An interview with “Rocko’s Modern Life” writer Ryan Ferrier and artist Ian McGinty.
Rocko’s Modern Life has a special place in many hearts due to the nostalgic feels we have for the property. It came out at just the right time for impressionable pre-teen and teenage viewers who are now in their 30s. While these fans may have been too young to appreciate Ren and Stimpy, which featured a similar sense of humor, they have a second chance to dive into Rocko’s universe through new stories about everybody’s favorite wallaby in a new BOOM! Studios comic series by writer Ryan Ferrier and artist Ian McGinty.
We simply adored the first issue and can’t wait for more (issue 2 hits comic stands January 10). So to satiate our desire for more gross-out social commentary comedy goodness, we talked to the creators!
AiPT!: I really enjoyed the first issue and it not only gave me new laughs and ideas about the world but brought a heavy amount of nostalgia too! There are, I believe, 52 episodes of the show, Will you be calling back to many of the old characters and locations, or will you focus on creating new stories?
Ryan Ferrier: One of the things we’re most excited about is bringing back some of the amazing cast of characters from the show and seeing how they will fit in Rocko’s life now, and what ridiculousness they can get up to. But we’re also thrilled to create some all-new, all-weird characters, like Chalmers the sloth in the first story arc. No matter new or old, we’re going all-out with the cast for this new era of RML.
AiPT!: Are you in contact with Nickelodeon in terms of new episodes and this comic series, or does it stand on its own?
Ferrier: Our editors are involved with Nickelodeon, as any licensor would be, but we have no connection or contact regarding a new cartoon, no. Our focus is entirely on making this comic something truly unique, special, and its own thing. The comic is totally standalone from the series. The joy of this series is that the sky’s really the limit, so to have this amazing sandbox to play in is a pretty incredible and fun thing.
AiPT!: Ian, the art is impressive and each page is like a painting with panels overlaid and almost bleeding into each other. The tapestry is beautiful and almost chaotic. how do you approach such a wild world where anything goes?
Ian McGinty: First off, thank you. But, man, I’m gonna be completely real here and let everyone know: I literally learned to draw because of Rocko’s Modern Life. With my mom’s help (she’s cool), I would record episodes onto a VHS, pause the thing, and then trace the characters onto paper right off the television. This was a show that really stretched every aspect of the definition of “cartoony,” similar to Ren and Stimpy (and later, Spongebob), but just appealed to me more than most other cartoons and I took advantage of that as much as I could. Heading the art on the new comic, honestly, just came naturally. And a key point of Rocko’s is combining chaos with humor while making everything as visually fun as possible. I mean, we’re talking about a show that made a dude with super powered nipples work. I don’t know how, but the world of Rocko’s Modern Life just makes sense to me. I’m not sure what that says about my brain, but there it is. Thanks, Mom.
AiPT!: There are a lot of jokes in this comic be it visual or dialogue. Ryan, do you approach the scripts thinking about how much humor you can pack in? Do you write and then go back adding in humor? How does one approach a comedy such as this?
Ferrier: For me, there’s a mix of both. I really want to write to play to Ian’s brilliant visual strengths, and really push the visual humor, as comics are a visual medium and Ian has the brunt of the work on his shoulders, which he does phenomenally. But I do want the dialogue to be funny as well; we really just want every page to get a laugh. There’s absolutely no such thing as too much humor in this book, and I’m constantly revising and trying to outdo the previous draft.
McGinty: A quick story. Ryan and I shared a hotel room a couple years ago. I wanna say it was San Diego Comic-Con, probably 2015 or 2016, maybe it was Emerald City. Comic creators always share rooms at large conventions and it’s almost always amazingly fun. Anyways, I’ve known Ryan’s work for a while and we kicked around the idea of working together on a book and Ryan’s caveat was that the artist should be able to change things to best suit the comic, even if it means changing the written script. That’s a big deal. So, long story short, I’m basically in charge of anything visual, and yes, I’ve changed some art to add my own brand of what I think is funny. Thankfully, me and Ryan’s idea of humor isn’t that far off from each other, so it’s all good. Look for some secret Easter eggs, though. One word: pizza.
A scene from issue #1 of Rocko’s Modern Life.
AiPT!: As an all-ages comic, is there anything you’ve had to leave out or cut out?
Ferrier: I’m lucky in that I’ve written both adult-focused comics and more youth-friendly comics, so I’m pretty comfortable working in both sides of the spectrum. There’s always a little bit of finding your footing at the start, in terms of what we can and can’t do, but we quickly figure it out. I think inherently it would be out of place to try to fit something in that wouldn’t work with the themes and tones of the series, so any sort of edits would be pretty minor. When we land a joke or an emotional beat knowing that it’s a great fit, it’s just so much fun and it really sings to us.
McGinty: Honestly, nah. You’ll see this soon, but the next issue is very intense. I’m lucky in that I work for both BOOM! Studios and Nickelodeon, and they each consist of amazing, amazing people who trust their creators. Ryan and I have worked hard to appeal to new readers and nostalgic readers and I think we nailed it.
AiPT!: I’ve read the original show was outline driven. Do you approach the comic in the same way?
Ferrier: I’m a big outline junkie, and a huge part of my writing process is outlining and planning; I don’t want to waste a single panel, and everything should be airtight. Sure, things can change a little organically once you’re actually in the script, but having a clear path for the story and the characters is paramount to making this the best it can be. We’ve actually got quite a bit of the series already planned, so we know where–and how wonderfully ridiculous—things are going to get.
McGinty: I attack Rocko’s Modern Life. Lemme rephrase that. This is the first comic I’ve done where I don’t even pencil the art. I do thumbnails (very, very small drawings of what the page could look like), and then I go right to inks. I feel this captures the energy of RML more than anything. So, while I may have the majority of the brunt work, I also get the most fun job, and I go about this comic trying to make sure it’s as fun as possible.
Rocko’s friends aren’t the greatest, but they’re still lovable.
AiPT!: How much creative freedom do you have? I read somewhere Rocko was going to have a sister at one point but that was scrapped. Can you add elements like that if you so desired?
Ferrier: We have tons of freedom! It’s incredibly inspiring and makes me beyond excited at the possibilities. We know what ultimately would or wouldn’t fit in the Rocko’s universe, so that definitely helps. But, Nickelodeon and BOOM! have been absolutely amazing at letting Ian and I really make the series we want to make. And I think it’ll really resonate with the readers and fans.
McGinty: We’re extremely lucky. We’re really allowed to add most anything to the Rocko’s Modern Life universe. And trust me, my office at Nickelodeon is 20 feet away from the crew animating Static Cling, the new RML animated special. I would know very, very fast if Ryan and I weren’t being true to the narrative. Adding new elements really seems to be key to the new series, and for that I’m grateful.
AiPT!: What is your favorite method of procrastination?
Ferrier: The internet. Definitely the internet. I could spend entire days just falling down internet rabbit holes if I didn’t go unchecked. That is actually a very terrifying realization, and maybe I shouldn’t be trusted to operate a computer.
McGinty: Cooking and cooking shows, and cooking conventions. I like to make food. Cheers.
You can purchase Rocko’s Modern Life #1 at any comic shop or on Comixology right now. Rocko’s Modern Life #2 is on sale 1/10/18. Final orders are due by December 11th.