Publication information
Publisher Pacific Comics
Eclipse Comics
Comico Comics
Dark Horse Comics
IDW Publishing
First appearance

Starslayer #1 (cameo)
(February 1982)

Starslayer #2 (full)
(April 1982)
Created by Dave Stevens[1]
In-story information
Alter ego Cliff Secord
Abilities Flight via jetpack
Above-average athlete
Highly skilled pilot and marksman

The Rocketeer is a fictional character, a superhero created by writer-illustrator Dave Stevens. The character first appeared in 1982 and is a homage to the Saturday matinee serial heroes of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.[2]

The Rocketeer is Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who discovers a mysterious jetpack that allows him to fly. His adventures are set in 1938 Los Angeles and New York, and Stevens gives them a retro, nostalgic feel influenced by the King of the Rocket Men movie serial, the syndicated Commando Cody TV series (both from Republic Pictures), and pinup diva Bettie Page.[3]

In 1991 The Rocketeer was released as a feature film by Walt Disney Pictures and was directed by Joe Johnston. Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens has a small cameo in the film as the German test pilot who dies when the Nazi version of a rocket backpack explodes during take-off, this a part of stolen, then smuggled black-and-white film footage of Nazi top secret rocket backpack testing.


In 1938 Los Angeles, Cliff Secord, a local racing pilot and barnstormer, discovers a mysterious package hidden by two gangsters, who were fleeing the police. In that package Cliff finds what the police were looking for: a stolen rocket-pack prototype.

Rocketeer references to other works

The Rocketeer makes a great number of references to pop culture from the 1930s to the 1950s. The first storyline, "The Rocketeer" features characters from the Doc Savage pulp series, though Stevens takes care not to refer to any of the characters — including Doc Savage himself — by name, so as not to violate copyright and incur a licensing fee for use of the characters. "Cliff's New York Adventure" similarly features unnamed characters from The Shadow pulp magazine series, including the Shadow's famous alter ego, Lamont Cranston.

Besides pulp characters, actors of the 1940s and 1950s have also visually inspired two characters: Lothar, the villain in "Cliff's New York Adventure", is based on the likeness of acromegalic horror movie star Rondo Hatton;[4][5] and Cliff Secord's girlfriend Betty is modeled after "Queen of Pinups" Bettie Page.[3]

A "Rocket Man" character, with a near-identical rocket backpack and similar uniform, appeared in four Republic Pictures movie serials from 1949 through 1953. The fourth serial, originally conceived as a syndicated Republic TV series, was first released under contractual obligation to movie houses as a regular multi-chapter theatrical serial; two years later, it was re-cut with new footage and additional music added and finally syndicated on NBC television stations as twelve 25-minute episodes.

The four Republic Rocket Man serials were:

Other influences on the Stevens' character include Buck Rogers, the short-lived comic series Lars of Mars by Jerry Siegel and Murphy Anderson,[7][8] as well as Adam Strange, also inked by Murphy Anderson.

Publication history

The Rocketeer's first adventure appeared in 1982 as a backup feature in issues #2 and #3 of Mike Grell's Starslayer series from Pacific Comics. Two more installments appeared in Pacific's showcase comic Pacific Presents #1 and 2. The fourth chapter ended in a cliffhanger that was later concluded in a special Rocketeer issue released by Eclipse Comics.[9] The complete story was then collected by Eclipse in a single volume titled The Rocketeer (ISBN 1-56060-088-8). It was published in three versions: a trade paperback edition, a trade hardcover, and a signed, limited edition hardcover. Noted fantasy author Harlan Ellison, a fan of the Rocketeer and also an acquaintance of Dave Stevens, wrote the introduction to the collection; both Dave Stevens and Harlan Ellison signed the limited edition on a specially bound-in bookplate.

The story was continued in the Rocketeer Adventure Magazine. Two issues were published by Comico Comics in 1988 and 1989; the third installment did not appear until years later, published in 1995 by Dark Horse Comics. All three issues were then collected by Dark Horse into a glossy trade paperback titled The Rocketeer: Cliff's New York Adventure (ISBN 1-56971-092-9) that quickly went out-of-print.

On February 28, 2009, IDW Publishing announced a hardcover collecting the entire series for the first time, intended to be published in October 2009. Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer, The Complete Adventures contained new coloring by Laura Martin, who had been chosen by Dave Stevens prior to his death.[10] The book appeared in December, two months later than announced, in two versions: A standard trade hardcover edition with full color dust jacket and a second, more lavish, deluxe edition (ISBN 978-1600105371), limited to 3000 hardcover copies. The deluxe edition used different Stevens artwork for its dust jacket and was issued in an illustrated, all color slipcase; it also had full color illustrated endpapers. While the deluxe contains the same Rocketeer comics reprints as the trade edition, it adds more than 130 pages of previously uncollected Rocketeer material: sketches, preliminaries, character designs, script pages, photographs, and original art pages, with commentaries by Dave Stevens and several peers who occasionally assisted him on The Rocketeer. The deluxe edition sold out almost immediately upon publication, but IDW announced a second printing.

IDW debuted the first issue of a brand new Rocketeer comics series, Rocketeer Adventures, in May 2011. Issue #1 featured work from John Cassaday, Mike Allred, Kurt Busiek, and Michael Kaluta, plus pin-ups by Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart, and Jim Silke. The four 2011 issues offered regular and variant cover designs by both Alex Ross and Dave Stevens; various black and white Retailer Incentive variants were also published in limited press runs; several additional variant issues by Jet Pack Comics, featuring recolored Dave Stevens artwork, were also published in limited press runs. To celebrate the launch of this all-new Rocketeer series, IDW's Hundred Penny Press also simultaneously released a $1.00 re-issue of the original The Rocketeer #1 by Dave Stevens, fully remastered and recolored by Eisner-winner Laura Martin. The first four Rocketeer Adventures issues were then collected in 2011 into a hardcover graphic novel, followed by second hardcover graphic novel in 2012 that collected the next four issues: A color Rocketeer title logo was used on the regular retail copies of the graphic novel, plus one additional Retailer Incentive hardcover without a title logo printed on its dust cover; both versions were offered with the same Alex Ross' color artwork.

A second IDW four-issue miniseries of Rocketeer adventures, Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom, began appearing in 2012. Each issue offered a regular retail cover design and one alternate Retailer Incentive cover. In addition publisher Jet Pack Comics issued several additional Retailer Incentive variants with Dave Stevens re-colored artwork reprinted on their covers. The miniseries was then collected into two variant graphic novel hardcovers, one offered with a regular dust jacket, the other without.

A third IDW four-issue miniseries of Rocketeer adventures, Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror, began appearing in late February 2013. As with the previous series, each issue offered a regular retail cover design and one Retailer Incentive alternate cover. The miniseries was then collected into two variant graphic novel hardcovers, one with a regular dust jacket, the other without.

A fourth IDW Rocketeer miniseries, Rocketeer and The Spirit: Pulp Friction, began appearing in the summer of 2013, as another limited four-issue miniseries. As with the two previous miniseries, each issue offered a regular retail cover design and one Retailer Incentive alternate cover. A special San Diego Comic Con International promotional variant issue #1, with a black and white wraparound cover, was offered only at the 2013 convention.

Rocketeer references in popular culture


  • The character Gabe from the Penny Arcade webcomic confuses the term racketeering with rocketeering as both a satirical jab at a recent event and a tribute to the Rocketeer character.[11]
  • Eric Canete's cover for Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin#1 pays homage to the Rocketeer film's Art Deco-style theatrical poster.[12]
  • The webcomic Basic Instructions occasionally features the character "Rocket Hat", who battles the Moon Men,[13] a clear reference to Republic Pictures' original Rocket Man and Commando Cody movie serials that inspired Dave Stevens in creating the Rocketeer.

Video games

  • The first officially licensed Rocketeer game was released on the 8-bit NES console in May 1991. It was an action platforming game published and developed by Bandai, and followed the premise of the movie.[14]
  • Developer NovaLogic released a licensed PC game in December 1991 which was published by Disney Software. NovaLogic went on to port their game to the 16-bit Super Nintendo console in May 1992 with IGS as the publisher. Both versions are a collection of minigames based on the film.
  • In the computer game Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 the Allied Forces have flying infantry units called the Rocketeers.
  • The Capcom video game Dark Void features a jetpack-wielding protagonist and draws heavily from the World War themes of the Rocketeer.
  • The Cinemaware computer game Rocket Ranger is heavily influenced both stylistically and thematically not only by the Rocketeer comic, but also the Commander Cody serials.
  • An iOS game called The Rocketeer (later rereleased as The Rocketeer HD) from Wired Developments Pty Ltd. is unrelated to the Rocketeer comics or film.[15]


  • In the Family Guy episode "420" during the "Bag o' Weed" song, Stewie sings "When stupid people need a thrill, they rent The Rocketeer."


Web series

The Rocketeer film was briefly mentioned in the web series Underbelly during their "Who is the Best James Bond" episode. The series, consisting of Frank Patterson, Shawn Cappel, Newt Wallen, and Justin Silverman, featured Newt Wallen failing to adequately explain how Timothy Dalton was the best James Bond among all the actors who had portrayed the character. Frank, Shawn, and Justin mocked him for choosing Dalton at the last minute. Newt tried, unsuccessfully, to justify his comment by pointing out that Dalton was a good actor in The Rocketeer feature film.


IGN listed the Rocketeer as the 76th Greatest Comic Book Character, stating that the Rocketeer taps into that popular desire to fly; IGN also stated the Rocketeer saga remains a compelling one.[16]



  1. Nelson, Valerie J. "Illustrator created 'Rocketeer' comic." The Los Angeles Times,March 13, 2008. Retrieved: December 17, 2010.
  2. Gustines, George Gene. "Dave Stevens, 52, Artist Who Created the Rocketeer, Dies." The New York Times. March 30, 2008. Retrieved: October 21, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Dave Stevens." Retrieved: October 21, 2010.
  4. "Dr Hermes Retro-Scans: "The Rocketeer" Retrieved: March 12, 2011.
  5. "Rondo Hatton biography." Retrieved: March 12, 2011.
  6. Kelle, Alexandra. "Movie Serials.", 2010. Retrieved: September 10, 2010.
  7. "GCD :: Issue :: Lars of Mars No. 11." Retrieved: September 24, 2012.
  8. Markstein, DOn. "Lars of Mars." Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved: September 24, 2012.
  9. "Dave Stevens: 1955–2008." The Comics Reporter. Retrieved: September 24, 2012.
  10. "IDW Resurrects The Rocketeer." IGN. Retrieved: October 31, 2010.
  11. Penny Arcade! - Our Old Tricks
  12. Best Shots Extra: Cap: The Chosen #1, Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin #1, Ms. Marvel #19 - Newsarama
  13. "Example strip.", February 2010. Retrieved: October 21, 2010
  14. GameFAQs: The Rocketeer (NES)
  15. The Rocketeer HD on iTunes
  16. "The Rocketeer is number 76". IGN. Retrieved May 11, 2011. 


  • Bilson, Danny, Paul De Meo and William Dear. The Rocketeer: Screenplay: S.l. : s.n., dated June 13, 1990.
  • Cotta Vaz, Mark and Patricia Rose Duigna. Industrial Light & Magic: Into the Digital Realm. Hong Kong: Del Rey Books, 1996. ISBN 0-345-38152-1.
  • David, Peter. The Rocketeer Novelization of the Film. New York: Bantam Books, 1991 ISBN 0-553-29322-2

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