ECCC ’21: The RICK & MORTY Happy Funtimes panel

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Publisher-sponsored panels were few and far between at this weekend’s Emerald City Comic Con, but Oni Press was on hand with a handful of events spotlighting their current and upcoming publishing slate. On Saturday morning a panel dedicated to Oni’s Rick & Morty titles welcomed the properties always-enthusiastic fans to discuss what’s new for the license. On-hand for the discussion, moderated by senior Oni Press editor Robert Meyers, were writers Amy Chu (Rick & Morty: The HeRICKtics Of Rick), James Asmus (Rick & Morty: Corporate Assets), and Josh Trujillo (Rick & Morty: Worlds Apart).

(L to R) James Asmus, Amy Chu, Josh Trujillo, and Robert Meyers

The panel kicked off with each panelist naming their favorite Rick & Morty character. Chu said that her two young kids knew everything about Rick & Morty before she did and that one day a pickle showed up in her fridge, which her kids had to explain to her. She said that Rick intrigues her because of his complexity, and that she’s fascinated by Pickle Rick. Trujillo said his favorite is Jerry, a character he said we can all identify with at various points in our lives. “He’s just a disaster on every conceivable level,” he said. Asmus said it was hard to ‘like’ anyone on the show, and that he relates the most to Meseeks as someone who wants to be helpful but is miserable inside.

Asked about his favorite episode, Trujillo said his favorites are the ones with “the dragons,” declining to say their full names in case there were kids around. Chu said the Pickle Rick episode was her favorite on both face value and a meta level. Asmus said he was slow to come to the show due to lack of cable during its early seasons, but that the episode with the mind parasites was the one that grabbed him and that displayed the full spectrum of what Rick & Morty is capable of, from absurd silliness to heavy pathos.

Meyers said he liked the property because it’s so versatile as a result of being a multiverse, and that the three writers have had the freedom to work on a diverse array of titles as a result. Trujillo’s series, Worlds Apart, is about the aforementioned one dragons, which he described as “really horny all the time,” and includes Jerry’s father, Leonard. The series is illustrated by Tony Fleecs.

Chu’s series, The HeRICKtics of Rick with artist Sarah Stern, is a Dune parody, and Meyers asked how she blended two very different properties. “That’s why it’s so perfect,” she said, noting that in parody “contrast is your friend.” Chu spoke about how well-known Dune is, and that it’s a complicated world, but that putting Rick into that universe, it was easy to figure out what motivates him: the Spice. The series debuts in December.

Asmus admitted that his series, Corporate Assets, doesn’t have “the sexiest name,” and Meyers said that the series parodies the very types of books they’re putting out. The writer said he noticed how ubiquitous Rick & Morty was becoming in pop culture as quickly as it did, and that he wanted to see what would happen if Rick became aware of the monetization of himself. The first issue finds a corporation taking ownership of Rick’s life rights for merchandising purposes, and pushes Rick into having to do something new outside of his typical science tricks. The third issue of Corporate Assets is due out next month. Meyers and Asmus both praised artist Jarrett Williams for his ability to shift styles across the series, in particular a scene in which actors portray Rick & Morty.

Asked what the most fun part of working on Rick & Morty is, Asmus praised its versatility, particularly compared to other properties. Chu said the blending of a franchise that she grew up with (Dune, not Rick & Morty), and getting to co-write with her teenaged son, who contributed a lot of the humor to the series, were the most fun parts. Trujillo said the most fun part was putting words into Rick’s mouth, because Rick hates everyone and his cynicism is fun to play against the other characters.

Flipping the question, Asmus said the most challenging part was that he feels pressure living up to the legacy of the show and what his fellow creators are doing on their comics, and that it keeps him on his toes to always be thinking of something better or more surprising. Chu said capturing some of the characters’ voices was a challenge, saying that there’s a “collective universe” voice for Rick & Morty that, if you don’t capture it correctly, you’re not really writing a Rick & Morty story. Beth and Summer were the two characters Chu specifically named as being difficult to write. Trujillo said he struggled with the infinite possibility of the universe and how to narrow down what he wanted to do with the characters and the story, specifically how to take big ideas and boil them down to make them personal stories for the characters.

Meyers asked if there were characters the writers wanted to work with. Asmus said The President, as he is an interesting and not-stupid rival for Rick. Asmus said voice actor Keith David brings a lot to that character, and that he’s strong against Rick in an interesting way. Trujillo said he wants to spend more time writing Jerry, and that he wants to figure out what a Jerry adventure that’s independent of Rick really feels like. Chu said she wasn’t sure if she’d get another opportunity to write Rick & Morty, and she jammed her series full of everyone she wanted, so there’s not really anyone left for her at this point. “Maybe later,” she said.

Is there a place within the Rick & Morty multiverse that the panelists wish they could actually go? Asmus said the Detoxification Center, while Trujillo named The Nursery World. Chu created her own world in her series, so she deferred the question. Asmus also named the Perfect Toilet world, as he is a shy pooper. Meyers and Asmus started spitballing a book where The President invades the Perfect Toilet world, and Trujillo noted that, while viewers of the panel might think this is a joke, this is actually how their story planning sessions go.

Opening up for audience questions, an attendee asked how the approval process is with Warner Bros. Meyers said it sometimes goes very smoothly and is sometimes more complicated. “It’s very collaborative,” he said, citing instances where he’s caught something before it gets to WB and times where they have had to come back and ask for changes. Asmus praised the work the Oni editors do to keep the writers out of trouble with their licensors, and said he was surprised how much they’re able to get away with, particularly when poking fun at WB or AT&T themselves.

Asked about canon and continuity, Meyers said he’s primarily concerned with staying true to the characters, with the understanding that what they’re doing is adding to the multiverse. Chu praised the structure of the Rick & Morty multiverse in that they can do pretty much anything, and that Meyers is there to keep them in-line as needed. She also acknowledged that part of the job is doing homework on continuity when it’s necessary.

Meyers asked how the voice actors for the series influence the work the writers do on the book, and they all said that being able to hear the voices in their heads helped them make sure they were staying on the right track. The panelists also described doing ‘burp and fart passes’ on their books to make sure they were capturing the cadence of Rick’s dialogue as closely as possible.

A fan asked if there were any crossovers with or references to  other media properties the writers would like to tackle, and Asmus said he just asked Meyers about one. Even if an official crossover isn’t available, Asmus said they could always do an ‘unofficial’ crossover as a parody. Trujillo said he would love to do Rick & Morty/Downton Abbey or Among Us. Squid Game would also work perfectly, he said. Chu said a crossover with FortNite would be cool, noting that she went to business school with the president of Epic Games and she should give him a call. Meyers teased that they are working on more crossovers following the successful Rick & Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons crossover. He also teased that the R&MvD&D team of Jim Zub and Troy Little are working on a series coming in fall of next year, featuring Rick & Morty versus what he vaguely described as “a very popular, very public domain horror universe.”

A question from the internet challenged the panelists to play “Smooch/Marry/Kill” with Birdperson, Doctor Wong, and the mailman who constantly says ‘My Man.’

  • Asmus: Marry the mailman, because he can use the validation; Smooch Doctor Wong, kill Birdperson (who may be able to come back as a phoenix person)
  • Chu: Marry Doctor Wong for stable income, smooch Birdperson, kill the mailman
  • Trujillo: Kill Doctor Wong, smooch the mailman, marry Birdperson

An audience member asked, out of all the Ricks, who is the Rickest Rick? Asmus said that, while in the show they say primary Rick is the Rickest, he thinks that Tiny Rick has his whole future ahead of him to define what it means to be the Rickest Rick, and Chu concurred that Tiny Rick is a fascinating character. Trujillo said that he considers being Rick to be a negative, and that Teddy Rick is the ultimate extension of what Rick is.

The panel closed with panelists plugging their other work, with Chu working on Netflix Animation projects and just having written a Jughead horror story for Archie. Trujillo said he just wrapped a Hulkling & Wiccan miniseries for Marvel Unlimited, and Asmus plugged a project he has with co-writer Jim Festante on ComiXology Unlimited called Field Tripping, which he described as a mix of Sliders and Rick & Morty and The Magic School Bus. The series is about to wrap up after a hiatus. Asmus also said he has a series coming with Festante from Dark Horse next year, a book that he described as akin to Mad Max or Judge Dredd, “with very unexpected protagonists.”

With that the panelists told everyone where they could be found on the con floor, and the panel ended.

Miss any of our other ECCC ‘21 coverage? Find it all here!

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