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Retro Futurists Blog

The Rocketeer Flies Again!

Created in 1982 by Dave Stevens, The Rocketeer first appeared as a backup feature in the Starslayer comic published by Pacific Comics. The adventures continued in Pacific Presents and concluded in a separate Rocketeer special printed by Eclipse Comics. They were later released as a collection named ‘The Rocketeer’ and it soon garnered enough fans to create a cult following. Since then there have been several follow up series, the latest released in 2015 by IDW Publishing.

The story follows a pilot and aerial stuntman named Cliff Secord who discovers a mysterious jetpack abandoned by gangsters as they fled the police. Set in Los Angeles 1938, Dave Stevens’ nostalgic yet modern take on movie serials of the 1930s-1950s such as King of Rocket Men and Commando Cody helped establish the decopunk theme that the series is known for.

In 1991 The Rocketeer, a film based on the series was produced by Disney and released in cinemas worldwide. Directed by Joe Johnston who is known for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Jumanji, it was hoped that the film could be Disney’s next big franchise, perhaps reaching a similar popularity to the Indiana Jones films. It was envisioned as the first part of a trilogy and several actors were even contracted for more films. The film was reasonably well reviewed however its reception at the box office was rather frosty. The ranked at #4 on its opening weekend and grossed a total of $46.7 million with a budget of $35 million. This teamed with a poor relationship between Johnston and the studio put an end to any further films, at least for the time being.  

Finally, after two and a half decades news came that we may see The Rocketeer return to the big screen, albeit a different take on the character. In 2016 Disney announced that they had begun developing ‘The Rocketeers’, a sequel set six years after the first film in which the title character Cliff Secord is nowhere to be found. A young African-American female pilot must take up the mantle in order to prevent a corrupt rocket scientist from stealing the jetpack technology during the cold war. Max Winkler and Matt Spicer were reportedly hired to pen a script for the film, however two years on there has been no further news from the production.

Though reports of the movie may be sparse, Disney Junior announced this year that they will create an animated series with a similar premise. The series revolves around a girl named Kat who receives The Rocketeers jetpack for her birthday. The series will be aimed at children between two and seven years old, meaning it perhaps won’t scratch the itch of the older Rocketeer fans.

It’s possible at this point that the plans for the new movie are dead in the water; the lack of news is not promising after all. It’s also possible that they decided to use the concept of the movie for the series instead, seeing that the basis of the two is virtually the same. That being said the movie is still slated for a 2019 release, so who knows what lies ahead. Either way The Rocketeer will be taking to the skies soon and surely that is good thing.