Rocket Raccoon’s origins are not for the faint of heart, nor are they common knowledge among even dedicated readers of Marvel Comics. The publication of Rocket Raccoon comics was sporadic at best until 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy made him into an A-lister, so there’s surprisingly little continuity behind the character - despite him having been around for decades. And what continuity does exist is about as weird as it gets.
Rocket’s backstory has been hinted at in in the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but his actual origin story didn't become a key touchstone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe until Vol. 3, the third and final installment in the series. While the MCU origin is about as tragic as it gets, Rocket’s history in the Guardians comics follows a more winding route that includes toy factories, a cosmic asylum for the mad, and a bounty of other incidents that would be too bizarre to translate to the big screen. Of course, his comic book canon also contains some of the greatest Guardians of the Galaxy stories ever told.
An Early Character Named 'Rocky Raccoon' Isn’t Tied To The Origin Of Rocket
The true first appearance of Rocket in Marvel Comics is somewhat debatable. A character named “Rocky Raccoon” adventures alongside Prince Wayfinder in 1976’s Marvel Preview #7 written by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Keith Giffen.
The angry, cigar-chomping Rocky bears a striking similarity to the modern Rocket, but he’s technically a distinct character and not a part of official Marvel canon. Six years later, Bill Mantlo - head writer for Incredible Hulk - re-invented Rocky to fold him into mainstream continuity.
Rocket Starts His Journey As A Therapy Animal In A Planet-Sized Cosmic Asylum
Rocket’s home planet is named Halfworld, and it has a complex history. As a world within the Keystone Quadrant, Halfworld was settled by the unnamed group of humanoids that populate that sector of space. They came to Halfworld intent on building an asylum to treat the litany of mentally ill individuals apparently present in their interplanetary population.
A number of Earth-like species are native to Halfworld, and so the original settlers - known colloquially as “Shrinks” - put them to work as therapy animals for the patients. The creature that would become Rocket starts his life in such a capacity and without any of the trademark wit and intellect that would one day define him.
The People Behind The Asylum Abandoned Their Patients To The Care Of Robots, Who Eventually Bail As Well
Little is known about the interplanetary civilization that built the enormous asylum on Halfworld, only that their funding was cut at some point and they were forced to abandon their project. But rather than shutting up shop completely, the Shrinks left their planet of patients in the care of robot psychiatrists.
The robots eventually become independently intelligent and move to the other side of the planet to completely industrialize it, leading to the two-toned appearance that gives Halfworld its name.
The Halfworld Robots Genetically Modify Therapy Animals To Serve As Caretakers
Before abandoning their job as caretakers, the now-sentient robots take the time to ensure the asylum's inhabitants are looked after. They do this by using genetic engineering to experiment on the patients’ therapy animals, granting them greater intelligence, awareness, and physical capabilities.
Though the former therapy animals now possess intellect roughly on par with human beings, they aren't left with much information upon which to build their culture and civilization. The Halfworlders are forced to base their entire existence around the role they were created for - taking care of patients and maintaining the peace on their half of the planet.
The Experiments Performed On Rocket Are Horrific, But They Grant Him Greater Intelligence
Given the light and fun nature of Rocket’s early adventures, it’s not difficult to understand why the exact details of the genetic experiments that grant him his intelligence are kept off-page. Subsequent references to his origins, however, hint at a dark truth.
Rocket has frequently described these experiments as painful, and one can only imagine the potential trauma of having one’s sentience suddenly expanded. The genetic tampering performed on Rocket by the Halfworld robots is, of course, mostly responsible for his surly attitude toward the rest of the universe’s inhabitants.
Rocket Hones His Skills In A Toy Factory
After spending their whole lives as therapy animals, Rocket and his fellow Halfworlders become responsible for a planet full of psychiatric patients, with no clear instructions as to how best to care for them. Rocket and the others put their newfound intellect to work by constructing factories in which to build “toys” - high-tech gadgets designed to entertain and pacify the patients.
It's in these toy factories that Rocket hones the engineering skills that will eventually make him the creator of some of the finest tools of destruction in the galaxy.