There’s nothing cheesier than starting a conversation with the words “hey, do you remember the 90s?” But really, do you, 90s kids? Remember Rugrats, Gakk, getting slimed, or that spinning thing that twirled around your leg and counted how many times you jumped over it? What was the point of that thing? Anyway, as the wave of nostalgia keeps washing over us like cans of Crystal Pepsi, so are the creators at BOOM! Studios working hard to remind us of a time when our only worries were catching the latest episode of Power Rangers and dying from a sugar rush. With the recent “comicizations” of our favorite childhood shows, it’s only a matter of time before Rocko’s Modern Life sees a revival itself (and not just in the upcoming one hour cartoon set to hit in 2018). As I sat down with the first issue of what is sure to be one of many upcoming stories, I’m surprised to report that it was actually pretty damn good. Have I finally fallen into the nostalgia trap that has kept Transformers alive WAY longer than it should have, or was this actually a good comic? Honestly, I think it’s a little bit of both but I’m happy to say that I don’t regret reading it.
If you’re new to the bizarre cartoon that is Rocko’s Modern Life, the show is about a wallaby named Rocko who does his best to be a proper adult in the face of a world filled with emotionally volatile creatures, and the high price of modern living. While trying to learn to fend for himself, he becomes friends with a dumb cow raised by wolves and a very anxious turtle, both of whom only continue to get him in and out of trouble. Despite everything, Rocko maintains a cheery disposition and keeps believing that happiness is just around the next corner. Also, he has a cute little dog named Spunky. The comic follows this exact premise, opening up on our hero being fired from his telemarketer job at Conglom-O. Forced to face his mounting debt, he reluctantly gets a room-mate who quickly proves more trouble than he’s worth. After costing Rocko a job interview following an all-night party, Rocko unsuccessfully attempts to kick him out, only to be offered a solution he can’t refuse. The story is followed up by a mini-comic about Mr. Bighead going to the dentist, with less than favorable results.
If you’ve watched the show before than this comic is for you! It has all your favorite characters! Filbert the Turtle, Heffer the Cow, Mr. and Mrs. Bighead, that lady with the hooks for hands, along with some new ones like the obnoxious Chalmers, Rocko’s new sloth roommate, and Mr. Bighead’s dentist, Dr. O’Doherty (who I think is a dog?) Though there are plenty of guest appearances, the comic still primarily focuses on Rocko and his new roomie, which keeps it from overwhelming new fans with too many inside jokes and references. In fact, it seems like the whole franchise got a bit of a modernization by not shying away from jokes about geek culture, and dressing the party attendees in swooping hair and ironic t-shirts. Don’t worry, all the main characters still maintain their original looks, but are now rocking out in the fresh end of 2017! There’s also plenty of dark jokes inserted as well, which are easier to spot now that we’re adults. Nothing creepier than seeing a talking chicken cooking chicken in a deep fryer.
One of the biggest draws of the comic, which was also one of the biggest draws of the show, is the physical comedy. Rocko got famous for really pushing the limits of animated exaggeration, something that can still be seen in today’s cartoons like Uncle Grandpa. The creative team did a great job of bringing that same comedic style to the static medium of comics, with exaggerated noodle arms and expressive body language. Even the buildings and backgrounds come more from the imagination of a cartoonist than a comic artist, which only adds to the already surreal landscape of work. It’s about as close to the actual cartoon as you can get without renting a VHS deck.
All in all, Rocko #1 was a fun read and a good prep for the cartoon revival next year. This was one nostalgia trip I didn’t mind taking! Out now at your local comic shop!