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Why Rocket Raccoon Is Marvel’s Most Important Character

He didn’t ask to get made. He didn’t ask to be torn apart and put back together, over and over, and turned into some little monster. That said, we’re glad someone took the initiative. Because there ain’t no thing like Rocket Raccoon — except Rocket Raccoon.

At first glance, everything about “Guardians of the Galaxy” is unlikely. Marvel’s biggest surprise hit comes courtesy of five heroes who even some of the most regular comic book readers barely knew anything about prior to 2014, or, more generously, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s run in 2008. It centers on a wisecracking rogue (nothing all that new for Marvel there), a giant green guy with rage issues (again, we’re on message), a deadly and beautiful assassin (still good), and …

…a talking raccoon and his talking tree pal.

Yes, it still sounds weird, even all these months later. And yet, it worked. There wasn’t quite as much pressure on Groot (all he has to do is stand still, look pretty, and say three lines over and over again) as there was on Rocket. In a very real way, Rocket is the heart of “Guardians.” He’s a genetically modified raccoon with a trash-talking attitude, and a shoot-first-ask-questions-never policy toward every mission at hand — and yet, he nurses a secret soft side, a wounded animal in the truest sense.

Rocket has to be funny, tough and endearing all at once… and, most importantly, he has to be a raccoon. Not easy.

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Credit James Gunn’s writing, Sean Gunn’s on-set performance, Bradley Cooper’s post-production voice work, or just the sight gag alone. However you want to slice it, Rocket Raccoon is a total winner, and easily Marvel’s unlikeliest success story.

And that makes him Marvel’s most important character at the moment, too. Because if Marvel can make it work with Rocket, they can make anyone work. Put another way: Rocket means there are no more excuses.

Back in 2012, Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito told me that making “Black Panther” was a daunting prospect, because creating the fictional nation of Wakanda would be “difficult.” One day later, Marvel announced “Guardians of the Galaxy,” set entirely in space and starring a talking raccoon.

Yeah, pretty much that.

But when a scenery-chewing space-critter like Rocket resonates with moviegoers across the planet, it means that anything is possible in Marvel’s hands, as long as they’re willing to give it a shot. “Black Panther,” as well as “Captain Marvel,” were far, far overdue, but Rocket (and “Guardians” at large) deserves some credit for giving Marvel the confidence to finally do the right thing and make those movies happen.

Rocket’s not just some weird little gag of a character. He’s a great character, and he’s an important character. That’s why he is, and forever shall be, our booty.

INNERSPACE CLIPS