Johnny the Homicidal Maniac

By Ahmad Chaudhary

It’s been awhile since I read this book, probably close to two months. Since then I’ve seen Feist again – not that you care, mind you, but I did so I thought I’d let you know. I’ve also managed to stumble through the six-hundred-plus page mass-market paperback version of Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets by David Simon. It was pretty fitting I read that just after Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut, since they’re both focused on, believe it or not, homicide. Since the season of Halloween and associated macabre is upon us, it also works that this was finished when it was.

Initially, I swayed from writing the JTHM review then because I wasn’t sure what I thought of the book. It made me wince more than once; although the characters are crudely designed, in black and white, it should have made the murders seem more distant and removed from my own safe and cushy Nerf life. And then, all of a sudden, somewhere around a quarter of my way through the book, it became outright hilarious. It had me laughing hysterically. If you think I’m weird and a little psycho to find the following hilarious, reserve your judgment until you’ve finished the book.

The book follows a pale, white, skinny Goth kid named Johnny C, who is a serial killer. Though if he knew I called him Goth, he’d probably do untold things to me (or told, if you read the book). Simply put, the pattern of people he kills is limited to basically anyone he encounters. Since he seldom leaves the house, most people are killed there. He wears knee-high black boots and dresses in all black. He doesn’t wear eyeliner or listen to any music, but if I saw him on the street I’d type him as a Goth, a junkie, or both. Ironically, I wore knee-high kickers and dressed in all black probably right around the time Vasquez was writing this book and I didn’t consider myself Goth … but I would have typed myself as such had I seen me walking down the street.

In fact, JTHM inspired me to bring out my own big black boots, scarred-up 14i steel-toe Doc Martens to wear around this summer. I usually keep them in the closet until the weather gets less desirable. They’re one of my last homages to my adolescent freak years. Don’t worry – Johnny C didn’t inspire me in any other noticeable way. I don’t have any imaginary friends like Nail Bunny. I like my pets living, and when they die I tend to bury them and instead of nailing them to my wall. I also don’t have other imaginary friends in the form of Styrofoam Pillsbury Doughboy standees. I have no torture devices in my house or in subfloor levels. And, lastly, I do not author a comic strip called “Happy Noodle Boy” that Johnny C writes (though it did inspire me to do a funny drawing for a co-worker). “Happy Noodle Boy,” like the larger story, is also relentlessly amusing.

Aside from being darkly humorous and inspirational, JTHM is also fun to look at. The art, though not anatomically correct, is edgy and sharp. There is a lot of detail put into the book; around the edges of the panels are often words and funny messages that will have you flipping the page every which way attempting to decipher them. Subsequently, Vasquez had me wondering – maddeningly – whether or not some frame artwork had any messages at all. Also, Vasquez complements some of the most serious scenes in the book with gut-busting annotations that you have to see to understand.

Note: the Director’s Cut also includes a new introduction, which I found worthless, as well as concept drawings, which I found pretty cool.