In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.
Name: Michael Rooker
Notable Work: Notable Works: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Cliffhanger, Days of Thunder, The Sixth Day, Jumper, The Walking Dead (TV Series), Guardians of the Galaxy
[Interview on Merle Dixon’s Death and Departure from The Walking Dead]
EW Interviewer: What was your reaction when you got the news?
ROOKER: You really want to know my real reaction?
EW: Give it to me!
ROOKER: My honest to God true reaction was THANK F—ING GOD I DON’T HAVE TO WEAR THAT STUPID F—ING ARM ANY MORE!
Thanks to his portrayal of the infamous Merle Dixon on AMC’s The Walking Dead Rooker has gathered quite the following – more on his TWD influence later. You may be surprised to learn that Rooker has been working the silver screen for almost 30 years now. His initial debut to film was the lead role in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. He portrayed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas who was convicted on several counts of murder in the 80’s. Highly acclaimed for his performance, Rooker established himself as a type-cast bad guy. Roles such as Hal Tucker in Cliffhanger and Robert Marshall in The 6th Day showcase his tendencies for evil and no-good.
If you’re a bit fuzzy on your 90’s action thrillers (like me), fret not! Our generation need look no further than the ruthlessness and cruelty of Merle Dixon to experience the genius villainy of Rooker. For those of you unfamiliar with TWD (first of all – shame on you!), Merle Dixon is a zombie apocalypse survivor. From the moment we first meet Merle he becomes an automatic candidate for most hated survivor. That’s pretty powerful considering that this happens in the series’ pilot. What’s even more impressive is how Rooker was able to evolve Merle’s character as the show progressed. Viewer relationship went from hate to love-hate in almost no time. By the time Merle made his dramatic departure from the living and joined the ranks of reanimated dead, viewers had become so invested in his character that was downright saddening to see him leave the show. The droves of followers and TWD fans that jumped on the Rooker band wagon is testament enough to how cool this guy is. “I just love every part of working on The Walking Dead and developing this character… I enjoyed the hell out of it,” says Rooker on his role as Merle.
Though Rooker’s resume is extensive and growing still, there is a certain significance to his role on TWD. Something easily forgot is that Merle was not an original comic book character. Nearly every pivotal character in the show must attribute their origins to the workings of Robert Kirkman and Imagine Comics. Merle is a self-made character and even after leaving the show fans continue to site the significance of this individual as the show progresses.
Rooker’s TWD role looks to be just a warm up round for this super star’s career. His newest project has landed him in the Marvel Universe. He’ll be playing the role of Yondu, the Centauri mystic, in The Guardians of the Galaxy movie scheduled to hit theaters this August. Out of the norm for Michael, Yondu is a good guy – fighting for the Guardians and not against them! “I’m very much looking forward to the end product… I’m crazy happy to be involved with these guys [at Marvel],” exclaims Rooker in an interview. In a day and age where superhero movies all but set the standard for the action and adventure genre, portraying a renowned comic book character is pretty much success incarnate.
Rooker’s on the rise and he’s not slowing down. In fact, he been on a steady climb since the beginning. He’s achieved this by remaining versatile in his work. In addition to his headline roles in movies and blockbusters, he’s done a ton of feature work on numerous TV shows as well as voice work for video games and animated series. This guy doesn’t slow down. Jumping from one convention to another, scoping his next role, perfecting his already impressive craft, Rooker is an exemplary model of what it means to be dedicated and determined. For the better part of three decades he’s been cast as a supporting actor and after continued input he’s seeing results all aspiring stars aim for.
Rooker makes himself even more lovable by staying humble and thankful. He frequently describes his opportunities as “beautiful” and states that he’s “lucky” to get to work with talented actors, directors and staff. Add loving father and husband to the list of things he’s great at and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything to dislike. The entirety of entertainment medium is enhanced by his contributions and general demeanor towards all things nerd. Hush is thrilled he’ll be gracing Denver with his presence at DCC this June.
None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties. Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con as we spotlight long-time Whedonverse comic book artist, Georges Jenty.