10 things concerning ‘Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It’, by Howard, Ellerby, and Farina
By Stefania Rudd. If you’ve taken the trouble to click a link to get to this interview, you don’t need us to tell you that Rick and Morty rules. You already know that it’s great, better than everything, etc. In fact, that’s definitely why you’re here. And that’s fine! Everything’s fine.
You probably also know that the Rick and Morty comic series from Oni Press is the textbook example of how to properly translate a television show to the comic book format. It’s a book so well realized that many consider it canon to the series. (Is it though? Even the writers can’t say. Which is awesome in its own right.)
Rick and Morty has also spawned a popular mobile game, Pocket Mortys, which dives head-first into the show’s ever-expanding multiverse. As bananas as that already is, Oni Press, working with Adult Swim, has seen fit to publish a miniseries based on the game, Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It, which promises to further the show’s out-there concepts with the same acerbic wit that has become the franchise’s trademark.
“To me, the show has such a clear theme—it’s humor in the face of crushing nihilism, and that doesn’t go away when you discover fantastic mad science or alternate universes,” Tini Howard, writer of Pocket Like You Stole It, told DoomRocket in late July. “It just makes those questions louder and makes those metaphors into real things that you can blow up or make out with, or whatever.”
DoomRocket contributing writer Stefania Rudd spoke with the creative team on Pocket Like You Stole It — Tini Howard, Marc Ellerby, and Katy Farina — about their collaborative efforts, the critically lauded Adult Swim series, and the worst advice they ever got from a family member.
1. Your comic is based on the mobile game, ‘Pocket Mortys’. When were you contacted to work on the series—before or after the game was developed?
Tini Howard: Oh, after, which was great—I got to lose several days to playing Pocket Mortys on my phone in the name of research!
Marc Ellerby: After the release. Even though I’ve been working on the Rick and Morty comics for about three years, like everything Rick and Morty related, its existence was a complete surprise. I played it for a little while until I realized I sucked at it and it would eat away at all my time if I’m not careful.
Katy Farina: I was contacted after the game had come out! But I was a huge fan of the game so it was very easy to say yes.
2. In the game, there are almost 200 Mortys one can collect. How did you decide which Mortys would (or should) appear in the book? And did you have any liberties to create Mortys that are not in the game?
ME: We created a couple; Ants in My Eyes Morty was Tini’s beloved son. I came up with a couple of minor background players, like French Stereotype Morty and Emo Morty. (Emorty?) It was a lot of fun to come up with a couple, but the designs of the game Mortys are so great. I really wanted to take a crack at drawing them too and it’s a nice little Easter egg for fans of the game.
TH: My very favorite Morty is one I got to create—Ants in My Eyes Morty. I had a lot of fun creating Mortys that were a reference to jokes from the show. Later in the series, we’ll also see Krombopulous Mortys. They just love killing.
3. Is there a particular Morty you identify with? If so, why?
TH: Ants in My Eyes Morty is my son. Also our regular Morty. Him being called “Evil Morty” when he’s just normal Morty because he keeps messing up… that’s a little glimpse into my soul, kiddos.
ME: I don’t know if I identify with any of them, to be honest, but I do like drawing Unicorn Morty and Punk Morty. The ying and the yang of the ‘Pocket Mortys’ world. Both are very sweet boys deep down.
KF: Probably Crazy Cat Morty, because I definitely have a favorite animal, and it’s not Morty.
4. Whose idea was it to include the Pocket Morty cards in the back of the issue? Was that a creative flourish, or a shrewd tie-in?
KF: If I’m remembering correctly, it was a collaborative effort between the team. We had some leftover pages, and the decision was to either extend the story or do something fun with those pages. A few ideas were suggested, but once the idea of trading cards was put on the table, I believe we were sold. Then again, I might be remembering wrong.
TH: Honestly? Yeah, let’s be honest. I wrote the first issue two pages too short. When our editor, Ari Yarwood, let me know, we had plenty of time to remedy it—we work way ahead of time on these books—but I got to thinking. I could write two more pages that would feel like filler, or we could do something fun for the whole team, and for our readers, that incentivized them to pick up the floppies. I like to read single issues to support books I love, but generally, I like a good letter column, a great cover, something that makes it worth going out to my shop for. The cards were a fun way to do that.
I have had a few people wondering if the game is actually playable if you collect all the cards. It isn’t. It’s a joke. I should have known people would be mad about that. I’ve played competitive Magic: The Gathering. I’m very sorry.
5. Marc and Katy, you had both been working extensively on ‘Rick and Morty’ books previous to this series. Tini, how did you become involved in this project?
TH: I was having breakfast with Ari at a convention because Ari and I like to have meetings and seek out quiet little corners to stuff our faces, and I’d just become a huge fan of the show. So I asked! Of course, I didn’t just get the job—I had to pitch and try out and all that, but they liked me, and here I am!
6. How do you work as a creative team? Do you work on each issue together or do you come up with ideas on your own and share it with the group when it’s time to put together the issues? What does the process look like?
TH: We really built this as a team, which isn’t always the case for licensed or work-for-hire properties, and that was amazing. We got a really good idea early on of what everyone liked to do, what we thought was funny, what was important to the team, what jokes we respond to, etc., which always makes it more fun. In a lot of ways, it’s standard—I write scripts, Marc draws lines, Katy does colors, Ari keeps us in line—but it’s not at all an assembly line. We had a lot of time with this series—thank you to Ari for that—so nothing felt rushed. We got to take our time falling in love with what everyone brings to the book. It’s about love, honestly. It’s a book about how much we all love each other. Only with Mortys.
ME: It’s very collaborative and incredibly supportive. Probably the most support I’ve ever had on a book has been from this team, so it’s already a little sad that it’s coming to an end. We did kinda stick to our lanes for the most part, but like Tini said, it never felt like an assembly line mainly because of the constant feedback and discussion about the book over emails. I think we’re all each other’s greatest fans, and I’m so pumped for Tini and Katy’s other projects.
KF: We all work pretty closely, so while Tini is writing scripts she’s sending them for us to take a look at. Marc will send over the whole issue in its various stages, and I’ll send off colors or confirm palette ideas as needed. This team is pretty unique and awesome in that we all work together really well to make this book!
7. The beautiful thing about the various ‘Rick and Morty’ series’ is that they exist in their alternate universes, giving you the freedom to take the familiarity of the characters to paths (or worlds) that haven’t been explored before. However, you all also need to keep it somewhat in the same vein. How do you manage that cohesion in the writing process? In the art process?
TH: I became a fan of Rick and Morty as a writer. After binge-watching both seasons of the show, I said out loud, “I wish I could write like that.” To me, the show has such a clear theme—it’s humor in the face of crushing nihilism, and that doesn’t go away when you discover fantastic mad science or alternate universes. It just makes those questions louder and makes those metaphors into real things that you can blow up or make out with, or whatever. It was fun, however, to not feel like I had to resolve the story. Rick and Morty often ends episodes in ways that seem impossible to resolve, which is darkly hilarious.
ME: I get asked this a lot but to be honest I just draw, man. My art style is already similar to the Rick and Morty house style so I don’t really think about anything at all whilst I’m drawing. I look up a bit of reference now and again, but yeah, it just comes very naturally to me. I think for licensed cartoon comics it’s important to keep the look of the show, but you don’t want it to look like a bunch of screen grabs from the show—otherwise, what’s the point? It’s fun to go “off brand” for sure, but I think the fans expect it to look a certain way for the most part.
KF: I feel a bit spoiled with color—almost anything I want to do can make sense in any possible dimension. For this series I’ve been trying to learn into how the weather would affect the look more—cloudy days, day and nightfall, bright and sunny days, etc. It can have a huge effect on the mood in any given scene. But there are also plenty of chances to go really wild and lean into the saturated, unnatural colors that we sometimes see in the cartoon!
8. The show is increasingly becoming more and more legendary, especially with the incredibly well-received third season. Why do you think the show and the comics resonate so much with fans? What’s the appeal?
TH: So much media relies on the idea that if you get magic/mad science/superpowers that your problems disappear. Rick and Morty does the opposite of that. It’s cathartic.
ME: It’s popular as it’s so funny. I honestly think it boils down to how funny and weird it is. There’s nothing else like it out there: the style, the humor, the jokes… it’s pulling from so many different places. Improv, meta, hard sci-fi, family sitcom tropes, but it’s just in a blender. I think people are going nuts for season three because it’s good; they want more of that good stuff.
KF: I’m constantly impressed by the writing on this property. Not just on the cartoon, but in the comics as well. You end up wanting to empathize with these characters who can be pretty damn terrible, and that’s a hard thing to accomplish! I think the appeal really comes down to that—mixing this really smart storytelling with these multi-faceted characters is really well done.
9. Are there any other Adult Swim shows you would like to tackle in comic form? If so, which one(s)?
TH: Absolutely, The Venture Bros. I’d love to write a Venture Bros. comic, with Annie Wu on art. It’s one of my dream books, honestly.
ME: I was going to say The Venture Bros., but Tini’s idea of having Annie Wu on art is so good! So yeah I dunno, Space Ghost Coast to Coast? Was that Adult Swim? Kinda right? I just wanna draw Zorak, to be honest. KNIFIN’ AROUND. CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT.
KF: I always really loved Superjail; I think that would make a killer comic!
10. Ultimately, ‘Rick and Morty’ is the story about a kid and his grandfather and how their relationship is often at odds with that of the rest of the family, dysfunctional as it is. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received from a family member? What was the worst?
TH: My dad quit his job to work for himself and it made him a much happier person. Not really advice, but it was definitely role modeling, and I did it in my own life. The worst? My dad used to tell me to “get a job.” Well, I did. Then I quit it to work for myself! JUST LIKE YOU, OLD MAN!
ME: I don’t think the Ellerbys are really an advice sorta family, but my dad kinda inspired a work ethic in me that can perhaps only be classed as “unhealthy.” I don’t blame him for that, but growing up and seeing him going above and beyond what was needed to put food on the table and a roof over our heads certainly made me more conscious about my own approach to work, especially as I’ve hit my thirties, even if we worked in two completely different fields.
KF: Oh boy, well the worst piece of advice I ever got was, and I quote, “Good enough is not good enough.” I heard that a lot as a kid and really internalized it, so now I’m a workaholic who foregoes meals and sleep in order to get more done, and that’s not exactly what I would call great or healthy. I think the best advice I got was not to avoid my problems. Things don’t fix themselves; you have to work at it. Anything worth having is worth working for.
‘Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It’ #2 is out Wednesday, August 16.