On sale this week from IDW Publishing is The Rocketeer Vs. Hollywood Horror #1
, beginning what is only the second-ever full-length Rocketeer
story not written and drawn by Dave Stevens, the visionary cartoonist who back in the 1980s introduced the handsome, impertinent and ferociously jealous stunt pilot-turned-accidental-hero Cliff Seacord and his long-suffering, impossibly beautiful model/actress girlfriend Betty (designed after the iconic pin-up queen Bettie Page). Produced in full cooperation with the late Stevens' estate, the new miniseries by ComicsAlliance favorites Roger Langridge
(Thor: The Mighty Avenger
, The Muppet Show
) and J. Bone
) takes the Rocketeer into both familiar and unfamiliar territory with a possibly supernatural mystery
that draws influence from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The highly expressive, frequently spooky and decidedly sexy tone of Langridge and Bone's Hollywood Horror
is markedly different from IDW's previous long-form Rocketeer effort, the very well regarded, straight-up adventure serial Cargo of Doom
by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, and you can see what you're in for this week in a selection of completed pages below -- which by the way also feature the colors of Jordie Belllaire
and cover artwork by action comics legend Walt Simonson
Set before and during World War II, The Rocketeer stories star Cliff Secord, a young, handsome and broke pilot desperately in love with his model-actress girlfriend Betty. Jealous and insecure, Cliff nearly gets himself killed again and again trying to find some money with which to prove that devotion, and finding an experimental rocket pack only makes things worse for him (but better for us). Truthfully, occasions where The Rocketeer depicts a traditional good vs. evil adventure story are very rare, as most of the time the hero is doing something incredibly foolish and getting rightly punched in the face for his trouble, with poor Betty caught in an endless loop of both worry and fury.
This endearing character dynamic combined with the aesthetically perfect period helped bring out the best in Stevens' talents, and the same is true for the always impressive roster editor Scott Dunbier assembles for each issue of Rocketeer Adventures, what's arguably the most impressive artistic lineup of any recent comic book anthology. IDW's stewardship of Steven's creation eventually gave way to Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's Cargo of Doom
, the first Rocketeer serial not authored by Stevens himself, and now Hollywood Horror.
The new miniseries was first announced here at ComicsAlliance
in the form of an interview with creators Roger Langridge and J. Bone, who offered some early hints about what readers could expect from the latest of IDW's extremely reverent Rocketeer line. An excerpt from that interview:
CA: Stevens suggested a fondness for horror, with his "casting" of vintage horror film star Rondo Hatton as Lothar in the original Rocketeer comics. Does your Hollywood Horror story come from the same well of inspiration?
JB: I'm drawing some of my favorite Hollywood stars of the era. I'm also trying to think of great character actors of the time on whom I can base certain characters.
RL: I'm casting Hollywood figures of the day in certain roles, and there's a horror element, but they're running on parallel tracks in this series, not really meeting up. The horror element is coming more from the pulp tradition, which is another very Rocketeerish well of inspiration.
CA: Is Hollywood Horror at all supernatural? Rocketeer stories are typically terrestrial but J. Bone's fantastic short story with David Mandel in issue #4 of Rocketeer Adventures 2 sent Cliff on an Adam Strange/John Carter-style adventure to another world, so I feel like we shouldn't make any assumptions.
RL: Without wanting to spoil anything, I think I've found a way to have our cake and eat it. There's some apparently eldritch goings-on, but I think we've managed to incorporate them without breaking the rules of the Rocketeer's world. My feeling is that you can probably bend the rules a bit more in a one-off short story than you can in a proper series, so we're walking a fine line, but hopefully we've pulled it off.... and that's all you're getting out of me!
CA: Can you tell us anything about where we find Cliff and Betty in issue 1, and what sets this story in motion? Betty's a model and actress so with a title like Hollywood Horror you have to guess she's got an especially significant part to play.
RL: Oh, yeah, Betty's up to her eyebrows in this story. Things between Cliff and Betty are tense and complicated, as you'd expect (business as usual, in other words!). It's an argument between Cliff and Betty early on that propels her into the story, so that tension is a big part of the narrative engine. It wouldn't be The Rocketeer without her.
Click images to enlarge)
The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #1 goes on sale this Wednesday in finer comics shops and digitally from ComiXology. Two volumes of the anthology series Rocketeer Adventures are on sale now in hardcover and digitally. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's Cargo of Doom is available digitally, with a hardcover release scheduled for this March. And finally, Dave Stevens' original Rocketeer stories are available in a variety of collections from IDW, and digitally as well.