Interview

Rick and Morty: Vindicators creator reveals the origin story we “need” next

Sarah Carbiener tells Inverse all about making Vindicators, her favorite Pickle Rick memories, and why she wants a Million Ants origin story movie

In a multiverse filled with limitless potential, the first official Rick and Morty spinoff may come as a bit of a surprise. Vindicators takes the Avengers-inspired team first seen in “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender” (Season 3, Episode 4) and fleshes those characters out into an epic adventure of their own. Sort of.

Telling a Vindicators story means facing a few hurdles, the biggest one being that most of the superhero squad is dead by the end of that episode. The solution? Tell a prequel. “Vindicators 2,” to be exact.

“It felt like a safe pocket to go in that can serve the canon,” spinoff co-creator and Rick and Morty writer Sarah Carbiener tells Inverse.

If you don’t recall your R&M history, Vindicators 2 is the mission the team went on without Rick and Morty, which means the duo doesn’t show up in the spinoff — though they are mentioned, repeatedly.

Vindicators is also dramatically different from your regular season of Rick and Morty. Instead of eight or so 20-minute episodes, we get 10 bite-sized episodes coming in at two or three minutes each. Combined, they assemble into Avengers-sized adventure, albeit with a lot of missing chunks.

“There's a thread but not necessarily like a strong one,” Carbiener says.

“We need the Million Ants movie.”

The result is an interesting experiment in storytelling that should make Dan Harmon proud. While the 10 mini-episodes of Vindicators don’t fit together perfectly, they still manage to tell a story that redefines the original Rick and Morty episode in intruiging ways I probably shouldn’t spoil here.

Read on for the full interview with Carbiener on making Vindicators, her favorite Pickle Rick memories, and why she wants a Million Ants origin story movie.

This interview has been edited.

Inverse: So I wanted to sort of start very basic. Why are we making a Vindicators show? How did it happen? And why are you the one in charge of it?

Sarah Carbiener: Well, the reason there's a Vindicators show is Adult Swim asked me and Erica Rosbe, who wrote the original Vindicators episode, if we wanted to do some Vindicators shorts. We felt like there was a lot there because the episode laid out so much backstory.

On that note, is this canon to the rest of Rick and Morty?

I want to say, 100 percent yes, because that was the idea. The plan was 100 percent canon because we wanted it to like fit with the episode that exists. But I am sure there's somebody that's gonna watch this and be like, “this violates canon.”

I mean, it's always easy to say, “It's the multiverse, whatever,” right?

Oh, but when you're talking about people within a multiverse, they're still related to Rick. We don't have that get-out-of-jail free card.

Were Rick and Morty co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland involved?

We talked to Dan a couple of times to make sure everything was in this universe, but he was very awesome. He was just kind of like, “I think this is a great direction. Alright, go with God. Have fun.” He was very helpful.

Do you see this as a superhero show or sci-fi or somewhere in between?

I would say it’s an alien superhero show because most of them are not all that human, and it’s out in space. It's not a group of five people in New York City. It's probably more like a Guardians of the Galaxy kind of thing.

Are there any other stories like Guardians you were inspired by?

We wanted to do non-superhero stuff. Everyone knows the shorthand. Everybody's seen 10 origin story movies and 10 ensemble movies. Our inspiration was to take advantage of how much material there is and then go be bizarre.

A few of the shorts show the Vindicators getting some quiet downtime. One of those is basically a Robyn music video. In an episode of Rick and Morty, there's so much going on all the time. It's the densest show on television. So it's really cool to take these beautifully designed characters and Ryan Elder's music and then create little weird idiosyncratic moments instead.

Why did you decide to make this a prequel to the Rick and Morty Vindicators episode?

That was kind of the first decision. We're on a timeline. Do we want to resurrect people? Everything was on the table. But we just thought it would be fun to do “Vindicators 2.” Because there's such a big deal made out of that time period in the Rick and Morty episode.

It felt like a safe pocket to go in that could serve the canon. You can foreshadow what's coming, but we were completely free of having to explain where Rick was.

Do we get origin stories for any of these characters?

No. We don't. But I think origin stories are interesting. We need the Million Ants movie.

Is that coming next?

I mean, there's more room going backward. We do kind of keep destroying the Vindicators. And so that does almost demand that you keep going backward.

Rick and Morty in “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender.”Adult Swim

What was it like working on Rick and Morty?

Working on that show was incredible. In any regular show, you'd get somewhere by the first commercial break. That's the first minute of a Rick and Morty episode. We would like just generate so much story and then you'd come into work the next day and it's like, okay, so that's Act One. Now, when do we do the rest of the episode?

Do you have a favorite episode of the show?

Oh gosh, that's really hard. I mean I love the Citadel of Rick's. I think that's my all-time favorite. Yeah, I love Citadel of Rick's. That one's just awesome.

Did you work on that one?

I did get to work on that one and pitching on that one was so much fun and working on Pickle Rick was great too. I can fully picture the moment sitting on the couch, where it's like, “Okay, how is he going to like get to the point where he has limbs?” And it's like, “Oh, he has to tongue a rat brain.”

But Citadel of Rick's is just like — we worked on that like for so long. Any one of those storylines could have been a whole episode unto itself.

Is there any sort of statement you're trying to make about the genre in general with Vindicators?

Don't trust your heroes, which was a big theme of the episode itself. There’s no such thing as true heroes. Everybody's got an agenda. At the end of the day, heroism is good PR.

I always feel bad saying this.

Pretty cynical. I like it.

It's cynical because we love it. You can't be super cynical about stuff that you have no feelings about.

Is there anything else you want to say about Vindicators?

I want people to watch. I'm just really excited to hear what everybody thinks. Just don't be mean to me on Twitter.

Vindicators is streaming now on YouTube.