Nickelodeon's Rocko's Modern Life has a new lease on life with an animated special coming next year and a comic book series debuting next week.
But there's one small catch: he's unemployed.
Ryan Ferrier and Ian McGinty chart a new chapter for the cartoon wallaby's life in BOOM! Studios' four-issue Rocko's Modern Life. 20 years after the conclusion of his original animated series, Rocko has nowhere to go but up - and Ferrier and McGinty talked with Newsarama about how that's going to happen.
Newsarama: Ryan, what’s Rocko up to in this new series?
Ryan Ferrier: Life, that’s what! When we reconnect with our favorite wallaby in the first issue, you’ll see that our boy is still swimming upstream. He still lives at home with Spunky, and his employment is anything but stable. As such, Rocko is feeling more of a sense of urgency in his position in life, from professionally to romantically. More than ever, Rocko wants to become the wallaby he was meant to be, despite not fully knowing what that means yet.
Nrama: Ian, what got you to sign on for Rocko’s Modern Life?
Ian McGinty: I mean, a chance to add my name to the amazing roster of writers, artists, and designers that have worked on, what I think, was one of the smartest animated kids’ series ever created definitely had my attention, especially considering Rocko’s Modern Life was originally intended to be a comic and it is one of my absolute favorite animated series. Yeah, that was definitely the biggest thing that got me to get on this. I must say, though, the opportunity to collaborate with Ryan is also up there, as well as colorist Fred Stresing (whom I’ve worked with for years), and letterer Jim Campbell’s work is fantastic. All in all, how could I resist?
Nrama: How would you describe the story?
McGinty: Insane. I mean, really, it’s insane. The first issue alone is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a comic based on an animated series, especially one whose popularity has only gone up and up since the ’90s. I’ve stretched every single aspect of my art to make the action and scenes as fun to look at as possible, and I think the comic accurately reflects that unique charm Rocko’s had that appealed to both kids and adults. But yes, insane.
Nrama: The show was called "Rocko’s Modern Life" but it’s been over 20 years since it came out. Are there any efforts by you to modernize this at all, visually, aesthetically, or otherwise?
Ferrier: The show was such a wonderfully sharp-witted look at life during its time, and that’s something that still drives our story. We’ve certainly brought the modern era into the fold while keeping everything familiar and relatable. Social media and certain technologies are a big part of the story, and, undeniably, elements of our characters’ lives. More importantly, how people interact with each other socially, and what it means for these characters to be, for better or worse, adults in the modern era, and the challenges they face, is the kind of fodder we’ve been looking forward to working with. This series certainly will not feel dated, nor will it lean at all on nostalgia, apart from being true to the citizens of O-Town themselves.
Nrama: So, Rocko’s here - who else can fans expect to show up?
Ferrier: The whole dang gang is up for grabs, which we’re incredibly excited about. Rocko’s main crew of pals - Spunky, Heffer, and Filburt - play significant roles in the story, as do the Ed and Bev Bighead. We’re definitely going to be bringing in the fan favorites, from Peaches to Squirmy and Bloaty. We’re also excited to welcome some all-new folks into the mix. The first issue sees one such character in Chalmers the sloth, who was too much fun to create. We’re really confident that fans of the show are going to be more than pleased.
Nrama: Oddly, this comic book series is taking Rocko full circle since Joe Murray originally envisioned this all as a comic book before the cartoon. How deep did you dive in terms of research for this project?
Ferrier: My first order of business was to consume the show, and I fell in love all over again. It was really profound watching it at my age now versus when I was younger. If anything, I connected to it more, having my own life experiences under my belt. Along with getting that familiarity back, I think it’s been really important to connect with the characters and their lives on a personal level. A property like this demands a genuine personal touch, so there is definitely a lot of “us” in the new comic.
Nrama: It’s odd talking continuity with something like Rocko’s Modern Life, but I have to ask - where does this fit in with the animated series?
Ferrier: We’re absolutely treating it like the years have passed and we’re seeing O-Town in 2017. We’re also keeping a close eye on continuity, so I’d say it’s certainly in canon. There may be a couple superfluous leniencies here and there, but we’re not reinventing anything important to the characters or stories that have come before. The fact that some time has passed since the show makes it a little merciful in terms of continuity, but that’s also part of the challenge and the appeal of going back to O-Town.
Nrama: Ian, I’ve learned that during your work on this, you applied for - and were hired - for Nickelodeon Animation. Pretty surreal as you’re working on a licensed comic based on one of their shows. Can you explain how that happened?
McGinty: Absolutely. I was recently asked if I’d be interested in working on a new Invader Zim television special during a week at PixelATL (highly recommend), a festival in Cuernavaca, Mexico celebrating comics, animation, and video games. I met Jenny Goldberg, art director on the project, and Jhonen Vasquez, the creator. I’ve known Jhonen for a couple of years after I did some work for that comic book adaptation, and Invader Zim is another of my top favorite shows, so I freaked out, moved to Los Angeles, and here I am, typing this from my cubicle at Nickelodeon. Funny enough, I’m actually a stone’s throw away from the Rocko’s Modern Life production team, and I’m hoping they read the comic and like what Ryan, me, and the team are doing. It’s basically a dream come true to work during the day on Invader Zim and then go home and work on Rocko’s Modern Life. Definitely surreal.
Nrama: Since you’re there right this moment, can you pop over and ask about working on that too?
McGinty: I’d ask them right now but everyone is out to lunch. I’m planning to give everybody over there a copy of the comic, though, so who knows!
Nrama: Ok, maybe later…
Big picture, what are your goals here with this comic book?
McGinty: I want to make people laugh for both the new and the nostalgic. I think we’ve made something really special here, thanks to a wallaby, a cow, and a turtle (and a dog, and two cane toads, and a family of wolves, and twin lizards, and a milk-spewing monster with an udder for a head... oh, and two parasites). Please enjoy the comic.
Ferrier: From day one, the goal with this new Rocko’s series is to have heart and be funny. We’re not interested in making a story with nothing to say about modern life, and while that can be heavy at times, all the parts are there to be super comedic. I want people to enjoy these new adventures and feel like they connected with it on a personal level.