. "That's something that we, with the estate, are making happen, and with the cooperation of the creators involved, as well."