Johnny the Homicidal Maniac
|Johnny the Homicidal Maniac|
The front cover of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #1
|Publisher||Slave Labor Graphics|
|Publication date||August 1995 - January 1997|
|Number of issues||
|Main character(s)||Johnny C., Squee|
|Editor(s)||Jennifer de Guzman|
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (abbreviated JTHM) is the first comic book by Jhonen Vasquez. The series tells the story of a fictional serial killer named Johnny C. as he explores the psychological and possibly supernatural forces which compel him to commit a string of murders. In the 1990s, Johnny began as a comic strip, then ran under alternative comics publisher Slave Labor Graphics as a limited series of seven issues, later collected in the trade paperback Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut. The series produced two spin-offs titled Squee! and I Feel Sick.
- 1 Creation
- 2 Director's Cut
- 3 Spin-offs
- 4 Style
- 5 Main characters
- 6 Setting
- 7 Synopsis
- 8 Filler strips
- 9 Reception
- 10 Merchandise
- 11 External links
- 12 References
Jhonen Vasquez started drawing in kindergarten. Later, he attended Mount Pleasant High School, where, taking part in a contest to design a new look for his school's mascot, the Cardinal, Vasquez submitted an entry that the judges rejected. On the back of a preliminary drawing for the contest, he drew his first sketch of the character he would later name Johnny C. Vasquez's high school's student newspaper published a number of comic strips titled Johnny the Little Homicidal Maniac. Vasquez says the character originated as a personal avatar who could carry out his own revenge fantasies. Rob Schrab makes the same observation. However, Vasquez has always distanced himself from the character, saying that Johnny should not be mistaken for an author surrogate. Vasquez also created Happy Noodle Boy while attending Mount Pleasant as a way to stop his girlfriend from asking him to draw comics for her.
In the early 1990s, Carpe Noctem, a magazine about the goth subculture, published several one-page strips featuring Johnny, now called Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Though he never planned to create comic books, Vasquez submitted samples of his artwork to alternative comics publisher Slave Labor Graphics. Between August 1995 and January 1997, the publisher released a series of seven full-length issues based on the character. Vasquez describes the production process for Johnny as a "mess" and a "spew". As Vasquez worked on the comic, he prepared less and less, foregoing outlines and sketches and writing dialogue as he inked. Vasquez wishes that he had taken more time to plan the series, and feels that the quality of the dialogue suffered from his haphazard approach.
A photograph of one of Vasquez's friends, Leah England, serves as the middle of a portrait collection on the cover of the second issue of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. England also gave Vasquez the inspiration for a filler strip about a child who was dangerously afraid of losing sight of his mother, as well as the "Meanwhile..." strip in the second issue. The two were discussing an event that had happened to a cheerleader, and thinking up the worst excuse possible.
Jhonen based Psychodoughboy and Mr. Eff on two real Styrofoam Pillsbury Doughboy display figures that he found and painted. He created Nailbunny as he was drawing the first page on which the character appears. Vasquez's style was influenced by Tim Burton and Edward Gorey. Vasquez modeled for himself while drawing the characters.
Vasquez intended a tapeworm named Scolex to be one of Johnny's voices, but the character never made it into the finished series. Vasquez now uses Chancre Scolex as a pen name for Everything Can Be Beaten and his LiveJournal.
Like many alternative comics, and other Slave Labor Graphics titles, Johnny is creator-owned. By September 1996, Vasquez announced in his introduction to the sixth issue of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac that he had reached sufficient success in his artistic career to be able to quit his day-job and devote himself full-time to his art.
As his comics moved from dedicated comic book shops into shopping malls, Vasquez bemoaned the attendant change in his audience. Vasquez went on to create a children's television series called Invader Zim, and became uncomfortable with younger fans of Zim reading Johnny, because of the violence depicted.
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut, a trade paperback released by Slave Labor Graphics in July 1997, collected the series. Slave Labor also released a hardcover version of the collection. Rob Schrab provides a foreword. The trade paperback includes a "Gallery of Ancient Horrors" that features a few strips previously published in the Mount Pleasant High School newspaper and Carpe Noctem, as well as some strips previously unpublished, all with commentary by Vasquez. The paperback also introduces some new supplementary materials such as sketches, an issue-by-issue synopsis, character profiles, and a fictional interview with Vasquez, but leaves out many of the filler strips from the original series.
The cover of the trade paperback features the logo "Z?", meaning "question sleep". "Z?" appears frequently throughout Vasquez's work and Question Sleep is the name of his official website. "Z?" is a reference to insomnia, a condition from which several of his characters suffer.
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac spawned two spin-offs: a four-issue series titled Squee!, and a double-shot titled I Feel Sick. The trade paperback release of Squee!, titled Squee's Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors, includes the filler strips left out of Director's Cut. Johnny makes cameo appearances at the end of Squee! and in the second issue of I Feel Sick.
The comic is high-contrast black and white with stylized and geometric cartoon characters. Graphical perspective is often very loose. The panel borders are jagged, and certain strips have messages hidden in the complex designs of the borders. Many of the characters are thin nearly to the point of being stick figures. Several of the characters, including Johnny, wear T-shirts with expressive messages that change from panel to panel. Vasquez often breaks the fourth wall with side comments to talk about the book, its audience, or himself. The speech balloons change with the moods of the characters. For example, Johnny's word balloons grow thorns when he becomes angry.
Johnny "Nny" C.
The series focuses on Johnny C., a deranged killer who elaborately slaughters anyone who irritates him. He drains his victims of blood to paint over a wall in his house to prevent a monster from escaping. He is five feet, nine inches and one hundred and fifteen pounds. He likes stars, the emotionless function of insects, watching people get abducted by aliens, Cherry 'FizWiz', Cherry 'Brain-Freezies', all kinds of movies, Fruity Pops, the moon, little chubby babies, pop rocks and soda, and drawing Happy Noodle Boy. He dislikes humidity, sleep, the physical and mental need for ANYTHING, being abducted by aliens, people who've "GOTTA HAVE A SMOKE!", certain words (EX: wacky), losing his mind, Satan's attitude, and getting shot in the head.
Not that much is known about Johnny's history. All that is known is that his parents were killed by an evil man, thus setting the course for NNY's life as a masked crime fighter, or, perhaps not. At present, NNYs more his own enemy than any external mind could be. What with the decomposure of what may have been, at one time, a fine, intelligent mind. Johnny is, possibly, more hideously mentally malformed than the people he seems to think have ruined his world.
Todd "Squee" Casil
Todd Casil, better known as Squee after the noise he makes when frightened, is a young boy who lives next door to Johnny. Both of his parents have no care for him (especially his father who works countless hours and leads a miserable life after having Squee as a child) and his only shown friend other than Johnny is a small teddy bear that he carries around named Shmee. Shmee tells Squee that all his fears and nightmares are inside him in a dream. Squee is also friends with Satan's son, with whom he attends school. He has his own series called Squee!, which was later collected in the TPB Squee's Wonderful Big Giant Book Of Unspeakable Horrors.
The series is set in the mid-1990s in an unspecified city. Decaying urban streets, shadowed back alleys and filthy convenience stores serve as the series’ backdrop. Crumbling and covered with litter and graffiti, everything is in a state of bleak decay, overlit by the neon signs of trashy consumer capitalism.
Johnny lives in a decrepit, single-story house with the street address 777. The house has an extensive labyrinth of tunnels underneath. Johnny uses the subterranean rooms as dungeons and torture chambers, as well as a storage place for corpses, though he also buries the remains of his victims. The tunnels also provide him with a network to various locations, such as his neighbor Squee's residence. Johnny perceives the layout of the house as constantly changing, though he does not state if this shifting is the result of the supernatural forces at work within the house or his own psychosis. Johnny states that he found the house and moved in some time ago. He also constructed an unidentified flying object landing pad on the roof. Throughout the series, there is no case where the authorities or the police are looking for Johnny, and seem unaware of his existence.
A later part of the story takes place in the afterlife. After accidentally shooting himself, Johnny journeys first to Heaven and then to Hell, and both turn out to have more in common with Earth than he expected.
The story is told in vignettes that reflect Johnny's disjointed mental state. Vasquez leaves unexplained which events in the story are objective and which are subjective, and provides no back-story about Johnny's origins.
The series begins when Squee wakes in the middle of the night to find Johnny in the bathroom of his family's new house. After a confrontation with Squee's teddy bear, Shmee, Johnny leaves, informing Squee that they are neighbors. Later, a survey-taker tries to collect Johnny's opinion on a recent rash of murders around the city. When the man asks about a possible case of vampirism, Johnny explains that he has to keep a wall in his house wet with the blood of his victims because the wall changes color as it dries (later the story changes to suggest a monster imprisoned there will break free), then pushes the surveyor forcefully through a boarded window, scaring Squee in the process. Johnny goes on a rampage with a spork in a "Taco Hell" restaurant, incited by an elderly patron referring to him as 'wacky'. Following the slaughter, Johnny watches its coverage on the news. Johnny debates Psychodoughboy and Nail Bunny on whether or not he should commit suicide, but the group gets distracted by a commercial for diarrhea medicine.
Johnny captures a man named Edgar Vargas, who he recognizes as an innocent and apologizes to for needing his blood. Vargas explains that, because of his faith, he is not afraid of death, and Johnny kills him, but lacks his usual sense of satisfaction. Johnny captures a beautiful woman and tells her that he will spare her because he is better than her, but then kills her with a scythe anyway when he realizes that they are both just as ugly on the inside. Johnny goes on a date with Devi, a cashier at a local bookstore; torn between his infatuation and his need to satiate his deeper psychotic urges, he attempts to stab her, but Devi escapes after nearly killing Johnny. Later in the issue, Johnny makes a late-night run to a "24/7" convenience store for a "Cherry Brain Freezy" and after the store clerk tells him he can't have one because they shut the machines off at 2:00 am (in the story, this particular part takes place at 2:15 am, as it says in a little caption)he then proceeded to kill the man, but is unable to kill himself having used the one bullet in the gun.
Johnny takes a leisurely walk while listening to "Ode to Joy" on his portable CD player until a man outside of Café le Prick insults him after Johnny informs him that he does not smoke. Johnny then kills everyone in the café, including the man from the "Meanwhile..." strip that introduced Devi, while announcing each victim's crime against him and/or society in general. The sequence ends with Johnny warning the remaining patrons to 'think quickly, for a long life is never a guarantee' seconds before Café le Prick is destroyed by an explosion. A man tries to kill Squee after the boy becomes separated from his neglectful mother in the mall, but Johnny intervenes and kills the pedophile while explaining people's baser natures to the horrified Squee. Johnny tortures a drunken bully named Krik with an electric drill. Johnny abducts a couple, Dillon and Tess, after Dillon ruins a screening of Kafka for him. Johnny realizes that he cannot die or be brought to justice for his murders, and that the doughboys are no longer under his control. Johnny force-feeds a victim to test the freshness of the contents of his fridge, then releases the bewildered man.
Johnny's descent into his own personal madness continues. He and Nailbunny (now a sentient floating head) journey through the bowels of his house and discuss the nature of Johnny's psychosis. Nailbunny lays it into Johnny and berates him for neglecting his own art, something he had real talent in and put his heart and soul into (now devolved into the "Happy Noodle Boy" strip), in order to focus on the negative impact other people have on him and each other, which upsets Johnny. It is during this discussion that we learn a bit more about Johnny's past and his relationship with Nailbunny, as well as the actual impact the Doughboys have had, with Johnny remembering that they can now walk on their own. Later, Johnny and Tess have a conversation in the dungeon as Johnny prepares to torture Dillon with electricity. Johnny also kills a cockroach named Mr. Samsa after Gregor Samsa, the main character of Franz Kafka's short story, The Metamorphosis, with the belief that he had come back to life after Johnny had killed him some time ago (despite Tess' insistence that there "could be more than one cockroach" in his house). Devi has been in seclusion since Johnny's attempt on her life in issue #2. Her friend Tonja (later renamed Tenna in I Feel Sick), wanting Devi to go out with her that night, convinces Devi to call Johnny. After much reluctance, she does; she hears a simple "...hello?" on the other end, a whirring, a loud bang and a scream of agony, frightening Devi further. Back at the house Johnny has rigged a robotic arm and handgun to shoot him if he were to answer the phone if someone calls, further flaunting his belief in his own immortality. In the midst of this, he is reminded by Psychodoughboy that no one has ever called him and no one would. To both of their surprise, though, the phone rings, and Johnny, overjoyed, answers it. Devi's call triggers the robotic arm, shooting Johnny in the forehead, apparently killing him.
Krik manages to free Tess before a monster breaks free from the wall and kills Dillon. Krik tells Tess how he ended up in Johnny's clutches. The monster runs amok in a room full of restrained victims. Tess and Krik run into the doughboys. Mr. Eff is angry about Johnny's accidental shooting while Psychodoughboy is overjoyed. The monster catches up and consumes the doughboys as Tess and Krik flee upstairs to find Johnny clinging to life. Krik taunts Johnny, who amazingly responds back. He insults the shape of Krik's head as he goes into a monologue littered with stream of consciousness. Enraged, Krik stomps Johnny's skull until the wall monster breaks through the floor. Krik runs for the front door, but, as he crosses the threshold, one of the monster's tentacles cuts him in half, and he falls with the monster screaming into oblivion. Tess looks into the void and fades from existence. All that is left of the world is Johnny's corpse floating through space on a section of floorboards.
When Johnny's soul arrives in Heaven, he meets St. Peter, who becomes physically ill with all that Johnny has done throughout his life. With him distracted, Johnny enters Heaven and meets a demon woman named Damned Elise who gives Johnny a tour of Heaven. Johnny then starts a massive psychic battle when he discovers that the souls in Heaven are immortal and have mental powers which includes the ability to explode people's heads. Later on in the tour, Johnny is brought before God, who is a lazy, obese man sitting in a chair in a state of exhaustion. Johnny interrogates God for some answers and, getting nothing from Him, starts a tirade in which he vents his frustrations on how he is doing things, despite being warned by Damned Elise that it is not wise to question God's will. In this midst of his rage, Elise sends Johnny down to Hell. Upon his descent, Johnny meets Señor Diablo, who gives Johnny a tour of the underworld (which is little more than ruined, deserted cities rather than fire and brimsone) and reveals that Johnny is a "flusher" or "waste lock", a creature chosen to concentrate the spiritual byproducts generated by humans into a specific object or point in space, in this case the wall in Johnny's house. As Johnny died, the wall unleashed the built-up negative energy, in the process destroying the universe, which was then restored. This does not sit well with Johnny, and he then finds out that Hell's torments are entirely self-inflicted by the trivialities with which people (some of whom were victims of his) obsessed over in life--everything from commuting to cream cheese to lint. Later on, after Johnny steals a long, black coat from a store owner he kills, Señor Diablo returns and tells him that he can be resurrected and brought back into his own plane of existence. Before he can go, though, Diablo asks Johnny if he wants to know his TRUE purpose, the real meaning of his life, but Johnny is so focused on the ugly inseam of his coat that he doesn't pay attention, and ends up disappearing before being told. Johnny is then resurrected, with all his hair burned off except for two "horns", and finds himself back in his house, but with all of his voices gone save for a talking "Bub's Burger Boy" named Reverend Meat. Johnny is left unsure if he really died or if he experienced some kind of dream or hallucination and wonders aloud if he is still homicidally insane, which is proven right when he decides to find a cheerleader and saw her legs off, much to his delight. Later, Johnny stands in line at a 24/7 to buy a "Frooty Pop" when a robber bursts in and shoots the clerk.
In spite of all that has happened to him, and in spite of his role as a "flusher", Johnny resolves to become emotionless like an insect, to not be bound by anything save for what bare essentials he needs to stay alive. One day, a copycat killer named "Jimmy" pays Johnny a visit and confesses to several murders, including one rape incident mentioned earlier to Johnny by Tess, which enrages Johnny so much that he eviscerates Jimmy with hooks and crushes his head with a sledgehammer. Afterwards, Johnny tries to phone Devi with a prerecorded message, but she delivers a diatribe against him. Johnny then argues with Reverend Meat, who urges him to give in to his emotions and needs, be they physical of otherwise, though the disembodied voice of Nailbunny tells Johnny to resist. Johnny kills a beggar requesting money for beer by shooting an arrow into his back with a "kick me" sign attached. Johnny visits Squee and tells the boy that he will soon leave for a vacation, but as he does, Squee's father walks in and begins to calmly tell Squee about his horrible life and how he is not wanted. Johnny then smashes the back of Squee's father's head with a toy robot in order to get him to stop talking, then bids Squee adieu. The series ends with Johnny sitting on a cliff overlooking the city, writing in his diary, with the hopes that he will be "as cold as the moonlight" that touches the diary's pages.
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac features several filler strips, which, for the most part, have nothing to do with the main storyline. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut collects "Happy Noodle Boy", "Public Service Announcement", and "Anne Gwish" while Squee's Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors includes "Wobbly-Headed Bob", "Meanwhile...", and "True Tales of Human Drama".
Happy Noodle Boy
Public Service Announcement
Anne Gwish is a young goth woman that has her own strip in the later part of the series. Her name is a pun on the word "anguish." Her storyline is completely unrelated to Johnny’s, though she lives in the same fictional universe. The strips featuring her are largely a satire on the goth subculture.
Wobbly-Headed Bob lives in a separate fictional universe from the main storyline, one inhabited by funny animals who, with the exception of Bob, live in a state of innocence and bliss. In contrast, Bob is a megalomaniac who believes himself to be the most intelligent person in the world, and the only one who understands the true nature of reality, which he sees in entirely pessimistic terms. His extreme negativity leaves him isolated and depressed. He overwhelms anyone he meets with his despair and often causes them to either commit suicide or flee from him in horror.
In one "Meanwhile..." strip, a group of piñatas come to life to exact revenge on a girl whose birthday party claimed one of their own. In another, two ancient gods of war possess a pair of grade school crossing guards to reenact an epic battle. In yet another, a naïve goth teenager, a character who also appears in I Feel Sick, dreams of becoming a sexy vampire like those found in The Vampire Chronicles, but transforms instead into a vampire more like Count Orlok. In one of the more infamous "Meanwhile..." strips, a nervous man on a date with Devi D. tries to conceal his explosive diarrhea. In an act of self-insertion, Jhonen Vasquez himself appears in other "Meanwhile..." strips.
True Tales of Human Drama
The strips titled "True Tales of Human Drama" tell stories about things such as a baby exploding, a plane crashing into a bus full of boy scouts, and a man blowing something out of his nose so horrible that a priest commands him to jump off a building.
Vasquez sees alternative comics critics as ignoring his work because of its wider audience.
- McMullen Jr., E.C. "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: The Director's Cut review". FeoAmante's Horror Thriller. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- Marc (2006). "Review:Johnny the Homicidal Maniac". Unattended Baggage. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- Rothschild, D. Aviva (2000). "The Comics Get Serious--Review of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac". Rational Magic. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- McCracken, Kenn. "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: The Director's Cut: Review". Revolution Science Fiction. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
Over the years, Slave Labor Graphics has sold Johnny the Homicidal Maniac merchandise such as clothing, posters, and toys. Slave Labor released a Spooky squeeze toy, first shown in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #4, as part of its promotion for I Feel Sick. Several years ago, a mug based on the design of the wall monster with the Question Sleep logo was under development.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Johnny the Homicidal Maniac|
- Jhonen Vasquez's official website
- Jhonen's Twitter page
- Johnny's Twitter page
- Official website of Slave Labor Graphics, publisher of JTHM
- McKeon, Matthew. "Jhonen Vasquez...Shredding the Medium". Haven House Publications, Ltd.
- Ivey, Shane (2001-10-26). "Death and Morons: The Jhonen Vasquez Story: Page 3". Revolution Science Fiction. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (July 1997). "Gallery of Ancient Horrors". Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut. Slave Labor Graphics. ISBN 978-0-943151-16-8.
- Epstein, Daniel Robert (2003-05-19). "Interviews: Jhonen Vasquez Invades SuicideGirls". SuicideGirls. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
- Schrab, Rob (July 1997). "Foreword". Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut by Jhonen Vasquez. Slave Labor Graphics. ISBN 978-0-943151-16-8.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (July 1997). "Super Amazing Interview". Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut. Slave Labor Graphics. ISBN 978-0-943151-16-8.
- Romao, Selina. "The Torturous World of Jhonen Vasquez". BunnySneezes. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
- Carpe Noctem.
- Puerto, Michael. "Youth Radio meets comic book artist Jhonen Vasquez in a dark alley". Youth Radio.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (August 1995). Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #1. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #2. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #3. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #4. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (1996). Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #5. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (September 1996). Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #6. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (January 1997). Johnny the Homicidal Maniac #7. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (July 1997). "Issue Synopsis". Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut. Slave Labor Graphics. ISBN 978-0-943151-16-8.
- Ivey, Shane (2001-10-26). "Death and Morons: The Jhonen Vasquez Story: Page 4". Revolution Science Fiction. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
- Scolex, Chancre; Crab Scrambly (August 2002). Everything Can Be Beaten. Slave Labor Graphics. ISBN 978-0-943151-65-6.
- "Everything Can Be Beaten By Scolex and Scrambly". SLG Publishing website. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
- Vasquez, Jhonen. "We Get You When You Sleep". LiveJournal. Retrieved 2009-07-05.[dead link]
- Vasquez, Jhonen (July 1997). Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut. Slave Labor Graphics. ISBN 978-0-943151-16-8.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (2009). "The Official Website of Parasite Induced Dementia". QuestionSleep.com. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
- Vasquez, Jhonen (August 1998). Squee's Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors. Slave Labor Graphics. ISBN 978-0-943151-24-3.
- Vasquez, Jhonen; Rikki Simons (1999). I Feel Sick #1. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen; Rikki Simons (1999). I Feel Sick #2. Slave Labor Graphics.
- Vasquez, Jhonen. "Johnny C. (Johnny_C) on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
- "200 Greatest Comics in Wizard's History". Wizard. Retrieved 2009-07-07.[dead link]
- "Comics and Stuff By Jhonen Vasquez". SLG Publishing website. Retrieved 2009-07-05.