When you were in middle school, Hot Topic was your go-to for band t-shirts, checkered Vans, Manic Panic hair dye, and Happy Bunny. Who could forget the adorable rabbit who never ran out of insults?
Illustrator Jim Benton created It's Happy Bunny in the '90s, but the cartoon became immensely popular circa 2001 when Hot Topic started selling stickers, notebooks, t-shirts, pins -- the list goes on -- emblazoned with signature rude comebacks.
"My favorite slogan would probably be 'You suck and that's sad.' That was one of the first three [illustrations] that I did," Benton told MTV News over the phone.
After Hot Topic -- whom Benton called "the most professional, honest, sweetest people in the business" -- saw his designs at a New York licensing show, Happy Bunny stickers hit the stores. The stickers were such a success that Benton drew even more bunnies, and more Happy Bunny merch followed.
Now Benton is planning to relaunch the award-winning It's Happy Bunny line on June 21 at the national Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. Happy Bunny has never been totally off the market, he said, but he let the character "relax for a little" during the late 2000s market crash.
"I got a lot of emails from fans that still love it and want to see it," Benton said. He's even seen fans with Happy Bunny-inspired tattoos.
The relaunch will include the popular slogans you know and love, plus a few new sayings updated for 2016.
"They have to be rejuvenated. Some of the old stuff will work and some of it is real dusty," Benton explained. "If there is a show you like, [say] Friends, and then you go back and watch it 15 [or] 20 years later, you're like, why did I think this was so funny? It just changes, what people like and what jokes work. They have expiration dates on them."
It's Happy Bunny isn't Benton's only project, though. Last year, his web cartoons compiled in Dog Butts and Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats. won a prestigious Eisner Award, which is basically the Academy Award of comics. He's illustrated and written numerous books over the years, including the Dear Dumb Diary and Franny K. Stein series. (Dear Dumb Diary was even developed into a TV movie!)
But Happy Bunny remains his biggest success, drawing in a three-quarters of one billion dollars in profit. Damn, that's one wealthy rabbit.
Benton explained that whenever he feels ~inspired~, he sketches out a cartoon and posts it on a bulletin board in his studio. That's where his early Happy Bunny designs hung out before Hot Topic licensed them.
"Over time, if something is just garbage, it gets filed away. If something continues to make me laugh ... it stays up," Benton said. "After a while, Happy Bunny was one of those ones that every time I looked at it, I started laughing. So that's when I figured that it was worth trying to do something with."
And that's how Happy Bunny came to be the sassy, sarcastic cartoon that threw shade and sipped tea before either of those things were a thing. Something tells us Happy Bunny will get along just fine in 2016.