Recently, ComicsVerse had the extraordinary pleasure of interviewing the entire creative team of Oni Press’ award-winning comic book adaptation of Adult Swim’s hit show RICK AND MORTY. Previous writers on the series have been Zac Gorman on issues #1-10, Pamela Ribon on issue #11, and Tom Fowler on #12-15, who all left their unique mark on the universe. With Kyle Starks, an Eisner Award Nominee for the hilarious SEXCASTLE, starting on issue #16, we are in very safe hands. The interview, which also includes artists, CJ Cannon and Ryan Hill, is filled with fantastically thorough responses on the comics past and future with some exclusive inside treats!

ComicsVerse: Hello everyone! Since RICK AND MORTY comes from a different medium, how many hours did you watch for research? Did you look at the ADVENTURE TIME or REGULAR SHOW comics for references? Or did you have a completely different approach?

CJ Cannon (Artist): I’ve always watched the show before I even began working on the comics because it was just so damn good. The only time I really need to reference the show for research reasons is if there are certain items or changes to the environments that have been made in the newer seasons, but the RAM crew over at Adult Swim normally helps me out and keeps me up to date on what needs to be portrayed.

Kyle Starks (Writer): I had already long watched the show in its entirety before being asked to work on the comic.  I think it’s legitimately the best show on television.  I’m not, personally, really using anyone else’s work for reference–I just make my comics, and in this case they get to be deliciously RICK AND MORTY flavored.

Ryan Hill (Colorist): I’ve been a really big fan of the show right from the start.  In fact, when I learned Oni had gotten the rights to the book I went and talked to James and Ari about really, really wanting to work on it.  I’ve seen every episode multiple times and have memorized more than my fair share of favorite moments.  I never really looked at other cartoon adaptations for our book as much as I just looked at the show itself.

CV: CJ Cannon and Ryan Hill, both of you have worked on and off the book from the start. What has it been like working with the different creators? Does that make drawing or coloring the same stuff fresh for you?

CJ: I rarely do any color work on the comics and any color work that I do is a reference point for Ryan to use since he’s the main colorist. I have, however, started more recently doing more tonal and shadow work on the covers and some panels of the comic to just help Ryan out here and there! One thing the comic keeps fresh for me is drawing composition and environmental shots while trying to keep staging in mind. Sometimes changes are made mid-ink which requires me to go back and edit future pages for inking based on the changes I made to a page I’m currently working on. Keeps me on my toes!

Ryan: Everyone who has worked on the book so far has been an absolute joy and the experience has been an incredibly smooth one.  People obviously bring different takes on stories/storytelling, but it all still has to fit in the RICK AND MORTY wheelhouse.  Thankfully, the R&M world is broad enough that (sort of like DR. WHO or STAR TREK) everything is on the table content wise:  Time Travel, Dimensional Travel, Space Travel, or even earth-bound family sitcom or pop culture parody.  It’s all fair game.  When you have all that much to play with it takes a lot to burn out on.

CV: Do you take account of the previous writers work on RICK AND MORTY, or do you go in blindly? Kyle, how did you developed your RICK AND MORTY story?

Kyle: I had read the incredible work of Zac Gorman before I started, but Tom Fowler’s stuff wasn’t even out yet when I started work on my arc–though, I have read them since and Tom continues the just fantastic run this book has had of great RICK AND MORTY comics.  Oni has brought together great creators here time and time again–Zac and Tom were so good.  CJ Cannon and Ryan Hill just hit home runs every month on this book.  Crank is great. Marc Ellerby’s work is great.  Our editor, Ari Yarwood, makes the whole thing run seamlessly. She makes it fun to work on and keeps us where we need to be.  It’s an amazing team Oni put together and with a team like that it makes developing a story super easy because you know they’re going to lift up everything you do to a new level.

CJ:  I have to agree with Kyle on this one. The team we’ve got is so friggin’ awesome that it seems to motivate everyone even more to do such awesome collaborative efforts together. As a rookie in comics, this has been a super positive experience for me so far. Thanks, Ari, for making it all possible and awesome!

CV: Why do you think the theme of Summer being a badass keeps appearing through the different writers work? Is there any challenge in recreating this from different creators?

Kyle: Because Summer IS a badass.

CJ: Agreed with Kyle.

As for me, maybe it’s because I love Summer a lot as a character and know that she’s very strong headed and sarcastic like Rick, but I think her being a bad-ass every once in awhile just suits her far better than solely being a teenager consumed in the superficial, which she is too, but I do think there’s a balance with her that can be tricky to pull off, and I enjoy seeing it when writers are able to do it so effectively.

Unlike Morty, she’s rarely gone on adventures with Rick, but I honestly think the more she goes on them, the more capable and savvy she’ll become concerning alien cultures and survival techniques. She could very well be a Rick of sorts when it comes to quick thinking if she’s allowed to progress in such a way!

She’s a bright and brave person, even if her superficial nature can obscure that sometimes.

Ryan: Like Kyle and CJ said: because she is.  Living through all the “bad days” her family is capable of and still being able to resemble something of a coherent human being, while going through standard teenager “Who-am-I-Why-am-I” stuff means you top out on the badass chart.  Seeing that as a repeated idea in stories, well for me, a story element that specific… much of what I have to interpret is decided somewhat before it gets to me.  Not to say that I don’t have a large creative range with this (I completely do) but in a case like that, I know what has to be done before I even see the art.  Unless a very specific variation is present (this is Summer as an underwater badass or this is Summer as a robot badass).

CV: How do you approach something of your own creation versus something like RICK AND MORTY where the parameters are already in place? Do you feel more or less pressure in these situations?

Kyle: It’s definitely more pressure.  With my stuff I know the entire world, I know the ups and downs, who likes to chew gum who doesn’t and my stories are my stories.  But with RICK AND MORTY you have to measure up to a really brilliant body of work with really smart fans who in this case really know what they want.  Speaking someone else’s language well is a ton of pressure.  You want to give them the good work they expect in the way that it’s meant to exist.

CJ: I don’t feel so restricted concerning the ideas I personally toss back and forth with the writers concerning how they’re portrayed and or their particular interests. Then again: I’m not writing this, lol.

Justin’s a bud of mine and we talk a lot on the side, and of course we talk about RICK AND MORTY stuff. I’ll often pitch concepts or ideas to him to ensure that any future stuff I personally plan on adding concerning character traits are logical and ok with him before doing so.

If you read the comics there’s an early gag that originally spawned between me and Zac Gorman, a prior writer, on both the comic test and within the comic itself that Jerry’s into hot alien cheetah chicks. Call it a “furry fetish” if you will, and this gag’s scattered throughout. This concept I wanted to add in was ran by Justin and he thought it was funny so it became a continuous easter egg trait concerning Jerry.

Ryan: For me, I feel slightly less pressure.  Especially when the parameters RICK AND MORTY tends to have are of such a high quality, you know if you’re anywhere near  that bar, and that’s something I think every creative team on this book so far has done very very well, its already gonna be really good.

CV: What’s the biggest creative challenge with RICK AND MORTY?

Kyle: For me it’s definitely nailing the tone, doing something new that still fits the existing universe and lives up to it.  No big deal.  Just recreating genius to the best of my non-genius abilities.

CJ: My main issue is that this is a comic so the illustrations are stationary. Certain inherently “ugly” angles of the characters are very brief and are in-between animations, so it’s not so obvious in the cartoon. Don’t worry, RAM crew, every cartoon character has “eww” shots; ya’ll are doing amazing work and are working with some deceptively simple looking but complex characters! But because of this being a comic: I have to either recompose a shot a bit or just go with it.

My art style’s noticeably different from the show in that the models are a bit more organic and fleshy, so when I have to draw Jerry from a 3/4 back shot from a worm’s view while he’s screaming, which I’ve had to do and then some, it won’t look so janky and take the reader out of the experience.

I don’t always nail this goal, but these are surprisingly tricky characters to draw! But I do think I’ve improved a lot with this since issue #1. Depicting serious scenes in insane camera compositions with noodly-bug-eyed characters ain’t easy.

Ryan: I’m also gonna echo a lot of what CJ said and agree that in my arena it’s just keeping things within the look of the show, while still going to new places and being visually interesting for a static image vs an animated one.  One thing I tend to wrestle with a little bit is shading.  The characters on the show are hardly ever shadowed (sometimes for dramatics emphasis in extreme lighting situations).  But since we don’t have the advantage of having them move around a lot I want to add character shading to give the book a bit of an extra kick once and awhile.  I do when it’s warranted, but if I over did it, I feel like it wouldn’t look like the show.

CV: CJ and Ryan, have you felt or seen the intensity of the RICK AND MORTY universe and fan base increase over the past year on this comic? Have expectations risen as a creator team?

CJ: My boyfriend frequents Reddit and often points out the insane conversations and interest from there and I see a lot of it on Tumblr, so I’d say it has! There’s even blogs and things dedicated to elements from the comic or to the entire comic itself.

I think the most fun thing is reading the fans’ hashtags. My favorite ones are something along the lines of “sleeveless Rick”, based on a panel several fans seem to love from the comic and “grandpa thirst”. I live to please everyone’s lust for the gdilf that is Rick, lol. No. I seriously do. You should see my side art blog, heheheh.

Ryan: I think we’ve carved out a really great niche in the R&M fandom.  Whenever I’ve met anyone who’s read the comic or seen reactions online it’s never been anything but nice words.  Make no mistake, much of that is my luck of getting to work with CJ who makes my job really, really easy.  He does the heavy art lifting and makes this thing sing. I get to come in and accentuate some notes, but he’s writing the really great songs.

CV: Kyle, I didn’t realize how popular RICK AND MORTY was until New York Comic Con and I saw tons of cosplayers. Do you worry how the public will perceive your vision of it? What can fans expect from your style?

Kyle: Everyone worries about what will happen when they release their baby into the world.  Will it get mugged? Will it go to college for three years before choosing a major?  But I think as a creator you try to tell the story you want to read–you try to raise the best baby–and in my case, that involves drugs and tough guy one-liners and a Bee Gun and Rick being the Best/Worst and Morty being an idiot crybaby.  So really, I guess, the fans can probably expect par for the course with RICK AND MORTY stuff.

CJ: I actually do a lot. I’m a neurotic perfectionist and so I often struggle with trying to incorporate things I want into my illustration side of it, quality and concept wise, without it consuming me to the point that I become obsessive over minuscule elements and or concepts. It’s nice to have a team to reassure me if I’m doing a good job or if there’s things that need improvement.

Ryan: Again, for me, by the time I get the book its bones are pretty much in place, and I can already tell it’s gonna be another good one.  The fans know we’re gonna be doing a slightly different thing from the show in that as a different medium we have to tell the stories that work for comics.  But I think what everyone has done so far on our end creatively has made folks happy.

CV: Has there been any collaboration or discussions with Sarah Graley on LIL’ POOPY SUPERSTAR? Either way, what affect do you believe LIL’ POOPY SUPERSTAR will have on the comic universe or just in general?

Kyle: Finally Mr. Poopy Butthole is getting that time to shine.  Getting out there and shaking his stuff in the spotlight like he deserves.

CJ: I have no clue about this! But I would love to say her work is super adorable from what I’ve seen, and I’m happy to see Summer be more of a focal point! I’ve also been laughing off and on all day that this serious question contains the words “Lil’ Poopy Superstar”. I LOVE THIS COMIC.

CV: Finally, who’s your favorite character? Why?

Kyle: If I had to choose just one…man…that’s tough. They all have characteristics I really love. I choose anyone, but Jerry.  Because Jerry is the worst.  None of you other dudes better say “Jerry”.

CJ: SCREW YOU, KYLE. I’M GOIN’ HOME. *stomps off* Hahaha, no seriously though. Oh god, this is a hard one… WELL; In terms of relatability it would have to pretty much all of them for different reasons. Due to some deeper personal reasons, there are aspects of Rick, Jerry, and Morty I relate to most. On a more positive side: I relate to Rick-J19ζ7 (Doofus Rick) or “RJ” as I like to call him, because despite the abuse he gets, he makes me want to love myself more as a person and see the good in other people and not be afraid to talk about certain things. I have a hard time with those things honestly, and it’s crazy to see such a minor character have that kind of positive influence on me in wanting to be a better person.

PS: to back up team Jerry, I think he’s just a guy who’s sincerely looking out for the welfare of his family. Because let’s face it, from what we’ve seen so far: Rick’s not the best guy. He’s often exploitive and neglectful of his daughter and Morty, severely dismissive of Summer more often than not, and projects a lot of his insecurities and frustration onto Jerry. They’re all messed up individuals with some good traits here and there. I’d argue Morty and Summer are the least troubled, but even they have psychological and social issues. I really can’t knock of any of them down because of that and because, despite these moments, they do try where they can to be good to one another.

Ryan: The artist formerly known as Rick… I think there’s a big story there.  And Unity.  Can’t ever go wrong with hive minds.  And Jerry (j/k).

Thanks everyone! Be on the lookout for this book and LIL POOPY SUPERSTAR arriving in July! For more info on Kyle Starks’ work go here: Twitter,  www.kylestarks.com, and robotmountain.tumblr.com. For CJ Cannon’s art you can find it on this website.

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