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Rocky is a Swedish autobiographical underground comic created by Martin Kellerman. Mostly autobiographical, it follows Author Avatar Rocky, a Funny Animal dog, and his slacker friends, as they deal with relationships and maturity (often the lack therof), hang out at bars and coffee houses and have unusual escapades and often-embarrassing one-night stands at music festivals and Hip Hop concerts. Artistic influences include Mats Jonsson, Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb and Peter Bagge, and numerous Shout Outs to (usually American) rappers, TV shows and movies are sprinkled throughout the comics. As time time passed (and Kellerman got a substantially more stable life situation), the theme of the comic gradually shifted from booze-and-sex-fueled misadventures to coffee-fueled conversations about life, relationships and pop culture.
Kellerman created the comic after his then-girlfriend broke up with him and he got fired from a pornographic magazine for going too far. Initially drawn for the amusement of himself and his fans, he shopped it around publishers who rejected it either because of the sex and language, or because they claimed it was a ripoff of Fritz the Cat. The few papers that did run Rocky got numerous complaints because of its content, but Kellerman ended up publishing several volumes himself that sold really well; he also publishes a magazine featuring Rocky comics, album reviews and interviews with popular rappers. The comic was so successful in Sweden that it was eventually translated by Fantagraphics Books, who published two volumes of translated comics, and it was briefly published in the American version of Metro, the Swedish free newspaper that typically published Rocky in its country of origin. But, as in Sweden, it got canned for Getting Crap Past the Radar. In direct contrast to the controversial reaction Rocky received from newspaper readers, some underground cartoonists considered Rocky to be too mainstream.
While barely known in the United States, Rocky is a cult hero in Sweden, and even appeared on a national postage stamp, a rarity for an underground comic. Kellerman directed a play based on his comics, and a series of five-minute CGI-animated shorts were produced for Swedish television, and later released on DVD in that country (but never translated into English or released in the United States). A few translated strips are even available online via the American publisher's website.
Tropes associated with this work:
- All Men Are Perverts
- Author Avatar: Rocky.
- Catgirl: A few of Rocky's girlfriends are this. As noted below, the entire cast is human, but with animal heads.
- Cultural Translation: Despite Denmark and Sweden being neighboring countries, the Danish translation of the comic have changed quite a few things, starting with moving the setting from Stockholm to the neighborhood Vesterbro in Copenhagen. The Danish translator explained that a direct translation would have been "more anthropologically interesting than actually funny."
- When it was released in English speaking countries, the translator changed some Swede-specific references to make certain jokes more accessible to English speaking audiences (example below), and deleted other comics that English speaking audiences would find incomprehensible. Luckily, since the comic already included references to a number of things English audiences are already familiar with (see ShoutOut section), many of the references made in the English translation were already in the comic to begin with. According to the publisher, the changes were made with Kellerman's approval.
- Did Not Do the Research: Rocky is asked to come on a Swedish music video channel, but since he doesn't know any current pop music, he asks a friend about playing some obscure hip hop music video. The final panel has the friend laughing as he watches Rocky introduce a video by Vengaboys.
- In the English translation, the reference is changed to No Doubt.
- Dogs Are Dumb: Rocky falls into this trope a number of times, such as the above incident.
- Dude, Not Funny: In-universe, Rocky is fired from a pornographic magazine for drawing a gag strip involving incest and pedophilia.
- Early Installment Weirdness: A usual strip is just four panels retelling something that happened to Rocky. Usually a funny conversation. But in early strips, the first three panels would retell a real event while the last one was completely and obviously fictional.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex
- Expy: A publisher rejects Rocky's comic claiming that the main character is an expy of Fritz the Cat. In another strip, Rocky says that the main character in Elvis, a Swedish comic which premiered two years after Rocky, is an expy of his own comics character (see below).
- Funny Animal: All of the characters are drawn as with funny animal heads, but...
- Furries Are Easier to Draw: ...the characters are human, regardless, what with this being an autobiographical comic. Anthropomorphism is used here not because Kellerman is unable to draw humans, but because the events portrayed in the comic are often too embarrassing for him to portray with human characters. This is the sole reason why Furries Are Easier To Draw in this comic, not because Kellerman is unable to draw non-anthropomorphic characters.
- Furry Confusion: Furry Confusion occurs in instances where Kellerman recounts incidents involving animals, such as a storyline about Rocky being asked to euthanize a friend's pet rabbit, or numerous incidents in other pets can be seen walking around.
- Hip Hop: The culture is a reoccurring topic. This is Rocky (and Kellerman)'s sole music of choice.
- Life Embellished: The comic is biographical, but often fictionalized for laughs.
- Petting Zoo People: The characters' animal characteristics are limited to their heads. For the most part, the characters lack animal characteristics otherwise (although Rocky is portrayed with "dog paw" feet in some early comics).
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Minor characters and even the main cast sometimes fall into this trope.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Rocky's strip, as described by his friends, has him taking things they said and "drawing animal heads on us".
- Roman à Clef
- Seinfeldian Conversation
- Self-Deprecation: Quite a few jokes are based around Rocky getting in trouble for acting inmature, narcissistic and/or egostical.
- Shout-Out: Many. Examples include:
- Rocky considers expanding his relationship with a woman beyond a one-night stand because she owns every episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show. A couple of Ren and Stimpy tapes also appear on the cover of the second American compilation, Strictly Business.
- Other things appearing on the cover of Strictly Business include an issue of Peter Bagge's Hate and tapes of Office Space, The Godfather series, Yo! MTV Raps, Scarface and Wild Style.
- Quentin Tarantino is also referenced a few times.
- Many rappers, including Kool Keith, Jay-Z, Little Brother, Nas, and Wu-Tang Clan. Kellerman also got to interview Little Brother for an issue of the Rocky magazine.
- A strip has one of Rocky's girlfriends reading Maus and asking Rocky about doing a comic about Nazis.
- Rocky becomes friends with an ex-girlfriend, and suggests that their relationship is similar to that of Jerry and Elaine on Seinfeld; she considers it closer to that of Charlie and Raymond Babbit in Rain Man.
- A strip has Rocky talking about trying to become rich and famous. He references Matt Groening and Aardman.
- When Rocky decides to self-publish his comic, he mentions that the Beastie Boys started out as a punk band, and now own their own record label. Today, however, this is no longer true, as Grand Royal Records folded in 2001.
- Rocky's girlfriend drags him and his friends to the video store to rent something other than Monty Python videos, but they end up renting this anyway.
- Take That: One comic is a Take That towards Elvis, a similarly-themed Swedish comic which premiered two years after Rocky. Rocky says that it's an obvious rip-off of his own comic, since "Funny Animals having sex are my thing!" But his friend has another interpretation of this remark.
- Testosterone Poisoning: One strip has Rocky arm-wrestling Manny. If it weren't enough that the two are in a figurative dick-measuring contest here, the competition eventually boils down to a literal dick-measuring contest.
- The Slacker: Much of the cast.
- The Stoner: Faced between the choice of talking to an ugly one-night stand or smoking questionable pot with the local Stoners, Rocky takes the later route. He ultimately regrets this decision when his buddies decide to mess with him after he's passed out; he thinks that if Bob Marley's friends were as immature as his, Marley probably wouldn't have been so keen on the 'erb.
- Underground Comics
- Write Who You Know: As noted above.