No scrap of IP goes wasted at Disney and they’ve dusted off The Rocketeer, Dave Stevens’ classic pulp-inspired character, with a projected reboot that will star a black female heroine. Max Winkler and Matt Spicer have been hired to develop a script, and Brigham Taylor (The Jungle Book) is producing this along with Blake Griffin of the L.A. Clippers and Ryan Kalil of the Carolina Panthers. Maybe as in line with recent new black characters at Marvel and DC, the new Rocketeer will be a WNBA star?
The new take keeps the story in a period setting and offers a fresh view on the characters. Set six years after the original Rocketeer and after Secord has vanished while fighting the Nazis, an unlikely new hero emerges: a young African–American female pilot, who takes up the mantle of Rocketeer in an attempt to stop an ambitious and corrupt rocket scientist from stealing jetpack technology in what could prove to be a turning point in the Cold War.
The original Rocketeer film came out in 1991 and starred Bill Campbell and Jennifer Connelly. Directed by Joe Johnstone (Captain America) is was a charming throwback film that showcased classic pulp themes such as a damsel in distress and a can-do tinkerer who builds a flying pack. Not a big hit when it came out, it has become something of a cult favorite. The movie was based on Dave Stevens’ creator owned comics that were published by Pacific and Eclipse (later Dark Horse and IDW) and included such pulp references as a heroine who looked just like pin-up star Bettie Page. And of course the gorgeous Bulldog Cafe:
Stevens died in 2008. He was a good friend of mine, and I’m pretty sure he’s rolling over in his grave right now. Not because he’s a racist or a sexist but because The Rocketeer was created explicitly as a celebration of white male fantasy and based on nostalgia for that. Pretty simple. He also sold his baby to the wolves though – that Disney was making a film based on an indie comic was considered a triumph for creator owned comics back in the day – and he’d roll his eyes and sigh if he was still here. I just wish he was still here, eye rolling or no.
All that said, times change, people want different heroes, and the white male pulp tradition is no longer the only thing that matters. The Rocketeer has been retro since it was created and maybe it’s time to move on. Whatever this concept ends up being, while it could be connected to the characters origin it will need to explicitly rework that. It’s a shame that Disney can’t just develop a movie about a black female hero, but hanging this on existing IP seems to be the only way to go.
This news literally just broke, so I’ll be watching the outrage on both sides and rolling my eyes.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.