One payday Friday, when I was maybe 17 or 18, I wandered into my usual place to waste my money, Hot Topic. I went there a lot to buy black clothing, band shirts, stickers, wallets, and whatever accessories or metal jewelry that caught my eye. This particular time I found a section in the back corner that had some comics, this is where I found the weirdness that is Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. I read the first one in the store. It was incredibly violent and so, so weird. I had to have it! I got #1 – #7, which I think was all of them, and a couple of the spin-off comics “I Feel Sick” and “Squee”.
“WHERE THE FUCK IS THE BACTINE!!”
– JtHM volume 1, his first line in the comic
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, sometimes written as “JtHM”, is a comic book series by Jhonen Vasquez written between 1995 and 1997. Vasquez has said that he main character, Johnny C., started out as a sort of personal avatar for him to work out his revenge fantasies. He later would distance himself from the character when complaints surfaced that the comic was too violent without offering any reason for the violence.
Any attempt to analyze the character is almost pointless considering the story itself contains a flimsy plot and very few of the questions surrounding his origin or why he kills are ever addressed or answered. Vasquez himself stated that the production of the comics was a “mess” and a “spew”. There was little time for pre-planning and no outline or sketching was done. The dialogue was written as the comic was inked. Vasquez admits he wished he would have spent more time planning the series.
What we do know is that Johnny C. is in is early twenties and tortures and kills many people, and often. The people he chooses tend to be people who “annoy” him, these are usually stupid people, cheerleaders and jock, and people who “gotta have a smoke”.
Johnny also hates “humidity, sleep, the physical and mental need for anything, being abducted by aliens, certain words (such as: wacky), losing his mind, Satan’s attitude, and getting shot in the head”.
He kills people in his home, with the street address 777, which looks small from the outside but sits atop an elaborate maze of tunnels and rooms in the basement. We don’t know exactly how Johnny came to live in this house he only says that he found it later and moved in. He drains them of their blood to paint on a wall. The blood has to stay fresh and wet or else whatever is on the other side will “push through”.
The story alludes to supernatural forces that keep Johnny killing but we also find out that his parents were killed by “an evil man” and Johnny, while very intelligent, has gone quite insane. Later in the story Johnny accidentally shoots himself in the head and meets Satan in hell. We find out that it is not Johnny’s time to die and he is sent back. It would appear that afterward there was no need for Johnny to continue killing but of course he does which seems to give credit to the argument that Johnny kills only for the sake of killing.
Johnny has a few “friends” in the series but most of them are imaginary and not all of them have Johnny’s best interest at heart.
Nailbunny is an old pet of Johnny’s that he fed once and nailed to the wall. He is the closest thing to a conscious, or voice of reason, that Johnny has, a role he often frustrated with. Toward the end of the series Nailbunny loses his body and becomes just a floating head. After Johnny dies and comes back Nailbunny disappears but there are hints that Johnny still hears his voice.
The Doughboys are, obviously, based on the Pillsbury mascot and once part of a pastry display. They they were given personalities supernatural means and seem to represent different sides of Johnny’s insanity. They are also associated with whatever is behind the wall that Johnny has to keep painting with blood.
Reverend Meat appears after Johnny’s death. He is the physical representation of desire for instant gratification. He encourages Johnny to give into his every urge and desire without thinking which is in opposition to Johnny’s desire to cleanse himself of his sins after his death and rebirth.
Squee is the nickname to Todd Casil, for the sound he makes when frightened. He is the young child of Johnny’s next door neighbors. His parents treat him pretty badly, especially his father who regularly lets him know he is the reason his life is ruined. He is the only friend Johnny has that is real friend and Johnny is his only friend besides his teddy bear who he calls Shmee. Shmee does not trust Johnny.
As you can see this story is very weird and also pretty bad, but I liked it.
I liked it because it was different. I liked it because was a teenager and I was sad, and weird, and I wore black all the time. I liked it because I felt like an outcast and Johnny tortured and killed the kinds of people that made people like me feel like an outcast. Just as Johnny was Vasquez’s avatar for his messed up violent thoughts, he was mine too. I get the criticism surrounding the comic, it was very violent and probably not appropriate for young readers.
It was also silly and introduced me to a lot of deep philosophical concepts I hadn’t encountered before. It shaped part of who I am today and so it will always have a special place in my heart.
“Dear Die-ary, today I stuffed some dolls full of dead rats I put in the blender. I’m wondering if, maybe, there really is something wrong with me.”
– JtHM, writing in diary at the end of first comic