Nny and Mr. Eff at home, from a cover. Artist: Jhonen Vasquez.

JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC

Original medium: Comic books
Published in: Carpe Noctem magazine
First Appeared: 1995
Creator: Jhonen Vasquez
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The tradition of bad guys as comics stars goes back to Desperate Desmond, in the early part of the last century, but as bad as they got — and The Joker, just as an example of bad guys who have starred in their own comics series, was pretty bad — they never got more gruesome …

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… than Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. On a fearsomeness spectrum, Johnny is a lot closer to the Evil Ernie end than that of The Brain.

That Johnny had the classic excuse for his anti-social behavior, raging insanity, practically goes without saying. This was seen not only in his compulsion to keep the coating of blood that he constantly applied, like paint, to an interior wall of his house, fresh and damp so The Thing (no relation) wouldn't escape, and his habit of maintaining creatures like Nailbunny, a rabbit he'd long since nailed to the wall and was subsequently quite dead, as a pet, but also in his personal nomenclature. Like many people, he used a truncated form of his "real" name (the one banks and insurance companies knew him by) as a nickname; but unlike most, he truncated it as "Nny".

Homicidal maniacy was no passing fancy for Nny, but a lifelong dedication. His past victims certainly numbered in the dozens, probably hundreds and maybe even thousands. And yet, nobody in a position of authority ever put a sudden and violent end to his activities, forcibly compelled him to wind up his career as a homicidal maniac, or even asked politely if he'd kindly stop murdering people. In fact, they gave no evidence of being at all troubled by his repeated crimes, or even aware that a horrifying monster continued unchecked in their very midst. Nny killed over and over, with absolute impunity, officialdom displaying not even mild disapproval.

But then, the story wasn't about crime and punishment. It was about its seriously deranged, yet, to his fans, endlessly fascinating protagonist.

Nny's usual m.o. was to imprison the victim in his house and murder him slowly, elaborately and sadistically, showing not even a shred of hesitation or remorse. He often chose his victims as revenge for wrongs, sometimes trivial, that they'd committed against him. But sometimes he'd torture and murder perfectly innocent parties just because the wall needed a fresh coat of blood. His urgent need to keep The Thing dammed up in the wall was one of the traits that drew reader sympathy for this spectacularly unsympathetic character.

Aside from Nailbunny, Nny's internal dialogue partners included D-Boy and Mr. Eff, discrete elements of his persona who were focused around inanimate objects; and Seņor Diablo and Reverend Meat, who weren't. Living non-victims whom he interacted with included Squee, a neighbor child; and Devi D., an ex-girlfriend distinguished by having gotten away. These and weirder characters haunted his imagination and his reality, not that he was very good at telling the difference. Nny created The Happy Noodle Boy, a comic strip aimed at an unusual demographic — the homeless insane.

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac was created by cartoonist Jhonen Vasquez, whose more mainstream creations include Invader Zim. Vasquez originally wrote and drew the stories about Johnny C. (the closest he had to a full name) for Carpe Noctem, a small magazine celebrating the goth lifestyle, which he practices, beginning in 1995.

Slave Labor Graphics (Gargoyles, Dr. Radium) published seven issues of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac as a black and white comic book, between August, 1995 and January, 1997. Later in 1997, Slave Labor put most of the comic book material, along with stories from Carpe Noctem, into a graphic novel version titled JtHM: The Director's Cut.

Since then, Nny hasn't exactly been the focus of a media extravaganza — no blockbuster films or weekly prime-time TV shows for the likes of him! Not even daily comic strips in a thousand newspapers or Saturday morning cartoons. Just an obscure old comic book and a graphic novel (still in print) where his adventures can be read.

But somewhere, in a house full of victims in various stages of torment, Nny probably still carries on his accustomed practices. There doesn't seem to be anybody interested in telling him not to.

— DDM

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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Jhonen Vasquez.