Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #187 by Drew Barth
In the 2010s, there was a resurgence of pulp characters. From Doc Savage teaming up with Batman to The Phantom having his own ongoing series, nostalgia for older heroes came back in force, then kind of disappeared. Some publishers still put out reinventions of the pulps of the past, but the medium’s zeitgeist quickly changed and those stories were quietly forgotten. And yet there’s still one pulp—in a newspaper strip format no less—that predated much of that pulp craze by being completely original: Frank Espinosa and Marie Taylor’s Rocketo.
Rocketo is the story of the titular Rocketo Garrison and his adventures as a Mapper in a shattered world not unlike our own. After an alien attack that nearly wiped out all life on Earth, the remnants created new species of people that could thrive and rebuild: earth men, bird men, fish men, and the Mappers. Those Mappers would help navigate the new oceans that had opened up between devastated continents and help rebuild. Rocketo was one of those Mappers before a great war left his mapping abilities dulled to the point of uselessness. But he can still read a map and that’s all that’s needed to help navigate the Hidden Sea that has swallowed all who had dared venture into its deadly waves. It is, of course, pure pulp via 2006 with Espinosa’s kinetic art that brings to mind the best concept art for an adventure film that would never be produced.
Normally, I put a link to the comic’s publisher in the opening so readers can navigate to it and see if they want to try it for themselves. But we can’t do that with Rocketo. Even though Image published this title, it doesn’t have a page on their website anymore. The best you can find is used bookstores and even then half of them are sold out. And it’s odd. It’s available digitally, but Comixology likely isn’t going to remain a long-term solution for digital work. So what do we do with comics like Rocketo and the dozens, if not hundreds more, that kind of just slipped through the modern cracks? Is there even anything we can do for them? There are incredible series like Rocketo out there, but as this is one that remains unfinished, how long until these few volumes are the only thing that remains?
Maybe this is the fate of pulp comics? Their original newsprint would break down after long enough, or just disintegrate in the rain, and those stories would end up lost for good. But there’s something about pulp that remains in our minds long after we’ve finished reading them. The stories themselves are never the end as their characters can just continue. The strength of pulp is on their titular characters. Rocketo is in that league already—the name and the action brings to mind hundreds of stories of adventure, peril, and a new world. But all we have is twelve issues.
Get excited. Get pulpy.