Over two seasons, Adult Swim cartoon Rick and Morty has brilliantly skewed all kinds of classic science fiction tropes, taking ideas like alien hiveminds or parallel universes and turning them, in the funniest way possible, into referendums on modern relationship issues or dysfunctional family dynamics. Although season 3 of Rick and Morty is still in production, that tradition of skewering sci-fi will continue in Oni Press’ latest tie-in comic, Rick & Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It. Based on the mobile game Pocket Mortys, the new comic (written by Tini Howard, illustrated by Marc Ellerby, and colored by Katy Farina) will look askance at none other than Pokemon. In a world where “pocket monsters” are actually tiny Morty’s, the game looks a lot like a bloodsport.
The first issue of Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It hits stores July 5, 2017 (with a free preview included in the Free Comic Book Day issue of Rick and Morty on May 6, 2017). Check out the first cover above. Below, EW spoke with Howard, Ellerby, and Farina about their vision for the series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you explain the premise of this new comic?
HOWARD: There’s a mobile game called Pocket Mortys, a slight Pokemon pastiche where you capture little Mortys and battle them. I had the opportunity to make a story that tied into the world. The premise of our story is we see Morty from his perspective in that world. There’s a lot of joking when people talk about games like that where you’re battling little monsters, like, is this ethical? We’re supposed to love them, but we make them fight. I just played with that idea. We’re following Morty through the world of Pocket Mortys and being a battle pet on the go and what that means.
How do you differentiate the story as your own while still paying homage to the style of the show?
HOWARD: I really love Rick and Morty. Before I even got to work on anything related to the series, I remember watching it with my husband and going, “Oh my god this show is so smart! I wish I was smart enough to write that kind of humor.” And he was like, “I think you are.” So I had a moment of courage where I was talking to Ari our editor one day and said I’d really want to try doing a Rick & Morty thing. Is there anything available? And I got to try this. It’s a sense of humor that really resonates with me anyway. My own sense of humor vacillates between goofy and bleak. I’m also a huge lifelong sci-fi geek, so I love how they look at sci-fi stuff and turn it on its head. In this series, instead of looking at Pokemon as this heroic thing, let’s cut to the bleak truth of what this sci-fi thing actually means, which is very Rick and Morty.
ELLERBY: You want the art to look like the show without it looking like a bunch of episode screenshots, so I try and replicate the house style to a point then let myself draw it how I would normally. So I’ll make Rick’s hair slightly bigger than it is in the show but it’s obviously still Rick. It’s without a doubt my favorite drawing job ever.
FARINA: On the color end, the Rick and Morty color styling is very cartoony anyway. There’s a lot of bright and saturated colors. So for this, to lean into that dark take on the battling system, I’ve been trying to use a morose, realistic color palette. At the very beginning, Morty wakes up in the woods, and I’m trying to use these eerie, early-morning foggy palettes. I was looking at a lot of Hunger Games screenshots to get some of those colors.
What do you like about Rick and Morty, and what do you think fans will get out of this series?
HOWARD: I’m a huge fan of both smartly written humor and sci-fi. The deep cuts to old sci-fi stories and stuff, that really speaks to me because that’s what I grew up on. To be frank, with some of the political discussion about women working in Adult Swim proper right now, it’s cool to write these jokes and be a woman and be a comedian. I get to throw in callbacks. In the first issue, I create this Pocket Morty who is a throwback to one of my favorite jokes in the series. Marc and Katy did such a good job on the art that every time I see this dude I laugh. He’s so funny and he’s my baby.
ELLERBY: I love everything about the show pretty much. This is a point of contention with some fans I’ve met but one of my favorite parts of the show is actually Jerry. Sad, plain, unemployed Jerry. Sadly I think there’s a bit of Jerry in all of us and there can be all the weirdest and funniest sci-fi stuff going on around, I will always laugh hardest at Jerry’s mundane existence. I won’t say much but if you too are a Jerry fan then issue three is going to give you enough Jerry good times to last you a lifetime.
FARINA: The sense of empathy you get from the characters, sometimes goofy and sometimes terrible, is really unparalleled to anything else produced right now. The jokes are funny, but there’s also this smart storytelling that I think a lot of shows are missing. I adore Rick and Morty, it’s one of my favorite shows as well, and this book totally exemplifies that. It’s a fantastic take on the series that totally feels natural and sits right alongside any cartoon or comic out there for this property right now.
Going back to what you said earlier, it is cool, in the midst of this big discussion about women at Adult Swim, to see a Rick and Morty comic where two-thirds of the creative team are women.
HOWARD: Our editors get feedback from the people writing Rick and Morty, and it’s always really positive. I was personally kinda shocked, because on one hand it’s shocking there aren’t more women in the writer’s room at Adult Swim, but part of why it’s shocking is I’m writing Rick and Morty right now and I know I’m doing a good job, I’m getting really positive feedback from the property itself. So I’ve just been shrugging and saying, well, they have my number.
FARINA: That news was broke while we were working on this already, and I was genuinely surprised because Tini’s work has been so smart and funny and appropriate for the property, but our editor has been editing the Rick and Morty comic from the beginning. So it was very surprising because my experience with Rick and Morty has been largely female and largely queer too, so it was surprising news when that little quote went out.
HOWARD: One of the interesting things about working on a big property is there are gonna be people who never even think about the names on it, they just walk into their shop and buy it because it says Rick and Morty on it, and that’s awesome. We want to make those people happy, and if we can change some minds with that, that would be super cool.