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Art, Color, Backups: We Talk Rick and Morty with Creators CJ Cannon, Marc Ellerby, and Ryan Hill Part 2

In part 2 of our interview with the Rick and Morty writing, coloring, and artist team we discuss the nature of backups in comics, the pressure of satisfying fans, and more!

Make sure to read part 1 of the interview too!

AiPT!: In so many ways you’re all very much part of the Rick and Morty canon and story. Do you feel pressure in keeping the fans happy?

Ryan: Of course. I wouldn’t describe it as “pressure” though. Just a sense of responsibility since we’re playing with someone else’s creations. On my end I try to keep the book in line with the show, while still working to make everything dynamic with the comparative limitations of a comic (vs a fully animated TV show). From the reaction I’ve read online I think we’re all doing a pretty good job.

Marc: Yeah, I do feel the pressure. It’s got such a huge fanbase and the quality of the writing of the show is so good. I already loved the show before Oni Press started talking to me about the comic, so I knew I would have to level up and do the best job I’ve ever done on a comic. It took a bit of stumbling but I’ve found my footing. I feel the high level of quality established by the show has to apply to the comics otherwise what’s the point of them existing? No one wants to read a s----y version of the thing they love, that sucks for everyone. I think we all do a great job and personally speaking I’ve had really nice reception from fans at conventions so I think we’re onto a winner.

I stress a lot about making the characters look on-model because I think the fans want it to look like the show, that’s what they’re expecting and it’s tough because when I’m drawing the characters my hand wants to go one way as it’s just drawing muscle memory but I have to remember that Jerry’s head looks different to how I would usually draw heads. I’ve made it sound like drawing this book is no fun but it’s totally the best time, honestly! I reckon the pressure makes us do the best work.

CJ: I feel pressure artistically speaking because I want the people who purchase my work to receive a quality product, so I’m always trying to find time effective ways to produce that kind of stuff for them.

I’m very critical of my personal and production work and so many consider me to not always be the best to judge it, but based on the response from fans and the messages I get on Tumblr: I am very pleased that they seem to enjoy my work, even if I personally have trouble doing so because, in reality, it’s their opinions and happiness, not mine, that matters.

A page from Rick and Morty Vol 3 drawn by CJ Cannon and colored by Ryan Hill. It gets weird folks!

AiPT!: Marc, what are the pros and cons of writing a backup? It’s kind of a special talent with so few these days, how do you approach each one?

Marc: Oh, I’m seeing more backups than ever before, man. Even Batman’s got backups nowadays.

The pros are that four pages are well easy to draw, so it’s a couple of days work at most. The biggest drawback is that I always, always, always write too much, or as I’m writing I’m thinking to myself “Gah, this would be a cool 20-page strip.” The page restriction can be tricky to make work but it’s cool making the story beats land in such a small amount of space. It’s taught me to be more economical with my storytelling and that not everything needs laborious exposition to explain stuff, you can quite easily set the premise up in one panel and then move onto Joke Time.

I usually come up with ideas by just doodling characters and letting my mind wander for a while, I usually draw little scenes out before scripting anything just to figure beats out and see if it works visually. I’ll then write little snippets of dialogue and try and expand off that and then polish everything up and send it Ari and then I stress for the next 12 hours whether or not she’ll go for it. But yeah sometimes it’s just me writing down lists of what I want to draw, I mean I wrote a note down the other day that was literally “BUTTS” because I thought I needed more butt jokes in my backups, so look out for that backup coming soon, kids.

A hilarious page from a Rick and Morty #16 backup written and drawn by Marc.

AiPT!: Marc, comics are already short these days at 20 pages or so, is it hard to fill even less pages and tell a satisfying story?

Marc: Man, sometimes that four page restriction is a blessing and sometimes it’s a curse. It’s really easy to get carried away with writing Rick’s dialogue—the stuttering, the belching, and repeating people’s name over and over can easily fill a word balloon up so I do end up cutting a lot of jokes because I just can’t fit it all in. Our letterer Crank is an angel, I don’t know how he manages to fit those balloons on the page.

On the other hand, it’s nice to get in and get out without endless exposition or creating the backstory and just do something for fun. I have a mech-story coming up just because I wanted to draw a giant Robot Morty and that is literally a four-page fight comic. That really doesn’t need a backstory, it’s a Robot Morty that’s funny in itself. Morty’s so whiny about it, though. Classic Morty.

Panels from Rick and Morty Vol. 3 drawn by CJ Cannon and colored by Ryan Hill.

AiPT!: What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

Marc: I snack a lot whilst writing so that’s a fun time. I make a lot of Spotify mixes to work to and sometimes fall down that particular rabbit hole when I should be working. Same with Instagram, especially now they’ve added that Stories element, I am GLUED to it.

CJ: Oddly enough: grooming my cats or cleaning up the house because both help with my anxiety and sometimes I get lost in that a little bit.

Ryan: Working on my other books or sleeping.


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