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Comic Book / Rocky

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Rocky is a Swedish autobiographical 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 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 being too edgy. In direct contrast to the sometimes 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 quite well-known in Sweden, and even appeared on a national postage stamp, a rarity for a 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).

In April 2018, after 20 years of production, Kellerman announced that Rocky would cease, and that he would move on to other projects.

No relation to the Sylvester Stallone movie series.

Rocky provides examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts: The men in the strips, especially early strips, keep talking about sex again and again. Though All Women Are Lustful too, they're just less obvious about it.
  • And a Diet Coke: One early strip uses this joke, with a horrified Rocky and Tommy witnessing a rather large man ordering a hot dog wrap from a street food vendor, but with cheeseburgers as well as hot dogs, mashed potatoes, fried onions and french fries with the oil still on them... and a Pepsi Light. The vendor describes the following scene as watching a komodo dragon devour a pig.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Rocky has this relationship with his younger brother, who spent most of the strips run so far either out of work, in prison for drug smuggling or, at one point, interred in a mental hospital due to a nervous breakdown. At one point Rocky ended up buying him an old house in the Småland area of Sweden to keep him out of trouble, but he and two delinquent teenagers he had befriended ended up burning it down while trying to exterminate an ant nest. Its only in recent years that his life has stabilized. He now has a stable job, a girlfriend and a daughter. Rocky even Lampshades how well his brother did for himself once he stopped having Rocky bail him out of all his screwups.
  • Author Avatar: Rocky is a fictional version of strip creator Martin Kellerman, though not everything in the strip has happened for real.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Discussed in a few strips, where Rocky concludes that the reason the "hot but crazy" stereotype exists is because if a woman is beautiful, everyone indulges her neuroses, while an unattractive person have to swallow theirs if they don't want to be completely ignored.
  • Butt-Monkey: Rocky and Manny
  • The Bus Came Back: Emily, one of Rocky's longest-lasting girlfriends from the early years, returns about 10 years after her last appearance, and the two have a one-night stand. Humorously, Rocky also discovers that Emily has a son, and is much relieved when she specifies that he is not old enough to be Rocky's.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Rocky and Manny have a discussion on the topic, when judging the relative attractiveness of Emily and her sister.
    Rocky: I mean, I like Emily, but her sister has a certain... je ne sais quoi...
    Manny: Is "je ne sais quoi" French for "huge, bouncy tits" or something?
  • The Cameo: Charlie Christensen, the creator of Arne Anka, appears in a strip. He is portrayed as a duck.
  • Cat Girl: 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."
    • The Norwegian translation does the same, with the magazine running several articles where the translator explains why certain things were translated they way they were, and delving into the content of the original Swedish version.
    • 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, and deleted other strips 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, 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone but especially Tommy.
  • 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. Kellerman has stated that the incident in question is entirely autobiographical, but the strip was intended as a way to vent about the nature of his craptastic job, and wasn't intended to be seen by anyone. Part of what got him fired was probably that the joke was a dark pedophile reference to the Totte series of childrens books which were popular in Sweden in the 90s.
  • Eagleland: Rocky is vocal in his belief that America is straight Boorish, but that has more to do with his being well... him, than anything to do with America. It also didn't stop him from visiting whenever he got half a chance.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The average 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.
    • A set of strips printed in 98 were designed to advertise the Rocky Calendar for 1999, and so only had three panels, with the fourth being an ad.
    • The early strips had more slapstick.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Especially in the earlier strips, where a lot of the humor revolved around ill-advised relationships, terrible one-night stands etc.
  • 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.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Rocky as the Responsible one, and his brother as the Foolish one. When the strip started, the two were about the same level of Foolish, but as Rockys career and thus his life stabilized, he quickly became the Responsible one, while his brother spiraled further into Foolish, to the point that he ended up in prison on drug charges. This is no longer relevant though, as he's since straightened out.
  • 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 Lens: All of the characters are blatantly humans, and are treated by the narrative themselves. Kellerman has explained draws everyone with furry heads because he believes that the situations he depicts would be embarrassing rather than funny if he drew the characters as full-on humans.
  • 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.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Manny is this all over, being subject to a ton of humiliation and poor treatment by his friends.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Some time into the comics run, Tommy is revealed to have this. Rocky says its probably because of his bad back giving him an incredibly foul mood most of the time.
    • Rocky is usually fairly chill, but has this on occasion, usually when he's already angry about some other issue, anything even mildly annoying will set him off.
  • Hidden Depths: Klasse, the laziest, most hedonistic and slackeriest of Rocky's lazy, hedonistic slacker friends, turns out to not only be the only one to have served in the military, but to have served in the Navy Special Forces diving detachment (generally considered to be the most demanding MOS in the Swedish military).
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: At one point, Rippo offers a very hungover Rocky one of these, consisting of raw eggs, tomato juice and antacids. The very mention of the mix makes Rocky vomit violenty, which turns out to have been the point, as it makes the toxins leave Rockys body.
  • Hip-Hop: The culture is a reoccurring topic. This is Rocky (and Kellerman)'s sole music of choice. This comes back to bite Rocky on occasion, as the comic likes to poke fun at the idea of a white middle class Swede being so heavily into hiphop. A lot of the covers and filler art drawn for the paperback collections are also parodies of iconic Hip Hop albums.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Rocky at one point goes into detail about his childhood, and shows that yes, everyone is a gigantic asshole from cradle to grave.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Rocky, all the time. But since his friends are almost as ignorant, and most of their conversations are pointless anyway, he is rarely corrected. On occasion, some of his more stupid statements will be met with sarcastic responses, which he usually ignores.
  • Jerkass: The title character.
  • Life Embellished: The comic is biographical, but often fictionalized for laughs.
  • Out of Focus: As Rocky, and Kellerman, aged and matured, a lot of the friends from the early Days have all but vanished. This is especially noteable with Tommy who was portrayed as Rockys best friend in the first few books, but hasnt appeared for years. Its implied in a few strips that his job and his family keeps him away. Another disappeared Close friend was the finnish Rippo, who became a civil engineer and dropped off the face of the Earth.
  • Missing Mom: Both Rocky's and Kellerman's mother died of cancer when the character and the author were in their late teens.
  • Non-Human Head: 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).
  • Perpetual Poverty: A common source of humor in the early years of the strip. Ironically however, this period was based on Kellermans life, which had less to do with bad finances (he made quite a bit of money making cartoons for porn magazines) and more a lack of places to live, Stockholm being notoriously difficult to find decent housing in, something that was also a common source of jokes.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Minor characters and even the main cast sometimes fall into this trope.
    • Manny is by far the worst offender of this trope. Despite being a hig-strung, whiny white Swede, he often attempts to pass himself off as "street", usually by referencing people he's gotten to know through his job. Absolutely no one takes him seriously.
  • 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: The strip's main source of comedy in later years.
  • 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 & 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 (1983) 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 dismisses the idea, since Maus was an autobiography about the authors father, while any comic he could write on the subject wouldn't exactly break new ground and would boil down to "Nazis are mean".
    • 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 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. Tommy is also quick to point out that Beastie Boys weren't exactly underground when they started out either.
    • 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 them anyway. Several Monty Python's Flying Circus sketches are quoted in this strip, including "Language Lab," "Life or Death Struggle," and "Hungarian Phrase Book."
    • Rocky's girlfriend Emily compares him to the protagonist of Once Were Warriors, to which he replies that he is more like Napoleon Dynamite.
  • The Slacker: Much of the cast. Often, Rocky and friends just sit around watching TV.
  • 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 latter 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.
  • Speed Sex: When Rocky first hooked up with one-time girlfriend Emily, it not only ended up like this, he fell asleep on top of her as soon as he finished.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Arne Anka which served the same role in Swedish culture during the 80's and 90's as Rocky did to the 2000's.
  • 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. Manny wins, but Rocky claims its only because his shower didn't have any hot water that morning.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: One early storyline revolves around Rocky and Tommy being asked to take their friend Linda's pet rabbit to the vet to be put down due to its advanced age. Manny tells her this is a bad idea, as he remembers the two playing "Ant Auschwitz" when they were kids. You then get to see them discussing which would be the "coolest" way to put the poor animal down.