I grew up watching the Disney movie starring Bill Campbell, so that tends to be what I think of when I hear The Rocketeer—and I doubt I’m the only one. However, before it was a movie, it was a comic. Debuting in 1982 (40 years ago), it was a tribute to the movie serials of the 1940s. I’ve always been peripherally aware of the comic’s existence, but I’ve never actually read it.
Fortunately, you don’t need to have read the original to appreciate “The Great Race.” If you’ve at least seen the movie, the premise and characters are basically the same. (If you haven’t seen the movie, then see the movie. It’s great.) Hotshot stunt pilot Cliff Secord straps an engine to his back that allows him to fly. As The Rocketeer, he fights the Nazis with the help of his girlfriend, Betty (Jenny in the movie), and his friend and mechanic, Peevy.
In this story arc, after one too many close calls, Cliff is finally ready to hang up his rocket for good and settle down with Betty. Then, he’s contacted by an eccentric billionaire inventor (whose name is not Howard Hughes), with a dangerous and potentially lucrative opportunity—not for the Rocketeer, but for stunt pilot Cliff.
It seems there’s going to be an epic, international airplane race, from California to Paris, and billionaire Delton Nkosi wants Cliff to enter and fly the state-of-the-art new plane Nkosi has just developed. (I swear, it’s not Howard Hughes!) Meanwhile, a cadre of Nazis is operating, experimenting, and generally doing evil, at a secret hideout in California.
The story is a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. It also makes me really curious to read the original comics. Particularly since the last 10 pages of this issue feature an oral history of the comic and how it came to be. Honestly, the comic would be worth reading for that alone.
Whether or not you’ve read the original comic, if you’re a fan of The Rocketeer, you’ll enjoy “The Great Race.” It’s filled with high flying, Nazi-fighting adventure that’s almost impossible not to like.
Creative Team: Stephen Mooney (story and art), Len O’Grady (colors), Shawn Lee (letters and design), Nicolas Niño (assistant editor), and Scott Dunbier (editor)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
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