Jhonen Vasquez

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Jhonen Vasquez
Jhonen vasquez.jpg
Vasquez in November 2007
BornJhonen C. Vasquez
(1974-09-01) September 1, 1974 (age 44)
San Jose, California, U.S.
Other namesChancre Scolex
Mr. Scolex
OccupationComic book writer, cartoonist, music video director
Years active1993–present
Websitewww.questionsleep.com

Jhonen C. Vasquez (born September 1, 1974) is an American comic book writer, cartoonist, and music video director. He is best known for creating the comic book Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, its spin-off comics Squee! and I Feel Sick, and the Nickelodeon animated series Invader Zim.

Early life[edit]

Jhonen C. Vasquez was born on September 1, 1974 in San Jose, California. He grew up in East San Jose and attended Mt. Pleasant High School, where he often spent much of his class time drawing in sketchbooks and took part in a contest to design a new look for his school's mascot, the Cardinal. He earned no prizes, but on the back of a preliminary drawing for the contest, he drew his first sketch of the character who would later become Johnny C. His high school's student newspaper published a number of his comic strips featuring this character, titled Johnny the Little Homicidal Maniac. Vasquez also created Happy Noodle Boy while attending Mt. Pleasant.[1] He read his older brother's superhero comics as a child, but first became interested in the medium through the original independent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman:

After graduating in 1992, Vasquez became a film student at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. Despite having little formal artistic training, he soon dropped out of De Anza to pursue a career as a professional cartoonist. He met Roman Dirge, Rosearik Rikki Simons, and Simons' wife Tavisha (née Wolfgarth) at Alternative Press Expo in 1995. Dirge later became a writer on Vasquez's series Invader Zim, while Simons became a member of the show's coloring team and the voice of the show's crazed robot GIR. Simons also worked with Vasquez on the coloring seen in his two-issue comic I Feel Sick. By September 1996, Vasquez announced in his introductory text to the sixth issue of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac that he had reached sufficient success to be able to quit his day job and focus on his art.

Career[edit]

Comics[edit]

Carpe Noctem magazine published early one-page strips featuring Johnny in the early 1990s. In 1995, Slave Labor Graphics began publishing a series of Johnny comics after Vasquez submitted samples of his artwork to them.

Vasquez's first comic, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, ran for seven issues and was collected as a hardcover and a trade paperback book, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut. The cover features the logo "Z?", meaning "question sleep", which appears frequently throughout Vasquez's work and relates to his characters' insomnia and his own hypnophobia. The series follows Johnny as he searches for meaning in his life, a quest that frequently leads to the violent deaths of those around him as well as, briefly, his own. A photograph of one of Vasquez's friends, Leah England, serves as the middle of a portrait collection on the cover for 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 notorious "Meanwhile" filler piece in the second issue of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Vasquez's next project was The Bad Art Collection, a 16-page one-shot comic. He stated that he did the book's art while he was in high school to discourage classmates from asking him to draw for them.

In 1997, Vasquez gave Squee, a supporting character from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, his own four-issue series. It chronicles Squee's encounters with aliens, Satan's son, and eventually Satan himself. The trade version (which features a cover image of Squee with the words "Buy me or I'll die!") contains, in addition to the actual Squee comics, the Meanwhiles that were left out of the Director's Cut of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, as well as comics of Vasquez's "real life" and Wobbly-Headed Bob. Vasquez's next project was I Feel Sick, colored by Rikki Simons. I Feel Sick follows a tortured artist named Devi (another character introduced in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac) as she tries to maintain her sanity in an insane vision of society, despite conversing with Sickness, one of her own paintings. Slave Labor has published three Fillerbunny mini-comics, the third having been released in March 2005. The mini-comic was a spin-off of a filler comic designed to replace a vacant page usually reserved for advertising space in the Squee! comics.

Vasquez said at the 2007 New York Comic Con that the original Fillerbunny comics would be done in a single night and he would rush through and do whatever he could in a small amount of time. The third issue, however, broke this mold. According to the introduction, it took over nine months to complete, and he feels it is of much higher quality than the first two. At Comic-Con 2005, Vasquez mentioned that his next comic was a love story. Since this, however, he attended an event in early 2007 and stated he was not working on his "own" comics – he was collaborating on two comics in the style of Everything Can Be Beaten, acting only as author. The first, titled Jellyfist, was intended for release on July 25, 2007, but the initial print run of Jellyfist was incredibly poor, and so it was re-released in October 2007. In 2009, Vasquez collaborated with other alternative artists in Marvel Comics' Strange Tales, issue 2 of 3, with a story about MODOK.[3] It sold extremely well and all three issues have been collected into a hardcover trade paperback. The next year he returned for Marvel's Strange Tales II, issue 1 of 3, with a story about Wolverine.[4]

In 2012, DC Comics announced that Vasquez joined the writing team for their digital comic Beyond the Fringe, based on the Fox TV series Fringe.[5] In May 2014, Vasquez announced on his Tumblr page that he would be re-releasing his previous Fillerbunny comics into a new collection and additionally releasing his first new comic book in ten years.[6]

Television[edit]

At Nickelodeon, Vasquez created the animated television series Invader Zim, which aired on the network and then later on Nicktoons. It focuses on the daily life of Zim, a naïve but psychotic alien from the planet Irk who tries to conquer Earth and enslave humans, before his attempts are constantly thwarted by a young paranormal investigator Dib, who believes that Zim is an alien but no one believes him. The first episode aired on March 30, 2001. The series lasted for two seasons, before it was cancelled by Nickelodeon, saying that its main causes were low ratings, over-budget production and lack of interest in continuation of the series.[7] The last episode before the show's cancellation, "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever" (a Christmas special), aired on December 10, 2002. Episodes of the third season and a finale then remained unfinished. Vasquez provided the voices for Zim's computer, Old Kid, Minimoose, and various characters including himself as a background character (being credited as "Mr. Scolex").

Vasquez also did character designs for the Disney XD show Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja, as well as wrote for an episode of the online series Bravest Warriors. In July 2014, it was revealed that Disney Television Animation had picked up the pilot Very Important House, co-created by Vasquez and Rick and Morty production designer Jenny Goldberg, who previously collaborated with Vasquez on Jellyfist.[8] However, on September 30, 2016, Vasquez announced on his official blog that Very Important House was ultimately not picked up for a full series.[9]

Other work[edit]

Vasquez collaborated with Crab Scrambly to produce the storybook Everything Can Be Beaten, published by Slave Labor in 2002. Vasquez, credited as Chancre Scolex, wrote the story and Crab Scrambly illustrated it. Everything Can Be Beaten is about a strange person who lives in a room in which he can do nothing but beat kittens. However, an adventure into the outside world changes his perspective, and he discovers that "everything can be beaten". The storybook inspired Urban Squall in 2008 to create the puzzle browser game Bloody Fun Day.[10] Vasquez did the entire artwork for the deluxe edition of the Mindless Self Indulgence album If as well as the digital single "Mastermind". He also directed the music videos for Mindless Self Indulgence's "Shut Me Up"[11] and The Left Rights' "White".[12] Jhonen made the cover art for the album Zero Day by MC Frontalot and also indicated that he shows his artwork in galleries from time to time.[13] He also did an art rendition of BioShock 2 called "The Sisters".[14] He was quoted saying the following about the rendition:

He also worked on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles short called Don Vs Raph, where Donatello and Raphael compete to see who is better, but the two always end up tying.

Style[edit]

Many of the characters in Vasquez's cartoons are usually highly geometric and thin, nearly to the point of being stick figures with heavy black outlines. The protagonists in his comics are typically insane characters who live in dysfunctional societies, and whose manias are able to speak through other objects (as with Johnny and the Doughboys, or Devi and Sickness). His storylines tend to follow the basic black comedy formula. His art style is very edgy and eccentric and happy faces are often found in his artwork, trying to evoke an ironic sense of happiness in a world of chaos and darkness. Vasquez's writing often conveys misanthropic and pessimistic themes, often used for the purposes of parody and satire. Several of Vasquez's works have featured gothic characters or depictions of the goth subculture for the purpose of satire. In an interview on the show The Screen Savers, Vasquez responded to host Kevin Pereira's comment that fans considered him "a goth king", saying disdainfully: "King, yeah, but goth... I mean, that's just arrogant."

Bibliography[edit]

Year Title Notes
1995–1997 Johnny the Homicidal Maniac 7 issues
1996 The Bad Art Collection
1997–1998 Squee! 4 issues
1999–2000 I Feel Sick 2 issues
2000, 2005, 2014 Fillerbunny 3 issues
2002 Everything Can Be Beaten With Crab Scrambly
2003 Slave Labor Stories Two page story "The Ghost with Black Fingers"
2007 Jellyfist With Jennifer Goldberg
2009–2010 Strange Tales MAX MODOK story in Strange Tales #2 and Wolverine story in Strange Tales II #1
2012 Beyond the Fringe With Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger, issues 5A and 6A
2015–present Invader Zim 33 issues, with multiple others

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2001–2006 Invader Zim Creator, writer, character designer, executive producer and voice actor Television series
2006 "Shut Me Up" Director Music video
2011 "White" Director Music video
2012–2015 Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja Character designer (credited as Chancre Scolex) Television series
2014 Bravest Warriors Writer Episode: "The Puppetyville Horror"
2015 Very Important House Co-creator, director, writer Pilot
2015 TMNT: Don vs Raph Writer, voice director, character designer Television short
2018 Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus! Director, executive producer and voice actor Television film

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Squee! was nominated for 1998 Eisner Awards for Best New Series and Best Humor Publication.[15]
  • I Feel Sick won an International Horror Guild Award in 2000 for Best Illustrated Narrative.[16]
  • Invader Zim won an Emmy, an Annie, and the award for Best Title Sequence at the 2001 World Animation Celebration awards. It also garnered seven other nominations.[17]
  • Vasquez and his work were honored in the National Design Triennial: Inside Design Now, a 2003 exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnny The Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut trade paperback (SLG Publishing, 1997) ISBN 0-943151-16-3
  2. ^ Jhonen Vasquez On M.O.D.O.K. & Marvel An October 8, 2009 interview for Comic Book Resources
  3. ^ THE WALKING DEAD #110 First Look. Newsarama.com (May 1, 2013). Retrieved on January 19, 2014.
  4. ^ "The Marvel Universe gets an Indie Makeover in Strange Tales II". Theheroicage.com. July 28, 2010. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Jhonen Vasquez and Becky Cloonan Join BEYOND THE FRINGE | DC Comics. Dcu.blog.dccomics.com (February 14, 2012). Retrieved on January 19, 2014.
  6. ^ http://jhonenv.tumblr.com/post/85653504885/so-im-collecting-the-previous-fillerbunny-comics
  7. ^ Tierney, Adam (September 1, 2004). "An Interview with Jhonen Vasquez and Rikki Simons". IGN.
  8. ^ http://www.cartoonbrew.com/disney/disney-tv-inks-deals-with-aaron-springer-jhonen-vasquez-jesse-ledoux-and-ryan-quincy-101661.html
  9. ^ VERY IMPORTANT HOUSE update - QuestionSleep.com
  10. ^ Pellerano, Andrew (March 13, 2009). "Bloody Fun Day". YAY! it's Andrew!. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
  11. ^ Mindless Self Indulgence – "Shut Me Up". Youtube.com. Retrieved on January 19, 2014.
  12. ^ msivideo (November 19, 2010). "The Left Rights – WHITE". YouTube. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  13. ^ Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Issue #6
  14. ^ Fahey, Mike (July 17, 2009) 5:20pm BioShock 2's "The Sisters" By Jhonen Vasquez. Kotaku 2K Games.
  15. ^ 1998 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award Nominees. users.rcn.com
  16. ^ "The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror" by Stephen Jones, Carroll and Graf, 2002
  17. ^ "Invader ZIM" (2001) Awards. imdb.com
  18. ^ "National Design Triennial". Cooperhewitt.org. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011.

External links[edit]