Rick and Morty has been a wild ride for comic book fans since issue #1. Excellent from the first panel, it’s a deeply hilarious book that defies expectations among sometimes iffy licensed comics. Now, the series has achieved another milestone as Oni Press unveils issue #50 next week (May 29). In celebration, we talked with long-time series artist Marc Ellerby about what to expect from this landmark issues, how the comic moves beyond the series, dealing with over-eager fans, how the book saved his career, and much more. Rubber baby buggy bumpers!
Be sure to snag Rick and Morty #50 next Wednesday. In the meantime, check out Ellerby’s exclusive cover below!
AiPT!: Hi Marc, thanks for taking the time, and congratulations on Rick and Morty! It has been a blast reading your work for all of these issues. Last we spoke in September 2016, Rick and Morty #18 was out and now we’re about to hit #50. Since then you’ve become the main artist since issue #35, I wonder, how has your relationship with the comic and characters changed since then?
Marc Ellerby: Thanks so much for the kind words, David, and for all the support you’ve shown the book over the years. We really appreciate it. So around the time we last spoke I had just done a fill-in on issue #17, which was my second fill-in issue, and I was about to jump on the Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It mini-series.
So life was pretty easy going back then, haha, but I was still getting to grips with the characters a little, ironing out the quirks of my own style and focusing more on the cartoon’s likeness. Drawing-wise, Morty, in particular, took a while to get right — I just had to put my thousand hours in drawing his circular face. My relationship with the characters hasn’t changed so much mainly because it feels like I don’t have time to really think about it, I’m just pumping out issue after issue at the moment. Saying that, as I was a massive fan of the cartoon before starting work on the comic I kind of know the characters inside out, so I know if something doesn’t feel right or what a character’s motivation would be like, maybe even what laser gun they’d use, what their body language would be.
As for the comic itself? It was the comic that saved me from giving up working in comics so I’ll always be grateful for Oni Press, especially for editor Ari Yarwood, and the folks at Adult Swim, and even Justin Roiland himself for allowing me to take multiple swings at this franchise. As cheesy and corny as it sounds, it really did save my professional life (ugh, so emo!).
AiPT!: Do you ever miss that backup lifestyle?
ME: Do I miss the laid-back days of only having four pages to do a month? You better believe it! But with the four page limit came a few hurdles, mainly that when I was writing my own backups I would easily write 20 pages worth of material and then have to cut it down. Being the main artist on a monthly comic is a literal childhood ambition, so I’m not complaining… much. Haha.
I love it, I do, but it’s a lot of work. I do miss writing my own stuff, so it was nice to get a chance to do that for issue #50. Plus it’s nice to have your name a bit higher on the front cover when you’re the lead artist. Gotta massage that ego, bro!
AiPT!: In 2016 you mentioned you felt pressure from the fans to keep them happy with the book. Has that pressure reduced or gone away since then?
ME: Yeah, that’s pretty much gone away, at least it’s something I don’t think about at all anymore. We ultimately want to make the fans happy but at the same time, you can’t be beholden to them as otherwise, it’s just fan service not that we shy away from that sometimes but it’s not always a healthy place to start. The beauty of Rick and Morty is that you can put those characters in any situation or genre and it still works, and that’s a testament to the show’s writing so I think the fans trust us to just make some entertaining stories in whatever setting we feel like that month. At this point, there has been more comics than there have been episodes so we’ve kind of had to go off in our own direction — mainly because we’ve run out of episodes to work off of. There’s been what… 70 comics by this point, including mini-series? There’s been an additional, say, 40 backup strips… so 110 stories? There’s only been 30-something episodes of the series.
AiPT!: What is your fondest panel or page you’ve done over the 50-issue run?
ME: Y’know, I still have a lot of love for issue #24, mainly because I was starting to improve artistically, but also, it was my second time working with Kyle and I love the script – it was our take on Event Horizon, and Katy Farin,a our colorist at the time, really killed it — aw man, she totally killed that issue. So, there’s a panel where Rick has amputated Morty’s arms and legs because he’s become possessed and it’s still something I can’t believe got approved.
AiPT!: I’ve always likened the artist to director slash cinematographer and I’m sure your process allows you to control the storytelling and come up with designs. So, my question is, would you ever want to work on an episode of Rick and Morty, or maybe you have another cartoon in mind?
ME: You know, I’m not sure if I’d want to work on the Rick and Morty cartoon. I think I’d rather enjoy it as a fan, but who knows unless they ask? I would love to work on some cartoons that are more grounded like Craig of the Creek perhaps.
AiPT!: Are there any other licensed projects you’d love to work on, either one in production or ones not yet being made into comics?
ME: This is an odd one as I’m going to show my age and come up with loads of ’90s answers that probably wouldn’t sell in today’s market, but here goes nothing! I’d love to do a licensed comic of some of those old LucasArts point-and-click adventure games would be great in my style, like Maniac Mansion/Day of the Tentacle, there’s a lot of fun to be had there… but I think that stuff’s owned by Disney now (maybe?) and why would they care about putting that out as a comic. But I would care, David!
I’d love to do a Daria comic and last I heard MTV was trying to bring her back. Like I said before, Craig of the Creek is a great show, really great premise, awesome character designs, Jeff Rosenstock does the music – ah so good! I’d love to do a comic for that. If Dynamite ever brought back the Bob’s Burgers comics, that would be fun. But if I were to do a license comic again after Rick and Morty, I’d like to avoid doing another five years stretch on it. I have my own comics to work on too, y’know.
AiPT!: When working on an extra-sized issue like issue #50, is there any new or different challenges to overcome?
ME: Well, not for me as I actually illustrated one less page than a normal issue! The hardest challenge was maybe having to draw that dang Mindblowers lab over and over again with the endless rows of test tubes. But at the same time, I got to draw some really funny strips and I did get to write a four-page story that Kyle illustrated about murderous unicorns! But the real heroes for this issue are our editor Sarah Gaydos, our colorist Sarah Stern, and letterer Chris Crank, who, man, they really did the lion’s share of the workload, they deserve all the presents and accolades! Such hard workers, total professionals, no one missed a beat and it’s shipping on time.
AiPT!: Thanks again for your time Marc, it has been a blast reading your work for the last four or so years!
ME: Thanks for having me, David.