Rick & Morty is the hilarious (and beloved) animated series on Adult Swim from Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. Come this April 1st, it will also be a comic series from Oni Press. Zac Gorman (Costume Quest, Magical Game Time), the writer of the new series, was happy to answer some questions about his new project AND send over some preview art from issue 1.
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1. Initiative Is Important.
Topless Robot: How did you come to Rick & Morty?
Zac Gorman: …What happened was I got an email from Oni when they were trying to acquire the property, and I had worked with them before and they actually asked me initially if I wanted to do like, covers for the book or something and I was like “well actually, I would love to write it.” And so I just went ahead without them asking, and I wrote up about a dozen show ideas that were just quick synopses – like two sentence, A and B of episodes I would put out there (issues, episodes whatever). And so I sent those over to them and they forwarded them over to the network and Justin Roiland and stuff. And when they got a look at it they loved it, so then I was just brought on as writer.
TR: Awesome. How closely with the show guys are you working?
ZG: I send…all the stuff I do gets sent over to them for approval, but I don’t have a lot of direct interaction with them. So it’s all sort of mitigated between Oni, really. I don’t have much direct contact with them. They’re pretty hands off, which is cool but they do put their stamp on everything.
TR: So no sneak peeks on season 2 for us?
ZG: I’ve actually read all of the scripts on season 2. :laughs: Which is terrible, as a fan it was fucking awful because I had to spoil every episode. So they didn’t want me to copy…basically, the worry was don’t do anything that’s too similar to an episode. And so they sent me all the scripts. I actually saved two of them, two of them I didn’t read, but I read pretty much all the episodes of season 2, so I actually know everything that’s going to happen already.
TR: Oh man.
ZG: Unfortunately, really! I’d rather not.
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2. The Comic Is As Tightly Packed As They Can Make It.
TR: I know. There’s…even going back to it, I went back to the DVD to prep for the interview, and even going back to it there’s still stuff in there, that…it’s such a dense show…
ZG: Oh yeah.
TR: …and there are so many references and so many jokes hidden under jokes hidden under jokes that it’s kind of rewarding for so many rewatchings. Is there pressure to pack the comic as tightly as the show is?
ZG: Yeah, you know, it’s really difficult because of the format change to a comic, it’s really basically impossible to fit an episode that feels like a Rick & Morty episode into one issue. So I’ve had to sort of spread it out amongst multiple issues. Each issue isn’t like, a totally self contained episode. I’m doing like, a five-issue arc is what I’m signed on to do right now, and they all sort of tie together. although some of them are a little more of a stand-alone, but they still all kind of bleed into the next one. So it feels a little bit like, the first two sort of feel like a two part episode, across the first three issues, I mean. The first feels almost like a two-parter. It’s a little bit bigger than an episode, but yeah because they’re so densely packed, it’s difficult to fit an entire episode into one issue.
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3. It’s a Team Effort.
TR: Coming back to you for a second, a lot of the stuff that you’ve done in the past has been solo – you writing and drawing your own…a lot of the webcomic and Costume Quest. How much of a change is it going to working with a partner?
ZG: I actually like it. You know, I am used to drawing my own stuff, but you know, when we started talking about this book at first, it became really clear that they wanted it very on-model. They really wanted it to look like the show, and I am terrible at drawing on-model, so I was definitely not the right guy, from the very beginning. So CJ [Cannon], who is the artist on the book, is doing an amazing job of staying on model. And so I write the scripts, I still do layouts, so I’ll like, super rough sketch in a page layout because that’s just how I have to write a comic. I don’t know how to write, like, I hate writing scripts. It’s not that I don’t know how; I hate writing scripts. So I write a page by sort of drawing it and just laying it out really roughly and then CJ makes it look awesome. It’s been a good relationship so far.
4. GIF Is Still Pronounced With a Hard “G.”
TR: A lot of your work has been kind of motion comics, too. A lot of the web stuff is animated GIFs [Author’s note: I said “GIF” not “jif”] to indicate motion rather than like, the traditional Understanding Comics, here’s a panel transition way. How was the adjustment from that to the static, printed page been, and has the web style informed how you structure the story?
ZG: Well really, I think the web stuff with the animated GIFs [Author’s note: so did he EAT A DICK NOAH WEBSTER] and all of that was sort of, it was really sort of like an afterthought in my process, because I’m sort of most familiar with just sort of your traditional comics anyway. So and I mean and I’ve been working more and more on print stuff, so it didn’t really feel unnatural, it didn’t feel like much of a change for me. I don’t know, I guess I didn’t really find it problematic, or anything. I always thought the motion was sort of an add on, really. Sort of a special feature that I just got to do with web stuff.
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5. Morty’s a Great Straight Man, but He’s Also Just a Great Character in His Own Right.
TR: Coming back to the show a little bit, Morty’s kind of the eternal straight man, while Rick is a sadistic sociopath, like The Odd Couple if Oscar was OK with light torture.
TR: How much are you filling that in? How much are you playing with that, how much are you kind of, are there plans to subvert the character roles a little bit occasionally? Because that did occasionally happened with the show, too.
ZG: Yeah, I mean, I actually kind of, Morty is a straight man, but he’s also a really interesting character to me. He’s a really funny character to me, because he’s so unbelievably nebbishy and sort of like, I don’t know. :laughs: I actually really like writing jokes for Morty. Rick is easier to write jokes for, or easier to make funny I should say, whereas Morty it always feels, like, more engaging figuring out how he would actually respond to a situation. His sort of panickiness is kind of funny anyway, but yeah, it’s interesting in general trying to write in the voice of Justin Roiland and the show writers. One of the things for both characters that I found that was interesting that I started doing a lot is just trying to get their, like, the way they deliver a line is really important. I end up writing in a lot of Rick’s burps, and I write in a lot of their stuttering, and just sort of trying to hear the characters saying that in your head, that helps a lot for writing for any of the characters.
TR: Yeah, It’s like writing comedy for another person.
ZG: Yeah, I’m hearing it in Justin Roiland’s voice when I’m writing their dialogue. And it actually makes it really easy to write dialogue for.
TR: Is it difficult putting your own voice into those clearly defined voices?
ZG: I guess it’s something I don’t really think about. I’m mostly just trying to write really good Rick & Morty stuff, and I think it probably inherently is going to have my voice on it. At least I hope a little of that gets through. But really when I write it, I’m just trying to write what I think would be a really good Rick & Morty comic. I’m trying to keep it pretty honest, as honest as I can to the show.
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6. “Schmuck” Is the Best Description Of Jerry I’ve Ever Heard.
TR: Who’s your identification character?
ZG: Oh, uh, I want to say Rick, but I’m way more of a Jerry probably in real life :laughs: Which is like the saddest thing to say, because he’s like, the biggest loser on the show, probably. But he’s like, so, you know, he tries way too hard, and he’s just, I don’t know. I feel like there’s just so much Jerry in everyone, if they’re really honest with themselves, if they look at themselves in the mirror that everyone kind of sees a lot of their Jerry. Maybe it’s just my pessimistic view of myself, but that’s what, you know.
TR: The ego on top of, the ego in the places where you’re most incompetent.
ZG: :laughs: Sure, yeah, he is really egotistical too. He’s just such a schmuck, such a failure. He’s really funny, though. I love Jerry.
7. Summer Has a Bigger Role in the Second Season.
TR: How about Summer? Rick and Morty are definitely the focus of the show, but I feel like Summer had the best non-Rick [or]Morty lines.
ZG: Yeah, and I don’t think it’s spoiling anything, but Summer is a larger part of the show going forward and in general, I think she’s sort of, her character took a little bit of a back seat in a lot of the season 1 stuff and that’s kind of changing a little bit. And it’s interesting because it’s changing kind of currently, and so I’m trying to put some of that change into the comics as well. She gets more interesting as the show progresses, I’ll say that much.
TR: Yeah, she got her own, that whole Ray Bradbury/Stephen King episode was really a Summer show.
ZG: Yeah, so I think her personality is really coming along. I think she’s becoming more of a stand alone character as opposed to a background prop. I feel like she kind of started out that way.
TR: I feel like a lot of the filling in of the background happened kind of later in the show because the whole premise of it was “let’s shit all over Back to the Future.”
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8. There Is at Least One Scene Where Someone Gets Covered in Dildos.
TR: Costume Quest in particular is very all ages. Rick & Morty‘s gone suuuuuuuuuper dark in the past. How difficult is it or how different is it going from writing about kids fighting candy stealing goblins to writing about kids hiding giant seeds in their rectums to sneak them through interdimensional customs?
ZG: Well, I think actually the sort of darker stuff, it comes a little more naturally to me. I mean, that was always my sort of humor. With the kids’ stuff, I feel like even with kids’ books, like, growing up, I was more into like the Roald Dahl stuff than the Disney stuff that was too clean cut. I always liked kind of weird, kind of dark stuff, and that kind of feels more natural to me, almost. But I still do hesitate, because I have been doing all ages friendly stuff, it’s kind of like, “well is this joke where there’s a bunch of dildos and butt plugs falling out of this thing…” which is a literal example, so spoilers. But I was like, “Is that okay?” And they were like “Well, probably, so send it around to everyone and see if it’s okay.” So far I haven’t had any complaints, and I’ve been pushing it a little bit as I get issues deeper, where I start to feel more comfortable writing a little bit weirder stuff.
TR: I can’t imagine what they’d say no to.
ZG: Yeah, I guess only if it felt really out of character, or if it felt like it was sort of in there for the sake of being in there. but yeah, I don’t think they’re very squeamish, especially with…they’re probably a lot stricter with the TV show really than the comic. We could probably get away with a lot more in the comic if I really wanted to push it.
9. Rule 34 Is as Much a Universal Constant as the Speed of Light in a Vacuum.
TR: I feel like I read something about the show trying to go for TV-14 instead of TV-MA.
ZG: :laughs: Okay.
TR: And they still managed to sneak the sex dungeon with the principal and his sister in there.
ZG: Yeah, that gets real weird in there. :laughs:
ZG: I’ve had to look up a lot of reference for character art and stuff, and so doing Google image searches, the image of Summer in the sex dungeon is a very popular Google image search result when you look up Summer, let me tell you. :laughs: Along with a lot of really interesting fan art.
TR: Have you stumbled across any really repugnant fan fiction?
ZG: I haven’t read any of it, but I have…fan art mostly is what I come across. Because I’m usually looking for image references, like I want to know what does their basement look like. Have they shown their basement? So I look up, I try to find things, and when you search for “rick and morty basement” you get like, weird results, you know? It’s interesting. There’s definitely a…fandom there, that’s really into that.
TR: I figure you ran into Rule 34 REALLY quickly.
ZG: :laughs: Yeah, I did.
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10. I’m Betting on a Thing Reference and HOPING for a Burger Time Reference.
TR: So the show’s very very reference-heavy in terms of the skewering of pop culture and kind of these nerd cultural touchstones. You go from Ray Bradbury and Stephen King to you have like, the council of Reeds from the Fantastic Four. It’s drawing from everywhere. What are you drawing from?
ZG: The writers on the show are very smart. :laughs: It’s a very reference heavy show. I have a couple, I have some John Carpenter stuff in there, which I think the show has already kind of touched on. I hesitate to do stuff that feels too obvious, but I know I end up doing it anyway. I’ve actually pulled from some outside science fiction sources, too, for sort of the ideas for plots just from other popular culture stuff. A lot of mine is very movie, I have a lot of film references and stuff. But I also feel like referential humor can get tired really quick, so I try not to rely too heavy on it, but I’m sure it sneaks through anyway. Even when I’m not trying to, I’m sure it sneaks through.
TR: Yeah, There’s an art to doing it where it’s still actually a joke and not just “Hey hey don’t we both remember that thing?”
ZG: Yeah, that’s like a really big danger, and that’s something I would definitely like to avoid. Although I will do a little bit of that probably just to amuse myself here and there.
TR: You gotta keep it fresh for yourself.
TR: What comic stuff are you pulling on? Anything?
ZG: You know, The thing is, I haven’t been reading a lot of comics lately so there’s probably not a lot of comic references in there. I haven’t been reading a lot of comic stuff lately. I’ve mostly just been watching cartoons these days.
TR: What did you read growing up?
ZG: It was the ’90s, so I was really into Jim Lee’s X-Men :laughs: and I was like, really into all the X-books in general. I remember I loved Generation X too, for whatever reason [Note from Jim: the reason is because it was awesome]. That was a big hit for me. I never really got into DC stuff as much. It was mostly Marvel books. I read a little bit of Ninja Turtles stuff and things like that, too. I was really into The Tick, both the cartoon and the comics.
TR: What about video game stuff? I know you’re a gamer.
ZG: You know, again, I haven’t really snuck much game stuff in there. It’s just something that I haven’t really thought about. I think there’s an issue coming up, where I haven’t really gotten to writing the run yet, but there’s an issue that will definitely lend itself to game reference stuff. So I probably will end up getting there kind of hard in the future.
11. I’m Still Holding out Hope for at Least 1 Or 2 Panels That Are Photographs of the Puppets.
TR: They marketed the show with puppet commercials…Any plans to do like, weird comic book stuff like that, like Fumetti or something?
ZG: That’d be really cool. I actually really liked the puppet stuff. I don’t know, I don’t have any immediate plans, I guess that’s kind of up to what Oni wants to put together, too, if they have any sort of ideas.
TR: …If you could get your hands on those puppets and take pictures of those puppets…
ZG: Oh! :laughs: You know I haven’t really toyed with that at all. I should probably talk to the artist about that. I bet there are some ideas there. There are so many weird universes you could definitely get away with pulling some stuff like that.
TR: Yeah, with the kind of sprawling multiverse and all of the different Ricks and all of the different dimensions, you could definitely work in something bizarre.
TR: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
Rick & Morty #1 goes on sale Wednesday, 4/1/2015 in comic shops and online. Check back here for our review.
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