By: Shawn Warner
Get the ants out of your eyes Johnson because you are going to want to feast those peepers on all the Rick and Morty goodness contained in this 225 page treasure trove. You would need a portal gun to go deeper into the world of Rick and Morty than this exhaustive volume takes you. It’s full of interesting details concerning the creative process that brought us these insanely imaginative characters and the worlds they inhabit. From the glow in the dark cover to the very last page this book is permeated with the brilliant humor of Justin Roiland; call it satire, (although he wouldn’t), social commentary, (again he wouldn’t) or parody, the one word that can definitely be used to describe Roiland’s work is hilarious. Page after page whether visually or by reading the accompanying commentary for each section this has to be the funniest book I’ve read this year and that’s no small accomplishment for an art book which we normally think of as more of a collection of prints and production pieces loosely woven together by a quasi-narrative peppered with pre-production tidbits; there is so much more here to justify the cover price, in fact at $40 it’s a steal.
The book is broken down into five chapters each one focusing on a specific visual element of the show. The first chapter, Family and Friends deals with the main characters; their evolution of design and perhaps most enlightening are the notes which are written as a “Dos and Don’ts” list pertaining to drawing these characters we have come to know and love. The details are so amazing, they cover every aspect of the iconic look of Rick and Morty, from the decidedly demure look of Morty’s hands to the location of shape of his ears, nothing is left to chance. The next chapter examines the inhabitants of the various worlds we have seen our pair of dimension hopping heroes visit as well as those not so far away: Neighbors, Aliens, Mutants and More gives us the skinny on the supporting cast of characters. The following three chapters give us an in-depth look at the Technology, the Environments and the last chapter is concerned with Production and all the insanely talented people who work so hard to bring us the inspired genius that is Rick and Morty. This is all done is eye-popping glorious color and crystal clear detail, everything is here from the pre-production facial expression charts to the props, backgrounds and environmental settings.
The curtain is pulled all the way back to reveal the inspirations for many of the eclectic characters and stories. The complete process is broken down for Mr. Poopybutthole, Squanchy and Birdperson; even the Interdimensional Ricks and Mortys are delved into and given wonderful two page spreads depicting each iteration of the characters. Every aspect of character design is addressed including the input from many of the voice actors like David Cross, Stephen Colbert and Kurtwood Smith. Almost on an episode by episode basis we are given each individual element separately to peruse and study at length, beats the hell out of how I used to try to examine Futurama episodes by pausing my vhs tapes of the show.
The writing is also top-notch, from Justin Roiland’s hilarious foreword to the commentary running through each of the chapters written by James Sicilano, who seems to be channeling Roiland channeling Rick Sánchez, there are laugh out loud moments all over the place including in the pre-production notes which are full of interesting information and trivia. It’s definitely not dense, however there is enough to read to keep it entertaining and informative without bogging down the super brisk pace. Let’s be honest, even in an art book as funny as this one, the star of the show is the artwork and that’s not a bad thing. Hey it’s not a novel.
The Art of Rick and Morty satisfies on multiple levels; it offers a glimpse behind the scenes of the television series and really gives a feel for the passion and drive these extremely talented creators, writers and animators have for this property. It’s that rare hybrid of coffee table style art book, making of-type/text booky comedy book, is that a thing? If not then this is it, the first one. After reading it through you will not only have a new appreciation for a show that you already love but it can be re-read again and again each time revealing something new about these characters, their environments or technology. So don’t wait until January to Michael Down your Vincents, go out and get The Art of Rick and Morty now. 5/5
Written by: James Sicilano, Justin Roiland
Artwork by: Justin Roiland, James McDermott, Jason Boesch, Carlos Ortega, Andrew DeLange