Rick and Morty is a very dark and existential multiverse-spanning science fiction comedy created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, for those who don’t know. The comic, however, is the brainchild of Zac Gorman and CJ Cannon, and the stories within the comic are approved by Roiland and Harmon but are not necessarily connected to the ongoing show. Something the show hasn’t done yet is have a heavily cyberpunk inspired episode, but Zac Gorman wrote a story so cyberpunk that they have ample opportunity to jab fun at the genre.
Rick and Morty shares themes with cyberpunk to the degree that I’m surprised the only strong references have been in peripheral media. The show is deeply existential, as are many of the cyberpunk anti-heroes in typical cyberpunk media. Rick is almost an archetypal rebel from the cyberpunk universe, so it is humorous in the comic that the cyberpunk universe is a Rickless one. He is very nihilistic to the point of often being fatalistic and he deals with this by drowning himself in mind altering substances. He uses technology to elevate himself above the norm of humanity, which is distinctly lesser than Rick in capability.
Rick and Morty’s storytelling does not shy away from the “punk” aspects of the universe. We see crime, we see backward uses for technology, and we see bad people. Jerry is a fantastic example of the everyman in his slavish existence. He endures the cycle of being a “mediocre” citizen and shines only when all of this is stripped away. He is content to watch life pass him by, except when his family is in danger. Like cyberpunk, Rick and Morty uses science fiction to tell stories that are socially conscious. Stories that are about us, even at our darkest and most depressed.
Zac Gorman’s cyberpunk story in the Rick and Morty-verse is told in issues 7, 9, and ten from Oni Press. Rick and Morty escape to a 10 cyberpunk universe to hide from a sludge monster that is trying to kill Rick. They escape there because it a universe that doesn’t contain a Rick, which he supposes will help them hide from the creature hunting Ricks (There are many Ricks in the multiverse). They discover that Morty is an evil overlord here, that Beth (Morty’s mother) is his evil accomplice, that Summer (Morty’s sister) is leading a resistance against Morty’s regime, and that Jerry (their everyman father) bides his time. The universe is filled with people with heavy augmentation and robots patrolling the dirty streets. I’ll avoid spoiling the super interesting plot, but they make tons of references to cyberpunk properties like Blade Runner, Akira, Snow Crash, Neuromancer, Hackers, and more.
Although the comics are not necessarily linked to the show by the authors own admission, they do explore some interesting material that could have implications for the ongoing plot for the show. In the episode Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind, we meet Evil Morty, as he has come to be known by the fan community, a Morty that controls his Rick via remote. Rick tells Morty, “Just don’t get too big for your loafers Buster Brown. A cocky Morty can lead to some big problems. It can be a real bad thing for everybody.” In Gorman’s story, we see a Morty without a Rick, and he becomes a world dictator. Evil Morty, over-powered his Rick and tried to rid the entire multiverse of Ricks. Later in another Gorman story, we see Morty, again without Rick, become a Muad-dib figure from Dune. If you aren’t familiar, he becomes a monarch and religious leader who is dismissive. So, here’s my theory. When Morty “gets too big for his loafers,” he becomes the paragon of control. A dictator, or “moral” leader who imposes his morality on others. The antithesis of Rick, who is the paragon of anti-authoritarian ideology and believes that freedom is important above all else.
The Rick and Morty comics are available from Oni Press. You can stream some of Rick and Morty’s two seasons on Adult Swim’s website, and the show has been confirmed for a third season expected to begin near the end of the year. We must just see a cyberpunk inspired episode yet. What do you think? Does Rick and Morty share themes with the cyberpunk genre?